For the boys (by Ann)

My son often enjoys sniffing my fragrance du jour. Sometimes he’ll see me with a vial or spray and say, “Whatcha putting on today, Mom?” And occasionally he’s  asked for one in particular.

So that got me thinking. We choose soft, fresh, light fragrances as starter scents for girls, but what about boys?

I see a lot of you out there, shaking your heads, saying, “No, no, no, not those dreaded Axe body sprays!”

But what would make nice (read: not overpowering) intro scents for our not-quite grown-up guys? And at what age or grade is it considered acceptable for them to start wearing fragrance?

Now my son is only 11, which, of course, is too young, but I’d love to have suggestions for when (and if) he does grow into it.

  • music says:

    trying to find you, can i have your fb?

  • Ann says:

    Gina, thanks for the suggestion about the Demeters — they are excellent candidates for the younger guys.

  • Gina says:

    Demeter Gin and Tonic might be a good choice, as well.

  • Gina says:

    Demeter Russian Leather got approval from two of my teenage daughter’s male friends, and it’s difficult to overdose with the Demeter fragraces.

  • Rowanhill says:

    Acqua di Parma. Classic and not too strong.

  • Suzanne says:

    I love Vasily’s suggestion of classic Old Spice. It’s got an “old school” coolness factor that makes it, well…hip!

    And I’d also second Mal’s suggestion of Lalique Encre Noir for a vetiver scent that is sophisticated without being overpowering. (In fact, forget the young man…I’ll take a bottle!) :-)

    Jirish’s suggestion of Terre d’Hermes leads me also to suggest Voyage d’Hermes. Both are gorgeous, and Voyage might be easier for a young man to wear, being a bit sheerer.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, birthday girl! Great suggestions all, especially the Hermes ones, the Voyage in particular. Plus it gets bonus points for having a way-cool bottle. Haven’t tried the Lalique but it does sound nice.

  • Teri says:

    My son, who is 28 now, asked for some men’s cologne for his 12th birthday. My husband bought him a small bottle of Nautica, the original scent. As long as my son didn’t drown himself in it (which took a while, I might add), it made a nice scent for a young teen guy. At about 17, he switched to Acqua di Gio which took him through his college years. These days he’s wearing CdG’s Wonderwood which smells fabulous on him.

  • Maureen says:

    Old Spice is nice. No Axe please.

  • AnnieA says:

    I remember a song where a teenage boy was described as having a “goaty” smell — we don’t want that. Is there anything in the Demeter line particularly suitable? Gingerale is fun but possibly not manly enough. There is at least one incence. Guess “Dirt” would be ironic. “Tarnish” sounds very manly indeed…

    • Ann says:

      Heavens, no! Adolescence is such a touchy, sensitive time anyway that you don’t want to add smelling “goaty” into the mix. Think one of the Demeter incenses might work well. Thanks!

  • sunsetsong says:

    We have Lynx targeted at young men here in Britain, not Axe, the ads are often quite funny but I suspect the aromas are pretty similar. Still trying to convince my 13 year old that showers aren’t optional. On the plus side he liked Guerlain Vetiver bodywash, and likes most of my scented candles so hope lingers behind the swirls of Lynx deodorant spray.

    • Ann says:

      I hear you on the showers. It’s tough going for us sometimes as well. It’s great that your son appreciates some of the nicer scents; that’s a good start.

  • Dionne says:

    Out of my entire family, my 16yo has shown the most interest in my hobby – he bragged to some friends a little while ago, “Because of my mom, I know more about perfume than most adult woman.” He’s always willing to smell whatever new thing I’m sampling and offer his opinion, which has become pretty sophisticated.

    This is in contrast to his older brother, who complained a while back, “Why can’t you try a perfume that smells more fruity? (My retort to that was a chuckling, “Uhhh, because I’m not a 16yo girl?”).

    Anyway, the 16yo LOVES LADDM and snatches it for things like school dances. I had a good friend visiting who smelled it on him and turned to me saying, “You let him out of the house smelling that good? That’s dangerous!” He does smell fantastic in it.

    The only thing I’ve outlawed for him is Polo, because my 1st boyfriend wore it, and the scent memory of hubba hubba just would make it too creepy for my son to smell that way. I’ve haven’t needed to outlaw Axe because he thinks they’re horrible.

    • Ann says:

      Too funny about the Tauer scent! But even though it might be a bit “dangerous,” at least it’s a classy scent and very distinctive.

  • Sharon C. says:

    For the first Christmas as a stepmother I bought my 16-year-old stepson his own shaving kit “just like Dad’s.” (We took a lot of short trips to visit family, and he’d never had his own toiletry set.) Along with nail clipper, tweezers and the like, I included a set of Davidoff Cool Water EDT and deodorant (this was 1991). It was his favorite gift that year.

    You might consider the Aramis “Gentlemen’s Collection coffret available at Dillard’s website–$42 for 6 .24oz bottles of each Aramis scent. Fragonard USA also has a nice men’s sampler set that I bought for my husband’s shaving kit.

    • Ann says:

      What a great and thoughtful gift, Sharon! And those sampler sets sound like just the thing for young men.

  • Fernando says:

    I agree with all the cologne-style suggestions. In my case it was a FB of Eau Sauvage that moved me beyond Pino Silvestre and Brut. (Yes, I’m that old…) It’s very useful that colognes wear off quickly, so the inevitable overdosing won’t be too annoying.

    It would be nice, however, to also point to some slightly more “difficult” perfumes, to avoid getting locked into an Acqua de Gio model. (One of my nephews uses nothing but…) Halston Z-14 and Azzaro Homme are both cheap enough for young’uns to buy and good enough for parents to live with.

    • Ann says:

      Oooh, yes — I second the love the the Halston and the Azzaro. And it’s double nice that those won’t break the bank.

  • maggiecat says:

    It’s nice when they start early – especially if we can train them away from some fo the dreck out there. Eaux des cologne are always nice: Jo Malone’s Lime, Basil and Mandarin or Vetiver would also be pleasant on a teen or pre-teen. I second 4711 and its ilk, of course. And anything with a sandalwood base would also be nice, depending on the young man’s taste. Enjoy this time with your son – they grow up too fast!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Maggiecat. And good suggestion on the Jo Malone — I’d forgotten about that line and some of those would work well.

  • mals86 says:

    My boys are 12 and 10 (soon to be 13 and 11! Aarrgh, how the time flies!), and I’ve been wondering about this topic, particularly for the older one. My personal interest in fragrance lies very much on the feminine side, and my husband is still devoted to the modern citrus-aquatics, so I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to suggest. (It’s not that the citrus-aquatics are bad, mind you, just a little overexposed these days. And who wants to use their dad’s cologne? The CEO does not wear the CSP L’Eau du Gouverneur that I think is fabbo, and he only wears the Gres Cabaret sample when he wants to be snorfled – i.e., Not At Work – and he got bored with the Jovan Sex Appeal For Men I bought him several years ago.)

    Some of the AXE body washes are not all that bad, really, though the body sprays are the olfactory equivalent of a blacksmith’s hammer. My teenage daughter has a friend who wears the chocolate one… Dark Temptation?… which smells perfectly HIDeous in the bottle, but really nice on him, a quiet, sweetish patchouli-musk. Could be he’s only using the deodorant stick, though.

    I think maybe I’ll find some Old Spice for my soon-to-be teenager. Or maybe I’ll rehome my little mini bottle of Encre Noir. Hard to say what Gaze will like – he’s the kid who always seems able to identify at least one note in whatever I’m wearing. “Smells nice, Mom. Is that… tuberose?” And he loved my Petite Cherie, though not to wear himself.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Mals! I think Old Spice sounds like a good starter scent. Gaze sounds like he has a discerning nose and who knows? You might have the makings of a good perfumista(o) there. Maybe get a little basket of appropriate samples and let them play a bit on the weekend, to get a feel for what they like and what smells good on them. I might do that myself, a bit later on when he starts middle school.

    • Darryl says:

      The Dark Temptation deodorant stick is the only Axe product I’ll go near these days, and I have to be in the right mood for it. It’s the best of a bad lot. (I must admit to wearing a few of the Axe sprays when I was in high school, but only once in a blue moon. Fragrance just wasn’t on my radar back then; I owned perhaps two bottles of fresh unisex stuff like CK One, and I only wore them on “special occasions”.)

      Speaking of CK One, it still fits teenage skin like a glove – light, fresh, more or less based on the smells of nature, and minimal sillage. I’d also love to smell Tommy Girl on young women again, it’d beat the hell out of Juicy Couture or Miss Dior frickin’ Cherie.

  • Barbara says:

    There are worse things than AXE!! As much as I hate to admit it my 15 year old son uses Axe body wash to shower with and the scents he has are not so bad, but I won’t buy him the body sprays!!

    This summer he and two of his buddies took driver’s ed. I went to pick up his best friend at 9:30 am on a hot, humid day and got instant migraine. He had showered with some sort of Irish Spring body wash and used the deodorant. On to buddy #2 apparently a Right Guard body wash and spray kind of guy!! I told the boys ABSOLUTELY NO BODY SPRAY for the rest of the week!!!

    • jirish says:

      I agree that the Axe body washes are not too bad, and don’t project or last too long. Not sure about the body sprays. My son uses one of their body washes (the lime green one?) but for a fragrance he uses either Jo Malone Sweet Cedar and Lime or Terre d’Hermes, the two scents I ‘helped’ him pick out when he first started high school. It helps that his girlfriend really likes Terre d’Hermes.

  • Marilynn says:

    My grandson’s first perfume was Etro Shaal Nur when he was 10. He’s always appreciated cologne and perfume. Now that he’s nearing 13 his favorite is Dolce & Gabbanna The One. I think your son, just because of his close association with you, won’t go down the Axe road and will have a finer appreciation for quality. Have fun with the search!

  • Melissa says:

    My son started wearing fragrance at around 13 years old. He liked to accompany me to Sniffapalooza, partly for the perfume, but mostly because any excuse to go to NYC would do! He developed an appreciation for scent though, wearing niche and high quality dep’t store scents such as Dior Homme. This was probably because he regularly raided my decants and bottles when he wanted to wear something. He was drawn to incense scents, so his earliest bottles included Silver Factory and Joseph Statkus, both of which we initially shared and he eventually took over. At 19, he has a collection of around 15 bottles and 25 decants. Despite the collection, I wouldn’t call him a perfumista/o. He often forgets the name of the scent that he’s wearing. But he usually smells good!

  • DinaC says:

    I gave my son a bottle of Thierry Mugler’s Cologne for Christmas when he was in seventh grade — age 13. He’s worn it a few times, but is mostly uninterested. However, there is a little box of samples near the laptop we share, and just recently he pointed out the one that he think smells the best. It was Alexander McQueen’s My Queen (violets & almonds). So, there’s hope! :-)I may turn him into a perfumisto yet.

    • Ann says:

      Dina, love your choice of the TM cologne — I’d like some of that myself (maybe my son and I can share it!). Haven’t smelled the MyQueen; its older sibling Kingdom left me traumatized (cumin overdose) and I was never quite able to go back to the AM counter. But glad he likes it and it smells good on him.

  • Louise says:

    I think a light spray of Habit Rouge as suggested is a nice entree.

    I got my son PdN New York as a mid-teen, and the bit of sweetness suited him well. A bit later, he wore CdG Play Men-just fabulous on him.

    Then he smelled Black Cashmere on me, stole one of my bottles, and that’s been his signature scent into his early 20s.

    It’s all been fun, sniffing with him, and finding suitable scents.

    • Ann says:

      Hi, Louise, that’s so funny that he “adopted” your Black Cashmere. Glad you’re enjoying your son’s good taste.

  • Vasily says:

    I’d suggest Old Spice, 4711 as suggested by Des Esseintes, something from L”Occitane, or one of the classic colognes from Caswell-Massey. The latter has a men’s cologne sampler set which might be a great gift for a boy who’s interested in fragrance.

    • Ann says:

      Great suggestions, Vasily! I’d forgotten about the 4711, but that’s a good one, along with the others you mentioned.

    • Vasily says:

      A very interesting comment from the latest review of classic Old Spice on Basenotes by an 18 year old who has I think very good taste: “… when i first applied, i was shocked to smell that it did not even resemble something an old man or a granddad would wear !. … so i say if you under the age of 30 don’t be scared to pick this up as it seems it coming back into fashion again and old spice smells alot different than to the normal men fragrances on sale right now so you might stand out for once…”

      I still love classic Old Spice.

    • Kirsten-Marie says:

      Nice pick on the Caswell-Massey collection. That’s what I thought of, too, particularly the sample set. My all-time favorite male scent-for-a-guy-I’d-seriously-date/marry is Newport by Caswell-Massey. I think it could work for a tween/teen, given that it’s very classy and not overpowering. However, when I smell it I automatically swoon, so then again, maybe not. :)

      My dad is an Old Spice guy, and I love that. I just consider it an off-the-market/”taken” scent because I associate it with him.

      • mals86 says:

        My dad’s an Old Spice guy too, and I firmly nixed that scent for my husband. It’d be okay if my kid wanted to smell like that, though.

  • There is never too early to appreciate good perfume. After all it’s connected to food, drink and all smells and tastes around us. At 11 I only wore my mothers and sisters (very stealthily. Sheesh, what a temper that girl had.) perfumes.

    As for the men in my life I have no memory of them smelling of anything in perticular. My dad couldn’t caare less.

    My first fragrance was a Body Shop oil, Woody Sandalwood. For Christmas when I was maybe 14, I wanted a bottle of Lauders J.H.L, the one that smells like Cinnabar. Both mother and the SA deemed it “inappropriate” and I got a bottle of Halston 1-22 instead. It was nice.

    I’m rambling. I think for 11-years there aren’t really anything wrong-smelling. When puberty *really* hits though. That might raise some issues.

    Oh, and buy him a bottle of 4711! I remember wanting it when I was a kid.

    • Ann says:

      I’ve always like those two Halstons, the one you mentioned and the Z-14; they always seemed to smell good no matter who was wearing them (and I’ve bought them for and enjoyed them on previous boyfriends). And I hear you on the stealth perfuming — I did a bit of that myself. :)

    • Joanna says:

      I loved that Woody Sandalwood oil from The Body Shop.

  • Steve Seyboth says:

    My 9yr old son has become interested in my cologne collection. He asks to wear a little for family gatherings & school disco’s. I see no harm it. I’m teaching him what to look for in a fragrance & he already has a favourite (Penhaligon’s Opus 1870). Not too keen on Le Male Terrible by Jean Paul Gaultier.

  • Tom says:

    Well, I’m older than dirt so perhaps my thoughts are a bit outdated. But I always think that Axe body spray is for people is for people who don’t shower enough. Like (forgive me) homeless people who wash with lysol. An clean body wearing a touch drrty of Habit Rouge is sexy. A dirty body blasted with “clean” Axe is just gross..

    • Ann says:

      Amen, Tom! That’s kind of what I always felt about Axe.

    • Musette says:

      As my father aged, he became more resistant to daily (or even regularly) bathing – according to a couple of nurses I know, it has something to do with the fragility of aging skin….anyway….he resorted to all the Axe products. It was awful! Rarely does any scent trigger a migraine (I am not prone to them) but that combo…:o

      xo >-)

  • Madea says:

    I would suggest looking for cheap, traditional colognes and stressing that a truly well dressed, well groomed man is always subtle with his fragrance.

    The benefit to that is that they would burn off in an hour or two, so if he over-applies, it shouldn’t be a problem.

    If he likes history, maybe it would please him to have a small bottle of something (or something similar to what) a historical figure wore? Or that was created in a time period that interests him?

    Or go the opposite way and point out that girls will notice him better if he doesn’t smell like every other boy in the class? All the boys in my class wore this repulsive, cheap cheap cheap ozonic cologne, and it was horrendous. A little Brut/Old Spice would have had us all swooning.

    • Ann says:

      That is some excellent advice, Madea, thanks! It’s smart to tie fragrance to something he loves.

    • nozknoz says:

      This seems so on the mark, including that the cologne burns off quickly, so it’s never too much.

      Reminds me of a charming paragraph in The Guide where LT talks about splashing cologne on his kids after the bath “to get them used to the good things in life.” (Please remind me to get reincarnated as a European the next time around!)

  • Charlie says:

    I spritz my 6 year old son with my favorites from his daddy’s scent collection. These days, it’s Habit Rouge after his evening bath or shower. It’s faded by the next morning so it won’t overwhelm the other first graders in class. I want to avoid the Axe sprays later, so I’m trying to introduce quality and train his nose now!

  • Joanna says:

    Ann, thank you for this. My oldest son turns 16 next week and this in an ongoing scenario in my home as well. I’ve tried having gentle conversations with him about how well…maybe the Playboy scent collection isn’t all that charming? And I’ve tried the more subtle approah of just leaving vials and even a few FBs on his dresser. *sigh* For now I’m trying to hold onto the hope that in the future my influence will sink in and his nose will mature.

  • What good questions you ask! I don’t think 11 is too young for a boy to be interested in the how the world around him smells and what his likes and dislikes are. Let them go too long and they WILL think Axe is great, because they will be influenced by commercials.

    I started my son out with kitchen scents when he was smaller, and then introduced him to garden and nature smells as he got older. So when he saw me putting on scent, he could tell vanilla and basil, lemon verbena and ginger. He had favorites and dislikes, and went through his share of fads. Now he cooks well, enjoys picking his own mushrooms and ramps, and still wears scents that are recognizably from nature.

    • Ann says:

      Good job, Quinn! You can enjoy having raised a great cook with a keen sense of smell and a discerning eye. I know you are proud of him!