The Power of Finding Your Signature Scent

find your signature scent

I've written before about the intense tie between scent and memory.

And just as a certain smell can take you back to a time, a place, or a feeling, it can also conjure a specific person in your life.

For that reason, I think there's great value in finding or creating a signature scent that will sort of act as another physical representation of you to the people in your life.

But shopping for that perfect scent can prove challenging.

You walk into a department store and you're bombarded by salespeople and overwhelmed with the stifling aroma of hundreds of different perfumes and colognes that hangs around the fragrance counters.

It can be frustrating when a saleslady pounces on you with,”This is our most popular fragrance!!!” and starts waving a slip of paper wet with 5 sprays of cologne under your nose.

Instead, I think a better course of action is to search thoughtfully for a fragrance that can be an extension of yourself. Something that you will love and that will be pleasantly recalled by your family, friends, and colleagues.

Check out Debonair Scent for help with the selection process.

Here are just a few of the powerful effects of wearing a signature scent.

1. Build your personal brand

Businesses use this tactic all the time.

The smell of warm coffee pouring out of a Starbucks is unmistakeable. Abercrombie & Fitch uses their signature scent Fierce as one of the most powerful olfactory calling cards ever.

Even hotels create signature scents to remind you of your relaxing or exciting vacation and to instantly grip you with a certain familiarity every time you return.

And in combining your personal aesthetic with a signature scent, people will come to recognize this collective as “you”.  As your personal brand.

2. Draw others in

In the United States, you generally keep at least 18 inches between yourself and others.

And while the boundaries of personal space are different in every culture, we typically don't get closer than the regionally accepted limit to people with whom we don't share an intimate relationship.

When you're wearing cologne, people can catch a hint of your scent without even having to physically cross that boundary of personal space.

Granted, you shouldn't be bathing in fragrance and choking out an entire bus of people.

But a light application of your signature scent can be something that unobtrusively crosses into someone else's personal space and create a greater sense of intimacy or camaraderie.

3. A scent can speak for you

Wearing fragrances allows you to communicate things you may not be confident enough to say about yourself directly.

The secret hopeless romantic, the office-bound outdoorsman, and the shy guy bursting to be more outgoing can all find their voice with the right signature scent.

It's not about choosing something that isn't you. It's about choosing something that speaks to your true nature.

4. You'll come to OWN that scent

If you wear one fragrance long enough, the people in your life will be unable to separate it from you.

They'll smell a guy in a checkout line and think, “hey, that guy's wearing Tom's cologne, what gives?”

We don't “own” our chosen haircuts, the model of car we drive (figuratively at least), or the types of movies we watch, but there is something overwhelmingly personal about the way we smell.

There's something satisfying in feeling like you OWN the exclusive rights to a scent that everyone in the world has access to.

5. It's a confidence boost

We typically feel least in control when our surroundings are unfamiliar and we deviate from our routines.

But just like pulling on a well-loved leather jacket that has molded itself to you, spraying your go-to scent can help you regain a sense of familiarity, comfort, and confidence.

A signature scent is like a track record, a reminder of all of your accomplishments that comes flooding back to you the instant it hits your nose in the morning.

You'll also get a pleasant refresher when you suddenly turn, sit down, or put on your coat.

Finding your signature scent

signature scent how to find

One of my hand selected samples from Debonair Scent.

My favorite thing about finding a signature scent is the ability of that medium to express who you are.

With this end goal in mind, here are the key factors to consider when navigating the seemingly endless pool of scents available.

The selection process

To start, think about things like your personal preferences, locale, and lifestyle. Specifically…

What are you drawn to?

Not considering cologne, what scents are pleasing to your nose?

Do you prefer woodsy smells – sawdust, cedar, fresh pine, eucalyptus? Or sweet scents like vanilla, tobacco, and dark berries?

Do you gravitate toward fresh, crisp scents (perhaps citrus or clean linen) or dark, seductive type fragrances (like smoky oud or warm amber)?

If you're going to be wearing it every day, your scent should be something that you consistently and genuinely enjoy.

Think of the smells you instinctively love including food, vices, or everyday places and start there.

Consider your geographic location

A heavy, sweet, and spicy scent that may be perfect for the long months of below freezing weather in the north will be nauseatingly overpowering in southern Florida.

To contrast the heat and humidity, you'd want something light, citrusy, and aquatic.

This isn't a major concern as there's a lot of wiggle room with middle-of-the-road scents, but when you get to the far reaches of each category, matching your surroundings becomes more important.

What's your lifestyle?

Although you should keep your true self in mind when selecting your signature scent, certain colognes just don't work in the office or other settings.

When you're working in close quarters with your coworkers or meeting with clients who may or may not have a sensitive nose, less is often more.

A good place to start is by trying out various summer scents as most are light enough to avoid the theatrical and overdramatic choking gestures of “that” coworker.

However, if you work primarily by yourself, in the creative field, or other less formal industries, you can let your imagination and expression run wild without too many restrictions.

What's the desired outcome?

Think of how you want to feel and what sort of imagery you want to create when you spray your cologne.

Maybe you want to smell like a world traveler so you'll choose a scent containing musk and exotic spices.

Maybe you want a clean, universally appealing scent that you can wear to the office, to the daycare to pick up your children, and over to Grandmas's house for Sunday brunch.

In that case, you'll want something completely different from the ladies man who frequents clubs, concerts, and house parties.

Describe your personality

Don't think you're limited to the exact current version of yourself.

We're all evolving on a daily basis so put some thought into the direction you hope to carry yourself.

Do you want to express an energetic, lighthearted, or reserved demeanor?

A young professional clawing his way to the top of the corporate ladder should choose a scent that's masculine, serious, and perhaps a little edgy.

But a third grade teacher will want something more fun and approachable that projects enthusiasm and familiarity.

Trying them out (in real life)

After you have a rough idea of which direction to head in, it's time to put your scent candidates to the test in every day life.

Rather than just sniffing bottles and paper cards, you'll actually need to wear a potential signature scent on your skin and go through your daily routine to get to know if this is “the one”.

Why? Because…

  • A fragrance will smell different in the bottle, on paper, and on your skin
  • Fragrances smell different on different people based on individual body chemistry
  • Scents evolve as the hours roll by

So you'll need to shop around, test out scents regularly, and gauge feedback from your own nose and those around you.

It may be a long journey

Chances are, you won't select the perfect fragrance on the first, second, or even third try.

You may find scents you like right away, but you probably won't want to commit to them for the foreseeable future.

The process of reviewing, selecting, tracking down, and trying a wide range of fragrances can be a huge time and money sink.

I've actually been training my nose for a while now – sampling singular essential oils and spices and reading reviews and profiles of different fragrances.

From there, I try to identify the individual notes that are supposedly in the profile and others that are unique to my nose.

But even with this self taught perfumery, I'm still often caught completely off guard by how different a scent is in person and/or on my skin compared to what I had created in my mind from reading reviews.

Some that seemed absolutely perfect for me on paper turn out to be just short of repulsive in real life.

That's the power of individual perception.

To help with this selection process, check out Debonair Scent.

Debonair Scent

signature scent

Visit Debonair Scent Here

For $15 per month, Debonair Scent will ship you three 3mL bottles of authentic brand name cologne – more than enough for daily wear.

Now, although you'll be well stocked with wearable scents and you could carry on enjoying this type of consistently refreshed variety forever, I have a different idea.

Debonair Scent doesn't advertise themselves in this manner, but I think the real value in their service is to help you wade through the waters of selecting your own signature scent.

To me, this makes them one of the most useful (and affordable) subscription services I've come across in a long time.

You start off by creating an online scent profile in which they ask you a few questions like:

  • What type of scent do you prefer? (masculine, feminine, anything)
  • When do you wear cologne? (at the gym, office, date, always)
  • When you wear cologne you want to feel like? (the adventurer, romantic, bad boy, successful guy, regular guy, dad)
  • What's your favorite scent? (oriental, woody, fresh, floral)

Then, based on your answers, they ship you three different hand selected options from designer and niche brands each month.

That's enough for roughly ten days of wear from each bottle.

So you can see how having a rotation of a pre-screened multi-day supply fragrances puts you on the fast track to finding your signature scent.

On top of that, inside the box is a $15 “cash” card that you can use towards the purchase of a full size bottle once you do find The One you want to wear on a daily basis.

Also, use my promo code IT50 to get 50% off your first month subscription.

Enjoy the journey

Given my love of perfumery and the number of fragrances I've tested and tried, it may be surprising that I'm actually still searching for my own signature scent.

While I have some favorites, I haven't been able to narrow it down to just One.

But I can't say that I'm disappointed.

This has been a fun ride. I've loved being able to try so many fragrances and am always trying to push my olfactory skills to the next level.

I know my signature scent is out there. I'll let you know when I find it!

All the best,


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  • Reply
    May 30, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Hi Nate,
    Nice article on the almost never discussed Journey of Finding the right Fragance-Scent. For sure it’s a long journey specially since most persons will keep improving themselves with time. The fragance that defined you 5 or so years ago, might not be good enough right now, so you search once again. Maybe is a never ending yourney ;)

    Any top fragances you have at the moment?
    In my case I have found the following to “define” me:
    – Chanel Allure Blanche (EDP)
    – Givenchy Gentlemen Only (EDT)
    -Gucci Guilty Intense (EDT)

    Keep up with the great articles.
    Regards from Mexico

    • Reply
      May 31, 2016 at 8:55 am

      I’m with you Mario. If it’s a never ending journey I wouldn’t be heart broken. Currently I like a few Tom Ford scents, mainly Tobacco Vanille and Black Orchid but they aren’t exactly all day every day type of scents. I’ve also used Burberry Classic and Polo Blue for over a decade, but can’t really decide if they “define” me or I just wear them for nostalgia. A few new contenders are Dior Savage and Michael Kors for Men. Additionally, based on a few paper card sprays, I think I’ll really love anything from A’Men. So in summary, yes it’s a fun journey, haha!

  • Reply
    June 3, 2016 at 6:09 am

    What up Nate!

    Thanks for this article, it’s got my right brain flowing… I have been thinking of this recently, and hadn’t really delved into cologne for a while. I think you give some great tips on how to personalize yourself and this helps you solidify your presence. I’m going to start experimenting more.

    Hope all’s well with you lately!

    – Evan

  • Reply
    June 12, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    This is an interesting topic.

    You caught my attention with the intro…
    “And just as a certain smell can take you back to a time, a place, or a feeling, it can also conjure a specific person in your life.”

    That’s absolutely true in my experience. I guess I need to put some more thoughts into my choice of cologne.

    I’ve got a deodorant that I personally love but I’m still undecided on what my favourite cologne is.

    • Reply
      June 13, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Yeah, it’s a fun process. On the subject of deodorant, do you ever find that using a single scent for too long causes it to lose it’s effectiveness? It seems to happen to me. But I’m not sure if it’s actually losing potency or if I start to associate the particular scent with BO after getting ripe a couple of times. I’m curious to hear your input on this.

  • Reply
    Ian J Treu
    October 3, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    This is a great article, thank you, I hope it’s alright that I wanted to suggest a couple things. Quick background; my summer job in high school I worked at Victory Secret Beauty, (the side of the store full of lotions and fragrance not panties) and I learned a lot. That was about 14 years ago and I’ve regularly worn fragrance since. I can tell you from over a decade into picking some signature ones, the effects you’ve mentioned are real and the benefits exponential especially if you’re a little strategic about it. In addition though I recommend; having more than a single signature fragrance and applying it correctly.

    I myself have a few bottles in the medicine cabinet that are for specific events. A telling example would be work vs. play smells. In my business I best represent myself as wise, knowing and calm in the face of pressure; and so my fragrance brings to mind wood, paper, and maturity with deep earthy tones. After-hours is sharper and fresher with some complementing citrus and spice tones I learned from drinking aged rums, it’s more exciting and playful. I recommend making some choices based off big chunks of your wardrobe like, work out, work, night-out and lounge. Fragrance is something you “wear” so change clothes, change smells. You might take it a step further, I have, and have similar but subtle changes for within those activities. Most of my work is coaching one-on-one, but occasionally I present to boards and conferences. For those, out come my power ties, and I usually add a bold layer to my otherwise calm work scent. On the flip side, night out with the guys vs. date night with my wife. Don’t over specialize though, with fragrance it’s easy to have too much of a good thing. Which brings up, appropriate application.

    Unless it specifically says otherwise, always apply to the skin. If you’re buying cologne it was designed to adhere to your skin, and through the day it will be more lasting and less overpowering than if you attempt to spray it on your clothes. I believe the ideal method to be, while shirtless hold the bottle at arm’s length away, spray towards your bare chest, blocking the spray about halfway to your chest with the back of your other hand. Take your now scent saturated hand and wipe it on the corresponding side of your neck. Second spritz, same thing with your other hand. Third spritz, don’t block it, just let it spray full on to your chest. Cold day means extra layers of clothes, opt for a fourth spritz. Five is right out, even if you have a hot sweaty job that eats your designed scent quickly to be replaced with natural body odors, you’d do a lot better with a mid-day reapply than trying to pour it all on at once. The hand-neck wiping has more benefits. Think about where people’s noses are when they are near you and how we most often touch each other socially; handshakes, leaning in towards you during discussion, the platonic hug, and so on. Think other than B.O. the most obvious smell of guys who don’t add fragrance are their shaving cream and whatever they just washed their hands with. Plus the backs of your hands will give subtle notes of your scent to things you touch. Reports you hand to coworkers, checks you hand back to wait staff, the pen you hand to a client. And unlike the palms of your hands the backs of your hands will hold your scent better through hand washing.

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