Most first-time perfume or cologne buyers often ponder the question, “What makes a fragrance masculine or feminine?” Most men’s scents you find tend to be stronger, musky, leathery, and aromatic. In contrast, women’s scents are much lighter, sweeter, and often fruity or floral. However, you cannot base the differences purely on fragrance families or notes as there are hundreds of crossovers in the market.
For instance, citrus is a popular men’s cologne ingredient for both men. Similarly, you can find hundreds of women’s cologne with sandalwood, cedarwood, and other earthy notes. So, this leads us to another question:
Is this purely a marketing gimmick, or is there a science behind it? Let's find out by diving deeper into the key differences between men's and women's cologne.
The Main Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Cologne
When a cologne maker creates a signature scent in the modern age, they label the fragrance as masculine, feminine, or unisex. In ancient times, however, there was no gender-based differentiation as most fragrances were developed to be used by both men and women. The main criterion for selection was popularity, the fragrance note (floral, citrus, musk, etc.), and the quality.
In some cultures, many women in higher positions commonly used scents that men mainly used. The gendered categorization of colognes and perfumes became popular in the 1950s, considered the golden age of marketing and advertisement. Most personal hygiene and body products were segmented based on gender during this era to improve sales and revenue.
As women typically opted for floral or fruity scents due to feminine advertisements, men naturally steered clear of these scents and sought alternatives that were considered masculine. Hence, this change in consumer behavior led to the creation of the masculine, feminine, and unisex cologne categories.
Here are the three key differences between men’s and women’s cologne:
1. Fragrance Notes
It's quite difficult to put into words what makes a fragrance masculine or feminine in terms of smell. However, most people have a similar perception in their heads. For instance, feminine fragrances are a lot sweeter than male fragrances that tend to be stronger since they’re mostly inspired by “masculine” things like whiskey, beer, tobacco, leather, and raw nature.
As a result, woody, earthy, spicy, leathery, and smokey fragrance notes quickly became popular among men. However, this doesn't mean floral or citrus scents don't make the cut. Colognes are strategically designed for every scent cycle to include a certain profile of essential oil combinations. For instance, most top notes are sharp and often sweet for great first impressions.
However, most brands emphasize the base notes and use stronger profiles to make them last longer. A great reason for this is that women are accustomed to carrying purses and bags in which they can keep their colognes and perfumes to apply when needed. Men neither have this luxury nor are they accustomed to carrying perfumes with them on the go.
Another key difference between men's and woman's cologne is tradition. No matter where you go, gender associations are a part of societal culture, and we've been conditioned to think, dress, and smell a certain way. As a result, the cologne industry has followed the cultural convention by labeling spicier, muskier scents for men and fruity, floral scents for women.
If you're wondering where this association comes from, research suggests that flowers have been culturally used to personify feminine fertility in ancient times for feminine scents. Similarly, the connection between men and musky scents results from men's natural body odor being stronger than women's in general.
However, the lines between genders are fading faster than ever in the modern age, with unisex colognes trending in the fragrance industry. This change was first introduced in the 90s by Calvin Klein, who created the world's first officially recognized scent for men and women called the CK One. Due to its success among multiple generations, people's perception of fragrances has rapidly evolved with time.
However, this shift in preferences makes things more complex, considering there are few differences between both products apart from men's cologne being spicy and earthy. In contrast, women's cologne rests on the floral and fruity side of the spectrum. In the end, it falls to individual preferences.
If you visit a cologne store near you to look around, you'd most be approached by a salesperson directing you towards the men's or women's section, depending on your shopping agenda. There, you'll note a significant difference in the ambiance and advertising around the cologne collection based on the packaging, marketing content, price tag, etc. Everything is designed to urge both sexes to purchase the products right away.
In general, men’s colognes have a darker color design with heavy, compact bottles featuring bold taglines and stylish models with strong looks in its promotional materials. The idea being communicated in these promotional materials is that the wearer can attract the opposite sex by wearing the fragrance inside.
In contrast, women’s cologne often comes in colors considered to be feminine, such as pink, red, purple, and yellow. The bottles are usually more delicate with tall and thin designs. Furthermore, the packaging usually features a beautiful woman visually expressing her emotions regarding the scent.
So, there you have it – the key differences between men's and women's colognes. So, the next time you go shopping, pay attention to these details. They'll help you pick out the best products to match your style, personality, and body chemistry.
If you’re in the market for men’s colognes, Stuniii has recently launched its first collection with various high-quality fragrances. Feel free to opt for a discovery set of five 5ml sample fragrances made with some of the most sought-out ingredients in the market by men.