Never mind what clothing to wear to the office. Things get really tricky when it comes to the big decision about the best cologne for work.
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Top Picks at a Glance
Kiehl’s Original Musk
A musky straightforward scent, perfect for the office.
Pasha De Cartier
An old School classic, essential for the work wardrobe.
Eau De Magnolia
A floral fragrance that will get you many compliments at the office.
After all, you want to wear something that will make you smell good and boost your confidence while taking into account the increasing sensitivities about encroaching on colleagues’ personal space.
This is becoming even more important with the inexorable rise of open-plan offices where anything too exotic or overpowering is not going to win you any points.
To help you feel attractive without being intrusive, we’ve compiled this list. We’ve avoided the usual suspects such as Bleu de Chanel, Dior Sauvage, and L’ Homme Prada. Not that there’s anything wrong with these choices. They are all great contenders.
But hopefully, this list will inspire you to consider some other options, too.
15 Colognes that are Perfect for Work
Perfumer: Thierry Wasser
Inspired by the allure and mystery of oriental fragrances, Guerlain’s Absolus d’Orient collection is highly rated for good reason. The fragrances in this range, such as Musc Noble*, are sophisticated and made from the finest ingredients.
Saffron and pepper set the elegant tone of this scent. The heart features a beautiful dynamic between musk and rose that gives each element equal opportunity to shine.
The sensual musky effect is given further character in the drydown with citrus, cedar and white amber notes.
Warm and powdery, it’s an accomplished blend from the iconic Paris-based company’s in-house perfumer.
Perfumer: Olivier Creed Sixth Generation and Erwin Creed Seventh Generation
From Original Vetiver EDP to Royal Oud EDP, there’s no shortage of Creed office fragrances. Creed Original Santal *is a worthwhile option if you’re looking for something different (and less alpha male than Aventus EDP) from the upmarket niche fragrance brand.
Inspired by India’s royal and spiritual splendor, this EDP declares its oriental profile from the beginning with a fresh and spicy mix of Jamaican ginger, Sicilian lemon, and orange tree absolute. Notes of lavender and rosemary add an aromatic facet.
The brand claims to use the best version of sandalwood, Mysore, in this scent. Warm and creamy, it’s supported by notes of vanilla and benzoin. Virginia cedar emphasizes its woodiness.
The unusual and rare combination of materials in this fragrance results in a scent profile that feels very blissful and serene.
Issey cologne* is extremely versatile and can be worn for most occasions and can also be considered one of the best colognes for work.
Bring something inviting and bright to your workplace when you don this unique and complex scent.
It’s woodsy and aquatic with notes of yuzu, bergamot, lemon, tarragon, nutmeg, and unexpected hints of water lily, tobacco, vetiver, musk, and cedar.
Terre D’Hermes* EDT is the perfect combination of subtle sensuality and masculine appeal. It is a matrix of earthy and strong scents, based on the alchemy of wood, earth, and zesty orange.
Pepper and grapefruit notes give it an intriguing effect that will get you noticed without being overpowering.
Deeper notes of mineral earthy undertones with cedar and sweet resins are reminiscent of territory and matter. This cologne is great for everyday wear and will not become overbearing.
The myriad of spice and citrus notes evolve throughout the day for an ever-changing fragrance experience.
Perfumer: Carlos Benaim
If you’re going to wear a floral fragrance to the office (and we urge you to do so), make sure it’s something that’s going to get you lots of compliments.
Frederic Malle Eau de Magnolia* is one of the lesser-known releases from the Paris-based niche fragrance house and will do exactly that for you.
It opens in citrus-fresh territory with notes of lemon, bergamot and grapefruit. Unmistakable without being overpowering, the magnolia note builds on that freshness. There’s a slight fruitiness in the background, courtesy of notes of melon and peach, with cedar in support.
The initial freshness is skilfully contrasted in the earthy drydown with its notes of patchouli and oakmoss.
Originally launched in 1902, this versatile fragrance from the London-based niche fragrance house has lost none of its charm.
According to the brand’s website, it was one of Winston Churchill’s favorite scents. One sniff and you’ll understand why it’s still a best-seller.
It opens with super-fresh notes of lemon and lime, while lavender accentuates its clean character. Interestingly, Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet* has no heart notes. Featuring notes of pine and black pepper, the base is woody and spicy.
It’s a cologne, so a few re-applications might be necessary during the day, but it’s pure gorgeousness while it lasts.
Dior Homme* has top notes that are floral and invigorating. Lavender, sage, and bergamot entice the senses while base notes of vetiver, patchouli, and leather are comforting and woodsy.
In the middle of everything, you will notice notes of iris, amber, and cacao which provide the perfect balance of floral musk.
You will be enveloped in the casual charm of this timeless white dress shirt scent. It’s simple yet elegant, making it a great all-around fragrance for both casual and professional settings.
The aromatic green fragrance of bright rosemary, star, sweet anise, and bergamot wake up your senses while middle notes of delicate lavender, spicy clove, geranium, and energetic coumarin bed them back down.
Base notes of complex patchouli, earthy guaiac wood, sensual vetiver, and natural oakmoss provide a woodsy and pleasing all-day tranquility. A clean and classic scent, bitter and dry notes are balanced by the softness of a floral bouquet.
Rive Gauche* for Men is great for professionals who want to smell fresh and invigorating while still hinting at playful originality.
If you’ve stayed at a fancy hotel, you’re probably familiar with Molton Brown’s superb bathroom products. What many people don’t know is that the British brand also has a superb and varied selection of fragrances. Tobacco Absolute is one of its best.
The fresh top notes of bergamot and grapefruit will be the first to grab you. There’s a woody heart after that intro, with cedarwood and rosewood in the mix. Nutmeg is an officially listed note, but there’s more of a strong peppery vibe to this scent.
Rich and warm, the base tobacco note is complemented by leather and Peru balsam notes.
This appealing woody fragrance is also available in an EDP version.
Perfumer: Alberto Morillas
The original Bulgari Man was launched in 2010 and has spawned several successful flankers since then. If you’re looking for the best cologne for work look no further than Wood Neroli EDP*. It’s a citrusy spin on its predecessor Wood Essence EDP.
Neroli, bergamot and orange blossom work in unison to set a fresh, sunny scene. The woody aspect comes through soon after that in the form of Virginia cedar and cypriol oil.
There’s a big dose of ambroxan in this one which, depending on your views on this synthetic form of ambergris, will be good or bad news. It’s enhanced by a white musk note.
While it’s not the most exciting or original fragrance, it’s got the feel-good factor in abundance.
Eau Sauvage* intensely fresh cologne is one many men swear by. Made with high-end natural ingredients – clean and clear top notes of lemon and bitter rosemary combine artfully with masculine middle notes of basil, bergamot, and cumin.
Woody nuances of oakmoss, vetiver, and amber are recognizable throughout the solid base of this enticing, clean and masculine scent. Strong and unmistakable.
Burberry for Men* is a clean refreshing fragrance with hints of Artemisia, nutmeg, Virginia cedarwood and white pepper.
It is a gentlemanly cologne that is presented in a clear glass bottle. Woody aromas and soft musk give this cologne a certain depth that is hard to beat.
The one (and in my opinion only) downside with this cologne is you’ll likely have to re-apply it during the day. Its longevity is only 2-3 hours.
Perfumer: Jacques Cavallier
Every work fragrance wardrobe should have at least one classic and Pasha de Cartier* fulfills that role with style.
Launched in 1992, it was created by Jacques Cavallier, the perfumer behind well-known scents such as YSL M7 EDT, Bvlgari Aqua Pour Homme EDT and Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme EDT.
The opening is fresh and spicy with notes of lavender, mint, caraway and anise in play. Brazilian rosewood and sandalwood give it sophisticated depth, while patchouli and oakmoss ensure it’s seriously earthy.
It’s old school and mature in all the right ways.
Founded in 2003 by Randi Shinder, the Clean Beauty Collective has major eco-friendly credentials, which is becoming increasingly important in perfumery.
From the American niche brand’s Reserve collection, Amber Reserve* is a unisex floral oriental.
A light citrus opening gives way to a big and juicy dose of raspberry, with lily in support. The saffron note infuses the fragrance with a gentle leatheriness, and amber and musk give it warmth.
It’s sweet from start to finish, but in a subtle and sophisticated way, so there’s no danger of suffocating those in your close vicinity.
Launched in 1963 and apparently based on a formula from the 1920s, Original Musk is the American brand’s most well-known fragrance. It’s a straightforward composition but works a treat.
The fresh citrus intro features notes of bergamot nectar and orange blossom, followed by a floral display of lily, rose, ylang-ylang and neroli notes.
But it’ the musk note that dominates this unisex scent. At first, it’s quite medicinal in character (and we mean that in a good way), which is appropriate when you consider that this brand started out as an apothecary. It’s softened with the addition of tonka nut and white patchouli notes.
1. Sillage / Projection: Medium to Low
If you’ve ever had a person walk by you and a few seconds later, you got hit with a wall of perfume that’s sillage. It’s a French word meaning wake of a boat or in this case wake of fragrance.
For us less metaphorically minded English speakers, it’s sometimes referred to as projection.
In fragrance terms, this translates to how far away people have to be to smell your cologne. Is everyone going to smell it the minute you walk into the room? If they pass you in the hall? If they’re working with you at your desk?
If you’re working outdoors or in a wide-open space, you get a lot more leeway to be expressive with your fragrance and wear what suits your mood. Even if coworkers are nearby, free space and free airflow will keep most fragrances from feeling overbearing.
Many of us work in climate-controlled offices or retail outlets with co-workers near us throughout the day. Since space is confined and there’s less overall airflow, you’ll generally need a subtle cologne for work that can fly under the radar until someone gets nearby.
These will give a whiff of scent but not overwhelm people in the vicinity.
Most work environments, aim for low to medium projection colognes. Keep the high-voltage juice for evening or romantic wear.
2. Longevity / Duration: Medium to High
Another factor to keep in mind when selecting a work fragrance is how long it will last. Most colognes have a limited lifespan based on their concentration of essential oils.
While each fragrance is different, true Perfumes tend to have the highest concentration while Eau Fraiche is at the bottom end. Most men’s fragrances come as Eau de Toilette (EDT) which is right in the middle at 4-5 hours.
Unfortunately, most of us need to work more than 4-5 hours a day so you’ll need to decide between choosing a fragrance that lasts all day and reapplying the fragrance. In some jobs, it’s easy to refresh in the restroom before a meeting or during lunch – others don’t have the luxury so choose your scent accordingly.
Warning: Do NOT spray extra cologne on in the morning hoping a few extra squirts will help it will last you longer. This is a common misconception but it just makes your scent initially stronger (overwhelming) but the essential oils will still wear off at the same time as they would have with two squirts.
Some people swear by tricks like layering fragrances, spraying the cologne on your hair or clothing to help trap the fragrance. (Use with caution as some colognes might stain.)I’d say the safest is to just keep a discreet travel atomizer in your desk or bag and plan to reapply as necessary.
3. By Season and Fragrance Family
Another aspect to take into consideration is the season and type of fragrance. I’ve written about this in more depth here however in a nutshell your sense of smell is better in the summer and worse in the winter.
That means winter is perfect for those stronger colognes and during the summer you’ll most likely want lighter, fresher scents.
A great way to visualize this is with a fragrance wheel. Oriental or amber fragrances are stronger, spicier and bolder. They tend to be good fits for evening, romantic and cold weather. Meanwhile, fresh scents tend to be lighter and good for daytime and summer.
Woody is a nice in-between that is a bit more versatile. While there are some great floral fragrances for men that don’t smell overly feminine, they tend to be more of an acquired taste.
Because of this, most of the colognes on the list fall into the fresh or woody categories. Fougeres which technically fall in the middle of the fragrance wheel area also extremely popular and are usually some of the best colognes to wear to work.
Back in the 80s and 90s, power colognes with high projection/extreme duration were all the rage. Fierce, manly fragrances like Le Male and Obsession were best sellers.
For whatever reason, currently the squeaky clean”just out of the shower” and softer aquatic scents have become extremely popular for men. They might not be the most exciting or unique scents but they do tend to be very safe for a workplace.
Work provides us with a sense of fulfillment – however, you also need the self-confidence to do your best work. Whether you’re working in a sweaty environment and worry about body odor, or just want the security of knowing you are presenting a polished, professional presence, finding a good work cologne will boost your self-esteem and act as an extension of your personality.
Not sure where to start? You might try sampling some fragrances first before you decide.