Just like women, men can have good scents

December 22, 1993|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Staff Writer

Men are hooked on neck juice.

Nearly 300 fragrances of men's cologne and after-shave are on the market. Yearly sales have been pegged at $1.7 billion, according to the International Fragrance Industry, and sales have grown by 3 to 5 percent each year since 1988.

In a 1992 Gallup poll, nine out of 10 men said they had used cologne in the past six months; half of those polled said they had used cologne in the past week.

But men, the poll suggests, grow out of brands. Sixty percent of cologne users started wearing their favorite brand within the last three years. Half of those polled tried a new brand in the last year.

The history of men's cologne use can be traced to primitive first aid. In ancient times (1940s, 1950s), men wore after-shave to stop the bleeding that often follows shaving. It stung like holy heck, but at least the blood clotted. Conventional wisdom said only women wore cologne for its smell.

"Today, men really wear fragrances like women do. They have gotten into the whole wardrobe of fragrances," says Annette Green, executive director of the New-York based Fragrance Foundation, the educational arm of the International Fragrance Industry.

Men, Ms. Green says, have become self-gratifying groomers. They care about how they dress and how they smell. Unlike the old days, they are buying cologne for themselves. And they have matured beyond wearing cologne to troll for company or compliments, Ms. Green says.

Talk of men's cologne and the subject of women are entwined. For instance, the "Making Scents of the American Male" Gallup poll found that some men said they used less cologne after they got married or got into a steady relationship.

Others say men don't use a bold scent without consent.

"Men sort of need a woman's permission to wear an upscale fragrance. Women remain very important in this decision-making process," says Allan Mottus, a New York-based industry expert.

The industry's biggest change in the past several years has been that drugstores are selling prestige brands and selling them more cheaply than do department stores, analysts say.

Men definitely have gone upscale. They aren't using as much the traditional fragrances such as Brut, Canoe and English Leather, says Mr. Mottus. Aqua Velva and Skin Bracer face extinction, he says. Bay rum is definitely out. "Men don't want alcohol with just a little scent in it. They want a real scent," he says.

rTC But other industry analysts say a few of the old-time scents still do well. Klein & Co., a New Jersey-based consulting group that tracks such things, says Old Spice, Brut, Stetson, Drakkar Noir and Eternity were the top five sellers based on manufacturers' sales in 1992. But keep in mind these figures include related products, such as deodorant.

Speaking just of fragrances, a trio of Calvin Klein's fragrances -- Escape, Eternity and Obsession -- are among the top-selling brands, Mr. Mottus says. Each year, he follows retail sales of fragrances at department stores. He says Polo and Drakkar Noir also do well.

"Men," says Ms. Green, "have now discovered their sense of smell."

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