It's all too easy to slap on some cologne in the bathroom and think you've done enough. What you're forgetting is that the soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and lotions you use make up a formidable potpourri—and if you're not giving the mix some thought, it might not be formidable in a good way.
There's an art to scent-layering. First, take stock of your grooming products and make sure they work well together. It's safest to stay in a single fragrance family—fresh, woody, and mossy fougère are the three main ones for guys—even if, within a family, there can be great diversity. Second, if you're buying new scented products, your best bet is a lotion or body wash from established perfumers, who lend a sophisticated understanding of smell to these categories and don't overextend into deodorants and body sprays. Finally, work fragrance-free elements into your routine so you don't risk too much of a good thing. For deodorant, we like Tom's of Maine's Original Care solid stick ($5), and for everything else, try John Masters Organics "bare" line.
If this sounds fussy, remember: You're using soap, shampoo, and cologne every day, so you're already layering scents. Below, a primer on getting it right.
Lotion: Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine ($60; ateliercologne.com)
Cologne: Creed Asian Green Tea ($300; creedboutique.com)
Novices should start with this group because it's the most approachable; scents like lemon peel, ocean mist, and cut grass fall under its umbrella. If you're feeling dry, try Atelier Cologne's first lotion, Orange Sanguine (which smells like it sounds), then apply Creed's Asian Green Tea, which mixes bergamot, lemon, and camellia sinensis—the plant from which tea leaves are harvested.
Net effect: An orange grove
Lotion: Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt ($75; jomalone.com)
Cologne: Commes des Garçons Wonderoud ($145; newyork.doverstreetmarket.com)
By far the most popular fragrance family for men, woody scents smell rustic, though not every note comes from a tree: Leather, tobacco, and spices are at play as well. The smoky, herbal, and sharp mineral aspects of Jo Malone's Wood Sage & Sea Salt lotion are like a springboard for CdG's Wonderoud—a potent twinning of patchouli and sandalwood.
Net effect: A beach bonfire
Shampoo/Body Wash: Hermès Eau de Gentiane Blanche ($41; usa.hermes.com)
Cologne: Jimmy Choo Man ($82; bloomingdales.com)
Fougères are a grab bag of woody, floral, and citrus notes, usually with a hint of lavender and oakmoss (they're less-woody woodies). Hermès' new Eau de Gentiane Blanche shampoo and body wash leaves an earthy, floral scent, a subtle complement to Jimmy Choo's first men's cologne, which layers bright geranium and pineapple leaf on a mossy base.
Net effect: A fall hike
Body Wash: Escentric 03 ($45; luckyscent.com)
Cologne: Amouage Journey ($285; amouage.com)
Yes, it's best to keep layered scents all in the family, but if you're feeling like a renegade, rinse off with Escentric 03, a vetiver-based body wash, then take a left turn with Amouage's new Journey. This woody cologne has notes of tobacco but still blends well with Escentric's "fresh" qualities, thanks to the crossover elements of peppercorn and citrus in both.
Net effect: Cigars on the lawn