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CLOSET RX

Sniffing Out Problems With Men's Colognes

June 22, 1995|JOHN MORELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sometimes you don't have to go to a guy's closet to find a skeleton. It might be clustered on top of his dresser, crowded into a medicine chest or shoved under the bathroom sink. Here, you'll find bottles of colognes and after-shaves that are treated like fine wine, never to be opened until that "special" moment.

But often that moment comes, and the man is stumped. He's getting ready for a big job interview--should he splash on the spicy stuff he got from Aunt Martha six birthdays ago, or dab a little of the cologne with the sensual bottle behind his ears?

What about a little of both?

Men don't tend to buy fragrances for themselves. They're usually gifts from wives, girlfriends and well-meaning older relatives. Because of that, many guys find themselves a little fragra-ignorant and end up wearing a scent that doesn't suit them.

"A good cologne, on the right person, can make up for almost any clothing faux pas that person has made," says clothing buyer Bill Rigioni of Huntington Beach. "To pick one out, you just need half an hour at the fragrance counter and a helper you can trust."

Good cologne, again like a good wine, is probably not going to come from an off brand. "The better quality the fragrance, generally the longer it will last," says Jessica Wood of Fragrance for Less in Cypress. "I've heard of people using the same bottle of cologne for 10 years."

But don't expect most colognes to last a decade.

"Usually, the spicier the fragrance, the shorter its life," Wood says. "Where you store your cologne is also critical. If it's on your dresser and your room gets lots of light, you might find that the cologne just doesn't have the freshness it used to have."

Light and heat break down the oils in the fragrance faster, which is why the best spot for cologne is probably a dark closet shelf. Leaving it in the sun for awhile can give your cologne another similarity to wine--it becomes pure alcohol.

"Most colognes are their freshest in the first six months to a year," Wood says. "If you find that you're not using up your bottle in a year, buy a smaller size next time."

So, you know how to store it and what size to get, but how do you pick a scent? "Usually, the fragrance counter has swatches with their scents. Try those and pick out a few you like," Rigioni says. "Try a little of each in different spots on your arms and sniff. Fragrances have personalities, some are bold and some are subtle. Sniff for one that suits you."

* Do you need an antidote for a wardrobe problem? Write Closet Rx at The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or fax to (714) 966-7790.

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