Left or right, black or white ... or in men's fragrance terms, sporty or spicy. They are polar opposites and they are the two prevailing styles of fragrance for men but just to confuse things, there is a bit of convergence going on.
So-called sporty scents and are usually airy and light, often with citrus or aquatic notes. Spicy is self-evident, the aroma of these scents is richer, more intense, often with woody or green notes and sometimes hints of leather or tobacco. Like day and night, the styles suggest fresh or frisky.
For men wishing to broaden their olfactory experience, start first by working out a preferred fragrance family and then try other similar scents. There will be big variations in staying power and sometimes what smells great in the bottle just won't work on your skin, so do try before you buy and don't write off a whole category on the basis of one sniff.
Airy aromas are particularly popular in America, whereas the Europeans are more willing to get in touch with their sensual side. Sales here show both approaches strike a chord. Worldwide, the divide is narrowing, with a trend for warmer, deeper fragrance notes even in the sportiest of scents. When well balanced the resultant fragrances are both energizing and expressive; badly done and you get a banal or jarring blend.
Classic colognes, featuring gentlemanly touches of citrus, floral, and herbs, are well worth exploring as an alternative. Modern niche market fragrances tend to dabble in unusual aromas, drawing their influences from the synthesised as well as the natural world. Grass, concrete and tar have all been cited as smell inspirations. Better department stores should offer a sampling of these heritage and contemporary categories, but specialist boutiques such as World Beauty, Crane Brothers, Black Box and The Department Store will put them in context.
The fragrance industry wrings every last drop out of its best-sellers by marketing retooled, repackaged seasonal versions of its scents, so watch what you are buying, you may have loved the original, but the summer editions hitting shelves soon may not suit as well - then again, they may appeal more. Here's some recent releases for men looking to mix it up.
1. Chanel Allure Homme Sport Eau Extreme 50ml eau de toilette concentree $131
Chanel used Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow of The Hurt Locker to film Hawaiian surfing identity Danny Fuller as the face of this fragrance. A more concentrated version of the somewhat spicy Allure Homme Sport, this combines freshness and warmth, taking the fragrance into more musky aromatic territory, with mint, mandarin, cyprus and tonka bean notes. For the non-sporty type, the less aquatic original Chanel Allure Homme is more subtly rounded.
2. Dolce & Gabbana The One Sport 50ml eau de toilette $124
The design duo claims sport as "a pure Italian ideal, inherited from classical Greece to ancient Rome" and they milk this notion in an advertising campaign featuring a godlike gladiator figure. The modern-day corporate warrior might not quite measure up, but he can still anoint himself with this energetic Mediterranean mix of rosemary, sea salt and pine with a sensual musky finish.
3. L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme Sport 50ml eau de toilette $103
Issey Miyake's airy men's scent gets a fresh woody take in this Sport version, which is meant to convey that "deep breath of satisfaction that a mountain climber takes when he reaches the summit". Citrus, nutmeg and smoky wood aromas combine in a bottle by Renato Montagner, an Italian architect who specialises in designing sports equipment.
4. Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Terrible 125ml eau de toilette travel flask $149
Whether it be for a hit of scent or Scotch, this limited edition JPG hip flask packs quite a punch. It contains Le Male Terrible, a grapefruit and peppercorn-tinged version of the original Le Male scent, but one which is still strong on its distinctive blend of lavender, citrus and spice underpinned with vanilla and wood.
5. Jean Paul Gaultier Kokorico 50ml eau de toilette $96
Not for the shrinking violet, this impactful aroma is said to be for the chap with a strong personality who exhales masculinity. But somehow it's hard to visualise JPG's man in rugby shorts. He defines his sexuality on his own terms, and isn't afraid to mix up classical perfume ingredients such as cedar, patchouli and vetiver with bitter cocoa and fig leaf.
6. 1 Million Paco Rabanne King Size Shower Gel $99
This gold-capped 600ml bottle of shower gel complements the gold brick 1 Million eau de toilette, which wins the boys' bling award. The gel is a limited edition and like the fragrance it is a banging, sultry mix of citrus, mint, rose, spice, patchouli, leather, amber and white woods.
Stockists: Selected department stores and pharmacies (for Jean Paul Gaultier and Issey Miyake, pharmacies are Life only). Chanel stockist details ph 0800 957352.
Vamping it up
True Blood actor Alexander Skarsgard is the new face of Calvin Klein's latest male fragrance, Encounter, due out later this year. In the advertising campaign he is pictured with Lara Stone.
Eau de PM
Winston Churchill's favourite fragrance, Creed's Tabarome, joins the eclectic and exclusive array at World Beauty stores. The cigar smoking, brandy swilling war-time Prime Minister liked tobacco notes in his fragrance too which is a clubroom classic. It costs $399 a bottle.
Justin Bieber's fruity-floral fragrance for female fans has been named the year's best celebrity fragrance at the perfume industry's annual Fifi awards. Someday, which comes topped with a giant plastic flower, is also a sales hit and the singing star donates all his sales proceeds to charity.
Hall of Fame status at the Fifi awards was accorded to Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio for men and Hermes 24 Faubourg for women. Best men's luxe scent was Gucci Guilty Pour Homme and best women's was Tom Ford's Violet Blonde.
Look out for more men's scents in smaller bottles, a marketing trend allowing easier sampling, and prices to be kept under $100. Examples include the popular Rocawear Evolution in a 30ml spray for $69.