Affordable men’s fragrances is a relative term when we consider that a designer perfume for any gender now comes in at the thick end of a hundred quid. This realisation prompted me, quite uncharacteristically, to honour Valentine’s Day and see if I could find a selection of gift-worthy scents for men that cost significantly less, without the aroma or gesture seeming cheap. And, having now sniffed my way through enough perfume to douse the Premier League, I find myself spoilt for choice.
Swedish high-street fashion chain & Other Stories does a remarkable line in elegantly packaged, gender-neutral fragrances from £17. I was wowed by the entire selection, but my sons, husband and I all loved Midnight Encore (£28 for 50ml), a salt-and-peppery, cosy but quietly brooding and magnetic jasmine fragrance that, if priced at £150, wouldn’t cause me to balk. The Lost Chapter (£29 for 50ml) is my other favourite. Spicy, creamy sandalwood and expensive leather are leavened by a bright and cheerful carrot note and a papery crispness. It’s a perfect daytime fragrance – vibrant and polite.
Another hit was Beauty Pie’s Balade en Floret (£28 for 50ml to members). This is a dewy forest floor – all damp bark, milky sap and lush greenery, with a slightly medicinal oiliness. It’s earthy, confident and welcoming, and won’t offend in a work or gym setting.
Abercrombie & Fitch’s Authentic Self (£39 for a bumper 100ml) was a big hit with my young-adult sons and their friends, who loved both the cobalt-blue bottle and its contents. This is classically male in concept – spicy, woody and energetic – but its creamy vanilla brings softness, a bright ginger-root note and some personality.
Light, bright, unobtrusive and broadly admired across the perfume community is Ted Baker’s Original Skinwear, officially just £14.99 for 100ml, but available for even less with a quick Google (the Perfume Shop has an enormous 200ml size for just £20).
This is the bargain of the century. Think icy, lemony gin and tonic with a generous squeeze of lime pulp, followed by a more mellow, woody, musk as it settles into skin. Skinwear is well mannered enough to be worn alone for work, school or college, but acts as an accommodating base layer for something more punchy at night.
Roger and Gallet’s Eau de Cologne (£36 for 100ml) is another crowd-pleaser, all fizzy lemon sherbet and smashed, succulent mint leaves on a bright sunshiny day. Mouthwatering.