It's hard to find the perfect fragrance for work. Ideally you want something that reflects confidence, professionalism and a touch of personality without being overbearing. And of course each work environment is a bit different. The edgy, niche cologne that everyone loves at the design studio would probably not go over so well at a conservative insurance office. Similarly, if you're working outside a bright citrus will cover body odor nicely but might feel out of place when brought indoors.
Because of all these factors, I will first explain what to look for in a good work cologne, then give my list of colognes which would fit well into most settings.
1. Sillage / Projection: Medium to Low
If you've ever had a person walk by you and a few seconds later, you got hit with a wall of perfume — that's sillage. It's a French word meaning wake of a boat — or in this case wake of fragrance. For us less metaphorically minded English speakers, it's sometimes referred to as projection.
In fragrance terms, this translates to how far away people have to be to smell your cologne. Is everyone going to smell your cologne the minute you walk into the room? If they pass you in the hall? If they're working together at your desk?
If you're working outdoors or in a wide-open space, you get a lot more leeway to be expressive with your fragrance and wear what suits your mood. Even if coworkers are nearby, the space and free airflow will keep most fragrances from feeling overbearing.
Many of us work in climate-controlled offices or retail outlets with co-workers near us throughout the day. Since the space is confined and there's less overall airflow, you'll generally need a subtle cologne that can fly under the radar until someone gets nearby. These will give a whiff of scent but not overwhelm people in the vicinity.
Most work environments, aim for low to medium projection colognes. Keep the high-voltage juice for evening or romantic wear.
2. Longevity / Duration: Medium to High
Another factor to keep in mind when selecting a work fragrance is how long it will last. Most colognes have a limited lifespan based on their concentration of essential oils. While each fragrance is different, true Perfumes tend to have the highest concentration while Eau Fraiche is at the bottom end. Most mens fragrances come as Eau de Toilette (EDT) which is right in the middle at 4-5 hours.
Unfortunately most of us need to work more than 4-5 hours a day so you'll need to decide between choosing a fragrance that lasts all day and reapplying the fragrance. In some jobs it's easy to refresh in the restroom before a meeting or during lunch — others don't have the luxury so choose your scent according.