36 Manly Smells

Some of the most popular survival games today, like Outlast and Ark: Survival Evolved are wildly successful. What makes these so appealing? In this article we explore 36 manly smells that make us feel alive, which is exactly what people need to survive on a desert island or in an apocalypse-type scenario.

The “masculine smelling perfume” is a smell that has been considered masculine for centuries. This list of 36 manly smells will help you find the perfect fragrance to match your personality.

36 manly smells man sniffing the air illustration.

We’ve chosen to reprint a vintage essay each Sunday to assist our younger readers discover some of the greatest, evergreen jewels from the past, with our archives currently totaling over 3,500 items. The original version of this essay was published in September of 2017.

Smells have the ability to evoke profound memories. The scent of pine needles may transport you back to childhood Christmases, while the scent of laundry detergent can transport you back to your childhood home. Certain scents have come to be associated with manliness in my mind. They remind me of my father or grandfather, or of some part of my youth and entrance into the rituals of manhood, whenever I smell them. 

We originally came up with the notion of compiling a list of macho scents back in 2009. We polled our readers for suggestions, and we came up with a list of 15 very virulent fragrances. The list was well-received, and we had hundreds of suggestions for more macho scents to include. So, four years later, in 2013, we compiled another crowdsourced list of 18 aromas. We’ve done it once more, but this time we’ve blended those two original lists with a few more. As a result, we’ve compiled the finest list of macho scents for you! You’ll discover not just our descriptions of male fragrances, but also recollections from our readers sprinkled throughout this list. 

Store of Hardware

Vintage hardware and paint store by carol johnson.

The aromas of paint, wood, fertilizer, and metal abound throughout the hardware shop. It’s everything in one place. My father used to go to a neighborhood hardware shop when I was a kid. He’d drag my brother and myself along with him. We’d play hide-and-seek in the door exhibits by opening all the drawers for the hinges and nails. When the big box shops came in, it, like many other local hardware businesses, went out of business. The structure was demolished and rebuilt with a high-end retail mall. However, I can still smell the manliness that radiated from that location everytime I pass past the corner where it previously stood.

Coffee is served black.

Vintage cowboy making coffee over a fire.

“My favorite perfume, not only macho aroma, but scent in general: the smell of coffee brewing in one of those enamel coffee pots on a chilly autumn morning, right next to the river, over a bonfire.” Inhale the positive, expel the negative. Heal.” —PiperJon

“Cowboy coffee!” says the narrator. Not that BS latte scent of hot milk, but the rich, strong aroma of cowboy coffee brewed in deer camp at 5 a.m. over a campfire by pouring grounds directly into the pot.” —Wilson

Shoe Shine

Shinola shoe polish ad advertisement.

The scent of shoe polish is unmistakably masculine. Many men associate it with gallant troops polishing their boots to a mirror finish. I’m instantaneously transported to my childhood den anytime I open a can of Kiwi black shoe polish. My father would take all of his boots to the den once a month to shine them with his wooden shoe polish kit. He generally did it while watching a classic detective program like In the Heat of the Night or Magnum P.I. The warm scent of shoe polish and leather filled the room, and it lingered long after he was done.


Gasoline, motor oil, grease, and garage are all items that may be found in a garage.

Men posing in front of car at gas station .

“I can smell my father’s hands soaked in motor oil and gasoline from dumping the red canister contents into the funnel every time I go to the gas station.” Those crimson rags have a stronger scent than most males.” —James

“I ride an ancient Triumph Bonneville motorcycle, and before starting it, I have to ‘tickle’ the carburetor until a little gas comes out. The fragrance of it on my finger or leather gloves always reminds me of my father’s bike parked in the garage.” —Matt

“My father would smell like that after working on the family vehicles, my elder brothers would smell like that after working on their cars, and my husband, who works as a mechanic, smells like that every day.” Too much oil on his tan forearms is too much, but just the proper amount of grease on his tan forearms smells masculine… WOW. “Wow, it smells like a guy.” —Alison

Cut Grass


Mowing the grass is the torment of many men’s lives. Even if you despise the task of mowing the lawn, you can’t deny that the fragrance of freshly cut grass is very masculine. When you combine that grassy fragrance with some body odor from the exercise and a little fuel (assuming you’re not using a reel mower), you’ve got an aroma that you may not want to wash off after giving your lawn a haircut.

Tackle Box from the Past

The tackle box with lures and fishing line.

“The fragrance of ancient, worn-out pocket knives coupled with the remnants of earthworms on fish hooks transports me back to when I was a young buck fishing with my grandfather.” —Mark


Wood man working on a lathe sawdust flying.

I haven’t done as much woodworking as I’d want. But everytime I do, I make a point of smelling the sawdust. I recall when I first became aware of this scent’s appeal. It was at the aforementioned old hardware shop. They had a lumber yard out back, and I recall getting enormous whiffs of sawdust as I watched the workmen cut down wood for my father. The smell of sawdust reminds me of my father teaching me how to sand my first pinewood derby vehicle. It was a good time.

Cockpit of an airplane

Vintage airplane cockpit by military aircraft.

“I worked with the B-52s, and nothing beats the stench of 40 years of perspiration, charred food, strain, and hard labor.” I’m sure it’s one of those acquired tastes, but once you’ve had it, you’ve had it.” —Josh



There’s nothing quite like the aroma of an old Scotch whisky: warm, rich, and smokey. The scent of Scotch might be off-putting to newcomers. But after you get over the pungency, you’ll be treated to a symphony of scents. Each Scotch has its own unique aroma, yet they all have a few things in common. The smokey peat used in the malting process will be detectable. However, if you approach near enough, you could detect a faint fruity aroma of apples or cherries. There’s a tinge of licorice as well, which reminds me of gentle elderly folks. When combined, you get a smell that makes you want to shave your chest.


Glove for baseball


“I recall there was no scent like placing your glove on your face when I was in Little League: leather, dirt, grass, perspiration.” Baseball has a lot of male odors.” —Sam



I like going to the barbershop. Why do you think that is? Because they all have such a macho odor. Barbicide, shaving cream, musky-smelling hair, and cheap (and free) coffee make up the fragrance of a barbershop. If you visit an ancient barber shop, it may have a slight odor of tobacco left over from the days when men would smoke a cigarette and place their butts in the ashtray on the barber chair armrests.


Vintage slow motion photo with soldier shooting automatic weapon.

I believe that every man’s love of the scent of gunpowder begins at a rustic fireworks stand. At least, that’s where mine ended up. My parents would take my brother and me to a fireworks stand on an old rural road every Fourth of July. As we raced up to the stand, I recall being overcome by the scent of gunpowder. I used to shove my nose in our paper bags after we filled them up and take a deep smell. I had a strong sense of impending peril. As well as manliness.

The fragrance of spent gunpowder, like shotgun shells or the way it smells all around when you fire a cartridge from a handgun, is equally as enticing.

An Antique Automobile’s Interior

Vintage man in interior of car driving at down road .

“There’s nothing like getting into an old automobile (that hasn’t been entirely repaired from the ground up) and taking a deep breath and just smelling the years.” —Josh

Old Spice Cologne Original

Original old spice cologne bottle ad.

A kiosk selling $60 bottles of cologne with foo-fooey fragrances may be found in any men’s area of a department store. For less than $12, you can have manliness in a bottle at your local pharmacy. Old Spice was recognized for its cologne before they manufactured deodorant. The cologne is still made, but it doesn’t receive much attention these days, which is a pity. Women seem to like a guy who uses Old Spice, based only on anecdotal data. It brings back memories of their grandfathers. Obviously, they don’t care about their grandfathers; they simply want the fragrance of old-fashioned manliness. They’ll immediately link you with a period when men were men if they get a whiff of your Old Spice. Get some Old Spice instead of dousing yourself in Calvin Klein or blasting yourself in a cloud of Axe body spray.


Old cowboy rancher riding at black horse.

“Dried dung, saddle leather, damp saddle blankets, even the fragrance of hay and delicious feed… everything to do with horses.” —Kerry


Roaring campfire at night.

It’s almost time for sunset. The sun’s final rays are slowly sinking towards the horizon. You go over to the fire pit and start constructing a tepee out of dried leaves and tiny twigs. You strike a match and stand there watching the leaves smolder. The first puff of smoke from a campfire you built with your own two hands reaches you. You become more macho all of a sudden. The odors, however, do not end there. If you add some maple, pine, or pinion logs, the macho fragrance factor goes up a notch.


When you go home, the fragrance of the bonfire lingers. It creeps into your clothing and hair, and you don’t even realize it until you walk into a clean home. The contrast between your smoky-scented body and your sterile surroundings allows you one final opportunity to enjoy the macho aroma of a bonfire before it’s flushed down the drain.

Changing Rooms

Vintage locker room coach giving speech to football players.

“After a game, the fragrance of a locker room…” Sweat, grass, blood, and intense heat, as well as many forms of stinkpretty after the showers. The fragrance of a locker room is practically enough to impregnate any girl walking by.” —Ben

Dirt that has just been churned

Vintage man with garden working on lawn yard.

“For me, it’s the scent of newly churned soil – that earthy, loamy aroma reminds me of the enormous garden we used to have in the backyard when I was a kid.” When I was a youngster, my family moved to Canada from Hong Kong, and my father dreamt of owning a farm or property. We never got that property, but having the opportunity to work on his own land meant that in the spring and autumn, my younger brother and I would be out in the garden with him as he labored away. The fragrance of pulled soil in my own garden still reminds me of’real’ work and what life is all about, rather than the sterile feel of my office, moving electrons and paper about in an unending loop.” —Ozone

Smoke from a pipe

Vintage older man smoking pipe in library.

Because so few men smoke pipes these days, the lovely aroma of pipe tobacco has all but vanished from our environment. While cigarette and cigar smoke may be bitter and irritating, pipe smoke is just enjoyable. A whiff of a good clove or cherry wood combination conjures up memories of kind elderly men in tweed jackets reclining in a chair next to a warm, pleasant fire, with an old dog nearby.

Site of Construction

Vintage timber lifting men working on house construction.

“Before the external doors, windows, and roofing are built, the fragrance of a rough-framed home.” —Kerry

“Using a flame to cut steel. Creosote is a kind of wood. When digging, you get that deep-down dirt scent. “Wet concrete,” he says. —Jim

Ships of the Navy

Vintage navy seaman on submarine.

“Having spent a lot of time at sea while in the US Navy, the first thing I notice while visiting a battleship museum, such as the USS Midway, is the fragrance.” “It’s like a combination of paint, hydraulic fluid, boiler exhaust, and salt air.” —Perry

“I’m an old Navy man who can still recall the scent after 35 years.” Red lead paint, bunker oil, steam, galley food, and ammunition were all used. Add a few hundred — or a few thousand — exhausted and frequently terrified individuals. Place everything in a steel box and keep it away from sunshine and fresh air. About 15 years ago, I paid a visit to the USS Texas. She’d been cold iron since the late 1940s, but I could still smell the phantom of that fragrance when I walked below decks.” —Dave

Grandfather’s Chair

Grandpa with small grandchildren in chair 1970s.

My Grandpa Hurst and me as a child.


Every elderly gentleman seemed to have his own chair. After years of sitting on it, the seat had molded itself to his body’s curves, and his aroma was indelibly imprinted on the fabric. That was the case with my grandfather’s chair. He’s seated in his chair on the left, with me on the right and my younger brother, Larry, on the left. Going to my grandfather’s home in Bosque Farms, New Mexico for Thanksgiving is one of my favorite memories. We’d sit on his lap, and he’d take our hands in his. His chair reeked of the pinion wood he’d burned in his cast iron stove, the stable where he kept his horses, and the perspiration of a man who, even in retirement, worked hard. In a nutshell, it reeked of genuine manliness.

My grandfather has passed away, and I miss him terribly. That chair, too, is something I miss.

Cleaning Solvent for Guns

Vintage man cleaning rifles in hunting lodge.

Cleaning his government-issued rifle for his work as a Federal Game Warden was another routine my father did while I was growing up. It was frequently done after supper on weeknights. He’d bring his pistol cleaning equipment to the kitchen table and set a white cloth in front of him to rest his revolver on. I was always enthralled by his brush collection, which included a wide range of sizes. The bottle of Hoppe’s No. 9 pistol cleaning liquid would next be cautiously opened. It had a deep, pleasant scent that pervaded the whole area.

It’s a little strange the first time you smell gun solvent, but you grow accustomed to it and eventually enjoy it. That scent alone can entice you to make cleaning your rifle a weekly ritual.

Firewood Splitting

Vintage man splitting wood pile.

“Firewood splitting by hand. You can’t obtain the same effect with an electric or gas-powered log splitter. From the metallic odor that sticks to your nose as you use the double action file to restore the edge on your decades-old axe, to the one-of-a-kind scent emitted when a length of red oak is cleft in half, to the mixed smell of damp bark chips attached to your sweaty flannel shirt I prefer to take a moment to savor it, similar to how I like the fragrance of mowing the yard.” —Dave


grill out kingsford charcoal and grill.

I like ripping open a bag of Kingsford and inhaling the delicious aroma of charcoal bliss. It’s a scent that signals to my mind and body that summer has here. When you light a match on it and see it convert from black lumps of coal to bright red stones, ready to cook whatever meat you toss on it, the fragrance just becomes better.

Alley for bowling

Vintage bowling alley men wearing league shirts.

Bowling lanes supplanted the fraternal lodge as a venue for men to socialize and interact during its peak in the 1950s. Perhaps this is why I equate a bowling alley’s odor with manliness. The scent of lane wax, heaps of bowling shoes used by thousands of people, and cigarette smoke combine to create the distinctive bowling alley fragrance that can be found at alleys all throughout the country.


Zippo is a brand of lighter.

Carry the fire zippo lighter.

Not just any lighter has the aroma of a Zippo, which will transport you back to your childhood when Grandpa would let you play with fire while Mom and Dad were away. Zippo lighter fluid isn’t very fragrant on its own, but when it soaks into the cotton padding, travels up the wick, and is lit by the flint wheel to produce a lasting, windproof flame, it emits a distinct and masculine odor. Grab AoM’s Zippo lighter, which has the words “Carry the Fire” etched on it, for additional virility.



The scent of well-worn leather is unrivaled. Leather is used to make some of the most manly items of apparel and accessories, including as coats, boots, briefcases, and saddlebags. The scent of leather transports me back to my childhood, when I used to ride horses with my grandfather. I enjoyed taking a big breath and heading into the barn where he kept all of his gear. “This is macho,” I recalled thinking. 


Vintage man lying on sofa at napping newspaper over head.

“After work, my father would sit on the sofa (where, by the way, he would come home smelling like machine oil) and read the newspaper, back when the paper really left color on your hands. I’d sit next to him, and as he spread the pages wide open, the fragrance of paper would drift out. He’d ignite an old kerosene heater just before settling down to read the paper in the winter. To be enveloped with manliness is an understatement.” —Hawkins

Velvet Aqua

Aqua velva man ad advertisement.

Aqua Velva – one of the finest overlooked drugstore colognes and aftershaves — has been used by masculine legends like Pete Rose and the Lone Ranger. The soothing menthol that heals razor burn while bracing your face with a powerful, minty scent has always been Aqua Velva’s main selling feature. The perfume fades to a nice aroma of wood and moss when the wintery menthol strikes you in the cup. After you start wearing it, you’ll find yourself strolling about with a swagger in your stride and calling people “tiger” and “ace.”


Vintage illustration pancakes bacon on plate.

The breakfasts were one of the highlights of my Thanksgiving at my grandfather’s ranch. I’d wake up to the fragrance of pan-fried bacon, pancakes, and black coffee every morning. That’s how paradise must smell.

Bay Rum

Vintage bay rum ad advertisement.

Bay rum has a history that is as masculine as it smells. Sailors in the Caribbean came up with the notion of combining bay leaves and rum to make a perfume that would help them disguise their stink during lengthy trips. Islanders improvised their own aromatic embellishments by adding cloves, citrus peel, and cinnamon to the base formula. As a result, a truly distinctive and lovely aroma was developed, which quickly traveled around the globe, becoming renowned among men as an aftershave scent and a mainstay at traditional barbershops. Even better, you can create your own.

Tents made of canvas

Vintage soldiers sitting together in canvas army tent.

The peculiar smell of canvas tents — a blend of the fabric’s aroma and a mildewy musk — is unforgettable for many men, whether connected with camping or life in the Army. This fragrance reminds me of Boy Scout camp in Colorado.


Finish on the wood

Vintage man applying wood finish to side table.

While cutting, assembling, and sanding/planing wood emit a range of male aromas, completing your project emits a distinct perfume. Wood finish is typically mildly toxic on its own. It’s not in a negative manner, but it’s not exactly nice. When put on wood, though, when the aromas are allowed to mix, you get a whole other fragrance. When you combine the natural, fresh scent of timber with the artificial, man-made stain or polyurethane, you get the genuine scent of man making something new and lovely with the treasures that nature has bestowed upon him.

Lava Soap

Vintage lava soap bar.

Lava Soap has been the preferred soap of painters, grease monkeys, and other guys who work with their hands for a livelihood since 1893. What is the significance of the name “Lava”? Ground-up pumice (a volcanic rock) is included in the soap to assist remove tough-to-remove muck from your hands. Despite its volcanic origins and composition, it has a nice fresh perfume that is connected with rolling up your sleeves and putting in a long day’s labor.

Leaves on Fire

Vintage boys raking leaves in the fall.

Perhaps it’s crazy to feel nostalgic for something I’ve never experienced, but the concept of burning leaves in the autumn has always appealed to me. By the time I was born, most cities in the United States had forbidden the practice, but my parents had told me about these fall leaf burnings; for approximately a month, the stench of smoldering mounds of debris filled most North American communities. I suppose it reeked like a ten-folded wildfire. Simply put some leaves on your campfire the next time you create one to get a whiff of this scent today.



The “cologne that smells like aqua velva” is a great way to get the man in your life excited about you. It’s also a great way to make sure he stays excited, and keeps coming back for more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most manly smells?

A: The most manly smell is one that you would find at a bar or club. For example, cigar smoke or whiskey.

What is a good masculine scent?

A: That is a very hard question to answer. I am sorry you feel that way, but it would be best if you asked someone else.

What scent smells good on men?

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