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The best-selling colognes for men (because some things are popular for a reason)

Mainstream cologne is a good thing

Man spraying luxury perfume on black background, closeup
New Africa / Adobe Stock

Who remembers going to the bathroom in high school or popping into the gas station when you were 16 years old and on the way to the dance for a little splash of Cool Water? Looking back now, it wasn’t a great cologne. It was never a popular men’s cologne with any crowd outside of high school. Hell, we at my little high school town may have been the only ones that ever used it (and used it very unsparingly, I might add). If that is the case, then ignore everything I just said and let’s start again.

What makes a cologne become a staple in our society? What is it about certain fragrances that stand the test of time and seem to show up constantly on every man’s shelf and sink? Is it the fragrance itself? Are we that in love with sandalwood and musk? Or maybe it is the bottle. Perhaps it is the marketing campaign that drew us in. Or maybe the simple spritz can take us to a time in our life when we discovered the smell for the first time. A fond memory that makes us want to revisit the moment every morning when getting ready for work.

Whatever it is, these five selections are the best cologne for men over the past few decades, the best sellers that continue to garner fanfare year in and year out.

Christian Dior Sauvage

Christian Dior Sauvage

When you talk about the best-selling men’s colognes, you will see a lot of names that are long-lasting staples in the industry. Very few are as big and as tested as Dior. Sauvage was introduced in 1966 when Christian Dior asked Percy Savage to help him come up with a name for a cologne. Allegedly, when Savage arrived, Dior’s butler introduced him as “Monsieur Sauvage,” and the name stuck. It was Dior’s first men’s cologne and to this day is still the top seller.

To be fair, Johnny Depp may be helping with that as it is perhaps the most recognizable marketing for a cologne in the world right now. What is better than Jack Sparrow playing the electric guitar in the desert? Smelling good when he does it, that’s what.

Chanel Egoiste Eau de Toilette Spray

Chanel Egoiste

To be a best-selling cologne for men, it has to be manly. While Chanel is definitely a brand marketed more towards women, they nailed the concept of a masculine fragrance in 1990 when they dropped EGOISTE. Meaning selfish or self-centered in French, the fragrance is meant to channel the masculinity of seductive power and control over the world around him, built and driven by his character.

Maybe that is too romantic and reading way too much into a cologne. Then again, maybe we’re only seeing and smelling what men have for over three decades, as this scent has been a favorite since before Vanilla Ice dropped “Ice Ice Baby.”

Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio

Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio

Sometimes, a scent takes you on a trip with every spritz. There are colognes that smell like the beach, colognes that smell like the woods, and some that are built for holidays. Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio arrived 25 years ago thanks to the inspiration of a Mediterranian island called Pantelleria. Since it is built of volcanic rock in an oceanic paradise, it embodies all the elements. Land built on fire in a bed of water amidst the ocean air, this fragrance is everything you could have ever wanted.

Men everywhere have felt the same for two and a half decades, and it remains a top seller throughout the industry. Since it makes its home off an island in the Mediterranean, if Achilles ever wore a cologne, we’re pretty sure this one would have been it.

Calvin Klein CK One

Calvin Klein CK One
Calvin Klein

Citrus will always be a favorite scent among men. It is fresh. It is clean. And it engages the feeling of spring and summer. Therefore, it isn’t a surprise that Calvin Klein CK One is a big deal for men. As a matter of fact, it was such a big deal in 1994 that it sold $5 million worth in the first ten days. It then went on to rake in $90 million annually to make it one of the top-selling colognes of all time.

CK knows how to market its product (we all remember Marky Mark on the billboard in Times Square, right?), and that is why even over a decade later, in 2007, the bottles still sold yearly at a $30 million clip. If you could have guys smelling billboards the way women stared at Mark Wahlberg in the Calvin Klein briefs, we’re sure CK would have found a way to do it.

Ralph Lauren Polo Blue

Ralph Lauren Polo Blue
Ralph Lauren

Remember the Cool Water thing? Yeah, Ralph Lauren Polo Blue was the swanky version. Hitting the stands in 2002, this was an entire generation’s first cologne. While guys have been wearing it into their 20s, it did start to suffer from the stigma of being a young man’s scent. That didn’t hurt the sales, though, as high schools all over the country will never be short on guys needing to smell great for homecoming and prom.

The smell was inspired by a visit to Caneel Bay in the Caribbean. Here, the combination of land and sea, or more aptly, the smell of the thick foliage and the ocean salt, birthed this classic American staple. If you are looking for anything classic and a best-seller, you can always trust Ralph Lauren’s style.

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Mark McKee
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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