15 Manly Smells

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 23, 2009 · 266 comments

in Diversions, Travel & Leisure


Smells can conjure up some powerful memories. The smell of pine needles can take you back to childhood Christmases or the smell of a laundry detergent can remind you of home. For me, there are certain smells that I’ve come to associate with manliness. Whenever I smell them I think of my dad or grandpa or some aspect of my boyhood and my initiation into the rites of manhood.

And apparently, I’m not alone. For fun last week, I asked Art of Manliness Facebook Fans and Twitter followers what smells they thought were manly. The response was overwhelming. I decided to pick a few of my favorite responses and make a post out of it. So without further ado, I present 15 manly smells.

Hardware Store


The hardware store is a smorgasbord of manly smells: paint, wood, fertilizer, metal. It’s all there. As a boy, there was a local hardware store that my dad would go to. He’d lug my brother and I along. We’d open up all the drawers for the hinges and nails and play hide-in-seek in the door displays. Like many local hardware stores, it went out of business years ago when the Big Box stores moved in. The building was torn down and replaced with an upscale shopping center. But whenever I drive by the corner where it once stood, I can still smell the manliness that once emanated from that place.

Shoe Polish


The smell of shoe polish is a distinctively manly smell. For many men it conjures up images of brave soldiers shining their shoes to a mirror polish. For me, whenever I crack open a can of Kiwi black shoe polish, I’m instantly transported to my childhood den. About once a month, my dad would pull out his wooden shoe polish kit and take all his boots to the den to polish them. He usually watched In the Heat of the Night or Magnum P.I. while he did it.   The warm smell of shoe polish and leather filled the entire room, and it would usually linger there for an hour after he finished.

Cut Grass


For many men, mowing the lawn is the bane of their existence. But even if you hate the actual chore of mowing the yard, you can’t deny that the smell of fresh cut grass is pretty darn manly. I love the smell of the grass bag as I empty it into a trash can. And I actually quite enjoy how I smell after I mow the yard. It’s a combination of cut grass, gasoline, and body odor. I’ll even delay taking a shower just so I can revel in my manly scent.



I haven’t worked with wood as much as I would like to. But whenever I do, I always try to savor the smell of sawdust. I can remember when I first gained an appreciation of sawdust. It was at that old hardware store I mentioned earlier. Out back, they had a lumber yard, and I remember getting big whiffs of sawdust as I watched the workers saw wood down to size for my dad. The smell of sawdust also brings back the memory of my dad showing me how to sand my first pinewood derby car. Good times.



The warm, rich, smokey smell of an aged scotch whisky. There’s nothing like it. To the first timer, the smell of scotch can be off putting. But once you get past it’s initial pungency, you’ll discover a symphony of smell. Each scotch has its own distinct smell, but they all share some general characteristics. You’ll definitely smell the smokey peat used during the malting process. But if you get in closer, you might catch the subtle fruity smell of apples or cherries. There’s also a hint of licorice, which reminds me of kind old men. Taken together, you’re left with a scent that will put hair on the chest of any man who takes a whiff. Scotchy, scotch, scotch.



I think every man’s affinity for the smell of gunpowder began at some fireworks stand out in the country. That’s where mine did at least. Every Fourth of July, without fail, the parents would take my brother and I to a fireworks stand on an old country road. I can remember being overwhelmed by the smell of gunpowder as we ran up to the stand. After we filled up our paper bags, I would often stick my nose in it and take a nice big whiff. I was smelling danger. And manliness.

The smell of spent gunpowder is just as appealing, too. The smell of spent shotgun shells or the way an area smells after you fire off a round from a pistol is definitely manly.

Original Old Spice

Old Spice.jpg

Go to any men’s section in a department store, and you’ll see a stand selling $60 bottles of cologne with foo fooey scents. Walk into any local drug store and you can find manliness in a bottle for less than 12 bucks. Before they made deodorant, Old Spice was known for it’s cologne. Chances are your grandpa did and still does wear Old Spice. They still make the cologne, but it doesn’t get much play these days, which is a shame. Based purely on anecdotal evidence, women seem to love a man who wears Old Spice cologne. It reminds them of their grandfathers. They’re not hot for their grandpas, obviously, they’re just keen on the smell of old fashioned manliness. When they get a whiff of you sporting Old Spice they’ll instantly associate you with a time when men were men. Quit dousing yourself in Calvin Klein or gassing yourself in a cloud of Axe body spray and get some Old Spice.



It’s sunrise. The sky is still gray with a hint of orange and yellow on the horizon. You go over the fire pit and begin to strategically place dry leaves and small twigs into a tepee shape. You light a match, and watch the leaves smolder. And then it reaches you- the first bit of smoke from a campfire you made all by yourself. You suddenly feel more manly. But the smells don’t stop there. Throw in some maple, pine, or pinon logs and you up the manly smell quotient a few marks.

And the campfire smell stays with you when you go home. It gets in your clothes and in your hair. You never really notice it until you walk into a clean house. The contrast between your smokey smelling self and your antiseptic home gives you one last chance to revel in the manly scent of a campfire, before you watch it get washed down the shower drain.



I love walking into a barbershop. You know why? Because they all smell so damn manly. A barbershop smell is a mixture of Barbicide, shaving cream, musky smelling hair, and cheap (and free) coffee. If you’re going to an old barber shop, it may also smell faintly of tobacco from the days when men would smoke a cigarette and put out their butts in the ash tray on the barber chair arm rests.

Pipe Smoke


Image from Curtis!

Not many men smoke pipes these days, which is a shame because people are missing out on the sweet manly smell of pipe tobacco. Cigarette and cigar smoke can be acrid and obnoxious, but pipe smoke is, well, just pleasant. A whiff of a nice clove or cherry wood blend summons images of kindly older men in tweed jackets sitting in a chair next to a warm cozy fire with an old dog nearby.



Nothing beats the smell of well worn leather. Some of the manliest pieces of clothing and accessories are made from leather- leather jackets, leather boots, leather briefcases, leather saddlebags.  The smell of leather  reminds me of riding horses with my grandpa. I loved walking into the storage area in his barn where he stored all his tack and taking a deep breath. I remember thinking “Man, this is manly.”  And like a fine glass of scotch, leather only gets better with time.

Your Grandpa’s Chair


It seems like every old man has a chair that’s just for him. After years of sitting in it, the seat conformed specifically to the contours of his body and his scent has been permanently stamped into the upholstery. At least that’s how my grandpa’s chair was. That’s him sitting in his chair with me on the left and my little brother, Larry, on the right. One my fondest memories was going to my grandpa’s house in Bosque Farms, New Mexico for Thanksgiving. We’d sit on his lap and he’d hold us in his big strong hands. His chair smelled like the pinion wood he’d burn in his cast iron stove, the barn that he kept his horses in, and the sweat of a man who worked hard even in retirement. In a word, it smelled like pure manliness.

I miss that chair.

Gun Cleaning Solvent


Another ritual my father had when I was growing up was cleaning his government issued gun for his job as a Federal Game Warden. It was usually done on the week nights after dinner. He’d bring his gun cleaning kit to the kitchen table and place a white cloth in front of him on which he’d place his revolver. I was always fascinated by all the different size brushes in his kit. He’d then slowly open up the bottle of Hoppe’s No. 9 gun cleaning solvent. It filled the entire room with a rich, warm smell.

The first time you smell gun solvent it’s pretty jarring, but then you get used to it, and then you start to like it.



I love tearing open a bag of Kingsford and letting that waft of charcoal goodness hit me right in the nose. It’s a smell that tells my mind and body that summer is officially here. But the smell only gets better when you throw a match on them and watch them turn from black lumps of coal to glowing red stones, ready to cook any meat you throw on it.

Bowling Alley


In their heyday in the 1950′s, bowling alleys replaced the fraternal lodge as a place for men to gather and bond. Perhaps that’s why I associate the smell of a bowling alley with manliness. The combination of lane wax, piles of bowling shoes that have been worn by thousands of people, and cigarette smoke mix together to form that distinct bowling alley smell that permeates alleys across the country.

I know there are some other smells that you all think are manly. Share them with us in the comments!

{ 260 comments… read them below or add one }

101 roadbelow July 23, 2009 at 3:41 pm

English Leather cologne.

Velveta cheese…..stuck on a hook and line tied to a cane pole as me and my dad pulled in rainbow trout.

Hoppe’s #9……brings a tear to my eye. My wife thinks it smells awful. To me it smells like deer season.

Great list!!

102 Jon July 23, 2009 at 3:48 pm

For the gun cleaning solvent, I think a lot of us have a particular in mind… Hoppes #9.

103 Pat Ingrassia July 23, 2009 at 9:03 pm

An old garage. Has a distinct smell, a combination of wood,oil. My garage has that smell and I love to spend time there. I have an old radio, listen to the ballgame, my tools, I spend a lot of time in that garage.

104 Charlie July 24, 2009 at 1:05 am

Two rather unusual scent memories which I haven’t seen mentioned previously are: 1) Railroad tracks on a hot summer day (actually the smell of the tar on the ties), and 2) (OK, this one might be weird) the inside of an old camera.

105 Ryan July 24, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Scent is one of the first senses to develop. It has been well documented that it has the most powerful ability to associate to a memory. Ever notice that if a stranger is wearing a perfume or cologne that someone else you know wears, you instantly think of them?

106 Ken July 29, 2009 at 2:38 am

Rubber, especially tire shops.

And creosoted wood in the hot sun.

107 Matt August 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Jet Fuel…

108 Kat August 18, 2009 at 2:27 am

I don’t know why, but I love the smell of pumpkin pie. (it is rumored to be an aphrodisiac for men, so what do you think?)

Definately agree with the campfire and coffee!!!
Why are these things so often a reminder of a grampa? (although the coffee for me is one, especially italian coffee, mmm….)

An airplane hanger has a pretty distint smell too. :)
I don’t like smoke though.

109 watts August 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm

a great list, but without one of my favorites-walnuts, especially green-most guys my age would whack them with a baseball bat for post-season practice

also, a new aquaintance once asked if he could smell the inside of my vintage fedora, because it reminded him of his father

110 Brett August 20, 2009 at 1:17 pm

The inside of a hat definitely smells good. I have an old felt cowboy hat my grandpa gave to me 20 years ago and it still smells like him.

111 Ben August 25, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Unless I missed it, I can’t believe no one mentioned the smell of a change room after a game of rugby. Sweat, grass, blood, and Deep Heat and after the showers, various types of stinkpretty. Just the smell of a changeroom almost has the power to impregnate any females passing by.

112 Johnny August 27, 2009 at 1:44 pm

i loved the smell of horse crap….sounds weird but reminds me of the horse barns, being at the track. cow shit not so much….i prefer horse. i’m not kidding.

113 Sam August 31, 2009 at 10:07 pm

My grandfather recently passed away, and nothing takes me back more than entering his house and taking a big whiff. It’s similar to the smell of my dad’s pickup, like leathery work gloves and sweat from working with the cattle on our farm. Has a hint of hay-bail in it.

Also, I remember when I played in Little League there was no smell like putting your glove on your face: leather, dirt, grass, sweat. Baseball is full of great manly smells.

114 James Clark September 13, 2009 at 12:41 am

definately metal. My father was a machinist before he got his engineering degree 3 months after I was born, but still continued to manufacture many of his own parts, and taught me the ways of the vice, then drill press, then finally the lathe. That damn workshop reeks so much of manliness it could make a man cry just imagining it.

Same goes with anything under the hood of any automobile. Especially riding tractor hoods (those regular engine checks before taking it out for a mow *every* *single* *time*… I guess he taught me more than I usually admit to myself). And Gasoline.

Every time I’m at a gas station, I can smell my father with his hands covered in engine oil and gasoline from splashing the red canister contents onto the funnel. Those red rags smell more like a man than most men do.

As for the list, right on with the leather and old spice. I was in Macy’s today, and almost bought cologne called “True Religion” in a flask shaped bottle with leather on it, looking rough and manly, and actually smelled nice. $80 a bottle. Tomorrow I will go to my local non-chain drug store (been there over 50 years) and buy a bottle of old spice. (confession: might buy the True Religion for myself ultimately anyway)

One thing I’d have said differently is the sawdust bit. I think the sawdust is not the important part – I think it’s the lumber itself. The smell of wood. Unfinished wood. Especially freshly cut. (like splitting logs for the wood burning stove?) or when I stick my nose into the f-holes of my cello. The inside of a stringed instrument is *ALWAYS* unfinished, and smells like it. Smells real. Smells authentic. Smells like honesty, and strength. Age, and wisdom. Are these things different than manliness?

115 Kerry September 18, 2009 at 7:55 am

Old Spice for certain but don’t forget Bay Rum! That was the choice of my beloved grandfather’s generation and also,Brylcreem has a scent I associate with some very signifigant men of the past.

116 blindsangamon September 18, 2009 at 9:13 am

Remembering nights spent looking over Dad’s shoulder as he worked on the balky Sears TV set….there is nothing like the smell of a hot soldering iron and rosin core solder. The smell of a hot vacuum tube can instantly take me back to when I was 6 years old.

117 Matthew Bell September 18, 2009 at 11:07 am

This may not be as manly as an outdoor campfire, but there’s nothing like the sweet smell of honeysuckle to make you feel truly at one with nature. For my money, it doesn’t get better than honeysuckle during the day and a campfire at night.

118 Hoodoo September 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Know what smells manlier than anything else? Prison.

119 bob September 18, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Great list of nostalgia inducing aromas from childhoods spent around the men of the family and social circle. One more to add………..burnt heroin. Miss you Dad!

120 Ozone September 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm

For me… it’s the smell of freshly turned dirt – that earthy, loamy smell reminds me of the large garden we had in the backyard when I was a youngster. We emigrated from Hong Kong when I was a kid, and my father dreamed of having a farm or acreage in Canada. We never did get that farm, but the privilege of working on his *own* land meant spring and fall, my kid brother and I were outside mucking around in the garden with him as he toiled away. To this day, when I turn the dirt in my own garden, the smell of turned soil reminds me of “real” work and what life is all about, not the antiseptic feel of my office, pushing electrons and paper around in an endless circle.

The other, closely associated smell is the smell of the sun: exposed skin and hair seem to acquire some sort of “sun drenched” fragrance – probably a mix of fresh air, sweat, dirt, etc. Probably unpleasant if unwashed for 24 hours, but the immediate smell reminds you that you did “real” work again.

And finally… just coming out of shower, using only plain soap and water – none of these perfume laden body washes. My wife comments (pleasingly) that I smell like freshly washed “me” – whatever that means!

121 bruce September 22, 2009 at 4:16 pm

A warmed up Lionel transformer.

122 Blake Helgoth September 23, 2009 at 4:04 am

It is hard to believe, but I don’t see auto grease, oil, gasoline, etc. listed. Whenever I smell an auto shop or I am in a garage where someone is working on a car or just smell a tool bag / tool box with old greasy tools it reminds me of my dad working on the car in our garage and my grandpa’s wrecking yard..

123 Robert Carter September 23, 2009 at 10:59 am

Hoppes #9 for certain. Is there any other?

Bacon in the morning, because who doesn’t love bacon.

Construction site, with the smell of wood, concrete & dry wall. As a New Yorker, the big change after 9/11 was when Ground Zero stopped smelling of charred concrete and started to smell like a construction site. That took years.

Old churches, where the smell of incense and burning candles mingles with floor wax. You can smell the sanctity of decades of humble prayers. Real men go to church (or another House of Worship),

124 Kimmer September 23, 2009 at 12:09 pm

The fresh smell of earth and asphalt after a summer rain. Makes me wanna do something constructive.

125 Mike September 23, 2009 at 12:29 pm
126 Tim Olson September 25, 2009 at 3:41 pm

coffee, bondo, and paint.

127 Jimmy The Man September 26, 2009 at 12:28 pm

That is the best list i’ve ever seen (not that i’ve ever come across a list of manly smells).

128 JTT September 28, 2009 at 9:52 pm

I agree with Matt (2 Aug 09) about the jet fuel. I was in the military in Korea where I was a mechanic on H-53 helos. I remember the smell of the jet fuel, grease, oils, and solvents. It was tough work in a tough environment but somehow the challenge made it all the more satisfying.

I also remember the smell of jet exhaust. It’s a bit different than car exhaust or the old oil/gas mixture exhaust (snowmobiles?). I liken it to a charcoal barbeque with too much lighter fluid. Come to think of it, snowmobile/motorbike exhaust has its merits as well (just don’t get too much!)

129 TimothyS. October 1, 2009 at 10:27 am

Charcoal and wood will always have a place with me.
Ace hardware kind of still has the old school smell.
Old Spice is definitely good stuff(this coming from a 30 Y.O.) But women young and older(cougars hell yeah) love a good smelling man even more than a well dressed one. Most man body sprays are garbage The only Axe body spray you should use Is Dark Temptation after Using Lever 2000. As for cologne Choose Extremly carefully, not all scents are for all men. Lucky Number 6 is really good for me.

130 Travis October 14, 2009 at 8:24 pm

You nailed the Grandfather’s chair smell. Brings back memories.

131 Paul T. October 15, 2009 at 11:13 am

Robert Carter. Bacon, yes! And I love the smell of old churches. I agree, real men go to church. It’s a manly thing to do, (unless your church sings modern, girly praise songs, just my opinion).

132 Gregg October 15, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Here’s a smell that’s hardly ever smelt these days. Probably because it’s illegal but I loved the smell of burning leaves in the Autumn. It’s a shame kids these day won’t get to experience it.

JTT, you mentioned jet exhaust and that’s one of the best. It has a smell and taste that I’ll never forget. Here’s one that may be familiar to a few folks out there. The smell of a naval warship. Not the cruise line kind of “boat” but a ship built for combat. The mixture of oil, grease, exhaust and layer after layer of paint can’t be beat. I’m sure that smell also brings back some bad memories to some but not for me. It always takes me back to when I was a young Seaman walking up to my first real Navy duty station. That ship seemed massive and had a life of it’s own.

133 Dr. Badwrench October 15, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Stick welding. That is one manly smell. Nothing can match the characteristic odor of 6011 and the hum of the ol’ Lincoln buzz-box.

134 Brian October 15, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Never tried Old Spice cologne before, but Chaps by Ralph Lauren is really cheap and incredibly manly.

135 Seth from Massachusetts October 16, 2009 at 11:25 pm

yes, Bay Rum. That’s one of the main ingredients in making a barber shop smell manly!

And gun cleaning solvents. Unfortunately, they changed the formula of Hoppie’s 9 some years ago and it dosen’t smell the same any more. Something about the EPA found one of the ingredients bad for the health or something like that.

Yup, Old Spice! I use it evry day.

My dad grew up on a farm before rural electricity and forever after loved the smell of a kerosene lamp in action.

136 Mason October 18, 2009 at 8:21 am

Chainsaws and deisel fuel. My dad was a logger so anytime I am around those scents I think of him.

137 Preston November 2, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Cigar smoke

Grease / oil


Fast orange hand cleaner


138 Len B. November 9, 2009 at 9:52 am

cleaning the stable and spreading fresh straw, baling hay, the smell of your horse to name a few……….

139 Kerry B November 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Anything to do with horses…dried manure, saddle leather, wet saddle blankets, even the smell of hay and sweet feed. A close secound is the smell of a rough framed house, before the exterior doors, windows, and roofing are installed.

140 Adam W November 18, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Spent gunpowder and Hoppe’s #9. That is the smell of a good day of quail hunting.

141 Andy Hall Summers November 19, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Hi Karate!

142 Rob November 28, 2009 at 10:06 pm

3-in-1 oil! My grandpa, and dad always had a can around the tool room. In addition to the smell, I can still remember the sound the can made when you squeezed the sides to apply it!

143 Chad December 4, 2009 at 7:43 am

My favorite is the smell of wood after it has been bucked up by chainsaw then split by axe, the combination of the bar oil, two stroke exhaust, sharpening oil and work makes me happy.
my second favorite is the smell of my knife sharpening stones and sewing machine oil

144 Warren December 26, 2009 at 4:45 am

Not just diesel itself, but more the exhaust. My dad drove a truck while I was growing up and would take me along with him from when I was an infant up through grade school when I was on break, and from that I always love the smell of that thick black smoke.

145 J. Greyson Sterling January 2, 2010 at 6:49 pm

pinaud aftershave!!! how can we ever leave that out!?

146 Ron in New York January 3, 2010 at 10:55 am

Diesel fuel does it for me!

147 Jon January 3, 2010 at 11:30 pm

I’ve seen a lot of good suggestions, my favorites not mentioned in the article are:
Race Gas

148 Rick January 4, 2010 at 10:17 am

Man, I miss the smell of the old-time bowling alley. It’s different nowadays, and the one I bowl at regularly is geared toward a family-friendly environment – not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. But it lacks the scent of the bowling alley my parents bowled at when I was a child. Every once in a while, I will step into a bowling alley that still has that nostalgic aroma – but it’s becoming a rarity, unfortunately.

What’s amazing though, is that pretty much every one of the scents you named – I can associate with, and miss the smell of (perhaps tonight I shall clean my shotgun, even though I haven’t fired it in years) – just to fill my living room with the smell of that solvent.

149 Chris January 22, 2010 at 12:34 am

You can’t forget lanolin. Not many things smell manlier than a well maintained baseball mitt, and the distinct aroma of lanolin glove oil definitely makes the list in my book.

150 B. S. Whitmore January 22, 2010 at 7:36 am

Loads of great memories here. Add a few more, some subtle like: fresh maple syrup in the morning when my dad made pancakes (or the smell of ANYTHING cooking for breakfast after a long night camping); the whiff of scent of a freshly lit Zippo lighter; the faint ozone and oil of slot car racing or model railroad engines; that sweet airplane glue or the clear dope you painted on tissue paper covered balsa airplane wings; and Cox model airplane fuel burning in a micro two-stroke spittin’ and barking in your hands. The sulphur of model rocket engines when they launch; the fresh pigskin smell of a brand new football. The grassy plastic smell of “Jarts” on a summer afternoon before do-gooders made them illegal. And a few not so subtle: August-hot creosote on the fresh telephone poles my dad would climb when he was a lineman; the smell of engine, black grease, dust and the acres and acres of crop you were working under your grampa’s tractor when he trusted you to do the field when you were just 11 years old; black powder smoke from the shooter’s point of view on a firing line of muskets in a Civil War reenactment; ether engine starter spray; waterproofing on G.I. tent halves; mothproofing stuff on canvas webgear and new uniforms; LSA cleaning solvent for your M-16 or M-60 (and the sulfur, burning grass, and white-hot metal smell whenever you had to change barrels; deuce-and-a-half diesel exhaust; the smell of the inside of your combat helmet (the steel pot kind); jet exhaust, dust and just a hint of somebody else’s barf as you exit the tail of a C-130 over a blistering hot tarmac– weird as it might sounds, still striking good manly memory smells.

151 OneTamad January 25, 2010 at 2:48 am

Personally, the faint smell of grease and gasoline. My dad used to work on his motorbike a lot, and while he was a very clean man, the smell never really came off. None of us kids ever really complained because it was a reassuring scent.

152 JJ January 25, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Compost pile

153 Bharat Patel January 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm

the smell of dirt, dry dust, and grit of a job well done, and WD-40. There are tons more but recently with all the work I have been doing around the house memories of helping my dad come back with these smells.

154 David January 30, 2010 at 11:34 pm

First off, I love the list. I immediately put it in my favorites to refer to later. Also, some of you guys have some great ideas. Bacon!? How did THAT get left out? Fresh dirt and the smell of a garage are both good too. Personally, I love the smell of the woods themselves, not just sawdust (although that is one fo the greatest smells ever). Whoever mentioned the smell of metal being forged was right on as well.

Ivory soap has a manly smell in my opinion. It’s not scented or even colored, just a nice, plain, clean smell and feel. Oldschool.

155 Dave January 31, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Many of the above scents are right on the money, but I have a few more to add.
1. Bay Rum shaving soap. The kind you have to whip to a lather with a badger hair brush. It is a clean, woodsy, herbal scent(yes it goes nicely with Old Spice) and women LOVE it.

2. Used hypoid gear oil. The stuff you find in the rear axle of an old car. It stinks to high heaven, permeates your clothes, skin, and even hair if you spend enough time working around it. It is pungent, acrid and foul, but it is the smell of serious repairs from a time when men worked on their own cars.

3. Hand splitting of firewood. You can’t use an electric or gas powered log splitter and get the same effect. From the metallic smell you get stuck in your nose as you use the double action file to restore the edge on your decades old axe, to the one of a kind aroma released by a length of red oak as it is cleaved in two, right on down to the combined smell of dank bark chips stuck to your sweaty flannel shirt. Much like the above lawn mowing smell, I like to pause to enjoy it.

4. Race gas and burning rubber. Ever been to the drag strip? Men without fear pitting one home built machine against another. Spitting fire, oil, chunks of rubber and raw nerve. Get down close to the starting line and get a deep whiff of that 116 octane, extra leaded, fruit scented gasoline combined with tire rubber so hot it is as gooey as taffy laying in a parking lot in July. The only way to get more manly, is to actually drop the clutch behind the wheel of a six hundred horsepower car and row through the gears yourself.

156 kato shito January 31, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I can’t ever forget another smell. My grand-father was a baker, and when I visited the bakery I couldn’t come back home without taking to me the agreeable smell of the bread newly made.

Another unforgettable fragrance. I was living in a huge house that has a great courtyard full of flowers. I can remember many of these perfumes, but specially one of a little white flower that only smells by night.

It is impossible to forget the aroma of the orange trees in the streets, the smell of the incense in the cathedral, the cinnamon fragrance of the sweet that make my grand-mother, etc.

157 Matt January 31, 2010 at 11:41 pm

what about gasoline? thats a great smell. So is WD40.

158 Michael P. Devine February 1, 2010 at 10:44 am

The smell of a Submarine snorkleing on the diesel, manly, heavenly. The smell of a Butcher Shop with the saw dust mixed in and an old school Fish Market, smelly good, but manly nevertheless. The Old Spice is right on but don’t leave out Pinaud a proud standby at any old school Barber Shop.

159 Hawkins February 1, 2010 at 11:32 pm

somebody said a nice clean dog. but i like the smell of my labrador after we’ve been out stomping through thick brush doing retrieves, or after he’s been swimming in clean water. it smells like hard, manly outdoorsmanship to me.
another one is the smell of newsprint. my dad would sit on the couch after work (whence by the way, he would come home smelling of machine grease) and read the paper, back in the days when the paper would really leave some color on your hands. i would sit next to him and that newsprint aroma would waft out when he spread the pages wide open. In the winter, he’d light an old kerosene heater just before he settled down to the paper. Talk about being engulfed in manliness.

160 "Uncle Sam" Kaplan February 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm

When I was younger my dad would bring me and all the kids on our block paint balling, I can smell the sweet smell of hundreds of CO2 tanks being filled. ahhhhhhhh

161 eric goughnour February 23, 2010 at 12:34 am

i grew up with a man that was in WW2 @ Normandy, Korea, and Vietnam. he was a cop and he owned a tire king center (love that smell too). i remember wild-root hair groom, tackle boxes, and oil paints.
my girl friends father owned a airplane company and she remembers axle grease. the smells you don’t remember from youth that come creeping by once in a while are the best.

162 Sean February 26, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Reading this article reminded me of my grandfather and how he used Old Spice. Today I bought a $7 bottle of Old Spice, splashed a bit on after a shave and I truly feel like a new man! Thank you.


163 kevin March 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Jeris hair tonic ( the green stuff ) winston cigarettes ( I know its unhealthy ) otasco stores , and boraxo powdered hand soap .

164 Barry March 15, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Good Afternoon,

In an age where Men and women go to get hair cuts, the unisex salon, it seems as though the art of being a Man is falling by the wayside….but not for Me. I go to a barbershop, a tonsorial palor and get a haircut, shave and walk out feeling like a Man instead of a de-nutted fop. And when it comes to smelling good, well, Old Spice and Bay Rum are at the very top of the list. Bring back the are of Manliness for God’s sake and lets get back to being what W/we were mean’t to be in the first place….MEN.

165 Mark March 18, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I have to agree with ABBO. The smell of surfboard resin is probably at the top of my list … acts like an aphrodisac to me. The smell of leather and neoprene rubber is are other manly smells. Could be all that surfin….just went to my head.

166 Doug March 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm

C4, TNT & detcord.
Before and after.
This coming from an old EOD tech.
Smells are definitely hard wired to the memory banks.

167 Chris March 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Man, I love the smell of diesel in the morning.
Brutally cold, clear crisp winter’s morning, faint wiff of diesel smoke…. ya just know work is gonna get done today! Bring it ON!

168 janiece vest March 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm

i’d have to agree w/ the Old Spice. My husband of 39 yrs still wears this and he’s no old godger…yet. i’ve grown to love it because it’s him. I also relate the smell of the barn and horses. this is what i relate to my own father who had that outdoors aroma that smelled like a man.

169 Wilson March 31, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Not many manly lists feature both gunpowder AND Hoppes No. 9. Bravo.

How about Cowboy Coffee?! Not that BS latte smell of hot milk, but the deep powerful smell of cowboy coffee made by dumping grounds right into the pot, in deer camp, at 5 am, over a campfire.
Oh, and what about that manly blue two-stroke smell from chainsaws.
And Mink Oil (rubbed into leather).
Yes, gasoline…

170 Jack Nevada April 1, 2010 at 12:09 am

This is a great post! My grandfather was a former NPD officer and even long after he had retired he kept the ritual of cleaning his service revolver. Every Sunday night he would sit at his desk in his officer and clean his sidearm. I will forever remember the smell of gun oil, Jack Daniels (on the rocks) and Granger pipe tobacco. Also, a smell that I always associate with manliness, Horse. The smell of a warm horse after a work out in the winter.

171 POPEYE in S Korea April 3, 2010 at 3:33 pm

i cant belive no one mentioned gojo/fast orange or C4 post blast (for those of you who have been around them) and some slow smoked ribs cooking in the back yard

172 Jaymo April 4, 2010 at 1:24 am

Zippo lighter fluid, kerosene, stick welding, gunpowder smoke-both black and smokeless, freshly cut/split oak and hickory, oak and hickory smoke, asphalt, Marvel Mystery Oil, machine shop, turpentine, eggs frying, Levi Garrett, freshly tilled earth, freshly mowed grass, sardines, Buffalo Wings, any beef or pork cooking over charcoal.

173 Jaymo April 4, 2010 at 1:26 am

Oh, and Coleman white gas. Nothing better than the smell of a stove, heater, or lantern burning Coleman fuel.

174 Hayward April 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Someone talked about manly sounds somewhere in this thread. Here’s the consummate sound for you and it’s easily duplicated. Go out to the garage and drop a 3/4″ wrench on the floor. Hear that distinctive clang? Man sound babeee. As for smells, how about the smell of telephone poles? Cedar mixed with creosote. Nothing more manly.

175 Bryan April 11, 2010 at 2:55 am

That mix of steel, grease, and gasoline from just about any pre 1975 American vehicle. Or the mix of grease, diesel, and dirt from a well used tractor.

176 ari-free April 14, 2010 at 8:35 pm

The smell of a personal library filled from wall to wall with old books. That reminds me of my grandfather. And his pipe.

177 ari-free April 14, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Quintillian: However, if anyone asks me what is the one supreme method of memory, I shall reply, practice and industry. The most important thing is to learn much by heart and to think much, and, if possible, to do this daily, since there is nothing that is more increased by practice or impaired by neglect than memory. Therefore boys should, as I have already urged, learn as much as possible by heart at the earliest stage, while all who, whatever their age, desire to cultivate the power of memory, should endeavour to swallow the initial tedium of reading and re-reading what they have written or read, a process which we may compare to chewing the cud. This task will be rendered less tiresome if we begin by confining ourselves to learning only a little at a time, in amounts not sufficient to create disgust: we may then proceed to increase the amount by a line a day, an addition which will not sensibly increase the labour of learning, until at last the amount we can attack will know no limits. We should begin with poetry and then go on to oratory, while finally we may attempt passages still freer in rhythm and less akin to ordinary speech, such, for example, as passages from legal writers. For passages intended as an exercise should be somewhat difficult in character if they are to make it easy to achieve the end for which the exercise is designed; just as athletes train the muscles of their hands by carrying weights of lead, although in the actual contests their hands will be empty and free.


178 Steve H April 16, 2010 at 10:41 am

Pipe smoke – MacBarens Plumcake. Pure fresh ground coffee. How could they forget the hops aroma from a quality pint of beer?

179 Chris B April 22, 2010 at 10:43 am

Motor oil and leather. I had an old British Royal Enfiled which would leak oil and gas occasionally. If you got it on your leathers, the smell was unbelievable! Bikes now are too clean….

180 Matt Welsh May 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I can’t believe you didn’t list gasoline! I drive an old Triumph Bonneville motorbike and I have to “tickle” the carbs before starting it until a little gas comes out. The smell of it on my finger or leather gloves always makes me nostalgic for my dad’s bike on the carport…

181 vinetpain May 7, 2010 at 7:31 pm

I might drop the bowling alley, but would add JP-4 on any airfield- that smell of Hueys or C-130s running up.
The other one, someone hit on- Army canvas tents- that’s a smell I’ll never forget.

182 Jim May 7, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Boy oh boy, nothing beats the manly smell of a large old crane. When not running, all that grease, oil, and that distinctive old machine smell. Running you’ve got diesel exhaust and hot clutch.

Along those lines, few things beats the smell of a hot diesel pile hammer. Nothing puts hair on your chest like the smell, sound, and heat standing five feet from one thats just finishing an hour pounding 60′ of steel into the ground!

Cutting steel with a torch. Creosote timber. That deep-down earth smell when excavating. Wet concrete. Someone mentioned construction site, but I figured it needed fleshing out!

183 PiperJon May 13, 2010 at 1:24 am

Interesting how this conversation has gone on for so long, scent really is powerful to the psyche.

God, bowling alleys, leather, Old Spice, campfires…. I sat here and could smell each and every entry in the original post. I’ve not read all the comments, but I would agree to all, and add some, like:

Gasoline and motor oil, like when you’re pulling a carbeurator off a ’68 Plymouth Satellite with a 318cc V-8… mmmm…. and that smell of hydraulic fluid when you bleed the brakes, that’s a great smell.

The odd combination of vaporized blood and ink, and ozone from a tattoo gun is a smell that makes my mouth water. And I only have one tattoo.

The smell of the lake on an early morning, with the added smell of the outboard motor exhaust, when you take out to catch a few for breakfast. Or even better, the heavy sweet smell of the trout stream, same early morning, but instead you’re standing in the middle of it.

And let us not forget – BACON. It makes everything better. Everything.

But, my favorite scent, not just manly scent, but scent-period: the smell of coffee percolating in one of those enamel coffee pots on a campfire on a cool autumn morning, right next to the river. Inhale the good, exhale the bad. Heal.

Peace y’all

184 Craig May 21, 2010 at 12:11 am

I’m one of the few young men(21 yrs old) who, according to the guy at the local humidor, smokes a pipe. A good tobacco is a great manly scent. A cherry or whisky tobacco from my experience is not only enjoyable to smoke, but adds a faint(and hopefully enjoyable) scent to the area around you

185 Sam May 29, 2010 at 9:53 am

You forgot burning leaves, freshly caught fish, and new asphalt and tar.

186 Josh Knowles June 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm

The smell of cutting a hayfield. There’s just something about the smell of freshly cut alfalfa and the smell of grease and diesel exhaust from an old John Deere tractor. Just can’t be beat.

Also, the smell of an old and dusty book. You know the kind: great big thing bound in leather, the pages with pictures have a sheet of tissue paper on either side to protect them, the ink is always a little smelly even though it was printed 100 years ago.

I also concur with all the guys who’ve mentioned the smell of a garage. The mixture of gasoline, WD-40, brake parts cleaner, grease, varsol, welding smoke, tires, and perhaps roll-your-own cigarettes in there somewhere.

187 Big Dave June 30, 2010 at 7:43 am

My dad was a welder so I have to add the smell of burning flux and hot grease. He also smoked Camels and wore Old Spice.He’s been gone for over 40 years but whenever whenever I walk into a weld shop, garage, or machine shop I think of the Old Man.

188 mary July 11, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Old Canvas Tent

Fresh Chopped Wood

189 Psylon July 14, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Burning off the fields in the autumn; turning and dried leaves, fresh crisp air, and the smoky smell of the harvested fields burning, maybe with some early wood-smoke from a wood stove. There are few smells that bring back memories of my early days living in the rural southern US than this.

190 James July 17, 2010 at 4:06 am

Ahhhh. Hoppe’s #9 and gun powder! Like Chocolate and peanut butter!

191 Old Schoolr July 28, 2010 at 11:27 am

Thanks to the author for a good read. My version of the list:
Spent paper shotgun shells. Specifically red Super X shells on a crisp fall day.
Hoppe’s #9 solvent.
Coffee perking on a fire or camp stove.
Kerosene lamp.
Pipe smoke.
A Zippo lighter.
Old Spice.
Camel cigarettes.
The smell of sizzling beef fat from a grilling steak.
The mixed smell of gear oil, vinyl interior, gasoline, clutch & burnt tire from my Uncle’s ’62 Vette or my ’70 Mustang Mach 1. Both long gone & well remembered.
The lake, boat gas, fish slime & night crawlers in the bait can on an early summer morning.
Dial soap.
A canvas tent.
For all of the fellas offended by the mention of tobacco, learn to relax. Most of the things mentioned on these lists are health risks or imply potentially unhealthy activities (motorcycles, whiskey, industrial aromas). Stress will kill us quicker than a few puffs from my cob pipe full of Half & Half will.

192 18Echo August 6, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Steel mills. It’s machine oil and fire and soot and cigars (in the old days) and men with grease on them . The first days of basic training and the smell of cordite. The smell of a model airplane engine running makes me think of my Dad and how many times he put back together the planes I broke.

Great post.

193 WVian August 8, 2010 at 11:38 am

Nothing for me like the smell of leather along with the sounds of the autosoler in Dad’s shoe repair shop…
It’s all in who you are and where you were, isn’t it?

194 RIC August 9, 2010 at 8:03 am

CAM2 GASOLINE. Either before or after it has been run through a eace car!!

195 Mike Cavanaugh August 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I took a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in Northeastern New Mexico in ’95, and just after I arrived sat down on the grass and looked at the mountains in the distance. And thought “Christmas.”

“Christmas”? Now why’d I think of that, in July, in New Mexico?

It took me a minute or two, but eventually I figured out the connection: I’d sat down next to some sage grass, just like the stuff in Bell’s Poultry Season that mom would use on Thanksgiving and Christmas. You bet smells can stir up memories. :-)

196 Tom R. August 10, 2010 at 8:23 am

The smell of a long used wood frame, dirt floored garage.
Canvas tents on a warm summer night
Coleman lanterns pushing the darkness back
The differing smells of ammunition being reloaded
A salt marsh, lake, river, pond or stream at dawn
The woods at dusk.
Driftwood burning on the beach
Lava Soap, the bar not that new fangled pump stuff
An old bar, well kept but permeated with the smells of constant patronage
Leather being worked into various items.
The fixative applied to old black and white Polaroid pictures.
An 16 mm movie projector running.
A flash bulb just after it it’s gone off

197 Wraith August 18, 2010 at 2:44 am

What about the smell of a freshly opened can of dipping tobacco? Ciggarettes are for women, hipsters and people who cant stand the rich tobacco taste of snuff….
Fond memories of old spice, campfires, gunpowder….. The only other thing missing is the smell of a lake at 5am going fishing…

198 Shawn Gipperich August 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Man I love the smell of BBQ, , and this one may sound a little weird, but I love the smell of Mildew, and thats when it comes to empty abandoned Houses and buildings, as I love to collect meters, and lately Mildew seems to be the thing I smell in these buildings, It’s the smell of abandonment, but to me it’s the smell of happiness, because I got the meter from that building.

199 Shawn Gipperich August 18, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I love the smell of a freshly lit BBQ pit, as well as the smell of BBQ of a cool spring day. Now to some this may sound weird, but I also love the smell of Mildew. Yes I said Mildew. See I have this passion for collecting electric power meters. I get some of them from old abandoned houses and buildings, and when I approach the property to get the meter I always seem to catch a drift of that mildew smell emitting from out of the broken windows on the building. To me it’s kind of like a smell of happiness because I got that meter from a building that will be gone. One more smell I forgot to mention. I love the smell of Old tube radios, as they bring back the old days when the world was fresh and sweet.

200 patrick October 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm

the smell of an old book i would love picking out books from my fathers shelves in his office

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