36 manly smells man sniffing the air illustration.

With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in September 2017.

Smells can conjure up 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. 

It was back in 2009 when we first came up with the idea for creating a list of manly smells. We asked you, our readers, for your input, and we gathered together 15 especially virile scents. The list was a hit, and we of course received hundreds of comments relaying further manly smells to feature. So four years later in 2013, we did another crowdsourced list, that time of 18 aromas. We’re at it again, but this time we’ve combined those two original lists with a handful more to boot. Thus, below we present the ultimate collection of manly smells! Interspersed in this list you’ll find not only our descriptions of manly smells, but also memories from our readers themselves. 

Hardware Store

Vintage hardware and paint store by carol johnson.

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.

Black Coffee

Vintage cowboy making coffee over a fire.

“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.” —PiperJon

“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.” —Wilson

Shoe Polish

Shinola shoe polish ad advertisement.