Smell Like a Man

One of the more difficult things in curating an unashamedly masculine presence at home or at work is the issue of scent. Our sense of smell is often ignored to our own detriment as it can affect our emotions and level of focus. If you’ve ever worked next to someone who had terrible BO, you know how distracting it can be.

On top of the way a man himself smells, the smell of his environment will have the same effect. We have both positive and negative associations with scents and there are smells which are distinctly masculine or distinctly feminine.

A man’s world should smell manly as yet another way to project that he is king of his castle – be it his bachelor pad, office, or bedroom. But finding smells that are uniquely masculine often ends up being either too difficult or too expensive.

Enter Man Cans. The company was started in 2010 by then 13-year-old Hart Main. His sister was selling scented candles for a school fundraiser and he noticed that there was a lack of manly smelling options. So he took things into his own hands and has had an overwhelming response from happy men who love the unique scents.

As part of the masculine aesthetic of their candles, Man Cans uses old soup cans. Rather than wasting the soup that was in them or trying to eat it all themselves, Hart and his family donate the food and then clean out the cans for reuse.


Hart was kind enough to do an interview with me and answer some questions I had about the nature of his business and why he wanted more masculine smells available to men:

Tanner: Why do you believe men should have masculine scents in their home or their office?

Hart: When I had the idea, our house was filled with girly scents, even though there were as many men in the house as there were women. I thought, there are scents that men enjoy too, and I decided it would be a good idea to make man scented candles.

Tanner: Why did you decide to donate food as part of your business model?

Hart: When I originally started the business, we would just use the cans from dinner or lunch because we didn’t need any more than a few cans a week. Once we started getting more orders, we were tired of soup, and needed to find ways to get more cans. We started out by donating it to local churches for community dinners, but then realized we could help the community by donating it to those in need. Since then, giving back to soup kitchens and homeless shelters has become such an important part of my business.

Tanner:  How do you research, select, and create new scents?

Hart: A lot of the scents we come up with are common requests from people via email. When people ask for the same scents, we feel confident we will have enough of a market for that scent that it will be worth it. When we have an idea what the scent smells like, we have a chemist company that can create almost any scent for us. We tweak the scent until it smells like what we have imagined it to be, and then we are able to create that specific scented candle.

Tanner: How involved is your father with the business and how influential has he been in helping you with scents and designs?

Hart: My Father and my Mother are very involved in helping me with my business. For the first year and a half they both worked full-time jobs and we did everything during the evenings or weekends. My Dad changed his hours at his job in June and now works for ManCans two days a week, but they both help guide me in the right direction. They give me advice when I need it but allow me to make the decisions, knowing I will learn from them.

Tanner: What – from this experience – have you learned about yourself as a young man that you will take with you as you become and adult?

Hart: I have learned a lot through this entire process. I now realize that an idea that starts as a joke can turn into a good product and a successful business. I have also learned a lot about myself and what I want to do with my life. It has been a great experience, and I feel I have learned a lot about business at such a young age that will help me in life.

Tanner: Any plans to expand the company beyond just candles?

Hart: We are looking at a couple new scent ideas and candle lines, but most importantly we are looking for ways to give back to the community. I don’t know where I am going to go with the business, but I know that we are going to continue to give back to those in need.

He’s a lucky kid to have parents (yes both his parents) be so supportive of what he does.

On top of the interview, his company also sent me a few candles to try out. I got Fresh-Cut Grass, Grandpa’s Pipe, Campfire, and Dirt. The cool thing is that they actually smell as advertised. My wife likes to burn the Dirt candle and when I get home from work it always smells to me like the dog has been digging through the plants. It throws me off until I realize it’s just the candle.

Memphis Style BBQ

The feel of the candles being housed in soup cans is reminiscent of old cowboys or soldiers sitting around a campfire eating a can of beans. There’s something masculine about the strictly utilitarianism of a clean, metal can and Man Can’s choice to use them with their candles fits the overall feel of the product.

Most manly smelling candles, hell most scented candles period, are going to set you back upwards of $20. But the current line up at Man Cans is only $9.50 per candle – and that pays for the soup that goes to help others.

The only drawback I’ve seen thus far is I wish they were a little bigger. If you burn them for long periods of time, you’ll go through them pretty quickly. It would be cool to see them offer different sizes as I’d be happy to pay a couple bucks more for a larger candle.

All in all, I’m pleased with both the product and the company. Hart has the makings of a young alpha who’s willing to alter the world around him and work hard to make something of himself. It’s good to see a family that’s willing to support that. It’s also good to see a company that is unapologetic in its appeal to men and our needs. I’ll be buying more candles from these guys in the future, especially because I’m excited for my place to smell like gunpowder.

PS. The month is more than halfway over so take advantage of the reduced price on Basic Consultations before they go back up.