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JFK was definitely a ladies man, and there’s a lot of speculation as to his fave fragrance.
Here’s another JFK mystery: What did America’s most handsome President smell like?
Sartorial snobs have long fixated on what John F. Kennedy wore, so it’s only natural that his most intimate expression of style, his fragrance, remains a point of contention.
Everyone wanted a piece of the 35th president when he was alive, and now, 50 years after his assassination, four different perfumers — Jockey Club, Creed Vetiver, the German cologne 4711 and the newly reissued fragrance Eight & Bob — all claim to have lined his bedroom dresser.
Jockey Club is the scent quite often associated with Kennedy.
Jockey Club is the cologne most often linked to JFK — its scented soap even earned a spot in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library’s store.
The company’s website, which sells 3-ounce bottles for $ 36, proudly advertises the scent as “a favorite of such equestrian enthusiasts as John F. Kennedy.”
But not everyone remembers JFK smelling like the horse track. Just ask Mimi Alford, a 19-year-old White House intern who later claimed to have lost her virginity to the President. “Back in my room, after a shower to wash off the smell of his 4711 cologne, I thought: ‘So that’s sex?’” she wrote decades later in her memoir “Once Upon a Secret.”
One presidential intern recalls bathing to remove the scent of JFK’s 4711 cologne.
Alford is the only link between Kennedy and 4711 — but fragrance experts say it’s a compelling clue considering her memory of the scent lingered for so long.
“Smells may be more vivid mementos of a person, time or place because we usually register them without being fully aware of them,” says Denyse Beaulieu, author of “The Perfume Lover: A Personal History of Scent.”
“They take us by surprise by retrieving the image or emotional vibe of whatever person or event was associated with them.”
Eight & Bob has a fascinating backstory, and claims to be the fave scent of Kennedy’s college years.
Then there’s JFK’s flirtation with Creed Vetiver, which may prove, at the very least, that the prez didn’t turn up his nose at a freebie. The brand gifts every incoming president one of its fragrances, and maintains it sent him its Vetiver scent, with notes of the tropical grass, ginger and cedar.
But a Creed spokesperson couldn’t provide any proof it got past the White House mailroom since it happened so long ago.
Newest to the market and hardest to verify is Eight & Bob, a European perfume that claims to be the scent of JFK’s college years.
Creed Vetiver’s link to JFK is rather mundane: The company sends its good to the White House as a matter of course.
As the legend — and marketing materials — go, a young Kennedy met hobbyist perfumer Albert Fouquet in France in 1937 and complimented him on the cologne he was wearing. The next day, Fouquet delivered samples to Kennedy’s hotel. The pair stayed in touch after Kennedy returned to the States, and JFK later requested more samples — eight, in total, and “one for Bob” (his brother, future senator Bobby Kennedy).
Fouquet died in 1939. But his butler — said to have helped make the perfumes — kept the formulas, and purportedly smuggled them past the Nazis in a hollowed-out book. The butler’s family eventually sold the recipes and in 2011, Eight & Bob hit shelves, in a hollowed-out book, naturally.
It’s quite a story, but the scent’s distributor Intertrade admits it isn’t “privy to” some basic facts that could help corroborate the tale, including the butler’s family name. “All the information we have is what’s in the press release,” says director of sales and marketing Shannon Drake.
It’s a charming story, but skeptics take note: The only hard evidence is that Kennedy really did visit France in 1937. There’s probably more proof that his collar occasionally held the scent of Chanel No. 5 — his lover Marilyn Monroe’s perfume of choice.
Whether he wore any or all of these scents, there’s no doubt that half a century after his death, JFK can still move products in the celebrity-packed perfume market. And that’s a testament to his enduring role as an American icon.
“In a way, perfumes are like ghosts,” says Beaulieu. “They linger after you’ve gone. They can bring you back beyond your demise.”