Often, in the aftermath of a celebrity-fan encounter, one of the first questions that comes up in conversation is “What did he smell like?” Take, for example, this Reddit thread asking “People who have met Post Malone, what did he smell like?” Answers vary from the joking (“Post Cologne”) to the thoughtfully earnest (“envelope glue”). Body odor is the one detail that can be communicated only in person. Scent is important: the global fragrance industry is currently valued at over $38 billion and imagining what beauty products these newsmakers use, and in what order, is a national pastime. So it’s especially fascinating when we collectively discover that Jonah Hill smells like a hot dog or Matthew McConaughey hasn’t worn deodorant for 20 years.
The latter is true, at least. While filming the 2008 deep-sea masterwork Fool’s Gold, McConaughey’s co-star Kate Hudson brought him “a salt rock, which is some natural deodorant, and says, ‘Would you please put this on?’ […] I just never wore it. No cologne, no deodorant.” Instead, McConaughey insists on nothing. He wants to smell like a man. Can’t we all just let him smell like a man?! My favourite McConaughey scent story is one about his insufferable 2014 Lincoln commercials. A source told The Improper that during production he smelled like he hadn’t showered in weeks. Imagine riding shotgun in that car. “Afterward, the cars went back to the dealer,” the outlet wrote. “It’s unknown whether they were detailed to get rid of the stink.”
“I don’t really see the point in washing your hair” – Robert Pattinson, 2009
What is most peculiar about these situations, which have been casually documented since the advent of celebrity journalism, is how the offenders justify their bad odor. “The women in my life, including my mother, have all said, ‘Hey, your natural smell smells, one, like a man, and, two, smells like you,’” McConaughey once told Contact Music. “I don’t really see the point in washing your hair,” just-woke-from-a-nap lookin’ Twilight actor Robert Pattinson echoed to Extra, when asked if it was true that he didn’t wash his hair for six weeks. “It’s like, I don’t clean my apartment ‘cause I don’t care. I have my apartment for sleeping in and I have my hair for just, you know, hanging out on my head. I don’t care if it’s clean or not.” In New! magazine, Pattinson added that occasionally his B.O. “gets to the point where even I can't stand the air around me. I don't know, my personal hygiene – it’s so disgusting.”
Is he… bragging? Hard to tell. For years – more than five, less than 10 by most accounts – Pattinson was stinky. He didn’t wash his hair. His skincare routine was as fictional as the sparkly vampire character that made him famous. Crew members on set of the film reportedly complained about his putrid fetor. A GQ article once described his clothing as having a “smell like he has recently purchased them off the back of someone less fortunate than he.”
His cleanliness, or lack thereof, became a meme on Tumblr. A screenshot of that headline touting his discovery of moisturizing and routine cleanliness was placed next to an older MTV News headline that read “Robert Pattinson admits to lazy hygiene habits.” The post’s caption underneath simply read “2009 – 2014,” implying the life and death of his bad bathing habits. It was a dramatic hygiene about-face for the actor.
“I started moisturising – it’s a profound change in my life,” one Daily Mail headline shouted in 2014. The article finally addressed “THOSE personal hygiene rumours” swirling mercilessly around R Patz, indicating he had somewhat reformed.
Other men who have been said to exude fumes are Entourage’s Adrian Grenier, Johnny Depp (he was urged by Angelina Jolie to swish with Listerine before their kissing scene in The Tourist), and Bradley Cooper, who, as of at least 2012, doesn’t “use deodorant really anymore.” Whether or not their skanky body vapors weigh heavy on fans’ minds – or nostrils – is moot. “I don’t give a shit thats hot. Lol” someone who goes by Allie commented below a YouTube video titled “Robert Pattinson Is A Dirty Boy.”
I suppose the real irony here is that Pattinson was once the poster boy for Dior Parfum, Johnny Depp the face of Dior Eau de Sauvage, and Matthew McConaughey a capitalist vehicle for Dolce & Gabbana’s fragrance The One. It is possible to assume they were gifted free bottles of these fragrances that likely sit on a shelf, still sealed in their respective boxes, as each dude stews in his own eau de filth. I’m not sure what exactly this is meant to tell us, the proletariat, about these celebrities. One thing it doesn’t tell us: what they smell like. Until we meet, I guess we’ll never know… But maybe we’re better off not knowing.