The 7 Most Important Dates in the History of Men’s Cologne

For centuries, gentlemen have incorporated a spritz of cologne into their daily grooming regimen. But while the ritual has remained unchanged, the product has taken some unexpected turns. From the launch of Washington’s signature scent to the debut of the world’s most expensive cologne, here’s a look at several of the wilder moments from the history of men smelling good.

1709

The first bottle of Eau de Cologne was created in—you guessed it—Cologne, Germany. That’s where its creator, Italian expatriate Giovanni Maria Farina, was living at the time. Today, the eighth generation Farina family still produces the original unisex Eau de Cologne, which contains citrus notes mixed with flowers and herbs.

1789

Caswell-Massey, the Rhode Island grooming company founded in 1752, creates Caswell No. 6, a fragrance mixed with notes of orange and bergamot. The company made 20 different colognes, but George Washington and John Adams favored this one in particular (it continues to be sold today). If it’s good enough for our founding fathers…

1808

Florida Water, a unisex cologne, is introduced by New York City perfumer Robert I. Murray. It features notes of sweet orange as well as lavender and clove. The name allegedly refers to the fabled Fountain of Youth, which was said to be located in Florida. The cologne became popular with barbershops, which used it as an aftershave. Baseball players in the South used the cologne as a refresher during sticky summer games: They’d soak rags in the tonic (cut with icy water) and use them to cool off pulse points.

1937

Old Spice is invented…as a fragrance for gals. The men’s version was produced in 1938 and quickly dominated the men’s grooming market in America. Trivia time: That 2010 Old Spice commercial featuring Isaiah Mustafa was the fastest growing online viral video campaign ever—it got more than 23 million views within 36 hours.

1994

The idea of a unisex scent becomes a huge sensation thanks to the launch of CK One. Calvin Klein’s fragrance, with its screw-top bottle and ads featuring androgynous models, became the unofficial cologne of Generation X. At its peak, 20 bottles of CK One were sold per minute.

1996

Michael Jordan Cologne launches, making the basketball superstar one of the first major athletes to release a signature scent (although, we should note that another Chicago sports star, Mike Dikta, released Iron Mike cologne in 1986 to mixed results). Other athletes who’ve followed Jordan’s fragrant footsteps include Derek Jeter, David Beckham, and NASCAR driver Carl Edwards. And these days, just about every celebrity has his or her own scent. Even Alan Cumming had one.

1999

British perfumer Clive Christian releases the original collection of six pure perfumes in three matched ‘his and hers’ pairs. He used rare and precious natural ingredients from around the world packaged in a gold bottle. Why is this significant? Because Christian’s No.1 Imperial Coronation, priced at $1,300, is recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive cologne in the world.

Photo: FARINA GEGENUEBER
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