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Weird Q: What Does a Dad Smell Like?

Add your dad-smells in the comments below. I feel like we can somehow bottle this.


In partnership with Gucci Guilty Fragrance

My dad has been known to grab limes from table displays and press them under his nose to inhale their citrus rinds. Whether he returns them to their rightful bowls or finds himself the proud owner of a whole fruit for the night is at the discretion of the host or germaphobe who catches him.

Usually I’m the one who catches him, though. And usually I don’t say anything.

Citrus is his favorite smell. He wears verbena cologne and uses lime-scented shaving cream. There is green deodorant stocked in his medicine cabinet and pieces of lemon-y gum floating inside the kitchen junk drawer. Any time a snack or beverage company introduces “hint of lime” as a limited edition flavor, our cabinets and refrigerator burst with inventory. Guess his favorite kind of pie.

Key Lime.

As I write this, I’m smelling my own wrist to determine if my dad will take to a new cologne I might give him for Father’s Day. (Also as I write this, I have only a few days left to decide.) It’s called Gucci Guilty Pour Homme and the name is fitting: I feel guilty because this will be the first Father’s Day I give him a “real” gift beyond the hand-made variety, but also because part of me feels like it’s wrong to meddle with the smell that defines him.

Smells are so deeply connected to memory. One sniff can trigger waves of comfort, stabilize the self and bring us home. When I try to trace my dad’s fondness of lime, my theories swirl around his sandy childhood and pin directly on the lapel of his dad — my late grandfather — the most well-dressed man I’ll ever know, who drank a gin and tonic daily and promptly at 5 P.M. in a crystal tumbler with a wedge of lime.

This cologne leans heavier on the lemon — Italian lemon — than the lime. It’s strong; I sprayed too much; the sandalwood and cedar catch my inhale. My brain sends out question marks like butterfly nets to capture what or who or when this smell is reminding me of. Not my dad, I decide. But maybe an expectant father? Someone young and hopeful, perhaps just learning what “growing up” means, full of ideals for the generation below and just the tiniest bit of worry.

With every inhale and nose crinkle I spiral deeper into dads and their smells and olfactory legacy. (Olfactory’s my favorite word). I text my dad, “Did you know you wanted to smell like limes to me when I was born, because of your dad?” He writes back, “What?” Then sends the baby and lemon emoji. “No limes,” he clarifies.

Oy. Never mind. But it stirs something else in me. An idea. What if I talked to three dads-to-be about scent and memory and pending fatherhood, and their hopes and dreams back to that overly-dramatic but relevant word I used earlier: legacy?

So I did. Scroll below to dive into the minds of three expecting fathers. And dad…don’t be mad. I may need one more year to get you a “real gift.” In the mean time, gin and tonic on me?


(P.S. MR readers, you know I need to know what your dads and dad-figures smell like, too, right?)


Dad-to-be stats:
Xavier Fuller, married to Yennie Fuller. Together for seven years, married for three. This will be their first child — a baby girl.

Did you hit a point when you were “ready” to have a kid or are you still unsure?
Well, the week before I found out, I told my wife that I could easily wait two to four years before having a baby. So this was a shocking, “Oh sh*t, is this happening?” moment in my life.

What are you most excited about?
Being the father I never had around. I want to show my future daughter that male or female, black or white (interracial, in her case), anything is possible.

Most importantly, I am excited to see life through her perspective.

What are you nervous for?
1. I don’t just have to worry about a daughter. I have to worry about all the boys she’ll encounter and their intentions.
2. Not having a father growing up, I’m nervous I won’t know what to do. I am sure innate daddy skills will come, though.

What did you not expect about this whole process?
That this would be a time of reflection and planning how to be a better person for her.

What’s the best thing your own father figure taught you?
Father Carr was my father figure, a blind former priest who I would read to on Saturdays and Sundays. I read him the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. He definitely helped me more than I helped him. He pushed me to be the best person and to get out of the neighborhood I grew up in. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have applied to Ivy League schools and my alma mater, University of Michigan. Life changing experience.

What’s your favorite memory about that person?
His laughter.

Scent is so tied to memory, too. What smells make you think about him?
A wood-like scent with a hint of jasmine/rose and musky undertones.

What do you think you’ll smell like to your kids?
Sweaty, because I still hope to get my “swole on” at the gym. Ha.

What do you hope to teach your future daughter? What do you want your dad legacy to be?
I hope I can teach our daughter a few things:

1. Life is about experiences so don’t just live life, experience it.
2. It’s okay to not plan everything. Life tends to catch you by surprise, anyway.
3. Get out of your comfort zone and be uncomfortably excited.
4. It’s okay to fail, just learn from your mistakes.


Dad-to-be stats:
David William Dowd III, married to Rajni Jacques since 2008 after dating since 2000. This will be their first son — a baby boy.

Did you hit a point when you were “ready” to have a kid or are you still unsure?
We’ve always wanted kids, but we reached a point where I was a bit more financially stable; I’d taken a full time position with a company rather then run my own business. We also settled into a neighborhood and apartment that we love, so the timing seemed more right than it’s ever been.

What are you most excited about?
My father is one of my best friends. It has been one of the most special relationships in my life and I hope that I can develop the same sort of relationship with my son. I’m excited to watch boxing and other sports with him, take him to sporting events, teaching him to surf and teach him to try any type of food that is ever put in front of him. These are just a few things I learned from my father.

What are you nervous for?
Selfishly, I’m nervous about the loss of my free time, specifically being able to drop everything at a moment’s notice when the surf gets good. My wife has guaranteed me I’ll still be able to surf plenty. Please put that in print so I can reference it should it ever become an issue in the future.

I’m a little spooked about how delicate and small he’ll be for the first few months (years?). I really don’t want to hurt him or break him! And I’m also nervous that my wife and son will both be fluent in French and I speak none. She’s already taken to rubbing her belly with one hand, pointing at me with the other while muttering things in French to him and laughing at me.

What did you not expect about this whole process?
My wife has been a trooper. Early on she dealt with a lot of morning sickness, which I expected. The middle months she was cruising…no issues at all. What caught me off guard is the discomfort that she’s currently in as we are close to the due date: bad cramping in her legs, getting easily worn out, etc…I give her a ton of credit. I don’t think I could do it.

What’s the best thing your own father taught you?
To have confidence in myself. My father was my biggest supporter. I remember thinking I wasn’t good at things — little league baseball sticks out in my mind — and my father insisting I was. He showed me that having a little bit of confidence in myself can go a long way.

What’s your favorite memory about your father?
My father worked in the horse racing industry his entire life, starting as a groom cleaning stalls. I followed his entire career proudly and watched him get to the point that he ran several race tracks over the years. Eventually he ran Monmouth Park in New Jersey, the same track he cleaned stalls for as a teenager. In 2007 he brought the Breeders’ Cup to Monmouth Park. This is an annual horse race that is held at a different track every year. Other then the three Triple Crown races, it is the biggest yearly event in horse racing. Bringing it to Monmouth Park was a huge deal. Watching the amount of work he put into it was inspiring; seeing it all come to fruition was a really special thing. My entire family was there, my wife was there, my grandmother was there — when he was finally able to relax a bit, it was really emotional. My grandmother hugged my father while he was choked up and told him that my uncle and my grandfather, who are both no longer with us and who both share my name, were watching him and were proud of him. It was very special. It’s something I’ll never forget.

Scent is so tied to memory, too. What smells make you think about him?
The smell of the race track, for sure. I spent my summers in college working for my father at a track that he was running in Maryland at the time. I remember being up early and walking around the track with him and him telling me how much he loves that smell. It might smell like manure to you, but it will always remind me of him.

What do you think you’ll smell like to your kids?
Surfing is one of my favorite things in my life so I hope he takes after me and loves it as well. I’d love to share that with him. There are tons of smells I associate with surfing, so it’d be nice if those smells remind him of me. Surf wax, the rubber wetsuits, the resin you use to repair your surfboard, the salt air….

What do you hope to teach your future child? What do you want your dad legacy to be?
My father was always very firm on what was right and what was wrong. There was very little gray area in between with him. He taught me that, and I’ve tried my hardest to live up to that. It’s not always easy but I’d like to pass that along to my kids. Not disrespecting my mother was another big one with him and I know that will be important to instill in my kids as well.

My father also taught me to enjoy life. He taught me to love to travel and to want to try and experience new things. It’s important to me that I pass all of that along to my kids, too.

Anything else you want to add?

My mom is also amazing.


Dad-to-be stats:
Joseph Carnevale, married to Samantha Carnevale since October 2014. This will be their first child.

Did you hit a point when you were “ready” to have a kid or are you still unsure?
On some level, I definitely feel “ready” to be a father, but as the due date gets closer and closer, I am realizing that there’s no way to ever be ready for this kind of change in my life. The best thing I can do right now is be there/available for my wife. I know that we have everything we need in our hearts to raise our child the best we can, so what else can we do to be “ready” at this point? Note: that is NOT a rhetorical question; I’m always open to advice!

What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about getting to share this brand new experience with my wife, Samantha. We’ve been talking about this moment for a couple of years and now it is so close. I’m also so excited to find out if we are having a boy or a girl. We’ve got a couple names picked out, so I can’t wait to find out what this new addition to our world is going to be.

Samantha has been working so hard for the past seven months to grow and nourish our little human. I cannot wait to step up and take on some more responsibility in raising our child together.

What are you nervous for?
I think I’m most nervous for caring for the baby. There’s only so much I can get out of reading and attending classes. I have a feeling the real experience will be completely different! I’m trying not to dwell on that too much, though…

What did you not expect about this whole process?
How quickly everything has gone so far. Nine months sounds like a long time, but I feel like we just found out yesterday and now we’re already getting into the final countdown. Also, the number of visits to the doctor and hospital for standard checkups, shots, blood drawings, etc. My wife is a trooper!

What’s the best thing your own father taught you?
One of the best things my father taught me was to take responsibility for my actions. There will always be outside influences on my life, both good and bad, but at the end of the day, the choices I make are my own and each choice made shapes the person I am.

What’s your favorite memory about your father?
I have a couple: A more general memory is that he was my travel-soccer coach for my entire childhood, so it was great to get to spend my afternoons with him. Looking back on that time, I remember the added motivation of playing hard each day and trying to pay attention to the new drills taught in practices. Luckily, most of my thoughts during the “conditioning” drills have faded from memory…

A more specific memory I have is getting to watch my dad compete and win at a yodeling contest while eating at Disney World’s Epcot park (note: he is not a singer). I can remember laughing and cheering so hard both while he was belting out the yodels and when the audience had to pick a winner.

Scent is so tied to memory, too. What smells make you think about him?
The smell of the “Original Listerine” he used every morning. Before heading out to school, I would hang out in my parents’ bedroom while my dad got ready, and I always remember the smell of the mouthwash he used before he kissed me goodbye each morning. Sometimes I would take a little nip from the bottle and try to swish it in my mouth, but I always spit it out within seconds. That stuff was strong.

What do you think you’ll smell like to your kids?
I honestly have no idea, I’m sure it be completely random. I just hope whatever it is, it’s associated with a positive thought!

What do you hope to teach your future child? What do you want your dad legacy to be?
What it takes to make an impact within your community. These communities can range from your immediate family, to friends, neighbors, town, and as far-reaching as you’d like. There is nothing so small that it’s not worth making the effort for, and you will never know what the chain reaction of your impact will be.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.


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  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    My dad smells like organic deodorant from Trader Jos. Hi Bruce!!

    • Amelia Diamond


  • Harling Ross

    My dad smells like dial soap and cornflakes.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Mr Ro$$ the Bo$$

  • Isa Iraheta

    My dad refuses to wear any scented deodorant or colognes, so his scent is always so fresh, and clean. He’s an anaesthesiologist, so I love the cleansed scent of the strong soaps he’s left with after a long day at the OR. I don’t know if its the soap or the meds they use, should probably ask him. It would be weird if I like the smell of medicine.

    • Amelia Diamond

      It makes sense though if medicine is what your dad smells like!!

  • Eric D.

    Amelia, what a beautiful post! Very touching! I wish each of these new dads-to-be all the best!
    And I already have the best Fathers Day gift there is – You!!! And now I may have a gin and tonic with a twist of lime in your honor! Hey wait a second: Mojito!!!! Hahaha! Love you! xoxoxox ?

  • Hannah

    My dad smells like cedar and and the shaving cream he’s used my whole life. Very earthy smell but I love it. It’s funny, I was casually smelling my boyfriend per usual and I got a hint of my dad. It was weird and heart-warming all at the same time

    • Amelia Diamond

      “I was casually smelling my boyfriend per usual” hahah but also totally know what ya mean

      • Hannah

        Yes, those boyfriend smells get me every damn time! I think dad smells trump (ugh I hate this word now) boyfriend smells in terms of comfort though. Dads are the kings of comfort haha.

  • Noor

    My baba smells like cigarettes and every cool male cologne ever (because his collection is huge!) Falling for guys always ends weird because they almost always smell like my dad.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I hate smoking but isn’t weird how sometimes the smell on someone else can be comforting?

  • Robin

    my dad quit smoking before i was born, but sometimes, during summer, when he feels like it, he’ll smoke a luxurious cigar whilst enjoying the sun. therefore the smell of cigars brings me such peace. it’s basically, ‘suns-out-and-dads-in-a-good-mood-I-should-go-ask-for-lemonade’

    • Amelia Diamond

      ugh yesss

  • Michelle Rusdi

    my dad smells like a morning pillow (really? i dont even kno what morning pillow smells like) and a clean sheet of new washed clothes

    • Amelia Diamond


  • Charlotte Dallin

    I always think of my dad smelling the way he did after a long day on the beach when I was a kid – low factor Ambre Solaire, salt and a faint trace of marine gasoline oil. A very comforting combination.

    • Amelia Diamond

      love that 🙂

  • Senka

    My dad loves colognes. He’s almost 70 and is still very enthusiastic about the way he dresses and smells, so cologne is always aperfect gift choice whatever the occasion. The thing is, I usually end up stealing a spritz of aforementioned gift cologne once I visit my parents, because I usually love the scenty I buy. One of my favorites is LT Pivers Cuir de Russie I got him once in Paris, and now contemplating getting for my self for winter.

    • Amelia Diamond

      ooo what does that smell like!

      • Senka

        Warm and leathery, slightly sweet, but still with dose of sharpness. It’s unisex, as I later found out, and I haven’t had a chance to sniff on Chanel version by the same name (LT Piver may have borrowed the idea because chanel one dates from 1928 and this one 1934) It’s deffinitely a winter scent to me.

  • Autumn

    My dad has used Juniper Breeze lotion from Bath & BodyWorks for as long as I can remember – so that and cigars. I will always love and associate the smell of cigars with my dad.

  • Gina Fuchs

    my dad smells like cold water and his spray on Axe deodorant (which I do not like). If I could pay him to smell like something else it would be wood and the whatever the Old Spice men smell like. (love u dad).

    • Gina Fuchs

      also this piece is so touching I absolutely love it

    • Amelia Diamond

      i love the description of “cold water”!!

  • Patty Carnevale

    My dad smells like Listerine (obv since my wonderful, kind brother already shared that ^^^^^^) but also Heineken and good ‘ole Irish Spring soap. Anytime I smell those things I think of my dad <3

  • shannonly

    I love this article! My dad drove what we called “the old, beat-up truck,” and I loved the way that truck smelled. It was like mint, mulch/freshly cut grass, and this other sweet smell I could never pin down. It wasn’t until years later, when I was in college, that I was hanging out with some guys who were using chewing tobacco and I was like OH MY GOD THAT IS THE MYSTERY SMELL. I never realized my dad must have secretly chewed tobacco until that moment. He also must have quit because the smell didn’t carry over to the “new” (circa 2001) truck.

  • Don’t ask

    My dad just smells like chew tobacco and starburst.