The Ecopsychology Issue

The Scent of A Man

The subtlety of previous manly scents has been replaced with an overt stench: the rank smell of chemical machismo.
Photo by Sandy Huffaker - New York Times - Redux
Photo by Sandy Huffaker - New York Times - Redux

In the arena of male toiletries, scents can be divided into three categories: cologne, aftershave and deodorant. Cologne is a perfume and is used solely for reasons of beautification. Aftershave is a scent that may contain an antiseptic agent and is to be used after a man shaves. Deodorant, the most common of male scent products, is applied to mask body odor. Aftershave was originally sold on its benefits – it gave you a smooth shave and a scent that made you smell like a man should smell. Deodorant, on the other hand, provided protection from the body’s natural tendency toward unsightly stains and undesired odors.

But starting in the late 60s, marketers discovered that it was far more effective to sell aftershave to men vis-à-vis their relations with women: If you use Brand X aftershave, women will like you. Not only that, they will have sex with you … Lots of it.

Deodorant, however, continued to be sold on the basis of “protection” — if you don’t use deodorant, you will fall victim to perspiration and will consequently be viewed as a degenerate by your contemporaries. Up to the 90s, most of the ads for deodorant featured a succession of shots with people raising their arms to reveal either a disgusting wet stain or a socially commendable dry underarm, illustrating the confidence enjoyed by those who used deodorant versus the embarrassment of the barbarian hordes who don’t.

They were simple times. To ensure that you got laid, you used aftershave. To maintain confidence in the workplace and on the sports field, you used deodorant. A smooth, scented face peels off the panties and a dry, crisp underarm ensures success.

But at the turn of the century, the situation became more complicated. When the idea of “metrosexuality” gained momentum, toiletry marketers seized upon the gender shift as an opportunity to expand their role in engineering the male identity, as they had done so well with women for decades. The toiletry industry exploded and the number of scents in the young male’s cabinet grew exponentially.

The man of yore was basic, even elemental. He worked, played sports and made love to women. The new man of the 21st century, however, is infinitely complex. He shops, plucks his eyebrows, gets $60 haircuts and requires a far more diverse selection of scented products in order to achieve the status of “man.”

The industry standards of Old Spice and Right Guard were replaced with Axe. Rather than champion a man’s ability to achieve success in the workplace and the bedroom, Axe brought in a new school of thought toward male marketing: treat them like women, prey on their insecurities.

The 20th-century man’s aftershave reflected his masculinity, but Axe is that masculinity. You cannot achieve macho without buying all of their available products: not just aftershave and deodorant but also shower gel, skin care, one-off pocket-sized body shots, scrub tools, hair gel and so forth.

The logic of the “smooth, clean shaven face” was extended to the entire body, allowing the toiletry industry — Unilever in Axe’s case — to turn every part of the male physiology into real estate for their products. The subtlety of previous manly scents has been replaced with an overt stench: the rank smell of chemical machismo.

It’s completely psychological – your typical Madison Avenue plot to further commodify the human identity. What’s troublesome for the modern man is that the scent product no longer reflects his manhood … It has become the source.

—Douglas Haddow

105 comments on the article “The Scent of A Man”

Displaying 91 - 100 of 105

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Anonymous

Hey Guys,
I believe in this, that corporations are swindling us into their hands, but I just have a couple questions that are burning on my mind.
Isn't Adbusters a corporation? Or is it a cult?
Is every single corporation trying to back-stab us? I highly doubt that every single one in the world is evil. Fisher Price and Toshiba and Ab Lounge and Craftsman and Huskies and Aeropostale and Dickies and Nintendo and Playstation and Xbox and Sketchers and the millions of others?
If I use Axe, just because I like the smell, does that make me an evil consumer?
Also, I smell REALLY BAD without some kind of shampoo and conditioner and other things. If I came up to you and breathed in your face without toothpaste you would die.

Anonymous

You don't have to stink in order to be a non-evil consumer there are alternatives that don't support over-consumerism of coorporation products like essential oils and soaps and shampoos made of natural and biodegradable things like hemp glycerin. If you like the smell of axe then its up to you but i'd say its a really overrated and unoriginal smell every other guy has

Anonymous

You don't have to stink in order to be a non-evil consumer there are alternatives that don't support over-consumerism of coorporation products like essential oils and soaps and shampoos made of natural and biodegradable things like hemp glycerin. If you like the smell of axe then its up to you but i'd say its a really overrated and unoriginal smell every other guy has

Anonymous

I hate chemical perfumes of all kinds, both for men and women, one time my little brother lent my head phones to his friend down the street, when I got them back they smelled of axe, the smell of axe never went away... ever. I had to throw my headphones away.

Anonymous

I hate chemical perfumes of all kinds, both for men and women, one time my little brother lent my head phones to his friend down the street, when I got them back they smelled of axe, the smell of axe never went away... ever. I had to throw my headphones away.

greenary

Thanks for all your opinions and for voicing your concerns. Has been a fantastic read. Hope to put some input in sometime in the future.

Thanks again, as another said earlier, it's good to know we are not alone in this.This, being our thoughts of the world around us and how it is being portrayed to look one way, rather than many ways.

greenary

Thanks for all your opinions and for voicing your concerns. Has been a fantastic read. Hope to put some input in sometime in the future.

Thanks again, as another said earlier, it's good to know we are not alone in this.This, being our thoughts of the world around us and how it is being portrayed to look one way, rather than many ways.

Anonymous

another good reason to be wary of this stuff

http://www.theredwhiteandgreen.com/2010/05/12/britney-spears-fragrance-others-truly-toxic-study-says/

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