How antiperspirants and deodorants stay relevant
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Deodorants are “designed to help reduce unpleasant odours. It does not reduce sweating but has fragrance and ingredients that help us smell better.”
Men’s hygiene products, especially deodorant, have existed for decades. They have been advertised in newspapers, magazines, billboards, radio ads, TV ads, and online. Yes, this is quite a revelation that men’s deodorant is usually found on store shelves at grocery stores, and especially stores like London Drugs and Walmart.
Speed Stick was one product that always caught my eye whenever I had to buy deodorant. Perhaps, it was because my father had it in our bathroom cabinet when I was a kid. I remember one time grabbing my father’s Speed Stick, which was the original brand—its colour was green like kryptonite. I recall taking a big whiff. It had a pleasant scent, but it was a smell that did not resonate with me—nor make me want to go out to buy Speed Stick.
Notably, Speed Stick was created by The Mennen Company and first arrived on the market in 1963 (Lady Speed Stick appeared in 1983). It is both a sponsor and the official antiperspirant of the NHL. In 1992, the Colgate-Palmolive Company purchased The Mennen Company.
I was curious whether sweat does indeed cause body odour. According to the official Speed Stick website, “sweat does not actually have [an] odour; rather, the odour is caused by bacteria normally found in our underarm region as well as in other parts of our body.” Other parts of our body where bacteria have formed, I wonder why? Perhaps, one way to remedy this problem is to… um… take a shower!
What’s more, I always see deodorants paired together with antiperspirants. I have always wondered if one is better than the other. Once again, the official Speed Stick website states that deodorants are “designed to help reduce unpleasant odours. It does not reduce sweating but has fragrance and ingredients that help us smell better.” In contrast, an antiperspirant “helps to prevent the wetness associated with sweating. It has an ingredient, Aluminum or Aluminum Zirconium Salts, with the primary purpose of reducing sweat.”
Amusingly, this dilemma of whether or not to use deodorant regularly reminds me of a George Carlin routine from his 1972 album, FM & AM. He discussed what options men have if they ever run out of deodorant: “Go into the kitchen and put a bay leaf under each arm. [It] doesn’t stop you from perspiring, but you smell like soup! Keeps your friends alert. ‘Hey, who’s wearing Chicken Vegetable?’ ‘Not me! I have Bean with Bacon!’”
Furthermore, in the 2000s, another men’s deodorant entered the market, Axe body spray. It had a vast array of scents and the most ridiculous and implausible advertising commercials for a men’s deodorant product. Melissa Malamut, in an article she wrote about Axe for the New York Post in February 2020, criticizes how the ads negatively portrayed women: “During the first decade of its existence, Axe’s commercials reflected the misogynistic aughts. One of its early commercials featured a tall, blond woman who sprays a mannequin with Axe, only to be so attracted to the scent she rips off the mannequin’s arm and starts slapping her toosh with it.” Where were these girls when I was in high school?
Moreover, in 2010, Old Spice launched a heavy advertising campaign created by Wieden and Kennedy featured Isaiah Mustafa would quickly become popular after the first ad was released entitled, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” Furthermore, in 2015, the “Make a Smellmitment”commercial with Terry Crews and Isaiah Mustafa made its debut—promoting Bearglove and Timber (or Swagger). Also, in January 2020, Old Spice resurrected their viral 2010 campaign “Smell Like a Man, Man” to mark the 10thanniversary of the original commercial. As well, they will once again work with Wieden and Kennedy for the reboot.
Finally, most deodorants are satisfactory and will work—whether you choose Speed Stick, Axe, or Old Spice. But do not be stingy and buy an inferior cheap deodorant from the dollar store. As long as you shower regularly, you do not need deodorant. But if you are really self-conscious, and run out of deodorant, do what George Carlin advised and put a bay leaf under each arm. However, if you notice your family and friends moving away from you (beyond two meters), then buying some deodorant is probably a wise decision.