Nobody is naive enough to think that advertising doesn't change us. Ads, after all, convinced the world that the "coffee break" was a thing and that Rudolph was a traditional Christmas character. But no matter how cynical you think you are about the influence of advertising on things we consider traditions, it's always surprising how far it goes. Did you know that advertisers are responsible for ...
5Giving Us the Concept of Body Odor
Unless you happen to be a middle-school-aged boy, applying antiperspirant/deodorant is an ingrained, reflexive part of your morning routine. And of course it is, because what's the alternative? We'll tell you what: Sweating your clothes all up, emitting the natural stench of the human body, and experiencing total social rejection from your peers. And you simply can't have that. After all, you're not some sort of savage.
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But It Actually Came From ...
The concept of using chemicals to plug up your armpit's sweat-holes goes all the way back to ... the early 20th century. That's it.
Before that, shockingly, sweating was considered simply a thing that humans did. Sure, it could be inconvenient -- on a hot day, women wore dress shields to sop up all the nastiness oozing from their pores and protect their clothing, while men simply wrung out their undershirts once in a while -- but it wasn't something that people really gave much thought to. In fact, openly discussing bodily functions like sweating was considered impolite at the time.
"It smells like a baboon's rancid taint in here. I'm sure that has nothing to do with you, dear Meredith."
Then along came Edna Murphey with a brand new chemical developed by her dad to keep his hands dry while performing surgery (we should probably mention that he was, in fact, a surgeon). Murphey found that the product could be used to prevent sweating when slathered all over her armpits. So she bottled it up and named it Odorono (Odor? Oh no!), because naming things was not Murphey's strong suit.
Apparently, selling her new wonder product wasn't her strong suit, either, because Murphey immediately ran into a serious roadblock -- people had no idea why they were supposed to want something that stopped them from sweating. Like if they came out with a product today that slowed how fast your fingernails grew, the big reaction would be "Uh, is this really a problem that needs to be solved?"
"Over the course of a lifetime, Nail-Ex shaves entire minutes off of your hygiene routine."
Unlike modern antiperspirants, the ridiculously strong Odorono prevented sweating for up to three days -- which many viewed as something that couldn't possibly be healthy. Add the fact that the active ingredient had to be suspended in an acid that could cause armpit irritation and literally eat holes through clothing, and the product seemed like the invention of a crazy person.
Roy Rosenzweig Center
"You can't have armpit odor if we dissolve your armpits."
But in a massive stroke of luck, Murphey paired up with door-to-door Bible salesman-cum-advertising evil genius James Young, who had one job: make women ashamed of sweat.
First, Young launched a massive ad campaign that painted perspiration as an embarrassing medical condition in need of a cure. Then, once he had established public awareness that antiperspirant was a thing, Young moved on to creating the idea that if you sweated in public, everyone around you would be whispering and snickering at you behind your back -- one 1926 ad went so far as to claim that a woman with underarm sweat "just doesn't belong," even though this had been untrue since the dawn of the species. In the 1930s -- when the Great Depression had everyone worried about, you know, being able to afford food -- Odorono ads spoke of how stinking up the office could lose you your job.
Not to mention making it impossible to find a man, every woman's highest goal.
Thanks to Young's artist-like molding of the public psyche, Odorono went from being something that no one wanted to the product that was now required. Right now there is literally a guy somewhere leaving the house to go to work in the city's sewers where he will be standing knee-deep in human feces all day ... and before he steps out of the bathroom, he will apply deodorant.