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The Case for Not Wearing Deodorant

GroomThe Case for Not Wearing Deodorant

body-odor

If you can get away with it, why not smell like your damn self?

I don’t wear deodorant. Ever. I know it’s a personal decision that not every guy is at liberty to make. Some men would be left drowning in pit stains without the floodgates of antiperspirant. Others might walk into work and set off sprinklers with their Pig Pen-level aromas. I am luckily not one of these men.

This is not to say that I do not smell: I do. When I wear a tank top or remove my shirt, a very distinct scent sallies forth from under my arms. It doesn’t waft in a five-foot radius around me, but yes, it is what some might describe as “funky.” And yet, I am not all that funky myself. My style is more conventional than not, and I would be mortified if any of my colleagues called me out for stinking up the office.

So, why did I finally ditch it?

As I entered my 30s, it came time to decide what kind of man I wanted to be. I already knew I was one blessed enough not to perspire like crazy beneath my arms. I had also narrowly escaped a corporate career track that may well have driven me to anxiety sweats, while forcing me into crisp white shirts and tailored suits to boot. I wanted a life in which I was free to be me—to go to work in comfortable clothes I feel confident wearing, to be with people who don’t judge me solely based on how I present myself, and yes, to smell like a goddamn boss if I want to.

I’m guessing your dream in life is not to wind up a single, jobless stinkbomb.

One day, my stick ran out and I just never bought another. I set myself free. When the effects of slathering on deodorant for eons finally wore off a few days later, I discovered that I actually appreciate my own aromatic notes. In fact, it was like a first meeting: I had been negating my body’s natural process and layering on other people’s ideas of how I should smell for so long, that I didn’t even recognize my own unique scent. I welcomed myself to the party with open arms, and haven’t look back.

I shower every day without fail, and am always sure to scrub my underarms. While my scent never truly disappears, it diminishes enough that, after I don an undershirt and an open button-up, a coworker wouldn’t notice it unless she happened to be weeping in my arms at the watercooler over the latest death on Game of Thrones.

As a kid, wearing deodorant before you need to is a rite of passage, like shaving your peach-fuzz mustache. I still remember my first Sure solid, and the quiet pride I’d feel when it left a visible trace on my t-shirt that said, “See? I’m a man now, don’t hate.” I soon switched to Gillette clear gel, for no other reason than because my older brother did. And for nearly two decades, I robotically swiped on and swiped off, trying to imagine an icy wave where there was only sharply scented goo.

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Of course, there are times when I worry whether every setting is necessarily the appropriate one to smell exactly like myself and risk a potential olfactory offense. So far, I haven’t been shamed for letting my body be, even if some friends sunbathing with me on the beach have raised eyebrows at my new, freer lifestyle. Maybe I’m naive to think that social decorum doesn’t stop coworkers or acquaintances from asking, “What’s that smell?” while plugging their nostrils, but I think I’m pretty good at reading people. And no one’s nose is closer than mine, so I’m always the first to know if I’m about to blow up my spot.

These are important questions for any man to consider before tossing out a cupboard’s worth of half-used sticks. Will even a mild odor drive your bedfellows to inch slowly away, force you to shower before every bedtime, or shun you altogether? Got a high-stakes job interview lined up? Morning meeting jitters after three cups of joe? I’m guessing your dream in life is not to wind up a single, jobless stinkbomb.

If you reek by midday after skipping one morning swipe, this road is probably not for you. But chances are, if you’ve been applying regularly for what seems like forever, it’s going to take a few days, or even a week, for your true bouquet to emerge. Think of the same caution you’d use in trying out any new scent. Experiment freewheeling on the weekend if you’re curious, or the next time you go on vacation. It may be the most liberating one you’ve ever taken.

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