Why You Shouldn’t Bring an Axe to School

Yesterday, the United States celebrated Labor Day, marking the unofficial end of summer — and, to young learners around the country, the start of the new school year. While some are excited to get back to their books and teachers (and perhaps more importantly, their friends), others are looking for any excuse to avoid the classroom. And sometimes, they achieve that goal accidentally.

The culprit? This stuff.

That’s Axe Body Spray. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a deodorant — at least officially. But in practice, it’s used more like a cologne or olfactory cover-up, and predominately by tween and teenaged boys. And they tend to use it in excessive amounts. Just ask the Internet for some Axe-themed memes, and you’ll see. Here are a few of those (and similar images) which sarcastically tell the story.

Want more? Click here. But hopefully you get the point — middle school and high school boys (and guys named Brett who are obsessed with CrossFit) tend to overuse the product instead of showering and/or in hopes of finding a girlfriend — strategies which rarely work. But Axe is rarely cause for alarm.

Rarely — but not never.

In October of 2013, a classroom of sixth graders at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Brooklyn demonstrated the problem. A bunch of them had a bit of an Axe obsession but someone got the wrong idea — the noxious odor made its way to the noses of teachers and staff, who knew something was amiss but couldn’t quite place the smell. As the New York Post reported, “emergency crews went to [the] school to investigate [the] report of a hazardous smell,” fearing the worst, but discovering nothing but too much Axe. That said, just to be on the safe side, “EMS transported eight students to the hospital, and parents of two students took them to their own doctors.”

Incredibly, this seemingly absurd overreaction isn’t unique. In May of the same year, a Pennsylvania school asked students to stop spraying the stuff after, according to Yahoo News, a student allegedly had an allergic reaction to it. (Unilever, who makes Axe, said they were investigating the matter.) And a year before that, a Connecticut school found itself evacuated after a cloud of Axe tripped a fire alarm. The fire marshall explained the situation to the local press: “It was some kid in the locker room using body spray and it created a cloud of mist right underneath the sensor. The mist could trip the fire alarm, steam from a shower could trip it. It looks like he used an overabundance, and they said it was Axe Body Spray. ”

So, kids, leave the Axe at home.


Bonus fact: Unilever’s Axe-focused marketing team launched the product in the mid-1980s. They designed ads which, per their research, would appeal to what Business Insider termed “the Insecure Novice ” — the young adult male who “has absolutely no clue what he’s doing” around young women and for whom “things get awkward fast.” (Unilever believed that the Insecure Novice “would be easily persuaded into buying a product that could aid the woes of nerdhood.”) The ad campaign worked better than expected, as sales shot up — and quickly. But there was an unexpected consequence of this success. Per Business Insider, Unilever “had to backpedal a bit from the image [of appealing to the Insecure Novice] because Axe had gained a reputation as a product that only losers use.”

From the Archives: Teen Away: How sounds can also keep teens at bay.

Related: Axe. Use sparingly, please.