Culture Jam

Old Spice is one of the first ads that came to mind when I thought of an ad to deconstruct. The Old spice ads and commercials became infamous for their “smell like a man, man” slogan and the various “manly” men they have had as their stars, including the original old spice man Isaiah Mustafa, actor Terry Crews, and Fabio to name a few of the companies front men. In these ads, these men participate in a variety of activities that promote their masculinity. The Old Spice ads such as the one above suggests that the smell of old spice will make you a man. This slogan is interesting because it begs to reason what exactly that means? Well old spice ads make it clear that a “man” is a male with ripped abs, who is very sporty and able to ride horses, jump through hoops, and have women fall over him. Displaying stereotypical “manly” activities, is in the world of, Old Spice Ad men, what makes a man, a man. All the men in the ads claim to use old spice in order to be even more masculine and to smell like a “man”. The ad above is no different, portraying Isaiah Mustafa on a horse, without a shirt holding an old spice bottle. The ad attempts to sell the audience on an ideal version of a man and convince the audience that with the help of their product, old spice, they too can become that ideal version as well. The problem that my deconstruction will focus on is this binary, toxic portrayal of what exactly a “man” is or should be.


My Deconstruction, “Smell like old spice”, rather than “smell like a man, man” goes to say that there is nothing to gain from wearing old spice other than smelling like old spice. Old Spice is not a magic serum that will turn you into a man who can ride horses, walk on water etc. When you wear old spice, you will… smell like old spice! Nothing more to it. It speaks to the quality of the product, if anything, instead of using a convoluted and archaic conception of masculinity to sell a line of deodorizers and soaps. The stereotypes played out in these ads and commercials, while often times portrayed in a comedic way, contain a very toxic underlying message of what it is to not only smell like man but to be a man. As mentioned in the above deconstruction, this portrayal of what exactly it is to be a “man”, is toxic and harmful to men. Ads like this promote toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes. Historically advertising for perfumes, sprays, etc. have been very gendered and it has no true benefit to the product or the audience. Instead it promotes unrealistic goals and labels. My deconstruction “smell like old spice”, I believe is a more accurate and realistic portrayal of what will be achieved by buying this product. As well, I believe that selling it as “Smell like old spice” would allow the product to sell for itself and speak for itself as well. Creating a more honest and healthy ad.

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