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Lifebuoy B.O. Comics (1930s-1940s)

Fear of offending someone, for whatever reason, is not a new phenomenon. Today, one has to be careful of what one says, writes, does, and even how one dresses in this hypersensitive 'woke' age. But beginning back in the 1940's, fear of offending concerned only one thing, and that was B.O., aka body odor. Of course, this was also a time when people didn't necessarily bathe daily, so the fear was real.

Ever quick to take advantage of the consumers' weaknesses, Madison Avenue began running product advertisements that capitalized on this fear, and no company was better at pushing this fear to the point of paranoia than Lifebuoy Soap. The only one designed to treat B.O.! As stated on this site, during a roughly fifteen year period Lifebuoy Soap (and its soap comrade, Rinso, which handled laundry) about 200 different advertisement comic book encounters were produced – where the lead character, often a woman, and often naive to the foul odor of their own bodies, are ruined by their own armpits (or worse places on their unfamiliar body – If you follow the subtext of the marriage comics). Friends talk behind their backs, husbands leave them, they are thrown out of clothes shops, and rejected all over town. But no one will tell them why!

Presented here are what we consider the best of these stories. Plug your nose and leap into these messy lives ruined by stink and saved by soapy salve! Interesting capsule in how advertising invents and subverts body image and social expectations, too. Some pretty awesome comics. (And many of them are sexist, backward, and truly awful) – Lather up!

In comic books! Well, in the absence of other media, comic books used to be read a lot more than they are today, but one reason for the surprising popularity of these ads was that, in the relatively puritanical 40's and 50's, these ads frequently showed women bathing (with Lifebuoy, of course) to eliminate the dreadful B.O. that has been plaguing their lives. It was a different time then, one to which it is difficult to relate today, but have a look at what used to influence consumer thinking - and spending - back when there were but two genders.


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Certainly advertisers used a fear of offending odors to sell product as Listerine infamously did in the 1920s with "chronic halitosis". However, it can be easy to look at history through rose colored glasses. Complaints about people being offended too much are not new to this 'woke' generation and it seems like a needless jab to single them out. Bloom County joked about 'offensensitivity' in the 1980s. Or from 1882, yes, a century earlier in "The Royal Path of Life: Or, Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness" we can read the following advice:

"Just let a young wife remember that her husband necessarily is under a certain amount of bondage all day ; that his interests compel him to look pleasant under all circumstances, to offend none, to say no hasty word, and she will see that when he reaches his own fireside he wants, most of all, to have this strain removed, to be at ease ; but this he cannot be if he is continually afraid of wounding his wife's sensibilities by forgetting some outward and visible token of his affection for her."

That's some fear of giving offense! I can't believe all other fears of offending disappeared by the 1940s, leaving only body odor.
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Lifebuoy is now owned by Unilever and only sold overseas.
Unilever decided to skip the B.O. Ad and showcase another featuring an old Sea Captain in their HQ lobby.

FYI: Unilever still allows animal testing on Suave, Tresemme and Nexxus, who stinks Now?

Per Greenpeace, Unilever is #7 on the top 10 list of companies flooding the planet with throwaway plastic.
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