Has Axe Body Spray Actually Been Our Ally All Along?

We might have been too quick to write off cologne in a can.

It’s Pride Month, so please, indulge us in a brief game of word association: What comes to mind when you hear the brand name “Axe”?

If you grew up like me—queer, closeted, and desperately feigning attraction to your male guy friends when you really wanted to climb that hot bi chick in your Algebra II class like a tree—then you might be transported back to junior high. The word Axe alone reminds me of the school locker rooms after P.E. class—to this day. One whiff of its body sprays (you know the ones) is heady and overpowering enough to send me spiraling backward into some of my darkest memories.

Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images
Tween boys fighting with Axe body spray—a.k.a. every day of your junior-high existence.

So, yeah, because of those aforementioned associations with sweaty, trigger-happy JV lacrosse players who never got Jonathan Van Ness’ wise memo to “spray, delay, and walk away,” many of us have never really considered a can of Axe the “coolest” accessory.

That is, until… now? To our utter delight, we stumbled upon a tweet from the official Axe Twitter account today that threw major shade at Boston’s proposed “straight pride parade”. After a user jokingly rattled off a list of hypothetical floats that could be used for the event, the brand defended itself, clarifying that it would, in fact, be on the right side of history.

AXE/Twitter

Soon after, another Twitter user tried to drag Axe for expressing its support of LGBTQ Pride, but its social team clapped right back—and singlehandedly made “Go off, Jill” the queer catchphrase of summer 2019.

AXE/Twitter

Further digging reveals that the brand many of us connect to desperate adolescent dude-bros and peak “no homo”–era insecurity actually has a solid track record of supporting LGBTQ equality. Axe partnered with RuPaul’s Drag Race for Season 8—its winner, New York’s Bob the Drag Queen, even starred in her very own Axe commercial. Back in 2016, Axe also ran an ad that featured a man vogueing in high heels in a Super Bowl commercial, making headlines around the country. How soon some of us forgot!

More recently, Axe joined forces with actor Tommy Dorfman and the Anti-Violence Project to spread awareness about how gender stereotypes can be harmful.

The company seems to put its money where its mouth is, too. For 11 consecutive years, Axe’s parent company, Unilever, has earned a percent score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which measures companies’ treatment of LGBTQ employees and patrons in the workplace.

Also, for what it’s worth, virtually every short-haired queer woman or non-binary person I’ve known, slept with and/or loved has used some scented Axe hair pomade to jazz up their hair in the morning.

Has Axe been woke this whole time? The evidence stacked in its favor makes us hopeful that the brand isn’t pulling an Abercrombie & Fitch and and just latching onto LGBTQ equality to cash in on our rainbow dollars. Were we all too distracted by its bizarrely cultish following among teenage straight boys to ever even consider it our ally? Perhaps it’s time for a reassessment.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
@_sammanzella