Axe Body Spray’s Biggest Customers Are Tweenage Boys?

The typical Axe Body Spray man isn’t a man at all, apparently. The New York Times reports that more and more, it’s tweenagers and teens—boys who might not even have any underarm hair—who are buying the super manly fragrance products. Says one mother, whose children stock their bathroom with exfoliators, shaving creams, and body washes: “Every day they walk out the door in a cloud of spray-on macho.”

You might think to first blame a guy movement that’s increasingly accepting of metrosexual tendencies, but the teen obsession with brands like Axe isn’t so much about grooming and beauty as it is about finding tools to promote confidence. Much like teen girls might turn to push-up bras or sexier clothes to attract attention and mask insecurities, their male counterparts are finding the same in a spray can …What’s perhaps more interesting about this emerging trend, however, is how it highlights a possible shift in young social dynamics: Are pubescent boys equally insecure as young girls? When it comes to middle school and high school culture, it’s largely been the females who are painted as victims of low self-esteem. But, says the Times, “Boys themselves, at a younger age, have also become increasingly self-conscious about their appearance and identity. They are trying to tame their twitching, maturing bodies, select from a growing smorgasbord of identities — goth, slacker, jock, emo — and position themselves with their texting, titillating, brand-savvy female peers, who are hitting puberty ever earlier.”

It looks like skewed body image isn’t just for impressionable young ladies: “Like girls, boys criticize their own bodies at earlier ages,” and, says one previous teacher, “I saw boys as young as 7 refusing to take off their shirts at swimming pools for fear of being teased about being fat.”

That sounds frighteningly like a lot of our teen memories. If only we’d discovered the power of Old Spice back then. [New York Times]