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EDITORIAL: TikTok sure can stink good

| May 31, 2024 1:00 AM

If your 11-year-old son’s piggy bank is empty but he smells like he just stepped out of a resort spa, be afraid.

Be very afraid.

Your lad just might be a soldier in the growing army of olfactory warriors taking orders from — or at least, following the highly scented leads of — TikTok influencers. 

Just follow your sniffer and check Joey’s, Johnny’s or Davey’s online history. There’s a good chance that you’ll discover your son has cached half a dozen bottles of expensive men’s cologne — we’re talking $100 a bitty bottle and up — and that your quest will end in the shady domain of TikTok.

And here all of us older, boring-smelling citizens have been fretting over TikTok influencing American elections while gathering enough personal information to blackmail the masses and cause every computer cloud to burst. To our embarrassment, we find that their insidious plot all along has been not to take over the world, but to enrich cologne manufacturers and make millionaires of young masculinely scented males who star on the TikTok platform.

While this editorial should be taken for what it is — mildly satirical, though the nose plugs are no laughing matter — what’s happening to a generation of young males does illustrate how powerful certain forms of social media can be.

According to a superb article recently in The New York Times, boys across the country are investing heavily in “smellmaxxing,” which is exactly what it smells like. Er, sounds like.

“I don’t think I’ve ever smelled Axe,” a 14-year-old boy in Chicago told reporter Callie Holtermann. The kid considers his stash of Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille — which goes for nearly $300 per bottle — his signature scent.

The trend does have its humorous aspects. Some of the boys Holtermann interviewed use phrases like “a really good honey note” and “a lot spicier and a little bit darker” to describe some of these costly colognes. 

And yes, the sellers who are waking up to the fact that teen boys’ spending on fragrance has increased 26 percent since last spring are laughing all the way to the bank.

But what does it mean?

For those of us who grew up spending our allowance and odd-job nickels and dimes on comic books and baseball cards, this latest phenomenon is simply a mind blower. Maybe it’s not absolute proof that the end is near, but it smells suspiciously like a damning legal exhibit in the case exposing humankind’s misplaced priorities and marketing manipulability. 

A middle-school PE teacher in South Carolina speaks for many of us dinosaurs when she shakes her head at 11-year-old students toting $160 bottles of cologne in their backpacks.

“Sometimes,” she told the Times reporter, “I’d rather take the B.O.”