Some call them a marriage saver, others a step forward for common decency. Whatever your opinion, it’s hard to deny the appeal of Shreddies, a line of underwear designed to nullify the unpleasant odors associated with human flatulence. These playful underpants incorporate an activated carbon layer which absorbs odors, but breathes. Although there are no sexy apps related to this product and the under cover nature of its service makes broadcasting difficult, Shreddies’s promises of comfort and discreet coverage have attracted attention. The brand was even awarded the ‘Look Good Feel Good award’ from the Association for Continence Advice in 2009.
Their marketing is playful and cool. The products are geared for a self-aware audience eager to prank their partners with a gag gift—even if they’re crossing their fingers that the new pair of Shreddies will be put to use. (Any interested readers can beat the Black Friday rush and snag their own odor-defying Shreddies for just over $30 per pair!) Flatulence is not the only bodily malady Shreddies hopes to address in their stylish and fun campaign. The website also features products for incontinence in adults and children.
Most young consumers aren’t used to seeing their bodily functions mentioned in any clothing advertisement that isn’t for athletic gear. There is a legacy of discomfort in recognizing the functions of bodies besides serving as clothes racks and intricate vessels for transporting our brains. It can, thus, be difficult to advertise such function, especially for a product that is meant to be hidden and is hence robbed of much of its signaling potential (Barnard). For some, the Shreddies branding may be interpreted as distasteful. For many who struggle to conceal or manage medical conditions that result in excessive flatulence, however, the trendy advertising may help bring visibility to their plight. After all, Shreddies is marketed with the subtitle “Healthcare Underwear.”
From the Shreddies FAQ: “Shreddies can be worn by anyone but they offer a perfect solution for sufferers of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), gastritis, Crohn’s disease, Dyspepsia and Colitis as well as food intolerance’s [sic] and many other bowel and digestive disorders.” It’s possible that the attention garnered by this playfully marketed product will encourage other manufacturers, designers, and marketers to be more bold in addressing health concerns in fashion.
Surprisingly, this technology isn’t new. An entire subset of the population has been craftily disguising flatulence and more for years! Carbon activated fabric has used by hunters since as early as 1992 to inhibit their human scents so as not to ward off prey. Reviews including an editorial in the Sportsman’s Guide note that scent coverage is imperfect. Most recommend a complementary program of odor control. Because cleaning for these activated carbon garments differs from normal clothes washing, user error is hard to rule out.
Buyer be not afraid, however! White tail deer have as many as 297 million olfactory receptors, while humans have a measly 5 million. While a fart alone in the forest may still make a smell, your own dear probably won’t be the wiser.