The majority of us (us referring to the human race) are idiots. As a result, people with sufficiently superior mental capacity can tell the idiots what is and is not acceptable and after an initial period of the idiots feeling the sturdiness of the the new-found ground they will all happilly start jumping up and down on it and claim it as theirs, (until further notice that is)
Just as in politics, art, music, science and countless others so it is that the criteria of body hygiene are relative to say the least. The grat-grandfathers of the people that today make fun of the BO of others are the ones that made fun of frequently bathing individuals calling them fagots because they smelt of rosewater, levander and other fragrances of the time.
The fact is that as far as hygiene is concerned your body does not need water more than a couple of times a year and it certainly doesn't appreciate shampoos, shaving gels, (maybe toothpastes) and the rest of the shit we are all compeled to buy in our attempt to fit in.
I did my own little (admitedly unscientific) experiment a few moths ago to evaluate the issue of BO from sociophysical prespective.
I decided that I wouldn't take a shower for a week but still carried on shaving and brushing my hair as usual to try and look as respectable as possible at work.
I had my last shower on a Saturday night before going out with some friends. We actually went to a club which was quite hot so I was off to a bad start... but I decided to not chicken out and went to work on Monday already feeling a little smelly and not quite confident.
By Tuesday I could already hear the odd sarcastic remark but didn't respond and certainly didn't encourage anyone by trying to find a humorous answer to their comments. My girlfriend who I've actually lived with for the last two years also noticed my BO and she was a lot less tactful than my work buddies. Despite feeling a little embarassed and awkward, mainly because of my unwillingness to explain the reasons, I decided to carry on with the experiment.
I don't want to break your balls with this so will give a summary of my findings:
a) Colleagues will tend to avoid coming too close to your desk or inviting you to meetings unless really required. (I took part in 20% less meeting that week than the week before)
b) Girlfriends will complain at first but their sex drive will increase (I swear she wanted more sex more badly than when I was fresh out of the shower)
c) Given the choice, people walking with you will tend to walk by your side or slightly ahead and to the side of you but very rarely behind you.
d) The health of your skin improves dramatically, less irritations and the like...
e) The BO level increased asymptotically and on day 4,5,6 and 7 neither me nor my girlfriend could notice a difference from the day before.
f) Girls you walk past in bars do tend to turn around and look at you more often than not. Despite openning casual conversation with a couple of them I honestly couldn't figure whether this was because of curiosity driven by disgust or genuine interest at a guy that is obviously respectable (judging by the attire) but doesn't feel obliged to do as he is expected in the body hygiene department. A third possibility that occured to me was that of subconscious sexual attraction similar to the one I observed with my girlfriend.
g) I saved about 1 euro in cosmetic products (That's not the currency I use but given its gains... i prefer it for expressing international amounts)
h) It does make you feel as a master of your own self to a certain extent. i.e. "this is who I am and if you don't like me then fuck off." This is arguably a more manly stance than the "I smell? Sorry I'll have a shower."
i) Call me disgusting but I quite enjoyed the way my armpits smelt after day 3. In fact I could get enough of sniffing myself.
Sorry people, don't mean to step on P&G's toes and those of the various utility companies (water, electricity etc) but given the choice I would vote for a smellier society in that department.
In contrast I would prefer to see the money and energy spent on true hygiene like more frequent collection of rubish, cleaner public toilletes, cleaner bars and restaurant kitchens, and a cleaner planet in general if that is practically possible.
As far as I am concerned, today's society's obsession with personal hygiene is nothing more than an invented need constantly reenforced by popular stereotypes in the mass media. If we could all be convinced that BO is actually an aspect of someone's personallity then there wouldn't be problem. And the stigma associated with poor hygiene would vanish taking with it a very unreasonable prejudice we all seem to have.
I am not a hippy. I do not have a beard and my clothes, I like to think off as quite fashionable. So don't go making any unfair assumptions about me personallity.
By the way, I have nothing against beards per se, but have come to associate them with mainframe programmers and VMS operators, a clique I try and keep a fair distance from as a programmer in a distributed environment.