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Queerty: This innocently homoerotic soap commercial from the ’80s makes us want to lather up

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Three shirtless men in the shower lathering themselves with soap.

Is it possible to feel cleaner without soap?

Once upon a time, three boyishly handsome basketball players tested out the theory in a commercial for Zest.

While Zest markets itself like a normal soap brand today–it sells body wash and bars of soap on its website–the company used to position itself as a “deodorant bar.” Early commercials claim the “deodorant bar” is superior to regular ol’ soap, because it doesn’t create soap scum. Or something.

“The Zest rinses cleaner…feels cleaner!” says an exuberant hardwood stud later in the ad.

But just in case a catchy tagline wasn’t enough to sell these so-called deodorant bars–“You’re gonna say ‘nope’ to the soap!”–Zest decided to cast three shirtless basketball players in this ad from 1982.

The commercial begins with the players walking into the locker room and stripping off their jerseys. Just as they’re strolling in, another man calls out to them: “Hey Bobcats! I bet you could feel cleaner without soap!”

Understandably, the boys are flummoxed.

“Feel cleaner?!?!” says one.

“Come on, man,” adds another.

But the invisible man who can apparently see into the locker room (lucky!) is persistent. After viewers see a graphic featuring a packaged Zest bar–in very bright colors, appropriately–the boys are in the showers together.

And our favorite voyeur is watching…

“OK, you’ve got soap on one arm. Now put Zest on the other,” he instructs.

Yes sir!

It’s apparent the guys are loving their Zest. The snatched player on the left in the above picture is spreading it liberally all over his body. He’s covered in foamy white bubbles.

“This lathers up pretty good!,” he says.

The dirty blonde, standing in front of him, takes some of those bubbles from his hand and puts them right up to his nose.

“Smells pretty good, too!,” he reports.

(Yeah, we bet…)

But wait: the one in the middle has some doubts. Yeah, the Zest may lather up nicely, and it might smell nice and “masc”, but there’s no evidence it will make them feel cleaner.

So they better find out!

They are made giddy by the results.

“Check out these bubbles!” exclaims one of them.

The invisible man comes back and instructs the boys to rinse. They do as they’re told.

Their coach must be very happy.

“The Zest rinses cleaner!” reports the one with the shaggy hair.

Success! The guys proceed to celebrate.

Sadly, the commercial cuts away from the showers at this point, and back to a graphic of Zest soap. It’s starting to feel like they’re making these edits on purpose…

The camera cuts back to the three cute teammates, all of whom are standing outside the showers, towels draped around their necks.

Teammates who shower together… stay together? Get clean together? Whatever the case, it’s a nice visual.

The mid-20th century brought us homoerotic classics such as the “Men’s Gym” and a weightlifting video filled with gay sexual imagery. But this Zest commercial is another league.

The ’80s were a wild time, indeed.

Watch the very gay ad below…