Why Johnny B. Truant Wears Women’s Underpants

image of female copywriter James Chartrand biting an apple

My name is Johnny B. Truant.

You might know me from stimulating enterprises such as The Badass Project or my own infamous blog, or maybe even the Copyblogger Weekly Wrap.

What you might not know is that I’m a woman.

This is not a joke or an angle or an analogy — I’m literally a woman.

This is my story.

Once upon a time, I found myself having to make some hard decisions.

Decisions like whether to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or to go all Elvis and have a peanut butter and banana sandwich. But even that simple choice — as is always the case with such choices — got me thinking.

Later in his career, Elvis had the giant sideburns. And what made him successful? Obviously, it was those giant sideburns. Sideburns so big they were like micro-beards.

With hair like that, you could command any kind of sandwich you wanted.

I know that sounds like an odd thing to think about — and an odd thing to introduce my coming-out post with — but you’ve got to understand that just about every major event in my life has revolved in some way around facial hair, and my own inability to grow it.

You know, since I’m a woman.

The Western beardocracy

Growing up in rural Quebec, scraping by on my father’s salary as a union Zamboni lubricator, it didn’t take me long to learn the ugly truth about the world.

See, my father had a testosterone deficiency that kept his face perpetually smooth of whiskers. And despite working all the overtime he could (including a scab gig harvesting bamboo during the 1981 Montreal wicker strike), he was always the lowest man on the totem pole.

While other men with grand beards supported their families in luxury, we were reduced to wearing Salvation Army Hammer pants and subsisting on grainy crêpes and old brie.

I learned fast: the necessary ingredients for success are not talent and hard work, but awesome facial hair. Or at least (as I discovered later) the everpresent threat of awesome facial hair.

And like my father, I was out in the cold. Literally. He couldn’t grow a beard in the winter to keep his face warm and neither could I, earning us the condescending nickname “rosy cheeks.” At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what espèce d’imbecile means in French.

I had talent, intelligence, perseverance, and moxie — but it seemed that what was required to make it big were mustaches, beards, sideburns, goatees, soul patches, and fu manchus. You could raise some eyebrows by doing extraordinary things, but the handwriting was on the wall — you couldn’t make any true progress without the ability to grow an epic beard or an awesome mustache.

I won’t say that it’s a conspiracy. But I will say this: It’s a conspiracy.

All of the greatest people have always had great facial hair. God. Santa. Wilford Brimley. Frida Kahlo.

Others were occasionally smooth-faced … but you knew from looking at them that they could explode into an epic beard if it were required — in a fight-or-flight-or-beard scenario.

I mean, just look at Colin Farrell. If you tried to attack him, he’d just turn around and grow his beard at you, and the explosive growth would blow you into the wall.

I was tired of having no beard, no five-o-clock shadow, no stubble, and no threat whatsoever of growing something on my face that I could fashion into a windmill to win a contest.

I’d always had to fight and struggle and dig, but now it was time for something to change.

So I became a man (In name and beard only)

I was fresh off another rejection (“How could you have perfected cold fusion? You don’t even have a beard!”) and angry. It was maddening to not be able to convey my reckless nature by showing up to meetings unshaven.

I was registering domain names and getting hosting for a new blog I had in mind, but even as I did it, an insistent part of me said,

What’s the point? Everyone can see that you’ll never even have mutton chop sideburns. They’ll never watch your videos if they know they’ll always see a clean face.

And then I realized: I could be a dude.

This was the internet … I could be anyone

And if I were a guy, nobody would know that I’d been beardless all my life. Nobody would know about my chapped cheeks in January and the fact that the only shaving I needed after a week camping was on my legs.

People would assume that on any given day, I might have stubble or a mustache or a giant ZZ Top beard. And I could tease about it, casual-like, mentioning things like needing a shave and finding a few gray hairs in my beard.

And the best part? I wouldn’t even present myself as having a beard or a mustache. That was too obvious and too easy.

Instead, I decided I’d be a beard tease. A Colin Farrell. I wouldn’t show a huge beard or dominating mustache … but who knew what I’d have on my face from day to day?

That first blog was a niche site, and it quickly fell apart. I wrote posts like “10 Reasons Why Your Obsolete Beard is Holding You Back” and “How to Use Your Beard in Social Media.” I ranked #1 for coveted SEO phrases like “giant beard parsnip Ewok,” but in practice, it meant nothing. The site stagnated and then disintegrated.

And I thought:

Is it not strictly the beard that makes the difference? Could it possibly be the person behind the beard that matters?

So I adapted

I started writing fart jokes. I started writing about business. I began telling business-related fart jokes.

The beard agenda took a back seat, and the irony was palpable. I had become “Johnny” to use facial hair to my advantage, but it wasn’t mattering. People knew I could grow a beard if I wanted, so they didn’t care if it ever actually happened.

Slowly, I became “just Johnny.” Still a man, but without a beard. I eventually met Brian, Sonia, and Jon of Copyblogger, none of whom have beards, and we hit it off instantly.

“It’s amazing how far you’ve come without a beard,” I remember Sonia telling me on IM. “We thought we were the only ones who’d been able to make beardlessness work.”

I’d broken into the Good Old Beard network and it hadn’t even mattered.

The metaphorical emperor had no clothes. But now I was stuck; I had become a man and now I would have to remain a man. So I kept it up. Kept telling my fart jokes. Kept talking about business.

And so it went.

So what happens next?

I’ve proven my point. I have no facial hair, and yet I’ve done pretty well for myself.

My life, my terms. No one handed me anything. I’ve worked damned hard for this. I took care of myself, my family, and my desire for an epic beard. I’ve given the best of my facial-hair-related creativity and knowledge to each of my clients and readers.

I’d like to keep doing that.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant is an accomplished businessperson who specializes in selling through stories and is the proud creator of The Badass Project, a site profiling amazing people who make your excuses look stupid.


For no particular reason, I’d like to tip my hat to James Chartrand, a nice lady I met for the first time last month at the South by Southwest conference. And also for no particular reason, I’d like to encourage all of you out there to check your calendar.

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Reader Comments (114)

  1. says

    Well Johnny:

    You do spin a good story or yarn. Not that I doubt a single word. I’m really paying you a compliment.

    You see, people get engaged with a good story. If you told this story and then told me about this Internet course, Law of Attraction tape, etc., made the important difference, I probably would have purchased it.

    Why? You told a great personal story. It’s as important to great copy as it is to great literature.

    Good stuff today!


  2. says

    God, you’re good, man. When I saw the photo, I thought, “Is that James Chartrand?”

    Wonderful story telling.” I never knew there was so much facial hair lore,” was another thought that piqued my curiosity and interest in the storyline tie in…

    You’re so fun. Cool people live you never like in Los Angeles.

  3. says

    Bravo Janey B. Truant

    I know you’ve been wanting to get that off of your double d chest for a while now.

    Hopefully this won’t shake things up too much, but I’m sure you’re going to get some angry emails from people you met after hours at SXSW. 😛

  4. says

    Ok Johnny, we need to talk.

    Allow me to introduce to you Joseph Wesley.

    Wait, you’ve already met.

    Ok Johnny, allow me to introduce Martyn Chamberlin. Martyn’s already met Joseph.

    Those are some nice underpants.

  5. says

    When you stayed with us and slept on our couch during SXSW, I knew something was going on.

    When I noticed that your entire carry-on bag was stuffed entirely full of women’s underpants… I started to get the picture.

    But it was only when I heard you sing “Whatcha Want” in Rock Band that I figured it out. I’ve never heard that song sung soprano before.

    Cheers, Johnny. (:

  6. says

    My condolences for your challenging childhood, and the difficult decisions you were forced to make. At least you turned out to be a well-adjusted adult with little or no residual mental trauma.

    Or something like that.


    John P.

  7. says

    Wow, have enjoyed your work… what a blast.
    What you say is sad, and partially true. Enter Grandma, she wants to create world domination (through her website), got so many telling me I was foolish, what did I know… wasn’t I a little old for trying something like this, after all we are talking technology. Step forward one hard nosed Brit (me) and well the rest is history. Male or female, young or old… if you have a dream, make it happen…. Period.
    Thank you Johnny, may you always wear “women’s underpants”. Your writing rocks Lady, and so do you!!!

  8. says

    First James, now Johnny. You two have inspired me to come out, too! I’m not the dainty-looking girl who writes about thrifting and creativity as pictured on my blog. I’m actually a robot. I’m Optimus Prime, autobot leader. I live in your computer!

  9. says

    Jesus man, I haven’t laughed so hard in a while. You are so fucking win for this. And the pic of James is just absolutely precious.

    But I’m sorry to say that yes, the beard does give you power. Just Ask Gandalf. Or Rick Rubin.

  10. says

    I know the REAL truth. Your readers will be shocked to discover that having a chin rug is a disadvantage.
    Worse, beardism is an ever present evil in this world. When I was an executive at British Airways, my facial growth was discouraged heavily, and they didn’t like my earrings, CND badge or different coloured socks either.

    I find that the ladies don’t seem to like my (now greying) chin warmer, as they think (probably quite rightly) that it may contain living entities.

    The one thing I find strange though, is that prior to fairly recent fashion, most females I encountered actually had beards, just hidden. Oh sorry, different subject, please erase previous sentence.

    I really shouldn’t make lurid comments about East European ladies’ armpits.

    Thoroughly enjoyed your feature though, gave me some ideas that make me rub my hairy chin.
    oops – I mean Alan
    Hermaphrodite Bloggers dot com

  11. says

    Wow, as much as I soak up all the great copywriting advice here… these types of posts are the ones that keep me coming back for more. And make me laugh out loud!

    Thank goodness we don’t all need facial hair, otherwise there’d be a lot of sad men when women started to up their testosterone levels to grow a beard! 😉

  12. says

    Well, this post landed in my in-box just after my listening to an MP3 of you chatting with Sonia — and I STILL managed to hesitate for a minute over the true-or-false question. To be tongue in cheek with some underlying truth is a gift.

    Oh — and as for your earlier comment about the SEO value of “Johnny Truant underpants” — I actually top the charts for “circumcising a bear”, and am still puzzling over what that particular individual might have been struggling with that caused him or her to enter that search term. There should be a contest for strangest-actual-search-terms-used-to-reach-a-tiny-blog.

  13. says

    Funny, considering what day it is today. I tell ya it’s great to see James’s smiling face over at Twitter too and nice pic of her here. :)

  14. says

    Yo Johnny, I didn’t know you were from Quebec! I’m a bone fide anglo Montrealer. High fives!

    Also “I ranked #1 for coveted SEO phrases like “giant beard parsnip Ewok,” = AMAZING!

  15. says

    Something amazing in your writing made me read (and enjoy!) your complete post. The calendar link at the very end completely intrigued and surprised me! I didn’t click on any of the other ones but I’m blown away and amazed at your crafty writing that leads the reader just where you want them to go!!! BRAVO, Miss Thang!!

  16. says

    Hey! That was fun. Never thought about beards like that, but then I live in Florida. I think it’s better to have Beard Envy than the other kind of envy, too. :)

  17. says

    This totally made me smile on a crappy day. Thank you! :-)

    (And after I’d waited weeks to see whether you WOULD do it, or whether was just the SXSW-craziness talking…)

  18. says

    @Johnny: The best part about this post is you are now on the 2nd Google search results page for “Women’s Underpants” Now all you have to do is figure out how to monetize that. :)

  19. says

    Thanks for this. Made me laugh. On a personal note…I live in a small community in Ontario, Canada and we all have beards…even the women. After I kiss my wife, it’s like tearing apart velcro.

  20. says

    Am I the only person who has never met Johnny or been to his corner of the web? The whole time I was reading, I was like, “Why did this girl have to lie about who she is?! Is our society really that fucked up?!” I was ready to leave a comment about being yourself and how she shouldn’t have had to do that… and then I got to the end. Clearly it has either been a long week or I live in a damn hole. I’m gonna go with the first one. 😀

    I headed over to your site though, Johnny, and I am really inspired by your About page. I too forget everything, swear a lot, and love personal blogging. I worked for a few years in the “professional” world, and I hated it. I never felt like I fit in. Recently I started thinking about running MY OWN business, instead of working for someone else and trying to fit into their image or what I should be. After looking around your site, I’m seriously considering it.

    • says

      This post is a spoof of one that James Chartrand truthfully came out on Copyblogger as a woman pretending to be a man to get writing gigs (see the link in the PS).. So yes, society still has some issues. But James and Johnny came up for this idea together, so at least everyone still has a sense of humor.

      • says

        I just read the post about James now. That makes me so mad — that she would have to go through all that! I recently discovered that women on salary get paid less than men on salary. I’m twenty-two and had previously thought that, since this is 2011, stuff like that didn’t happen anymore. I am far from a feminist, but James’s story is heartbreaking (though I am really glad she built such a great business for herself).

        Thanks for posting these here. While I love your copywriting advice, I also love articles that are about people and the problems they face. This parody brings a very important issue to light. (You know, for those of us living under a rock who missed James’s original post. :D)

        It also brings another issue to light. My boyfriend has a fantastic beard, and yet many people look down on him for it (though he gets lots of compliments from other people). Any tips from the beard tribe?

        • says

          Sweetie, what’s it mean to be “far from a feminist”? You can still be a feminist and do fun stuff like wear makeup, shave your legs, and even have sex with boys. Promise. We don’t even make you toss out your bras anymore.

    • says

      Elizabeth–If you’re looking for additional inspiration, I highly recommend Hugh MacLeod’s books, “Ignore Everybody” and “Evil Plans.” I’d be shocked if Johnny isn’t a huge fan of Hugh…and vice versa!

      • says

        Nice to meet you, too! I’m excited that it’s okay to be a non-professional and still work in a professional field. I thought I was the only one struggling!

  21. Emily Wenstrom says

    Very entertaining … you’ve certainly found an intriguing niche.

    But I can’t help digging my heels in against the underlying concept here: one my best options for success as a female writer is to pretend I am a man? I must heartily disagree.

  22. says

    This post makes me want to become a more regular Copyblogger contributor just so *I* can do next year’s April Fools post. *evil cackle*

  23. says

    Um, I’m confused. Are you a woman or just a man without a beard that likes women’s underwear? Your website does say you’re a man with a wife… good gracious… what a twist on reality…

  24. says

    Dear Johnny,

    I’m so girly I didn’t even know how much influence a beard has. No wonder I’ve struggled so much. Thank you. I feel like I did when I took my first Women’s Studies course and found out how oppressed I am. I think I’ll consider wearing a fake beard to break through the glass ceiling.


    PS. How did James Chartrand become Johnny Truant?

  25. says

    This is the first ‘author fusion’ that I’ve seen in my short Internet life!
    James’ picture is absolutely delicious : ) and we could hear Johnny’s voice synchronized with James’ voice.
    This post is so deep in teachings, I’ll make sure I read it many, many times, just to be sure I didn’t miss any wisdom gem.

    Do I Know How It Feels To Be A Woman!?

    In my phoning telemarketer/telecounselor days, I was feeling uncomfortable in the beginning, because clients or prospects would talk to me using “Madame,” on some days (depending on the weather.) And whenever it happened, I was trying to swiftly rectify with a smile: “it’s rather ‘Mister’..” then my prospect apologized and we just continued the conversation. Fortunately, I was not always mistaken to be a woman, and that was relatively reassuring, ‘fortunately’ because I was just a beginner and things were complicated enough.

    But after I gained confidence and experience, I started to ‘feel’ things differently, I was no longer pissed of when I was called ‘Madame,’ because now I understood it was not a ‘personal’ but a natural mistaking, my voice sounded just like a sexy deep feminine voice, and not only it’s not a disadvantage, it was actually a cool advantage! And I just kept being myself, I changed nothing in how I was talking to that person who couldn’t see that I had sideburns à la Beatles!

    The cool advantage was that my prospects/clients, whether they were women or men, were no longer defensive, they were more likely to be open to me right from the start if they thought I was a lady, it’s measurable on a scale of just some seconds, the time needed for your interlocutor to scan your voice and tone then decide how much he or she will be friendly with you. When I was recognized as a man, I had to navigate more amongst ‘objections’ to be able to reach again that level of friendliness that is relatively easier to achieve “when I was a woman.”

    It doesn’t mean there were large differences in sales performance or client satisfaction statistics between guys and gals, it’s just that, if you were a woman, life is better with clients : ) it’s not a generalization, it’s just my personal observation.

    And yes it feels weird to wear woman’s underpants when you’re a guy, but YES it feels fucking fun when you just play the game naturally and just be yourself, (and of course James, I understand that a name is totally irrelevant in such cool situations, I always said my name in the beginning, and it rarely made a difference :)

    I am sure there are many cool things I will spot in this episode, and that’s why I’ll be reading this post again and again.

    So thank you Johnny and James for this genius ‘fusion’! Have cool times dudes!

    (SideQuest: I was wondering why I had that ‘Metal Gear Solid Snake’ main music theme started in my head: thinking about it a little: Meryl X Snake = James X Johnny :p )


  26. Karen Bice says

    Johnny B., if I hadn’t recently read a post of yours regarding your wife (which was great), I would be feeling kind of betrayed. How could a guy (you) set up a blog for me (thank you) and not speak the truth to a female client? The bottom line was you still don’t write like a girl. :) Thanks for the laughs today!

  27. says

    What does writing like a girl mean in one of the posts…?

    I enjoyed every word. Can’t wait for my next encounter with a fake 4:00 shadow or an overly manicured patch of facial hair.

    • Karen Bice says

      Hi Wendy. If you’re referring to my comment, it wasn’t meant to be derogatory. I simply noticed that Johnny’s feminine side doesn’t show in his posts (to me anyway)…

  28. says

    It’s taken me about a year to create my master flow-chart of who’s who and what’s what in the world of Copy Pro’s, Truant Non-Conformists, Kitchen Tables with Pens, and being Passively Lateral.

    This one article shattered the entire mind map and fractured the cognitive schema I once had in place. It has forced me to forsake reality, or what I once thought was reality, for my own subjective world where everyone is who I say they should be.

    Forget you people. I’m going back to reading Batman. One story line. Once per month. It was so much easier that way.

  29. says

    This article was ridiculous… the writer didn’t even have a beard!


    This was a tremendously engaging story. I also liked the way you opened up to us, as an audience. It makes me feel like I want to stop back by more often… there’s a connection you’ve made here.

    Now… if only I can find a way to recreate this effect and keep people coming back to my sites…


  30. says

    Forget all that. I’m still trying to imagine what Ms. Truant looks like in underpants.

    And this, Ms. Truant, is all you need to know if you ever decide to come back as a male.

    Well played, m’lady.

  31. says

    I know what you mean about the whole facial hair thing, and there is always that flip side of the story, too. What about hairy-lipped women who need electrolysis to keep potential clients from turning to run before the handshake is cold? And then there is the whole NOSE HAIR thing – my female friend recently met me for coffee and I immediately noticed that she had one long, silver hair growing out of her left nostril. I was sitting there contemplating exactly how, when or even IF to address the subject when our gay waiter arrived. He looked at her and said flatly, “Girl you got a nose hair longer than Rapunzel’s braid hanging out of your nostril. Why don’t you run into the little girl’s room and liberate it before the villagers arrive with torches?” Maybe that’s why they wrote a play about it.

  32. says

    G’day Johnny B,
    In the words of a song your father probably knew, “Oh Johnny Oh!” What is it about fathers and beards? I had my last full face shave on Feb. 20, 1963–my father’s birthday. He’s been dead for 40 years. My beard lives.

    You should know that in Australia in the 60s, anyone with a beard was believed to be either a sailor, a hobo or too bloody lazy to shave each morning. I wasn’t either of the first two and far too vain to admit to being among the third group.

    Now every two bit pseudo individualist has, or attempts to have, a beard. And ya gotta admit, a beard with a totally shaven head looks pretty ridiculous.

    On a more positive note, I bet that Copyblogger would double its readership if Sonia were bearded. That really would give The Third Tribe some cachet, as they say. Sort of join TTT; and with Johnny B who just can’t, Sonia who shouldn’t but can and Brian who could but chooses not to. Wow!.

    But don’t take my word for it. Egomaniacal old buggers with ancient beards simply can’t be trusted. But you’ve known that for years.

    Keep shaving and having as much fun as Mr Gillette allows.

    Best wishes


  33. says

    Wait a dang second. I don’t understand. Are you saying what I think you’re saying …

    It’s facial hair and NOT back hair that will make you famous?

    You couldn’t have told me this before I spent a three years and a five thousand dollars on Minoxidil back rubs in seedy massage parlors?

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