Guys get serious about shaving their bodies
Neely Tucker / Washington Post
Neely Tucker / Washington Post
Spring, and a young man's thoughts turn to chest hair.
Also, that of the back, the belly, the shoulder and maybe regions farther south. It turns out that there is a hair-removal waxing procedure called the "Boy-zilian," the male equivalent of the Brazilian bikini wax, for which you would have to put your ankle behind your head in order to do it yourself, and we never want to think about that again.
Your chest, back, shoulders. Summer beckons. The pool, the beach. Skin revealed. Worries: Slack gut, man-boobs, back fur, being regarded as a metrosexual. You don't want to be prissy (unless you're into that), and yet you don't want to be so hirsute that some guy comes up to you at the pool, going: "Burt? Burt Reynolds?"
"Body hair is a major category of what guys worry about," says Glenn O'Brien, author of "The Style Guy" and a column by that title for GQ magazine. "It's in the realm of 'What color socks match my shoes and pants?' I could write a column on it every month."
You might be thinking this is a fad. One of those alleged trends like feminists burning their bras back in the day, or maybe like the mullet haircuts on guys in the 1980s.
This is not so.
Consider: Last May, Philips Norelco rolled out the $34.99 Bodygroom BG 2020, a shaver designed to trim or shave body hair. "It blew our sales projections out of the water," says Shannon Jenest, a spokeswoman for the company. "It took off in ways we couldn't imagine. We tripled our original forecast by the end of the year."
Or: Men's Health, a magazine aimed at working guys who work out, has had exactly two guys with chest hair on the cover in the last 17 years, according to Brian Boye, the magazine's fashion and grooming editor.
Or: Last summer, a guy named Brett Marut in Santa Monica, Calif., came out with a thing called Mangroomer. It's essentially a shaver on a stick, designed to enable you to reach around and shave your back. He priced it at $39.95, looking to appeal to guys in Flyover, America, who were too self-conscious to go to a salon to get it done, or even let their friends know they were trying it out. He didn't have much money, so he just put a couple of ads on Internet search engines. It was an instant hit, blossomed at online retailers and, 10 months later, Mangroomer is in every Bed Bath & Beyond in the country.
There's also Nair for Men, which sells for about $5 and promises to get rid of hair in four minutes by rubbing a cream on it.
Waxing, shaving, depilating, lasering men's body hair: It's all part of the beautification of the male animal, an aesthetic that genuflects before the ancient Greeks.
In real life, it is boys, not men, who are devoid of body hair, and for ages one sign of adult male virility was chest hair. To be devoid was to be effeminate. This continued in Western and American pop culture right through the last century. Men never considered grooming below the neck.
Nobody has an exact beginning point, but bodybuilders, starting with, say, Jack LaLanne in the 1940s, would hearken to that Grecian ideal, shaving their bodies for competition, the better for judges to appreciate every oiled and sculpted pec. There's a picture of LaLanne posing beachside about 1950. He looks like he's made out of marble. The only hair visible is on his head.
By the early 1980s, the hairless chest and back was catching on with gay guys. Like earrings, it began to cross over to fashion-conscious straight men, athletes and celebrities, and then into the mainstream.
"When it comes to vanity, gay men have been at the forefront, the trendsetters," Boye says.
"But now, with all the celebrities, magazine covers, the movies, it's appropriate and acceptable for anyone who wants to go bald to do it."
When I had finally thought the hairy musclebear look had returned for good, this article appears. I only hope it is a fad. Hot hairy guys rule. Mega hairy muscle hugs to that, and thankgoodness for our hot hairy muscle studs. Keep that body hair, sexy guys.