No, settle down. I’m not going to address the question of why men have nipples. Just Google it if you really want to know.(1)
My topic for this week is male body hair, which, being a secondary sex characteristic for men, ought to be a popular thing. In fact, a healthy crop of chest hair used to be considered one of the most attractive manly attributes.
Now we see male chests unadorned (except for the aforementioned nipples). If it is adorned, it is generally with oil.
Think back, if you can, to the ancient days of yore when Burt Reynolds caused a stir by appearing naked on a bearskin (ahem) rug in the pages of Playgirl. He sported an abundance of chest hair, dark and luxuriant, flaunted for all the world to see. Besides, it went nicely with all the rest of his body hair, which you could see most of.
Even Elton John fer-gosh-sakes was willing to show off a chestful of abundant curls back in the day.
Of course, those were the days when it was fashionable to wear one’s shirts open practically to the waist, so that one could show off a silver coke spoon, but hide it in the follicular thicket when the cops rolled by.
Personally, I blame Tom Cruise.
From the first time his blank chest appeared on the big screen, useless nipples accentuated by pale skin and lack of other adornment, hairless chests were in.(2)
Enter the grooming industry. They had already made an investment – and a pile of money – by convincing women that body hair was disgusting and needed to be eliminated. That led to underarm shaving, mustache waxing, shaved legs, bikini zone waxes, and those weird red lights that will kill the hair off your arms or anywhere else.(3)
Now they’ve started in on men. They’ve done the best they can with men’s hair and mustache coloring, manly scented soaps, assorted shaving products – and suddenly the “manscaping” has started. Mostly it’s confined to the male chest, but there is also, I understand, what’s known as the “full Brazilian.” This is the male equivalent of women shaving their pubes into fancy shapes or dispensing with them entirely.(4) Men don’t get to do the cute shapes.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. What’s so bad about a rugged, hairy chest, anyway? You’d think men would be proud to show off their testosterone that way. Apparently not. It’s not “civilized.”(5)
But you don’t have to be Grizzly Adams to show off your chest hair. Some errant curls peeking coyly above the top button of a shirt can make a gal long to start undoing the rest of them. Only those with a measly two or three weedy strands need to worry.(6)
On the other side, hairy backs, we are given to understand, are a different matter entirely – gross, disgusting, and laughable. Yet we only hear of men waxing their chests – never their dorsal regions. Why is that? Because movie stars are reluctant to turn their backs to the camera? Women see real men’s backs all the time. They go to bed with such hirsute men. They even like to snuggle up to them and at such times a layer of thick, warm fur can be a pleasure. Especially on a chill winter’s night.
As for me, I snuggle up at night to a man so fuzzy that he is known as “Dan, the Human Loofah,” the second-hairiest man I’ve ever seen.(7) Do you think he cares if I shave my legs and underarms? Do you think he notices?
Between the two of us, we may just drive the grooming industry to despair, if not bankruptcy. I imagine they’ll manage to console themselves with all the Tom Cruise wannabes.
(1) It’s not all that interesting. All developing fetuses start out as female. Some of them later become male, but by that point the nipples are already there.
(2) Noah Michelson, writing in the Huffington Post, remarked, “Even the werewolves on ‘Teen Wolf’ are hairless.” Werewolves with no chest hair? Dafuq?
(3) I don’t know why overarm hair has suddenly become a problem, but I’m sure one of the fashion magazines will tell me.
(4) The wily grooming industry, along with the porn people, sell women the desire to look younger, prepubescent even. And don’t tell me there is no link between that and pedophilia. Making grown, sexually available women resemble girls who have not yet endured puberty cannot be a healthy thing. I don’t think the trend toward waxed male chests and crotchal areas has anything to do with looking pre-pubescent. I could be wrong, but I don’t want to think about it if I am.
(5) Writing for Bustle, Erin McKelle Fischer references the film The 40-Year-Old Virgin and calls the memorable chest-waxing scene “the taming of the beast before our eyes and his implied transformation from wild man into gentleman.”
(6) Those men should be the clients for waxers. But their waxing sessions wouldn’t take long or generate much revenue.
(7) The first-hairiest was a co-worker who came to the office Halloween party dressed as Fred Flintstone. Didn’t get a picture. Sorry.