As I See It Opinion

Chest Hair: New Look or Old School?

Written by Richard Hack

You know it’s a slow news day when a newspaper no less venerable than the New York Times would take to devoting 18 column inches to the subject of shaving chest hair. Not since Tom Selleck in his board shorts  loped along the beaches of Hawaii, chest hair matted in salt-water driplets, has the subject of manscaping become so mainstream.

For the record, the NYT decided that the “new generation,” whoever that might be, has decided that “the overly groomed body appears to have fallen out of favor.” Writing for the Times, Max Berlinger cites examples like the 34-year-old Los Angeles-based public relations executive, Eric Shoemaker, who said, “I don’t know if it was my age or becoming comfortable with myself, but the thought of getting waxed — which makes your hair follicles bleed and you get ingrown hairs — you have to ask who you’re doing it for.” Waxed? Bloody hair follicles? Clearly Shoemaker needs a new grooming specialist.

According to Berlinger, Gabriel Santos-Rocha, a 31-year-old model manager, stopped depilating roughly eight years ago, in his early 20s. “I thought that the ideal body had no hair,” he said. But Santos-Rocha wasn’t up to the upkeep necessary. “I hated dealing with the maintenance and the stubble and the itching that came with it,” he said.

A quick look around the hood certainly confirms that facial hair is on the rise, with everything from rough scruffs to full-grown Rutherford B. Hayes currently in fashion. But extend that below the neckline? According to the folks at Men’s Health, it’s just not such a cut and dry story.

In a recent poll, 68 percent of men admitted to some form of chest grooming, with the majority opting to keep chest hair at under 1/8 inch. Another 12 percent went for the totally smooth look, while the remaining 20 perfect, only a fifth of those surveyed, didn’t give their chest hair a second thought, leaving it to Mother Nature to naturally prune.

All of this must come as news to the New York Times who swears by the accuracy of its sources. Not so, according to the American Electrology Association that certifies technicians using laser hair removal equipment. According to the AEA, in the state of Florida, men account for 18 percent of all laser hair removal, up from just four percent ten years ago. And it’s not just the chest that’s getting hair removal treatments. Men’s backs, legs, buttocks and armpits are also going under the laser beam, albeit with less consistency.

In a survey conducted by Men’s Health magazine, in which shaving leg hair was the subject, 51.6 % gave the expected response: “That’s weird. I would never touch my leg hair.” More remarkably is the 33.15 who admitted trimming their leg hair regularly. “I don’t shave clean, but I do use a trimmer to cut it down.”  For some, that means “mow.” And then there are the dark horses, the always avant-garde fashionistas who answered: “It’s not weird. I shave my legs frequently.” All 15.3% of them.

Male image consultant Aaron Marino of Atlanta, told Men’s Health that for him, “it’s purely aesthetic. When I started working out, I shaved my arms so you could see more definition. In the fitness world, it’s not as taboo for men to remove body hair. So I kept doing it, and then started shaving my legs, too. I prefer the look, and I feel like it’s cleaner. Hair isn’t one of those things I need,” he said.

Armpit hair is another story completely. It was a surprising 68% of men who said that they trimmed their armpit hair. Of those, 52% said they did it for aesthetics, while the remaining 16% said they did it for athletic reasons. Only 11.1% of men said they left their armpit hair untouched. Quick, somebody alert the New York Times.

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