Keep the Rug: an Appreciation of Male Body Hair

Paula Russel makes a strong case for the appeal of a natural, hirsute hunk.

I love body hair. To me, nothing is sexier than Burt Reynolds in all of his naked, hairy glory on a bearskin rug. Chest hair, leg hair, facial hair… Be still, my heart! I have even come to appreciate a dusting of back hair. Unfortunately, I live in a world that encourages men to remove it all.

Chest hair removal harkens back to ancient Egypt, where hair removal was common to protect against fleas, lice and other infestations. In ancient times, lack of body hair was often indicative of civility, with ancient Greek men removing their body hair to appear more youthful and refined, and ancient Egyptian priests practicing hair removal in order to present a pure image to their gods.

Male body hair removal was less common in Europe, as body hair was generally accepted in early Christian Europe and even considered lucky by certain groups, such as Jewish Europeans in the Middle Ages. For the longest time, body hair simply wasn’t an area of concern for European men. The influence of Europe in global fashion trends helped hairier men to be seen as sexy throughout the 1960s and 70s.

In contrast to the mild popularity of hairless chests in American films in the 1950s, such as Marlon Brando’s in A Streetcar Named Desire, European productions showed masculine chests in all of their hairy glory. Sean Connery and his furry torso on the beach in the very popular James Bond film Dr. No helped usher in a fantastically hirsute era in which the Burt Reynoldses, Tom Sellecks and Alec Baldwins of the world could bare their sexy man-rugs without shame.

Sadly, a recent poll suggested that these days, 49% of women prefer hairless chests. Part of me wonders how this preference has evolved. Like many of the pressures put on women and their bodies, this figure is undoubtedly heavily media-influenced. The late 1980s ushered in another era of hairless chests – from the covers of Harlequin Romances to a hairless Sylvester Stallone slugging out an equally hairless Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV, to a hairless, shirtless and ripped Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise or Fight Club in the 1990s. Thus began a pervasiveness within the media of hairlessness as the new norm. It is rare that one sees a chest these days with much more than a treasure trail adorning it.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine confessed to shaving his chest frequently. He said it started when he started to read GQ and saw how different he looked from most of the men in the magazine. He’s an attractive, muscular guy, but felt hopelessly inadequate because of his body hair. I laughed at him at the time and made fun of him for being a metrosexual, but looking back on the experience, I regret teasing him. His shaving wasn’t a result of metrosexuality, but a response to the way men are now taught that they need to look. While the media’s unrealistic expectations of women is well-known and questioned within feminist communities, we need to also address the pressure put upon men to look a certain way.

Men shouldn’t be ashamed of their body hair, just as women shouldn’t be ashamed that they’re not necessarily a size two. Your body hair is a part of who you are and it’s not worth being self-conscious about it. Whether you have a hairy chest, a hairy back, or only a patch of fuzz in the centre of your chest, you’re sexy. Nothing feels better than lying next to you and stroking your manly chest hair.

I beg the men out there to stop shaving, waxing and plucking your excess hair. The modern media might not encourage your body hair, but it is sexy and natural. Men need to start questioning the media’s portrayal of male body hair and accepting themselves for who they are.


Photo—Sit ups from Shutterstock


  1. I’m pretty hairy I had my chest hairs since I was 13… I’m 20 while wearing a shirt if I open the first two buttons of the shirt or at a beach almost every woman looks at my chest …..They’ve trouble not to look at it…..I suggest my fellow guys not to shave it…….Chest hair to a man is like a lion’s mane.

  2. As a guy in his early 50’s I’m hairy, chest, some back hair, shoulders,stomach,arms, legs. Have EKG done at least once a year nurses have a hard time keeping the wires connected, sometimes there is some shaving done or last time heavy duty tape. I was at a pool this summer & someone said I looked like cromagna man. What is the obsession with shaving body hair for men. I recently have seen a Gilette razor commercial where the guy has lots of chest hair & some back hair. I thought finally there is someone on tv that looks like me. Some men are suppose to be hairy.

    • I however have a solution to this hairy problem. I find it easier to trim chest hair not shave it. Some people say shave your head if you are balding. I would never shave my body hair off or the hair on my head. Everyone that has shaved heads look the same.

  3. Lollabunny says:

    Look how sweeeeeet. All the men – AND WOMEN – approve of it!
    I find it very cool!

    … now were are all the men who also support women’s “womanliness” of their hairy bodies? I doubt most of you hairy dudes would be so cool with your partners hairiness. Oh. 🙁

  4. Shrug. I *prefer* a man “au natural” and my personal preference runs to the more hirsute, but to each his or her own. My ex husband was the first guy I dated who was *hairy*….his chest, arms & legs and I found it attractive. I’ve been divorced 9 years and of the 4 men I’ve had relationships with, all 4 were hairy, one shaved *all* body hair. It didn’t bother me at all that he did–he was a runner and weight lifter who was tattooed all over, so it fit for him. Yes, he also shaved his head despite not being balding.

    My current guy is also hairy, and I love (LOVE) it. His is not quite as heavy on the chest as my ex’s was as he’s of Norwegian and Sicilian descent (it tends to run more reddish-brown than dark), but it’s comparable. He offered to *manscape* for me and I almost fell over from lack of oxygen from saying “NO!!!” so emphatically. He also doesn’t ask me to shave or otherwise remove my body hair, but I prefer it that way so I do so, that simple.

    BTW: If tomorrow he woke up and decided to remove his body hair because HE wanted it thusly, I would be a little sad but would not stop being attracted to him.

  5. Hi Paula
    Stone Age women killed their furry babies:

    Personally it can not understand how a man that removes all body hair on his chest and back manages to keep his skin smooth to touch, because they keep coming back, and they grow out fast…….
    A hariy persons has body hair that grows fast. I wonder how often he had to wax, and want does it cost him month after month.
    If men conform to this ideal of none hair , then I feel sorry for you. You have a life long job ahead of you.

    Women have hair to,some have a lot of hair no only on their legs but also on their thighs.

  6. I’m a pretty hairy dude, and it’s always nice to be reminded that some people dig that 🙂

    And for the people that don’t like it, there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s no need to get on a high horse about it. Consider that I like the way I look, and tend to like others who agree.

  7. Sadly, we have entered a dark fashion zone where real men shave their chests but have huge beards 🙁

  8. Neither gender should have any body hair. It’s unnecessary and gross.

    Humans have invented something that does a better job keeping us warm than hair. It’s called clothes.

  9. kathy wood says:

    There is nothing sexier than a man with chest hair especially with a treasure trail down the stomach. The feel of a mans hairy chest against my back, nothing hotter!

  10. Shave it off, nothing worse that fur. Yuck. As my sister get rid of that mess if you want to go out with me. I would not date a hairy man unless it was gone. Call me shallow but a fact

  11. I LOVE a hairy chest on a man and that treasure trail that travels down to their waistband. I am genuinely turned off by the overly “manscaped.” i just met a guy the other day who shaves everything – even his forearms – what the f#%!??? Worst peeve is a guy who shaves his pubes. Why in god’s name did this even start? Evidently these guys all watch the same porn. Nothing spoils sex faster than having sandpaper-like stubble tearing at my most delicate bits.

    Just stop the madness, PLEASE!

  12. “Men shouldn’t be ashamed of their body hair, just as women shouldn’t be ashamed that they’re not necessarily a size two.”

    Don’t you think a better comparison would be “men shouldn’t be ashamed of their body hair, just as women should be ashamed of THEIR BODY HAIR”…

    Here’s an Grand Idea!

    I beg the (WO)men out there to stop shaving, waxing and plucking your excess hair. The modern media might not encourage your body hair, but it is sexy and natural. (WO)Men need to start questioning the media’s portrayal of (FE)male body hair and accepting themselves for who they are.

    “Your body hair is a part of who you are and it’s not worth being self-conscious about it.”

    Now there’s a conversation

    • Christopher says:

      I think “rage against the machine” is becoming a tiresome rallying cry. A lot of men and women shave, wax, or pluck their body hair because they genuinely believe it makes them look more attractive. In other words, they do indeed accept themselves for who they are and desire to present themselves to the world in precisely the manner they’ve chosen. Just because a certain manner of grooming is not the result of nature left to its own devices does not mean that the person who follows that manner of grooming is a slave to media representations of beauty. We’re all affected by the grooming habits and styles we see around us. That’s inevitable. And there’s nothing wrong with adopting those habits and styles as our own. The bottom line is, follow the grooming style that you believe to beautiful. To talk about “questioning the media’s portrayal,” “accepting [yourself] for who [you] are,” and “not being self-conscious” shows that perhaps that you struggle to do that yourself, which is unfortunate. If you feel the need to “beg” other women to adopt such ways of thinking shows that it’s something that you’ve yet to become comfortable doing yourself.

    • Paula R says:

      You’ll be pleased to note that I do not remove my body hair.

  13. wellokaythen says:

    God bless you. You’re doing the work of the angels.

    Sure, hairyness can be ugly sometimes, but so can smoothness. Sure, some poll says 49% of women prefer a hairless chest. I celebrate the other 51% — where are all the sexy photos of men for THEM to enjoy?

    I wonder how much influence gay male subcultures have had in the fashionability of bare chests. I know there are gay nicknames for hairy men or slightly hairy men. (I’ve been told I’m not hairy enough to be a “bear,” but that I am more of an “otter.” : -) ) Is there a nickname for gay men who like bare chests, or is that not considered a special category? If there is only a special term for hairy men but not smooth men, that says something about assumptions or preferences.

  14. Totally in agreement with this. I LOVE LOVE LOVE furry men and I prefer my men to also have facial hair as well. Smooth chests just feel…strange to me where as a carpet feels like home. 🙂

  15. Thanks for the literary ‘high five for chest hair’. I’m not at all surprised by the 50/50 support from women on body hair, having dated a dozen or so women, I know this preference varies greatly. I used to shave for my ex, or rather, trim my hair (I’m not quite gorilla, but I’m definitely not as bare as a baby’s ass). My current girlfriend caught me trimming/shaving certain areas that I thought were unsightly (upper arms, shoulders, and that tuft that sometimes sticks out the back of a mans shirt) and immediately asked me to stop. She really enjoys my masculine mane of body hair. She runs her hands through my chest hair and brushes her body ever so gently across it for a feather-like tease… hey, why not!?!?!

    Generally, I think you’ll find men will want to do whichever preference their partner has to keep her happy. But, IMHO, men should do some “manscaping” regardless of whether they’re staying hairy or going hairless. While I maintain my “locks of love”, I make sure to actually MAINTAIN them, keeping myself trim and even (no, no heart shaped design on my chest). Nobody likes wildly unchecked hair unless its post sex JBF hair!

  16. I think that if the stereotypically grooming-oriented gay community can carve out a niche for hairy guys then hirsute straight people and the members of the opposite that love them can also proudly deal.

  17. YES! Bring back hairiness! My husband is hairy and I do love touching the hair on his head, his chest, his back, his bum, his legs. And by the way – in my opinion, hair is hair, I don’t see why back hair or ass hair is somehow ickier than arm or leg hair.

    I have nothing personal against guys who shave and wax but find it very unattractive (well, I guess you could say that’s “something personal” I have against them). I wish hairlessness wasn’t the current trend, for men or for women. I cannot get my mind around why hairy armpits are OK for guys but not for women. I HATE shaving my pits and will often let them go wild until Hubby says something. It’s not like it’s painful, or it takes long, or it’s inconvenient or anything – I just hate that I’m only shaving them to fit an absurd social construct.

    Side note… It took me twice as long as usual to write this comment because I kept flipping to the other tab I had open with the Burt Reynolds photo linked above. I am in the under-30 crowd so it was new to me. Mesmerized… and glad I have my own private office and no one is screen-peeking me!

    • I’m in my 40’s, and we were not so concerned about body hair “back in the day.” For me, I think I associate male body hair with true sexual maturity; maybe it reminds me of my dad and friends dads when I was growing up. We did a lot of camping in the 1970’s with the Sierra Club and wow, I remember some hairy guys on those trips! Hairless chests look boyish to me, and too pretty. There is something about being in bed with a man with a lot if chest hair. Rrrrow!

    • Agreed, I personally hate shaving as well because my skin is too sensitive and it’s not worth the pain and irritation. Fortunately, my hairy man likes his hairy female. 😀

      Oh, and if you want to see more of sexy Burt Reynolds, watch the movie “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” AWESOME, HILARIOUS movie full of sexy men and women and wonderful raunchy humor. I’m only 31, I saw that movie when I was 12. Changed my life. XD XD XD

  18. I can totally identify with this piece, Im a furry/hairy guy, been that way since my mid 20s, no days at the beach for me:( I keep it trimmed down, but its there and Im not making excuses for it, but I notice the overall attitudes towards it, the corona commercial comes to mind and pretty much anytime theres a hairy guy on tv or at the movies… all you hear from the audience is “gross” so yeah Im a little shy about it:(

  19. speakeasy says:

    When I was younger ( and to date) most the guys I met naturally had minimal chest hair but at twenty -three I had my first encounter with a very sexy man with chest hair, I was so turned on by it. I can remember , he had an incredible chest , perfectly covered in dark hair , it was something I had never experienced and I can still remember how it felt to touch it and how I felt discovering a hairy chest for the first time. At times, no lie, I find myself longing for a man that has hair on his chest but it is a rare thing as very few men who come into my life have it. A shaved chest is rare too but when I get one of those I’m actually disappointed. It doesn’t feel good to touch, you can feel what is missing.

    I am half Greek so I am always battling my hairy genes , in a world were we are sold perfection every were we look it’s hard to not fall victim to the expectations of people we have never met . I just remind myself someone out there won’t be asking or offering to pay for me to get a brazilian wax , that’s the person I wish to meet . While this article is geared towards men it reminds me there are still people in this world that like things a little natural, all is not lost.

  20. Christopher says:

    Maybe this is a regional thing, but I don’t encounter metrosexuality as being something that you would make fun of someone for, but the author seems to think otherwise. Granted, I live in a young, urban neighborhood in a big city, so maybe things are different here than they are in other parts of the country. Where I live, we’re all metrosexuals and proud of it. Among straight men here, there’s really no bashfulness about it at all. And yes, I agree chest hair is not all bad, but if there’s a lot of it, it should be trimmed, in my opinion. Back hair, however, is never good under any circumstances.

  21. Sean Connery in ‘Thunderball’ (1965)
    (men under 30, notice the length of his shorts)

  22. I think male body hair is sexy. Am I a freak? 🙂 Yes, there can sometimes be too much of a good thing. But all in all, I prefer a guy with lots of chest hair over a guy who is all waxed and shaved. Plus, stubble on a guy’s face is abrasive enough. Stubble all over his body? Ouch.

  23. Like, like, like. I think unrealistic body standards are part of how people of both sexes are kept in line. A population that is convinced they’re inadequate unless they spend a ton of time, money, and effort chasing unreasonable standards of perfection might also be a population that is distracted, docile and easily manipulated.

    Burt Reynolds and Sean Connery have certainly rocked a few female worlds. My revolutionary sweetheart is the furry-pitted Sophia Loren.

  24. wikkedwerkz says:

    Great article, and yet the cover image is still a man who has clearly groomed or trimmed his “unruly” chest hair into submission. Next time, let’s get something a little bit more like… well, a bit more like Burt Reynolds on the rug, who you mention at the beginning of the article (here is a link if you need a visual reference: Let’s get something more natural and (dare I say it?) manlier next time if we can.

    • I never thought I’d say this but, wowza, Burt Reynolds is sexy!

    • Noah Brand says:

      As the editor who picked out that image, I hear where you’re coming from. Problem is, at this historical moment, it’s tough to find a good picture from the sources we’re allowed to use that celebrates body hair the way older, more restricted photos do. Sorry the one I found doesn’t work for you.

      • wikkedwerkz says:

        Totally understandable. Just showing my love for the REALLY hairy guys out there (one of which I’m lucky enough to call mine).

      • Dear Noah – there are lots of ways to find some very hairy images that are Rights Free – still within the bounds of decency – and which more that make the blood of the average Hirsutophilia well above normal body temperature!

        Hell – you could have used this “ONE” and saved yourself looking P^)

        A Good Chest is like Fine Port – not worth uncorking until at least 21 years – and it always gets better with age P^)

    • how is having body hair a MANLY attribute and not a HUMAN attribute..
      I know that decades of shaming women into removing 90% of their body hair has made people forget that women ACTUALLY DO HAVE BODY HAIR and therefore is an attribute of “MAN”

      • Body hair density/etc is different between the genders, unless there are women running around with thick black body hair that I am unaware of. So many hair could be a very hairy and thick forest of hair on the chest, legs, arms, back, etc whereas womanly hair might be finer, less visible. It also depends a bit on genetics, race, etc. Black hair tends to be the most visible on white men for instance vs blonde or red hairs which doesn’t contrast as much. I have NEVER EVER seen a woman with natural hair anywhere near close to how much and how visible the hair I have on my chest is.

        • Lollabunny says:

          Blah blah blah… STILL NOT A MANLY, BUT HUMAN ATTRIBUTE. Differences happen between the sexes, races, individuals, etc. Still both sexes have body hair. So it’s both manly and womanly (or “girly”, as you guys like to label, as being a “woman” is not something as good as being a man, women should always be less mature and juvenile).





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