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