Study examines balance between masculinity and body hair removal
The man rug of the '70s is out but Kiwi blokes are still finding their way when it comes to how much body hair should be waxed, shaved or plucked away.
A study led by Auckland University post doctoral fellow Gareth Terry found Kiwis believe male body hair was natural.
However, respondents also thought excessive body hair was a turnoff.
The aptly named "I think gorilla-like back effusions of hair are rather a turn-off": 'Excessive hair' and male body hair (removal) discourse study, which was published in the Body Image Journal, surveyed 100 New Zealanders aged between 18 and 35 on their attitudes towards male body hair.
Terry said there wasn't a lot of research in this area and while some interesting trends were discovered more probing needed to be done to find out what society considers to be the right amount of coverage.
At the moment most of what is known about societal expectations around male body hair, and its removal, is driven by media and advertising, he said.
Male body hair was understood to be largely attractive back in the 1970s but a move towards sleek chests and hairless backs was becoming evident.
The male body hair removal industry was starting to take off but it would never reach the same height as its female counterpart, Terry said.
"I don't think there are the same pressures."
Men have more flexibility around how they manscape and there was not a strong societal pressure to be (almost) totally hair-free.
It was more of a choice that and expectation, as it was with women.
It was also unlikely it would ever be considered desirable for a man to remove all of his body hair.
Terry said the growing acceptance of male body hair removal meant men no longer had to feel embarrassed about visiting a salon for a treatment. It also meant a growing number of salons catered to men and women.
Male body hair trends were largely cyclical.
The paper references the ancient Egyptian and Roman cultures, where wealthy men would remove their body hair.
Terry said he found the recent beard comeback fascinating.
While men were removing more body hair, they were leaving the hair on their face to grow ever-bushier.
The reasoning that men were too lazy to shave didn't wash with Terry, who had friends with meticulously groomed facial hair.
Facial hair was also a way to display masculinity, he said, reiterating that men had a lot more flexibility than women who were under pressure from the "hairless ideal".