Manifesto: The fuzzy logic of body hair

Daniel Craig shows off a largely hairless chest as James Bond in Casino Royale.

Daniel Craig shows off a largely hairless chest as James Bond in Casino Royale.

OPINION: Historically, chest hair was synonymous with virility. A man who could grow a proper pelage could be seen as the epitome of masculine.

In the three decades I've been alive, however, chest hair has been seen as largely optional. Having it (or not) doesn't carry connotations in nearly the same way a woman with unshaved armpits might.

According to dating site MissTravel.com – which recently conducted a poll on male chest hair – 2017's straight women prefer partners with bare chests (61 per cent like a man to shave or wax), while gay men prefer them hirsute (at 58 per cent).

Actress Jemima Kirke's relaxed approach to grooming attracted the wrath of critics.
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Actress Jemima Kirke's relaxed approach to grooming attracted the wrath of critics.

For comparison, 46 per cent of men (sexuality not specified) actually do shave their chests, while the other 56 per cent keep their fuzz.

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I don't grow much body hair, but I use clippers to remove the little bit of chest hair I do have. It makes me feel tidier – a habit I've kept up ever since I can remember.

Some may believe that taking time to groom your chest hair tells a partner (or potential partner) that you care for yourself. I disagree. All it does is tells others that you buy into a media-driven ideal body for men.

Save for the actors from Game of Thrones (and other similar sword-weilding shows), most Hollywood guys and commercial male models are hairless. A bare chest is what we see on screens and in magazines. It makes muscles look more defined and tans look fresher. It also looks effortless, right? From Daniel Craig to Chris Pratt, these guys don't look like they have to groom themselves. They appear as if they were born that way.

This isn't the case, obviously. Containment of chest hair requires upkeep, and the process of hair removal is not sexy. It's on the list of things you'd never want another person to see you doing.

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Conversely, letting chest hair run wild helps men exude an air of confidence. As if you accept who you are and are proud of it. It's not to say you don't care for yourself or put time and effort into your appearance; it simply means you know chest hair will just grow back, so you're making the decision to own it.

Regardless of where you sit on the chest hair discussion, it's worth recognising that it's up for debate. Body hair remains a choice we men have, while society has conditioned all of us to think females must be depilated.

It pays for men to be reminded that women don't (really) have the luxury of going au natural as we do. Men are privileged to have either option available, judgement-free – no matter what kind of groomed state we choose, we're reassured in the knowledge that roughly half of the rest of our gender are doing the same thing.

Try imagining a world where women could experience that.

 - Stuff

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