Time to wax philosophical, guys

Trim, shave or wax - what body hair should a guy remove, and how should he remove it?

By Neely Tucker, Washington Post
Published May 24, 2007

Spring, and a man's thoughts turn to . . . chest hair.

Also, that of the back, the belly, the shoulder and maybe regions farther south. It turns out that there is a hair removal waxing procedure called the "Boy-zilian, " the male equivalent of the Brazilian bikini wax, for which you would have to put your ankle behind your head in order to do it yourself, and we never want to think about that again.

Back north.

Your chest, back, shoulders. Summer beckons. The pool, the beach. Skin revealed. Worries: slack gut, man boobs, back fur.

"Body hair is a major category of what guys worry about, " says Glenn O'Brien, author of The Style Guy and a column by that title for GQ magazine. "It's in the realm of 'What color socks match my shoes and pants?' "

Guydom, manhood, it's all different now. The range of socially acceptable grooming keeps expanding. Facial washes, toner, skin cream. Wear an earring? Sports watch, dress watch? A good cologne, no split ends, check the nasal hair, SPF 15.

And now, body hair. It's not entirely serious, but it's not entirely flip, either. Guys used to attract women with their confidence, muscle, power, fearlessness. Now you've got to have a position on shoulder sprigs.

"We have about seven or eight gentlemen come in every day for back waxing, " says Jodi Ross, assistant manager at the Grooming Lounge, a high-end salon for men in Washington, D.C.

Back and shoulder waxing are standard requests at Salon Volo in St. Petersburg, says receptionist Jamie Wickham. But so are feet, toes and eyebrows. "It really all depends on the man."

You might be thinking this is a fad. Some silliness for jocks, swimmers, celebrities, LL Cool J, Daniel Craig, David Beckham, the Rock; yeah, sure, but not the guy next to you at the stadium.

This is not so.

Consider: Last May, Philips Norelco rolled out the Bodygroom BG 2020, a $34.99 shaver to trim or shave body hair. "It blew our sales projections out of the water, " says spokeswoman Shannon Jenest. "We tripled our original forecast by the end of the year."

Or: Men's Health, a magazine aimed at working guys who work out, has had exactly two guys with chest hair on the cover in the past 17 years, says fashion and grooming editor Brian Boye.

Or: Last summer, a guy named Brett Marut in Santa Monica, Calif., came out with the Mangroomer. It's essentially a shaver on a stick, designed to let you reach around and shave your back. He priced it at $39.95, looking to appeal to guys who were too self-conscious to go to a salon, or even let their friends know they were trying it. He put a couple of ads on Internet search engines. It was an instant hit, and 10 months later, Mangroomer is in every Bed Bath & Beyond.

There's also Nair for Men, which costs about $5 and promises to get rid of hair in four minutes by rubbing a cream on it.

Waxing, shaving, depilating, lasering men's body hair: It's all part of the beautification of the male animal, an aesthetic that began with the ancient Greeks. Beauty was in the muscle, and hair obscured the clean-lined beauty of perfectly toned muscles.

In real life, boys, not men, are devoid of body hair, and for ages one sign of adult male virility was chest hair. Men never considered grooming below the neck.

Nobody has an exact starting point, but bodybuilders, like Jack LaLanne in the 1940s, would hearken to that Grecian ideal, shaving their bodies for competition.

By the early '80s, the hairless chest and back was catching on with gay guys. Like earrings, it crossed over to fashion-conscious straight men, athletes and celebrities, then into the mainstream.

Going hairless also is driven by girlfriends and wives. Folks interviewed for this story say a main reason guys do something about their body hair is because their significant other requests it.

It's something to keep guys looking like they're up on things, which is sort of what style is, which is sort of what guys want to have without looking like they're trying to have it.

Times staff writer Amber Mobley contributed to this report.



- Capelli A Grooming Salon For Men

(813) 258-1220

715 S Howard Ave., Tampa

- The Difference

(813) 282-8260

4029 Henderson Blvd., Tampa

- Salon Volo

(727) 545-1905

5848 54th Ave. N, St. Petersburg