Love, Self

No Shave November: Dudes, Where's Your Chest Hair?

Breaking news: Men are just as body-conscious as women. Surprised? You shouldn't be if you look around and see how the male gender is portrayed on billboards, in magazine ads and in Hollywood. And we've come a long way from the days of Burt Reynolds' hairy chest to what's considered sexy now (bye-bye Burt Reynolds, hello, Ryan Reynolds). "No Shave November," this month's prostate cancer awareness campaign, which is encouraging men not to shave for the entire month, is certainly an exception to the trend!

Details magazine was kind enough to put together a slideshow of men's growing concern over their body image, showcasing such shocking transformations as Marc Jacobs, and those two funny guys who used be chubby but no longer are (I think their names are Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill). Granted, Rogen and Hill are no Jacobs when it comes to the ab region, but they've made some pretty drastic changes to their bodies. Guess that throws the whole notion of "funny fat dudes" out the window. Angry Single Blogger: Why Do Fat, Rich Men Have All The Fun?

The focus on men's bodies, just in the last 20 years alone, is the result of an evolution in our standards of attractiveness — or at least, perceived attractiveness. If you were to gather up all the men you knew in, say 1983, the chances of finding one who was as obsessed with his body as some men are today, would be pretty slim. And when it came to those who "manscaped," (Ed.: Ew.) well, you'd have to dig really deep. Do you think Don Draper goes to the gym or waxes his chest hair? No. Men were hairy (or naturally not) and the thought of something otherwise just wasn't even a blip on our attractiveness radar.

But as the gym craze officially kicked into high gear in the 1980's and peoples' idea of beauty began to morph, with health being a major factor, men started joining women in the pursuit of the perfect physique. While women have long been removing hair from their legs and underarms for aesthetic reasons as hemlines began to crawl upward in the early part of the 20th century, it was just a matter of time before men joined them on the grooming front. Soon men waxing or shaving was no longer just for swimmers or body builders; the average Joe was also joining the ranks of the hairless. 

In 2009, a study conducted by the University of South Florida found that of 360 male students, 80% had removed body hair; and between 1997 and 2011, cosmetic surgeries on men had gone up by 88%. Can we say narcissist much?

The last decade has also seen low-calorie and low-carb "light" beer being marketed predominately toward men, as well as a rise in terms like "manorexia." Is this a sign of the gender equality gap closing in on itself in some bizarre way, or just proof that we're slaves to society's whims? (Ed.: The latter.) Love & Beauty: What Is 'Drunkorexia?'

I have to say, I've never dated a man with chest hair… or at least not the excessive chest hair you'd see on a 1975 male lead in a Hollywood movie. I'm not opposed to it — in fact, I'm more opposed to men waxing what chest hair they do have — I've just never dated hairy people, I suppose. While I appreciate the toned, hairless abs of a male model gazing upon me from high upon a Billboard on Houston Street, I know it's not real and in not being real, it's not my idea of sexy. But hey, I've never been into muscles either, so what do I know? What's sexy is being completely at home in your body, and if that, gentlemen, means rolling into the gym every day and waxing your body free of all hair, more power to you. You have the right to be just as body-image obsessed as lots of women. Now where's my Vogue? I need my daily dose of insecurity.