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Hairless men: sleek or creepy?

Date

Natasha Hughes

Once the preserve of athletes, shaved legs and waxed chests are now a male grooming essential. But is this what women want?

Bald beauty ... where's the body hair?

Bald beauty ... where's the body hair? Photo: Getty Images

James Magnussen had lost his tender tendrils of chest hair. His nemesis Nathan Adrian was a vision of smooth manliness and the buff bloke from Brazil was pure razor-cut definition. The chests that featured in this morning's dramatic 100-metre freestyle final at the Olympics were strong, broad and, to the last man, hairless. Hairlessness is aerodynamic dynamite, according to a former gold medallist, and essential at elite sporting level. But it is has also become essential for image-conscious men who think they are doing it to impress the girls but are more often doing it for themselves.

Hair-free chests, backs and, now especially, legs are essential for any straight young man who cares about his appearance. He may wax like the ladies or use a wet razor like the Olympic swimmers did hours before the final, but if he likes to look after his body he is definitely doing something to get rid of the hair. ''More than ever sporting stars are young Australian men's sporting heroes and if James Magnussen is doing it, we're doing it,'' says grooming expert Will Fennell. ''The swimmers want to be the best, they want to compete and be top of their game - and so do we. In the old days it was gay men but you only have to go to Fitness First and see that 95 per cent of straight men are getting rid of all their body hair.''

But who is it for? Amy Jean Linnehan says she finds smooth men ''really creepy''. ''My girlfriends and I don't want cavemen but hairless men are too feminine,'' says the brow and grooming specialist. ''Men are becoming more and more aware of hygiene, of products and their appearance but women don't want perfection. It's a sign of masculinity to have a bit of facial hair and a hairy chest.'' A hairless chest shows off the muscle definition which is considered a bare necessity among young men, particularly those who are part of beach or dance party culture, says Fennell of Will and Peta Skin Clinic in Bondi. ''They feel image pressure like never before. They compete with each other and compare themselves to one another. They like to think they're doing it for the girls and girls like to think that they're doing it for them but they're doing it for themselves and for their mates.''

Michael Klim, who won six Olympic medals in a glittering swimming career, says elite swimmers have been removing body hair for at least the past 30 years because of the aerodynamic benefits. He says the 2012 Olympic swimmers have a ritual of leaving it to the very last moment to remove body hair ''all over'' - though the process, with a four- or five-blade disposable razor - takes a few hours when done in stages. ''It helps to feel the water. The top layer of the skin is removed so the sensitivity to water is much greater and the nerve endings far more responsive,'' says Klim, who is presenting Olympics reports on Channel 7's ''Sunrise''. ''It's hard to quantify in terms of time how much of an improvement it makes - maybe 2 per cent.'' However Klim maintains that the chest rashes that were so obvious on the men - particularly Cesar Cielo - as they made their way to the blocks for the start of the 100 metres were not caused by shaving. ''No - it's from slapping themselves on the chest. It's a macho thing they do. You could almost see the handprints.''

John Quinn is not so sure. He's the manager of Grand Royal Barbers' Sydney city which specialises in cut-throat shaves. ''Skin is always going to rash up - it's so different from the face. Shaving's really harsh. A disposable razor causes friction so it causes rash,'' Quinn says. ''It's actually a bit hard to believe they do that. It will get a closer shave but they'll rash up and react to the chlorine. I feel sorry for anyone who has to shave his legs.'' But men will grin and bear it says Fennell. ''Sportsmen are our role models and they are groomed beautifully. With Eamon Sullivan the face of Gillette for London, men are going to say 'that's what I need to do', whether the girls appreciate it or not.''

175 comments

  • Everything in moderation. But these sportsmen haven't much of a choice. Magnussen would know. 0.01 second, was it?

    Commenter
    Liv
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    August 03, 2012, 10:49AM
    • Just no!

      Commenter
      Aiden Van Depreaux
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 10:56AM
      • Hairy gay man here and proud.

        The most I do is clipper around my private parts to keep the jungle at bay.

        Not naturally very hairy and if I had a hairy back I have to admit I would probably keep that under control.

        But I think that hair anywhere else on a man is natural, normal and sexy.

        Although, totally tolerant of guys who choose to remove their hair... it does look great on some.

        I just can't be bothered with the constant and time consuming routine of it.

        Commenter
        Adrian
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 11:00AM
        • l still think its to impress other men.

          Commenter
          peter
          Location
          vietnam
          Date and time
          August 03, 2012, 11:03AM
          • Creepy, creepy and creepy!

            Commenter
            Frank
            Location
            Pennant Hills
            Date and time
            August 03, 2012, 11:05AM
            • yes, super CREEPY!!! yuck.
              but gentlemen, please don't rush to comment on the first page. let the ladies say it!
              YES, It's BLOODY CREEPY!!!!!!!!!!
              a man with no hair is like a woman with pe*cough cough*...
              The only "good" outlook about this trend perhaps would be that nowadays men are, more-than-ever, falling victim to and feel as self-conscious about their looks and body as women have for the past million years.... which makes the whole meat market thing a bit more fair (in my biased opinion).

              Commenter
              Ankh
              Date and time
              August 03, 2012, 1:20PM
            • Give me a hairy man anyday! There is nothing quite so sexy as a good hairy chest (not so much on the back though!)

              Commenter
              clare
              Date and time
              August 03, 2012, 1:31PM
            • It's completely creepy, I don't want a man with less hair than me! That's why men are attractive, they are DIFFERENT to women!!! More hair, more muscle, can reach tall cupboards. Hairy is sexy and cuddly!!!!

              And I laughed SO much at the idea it's "more masculine" to have LESS hair! Anyone heard of testosterone?

              Commenter
              Female
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              August 06, 2012, 9:33AM
          • This article had to of been written a woman. A woman who has no idea about men.

            Commenter
            agoddard
            Date and time
            August 03, 2012, 11:09AM
            • creepy, I once was dating this guy who told me he had a surprise for me, and when he came over and we started making out, he had shaved EVERYWHERE, oh god it was horrible it felt like a cold dead little tiny thing, I didn't date him anymore after that, body hair is normal, ok back hair not so good but underarms legs chest, yum

              Commenter
              KimTh
              Date and time
              August 04, 2012, 8:51PM

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