Chest Hair Is Coming Back!

Should we welcome it with a big furry embrace?

Tom Selleck: 1980s sex symbol and chest hair deity. Photo via Getty Images

A couple of years ago we published a post that got a little more artistic than our typical style editorial. We got some nice feedback on the photo styling but on certain channels, there was some pretty negative and, frankly, hateful feedback on something that seemed so ridiculously trivial: my chest hair.

Now, I know that you can’t please everyone and comments of that nature usually go in one ear and out the other — sticks and stones and all that. But I think I was sensitive over the issue because for the longest time I was in the habit of shaving my chest.

My decision to do so was one based purely on survival. I began my bicycle racing career in Tucson, Arizona, which is a hot-ass place. If you’ve ever engaged in intense athletic activity in the heat, you know that you will do whatever is necessary to keep your core cool to avoid overheating.

Dump water over your head, have an ice vest custom-tailored as to not overheat warming up on the trainer prior to a criterium or time trial (yes, I actually did this). Though the most basic instinct — for a cyclist, at least — is to unzip your jersey.

The problem with that solution is that if you have chest hair, the effect is minimal. This is one of the reasons that cyclists shave their legs. The lack of leg hair allows your perspiration to evaporate faster, which has a cooling effect. Thus began years of chest shaving.

The launch of HSS coincided with the end of my competitive cycling career — so there was no reason for me to shave my legs or my chest anymore. So, naturally, I let it go. But you have to get into my headspace to understand that after doing something like that for so long, going au naturale was a foreign thing, and there was a certain level of self-consciousness that went along with it.

Photo via The New York Times

Anyhow, the point is that I am no longer shaving my chest bare and based on recent findings in The New York Times, chest hair is a grooming trend that men are welcoming back with a big, furry embrace.

It makes sense. We know that fashion is cyclical. And to pull off a certain style, it’s helpful to have the grooming to match. Right now, fashion on both a micro and macro level is just starting to edge out of the 1970s and into the 1980s. (Though my weekend style is suggesting the 1990s.)

I think the “chest hair trend” also reflects one of the ways in which straight white men are trying to grapple with the question of who we are in an age when many groups — minorities, women, gays — have already had movements to truly define themselves.

(N.B. If you haven’t already read it, I recommend going back and reacquainting yourself with our interview with Kyan Douglas. It’s one of my favorite conversations on the site. In it, we touched upon many of the same cultural issues being discussed here.)

Like the lumbersexual and urban beardsman, chest hair-sporting men suggest, from a cultural standpoint, that guys are looking for an extremely hyper-masculine way to identify and distinguish themselves from movements like the metrosexual, which didn’t have such clearcut gender and sexual boundaries.

This leaves some questions on the table. Is chest hair sexy? If it’s not now, will it be in a few years? Is there such a thing as too much chest hair? Should you trim it?

Chime in with your thoughts.

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