I Have to Get This Off My Chest
Is chest hair really "out" now?
Lately I am finding myself more and more a 20th-century man trapped in a 21st-century world.
When the devil, for instance, did men of all persuasions start shaving off their chest hair? All those handsome young lads on Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelor and daytime soaps make sure to take off their shirts a few times every show, strutting proudly around entirely bereft of even a small crop of chest hair.
What are they thinking? In my day, we poor souls with shiny pink torsos had the good sense to keep our shirts buttoned to the top lest some Charles Atlas discover our secret and kick sand in our faces. Being without chest hair in the ’50s and even the ’60s was a sad condition, ruining any chance a male had for getting the girl and living a happy life, and the only thing that saved us from being old bachelors forever was a determination to keep our shirts on.
EVEN — SAY IT’S NOT SO — OO7?
And now chest hair seems to be “out.” Don’t these modern-day ladies realize that real men have always had chest hair and that it was considered so sexy in days gone by that matinee idols like Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Cary Grant weren’t even allowed to expose a hairy chest on the silver screen. (There’s also the possibility, I admit, that they were actually among the shiny pink torso group.) There were exceptions. Watch the old movies and check out Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, Richard Burton, Harrison Ford and Burt Reynolds. All of them could have probably gotten through a Hollywood winter in an unbuttoned cardigan. And Sean Connery, the original James Bond and the very personification of a manly man male, sported a veritable shag rug pretty much from neck to waist. Interestingly, Daniel Craig, the current 007, is one who shaves his chest as bare as, well, my scalp in recent years.
It’s hard to say which celebrities remove chest hair, as opposed to which ones just never grew much, but most of today’s younger idols seem to be in one group or the other. It’s not that I go around particularly noticing who has chest hair or doesn’t, but my wife, Barb, seems to keep up with that sort of thing. I remember saying to her after we saw Thelma and Louise “that Brad Pitt fellow might have a good career ahead of him.” She replied, “Good looking, but no chest hair.”
It doesn’t seem to have hurt him.
IT MAKES SENSE FOR A FEW, A VERY FEW
Professional swimmers have long shaved their chests for aerodynamic reasons, and some bicyclists as well, and I suppose when super athletes like David Beckham joined in, it began to make sense for sports fans to follow suit (though I don’t remember too many men who took up wearing panty hose after Joe Namath led the way).
I can think of a couple of instances when chest shaving might make sense: It does clear the way for a better view of the remarkable pecs that many males are working so hard to develop these days. Not much point in knocking yourself out in the gym every day if your six-pack is going to be hidden beneath its own toupee. And if you’re going to oil yourself up and become a Chippendale dancer, I guess a hairless chest is more likely to gleam in the spotlight, not to mention easily swab down.
Fearing that hirsute males may be an endangered species, I asked Barb if she could name any recent stars with hairy chests that met her approval, and she immediately said, “Hugh Jackman, Clive Owen, Jon Hamm, Robert Pattison, the Baldwin brothers and, less recently, Chewbacca.”
I think the last one was a joke.
Since Barb appreciates it, I’m happy to say that I ultimately did overcome the shiny pink torso of my youth and grew a pretty good representation of chest hair. Unfortunately in recent years a fair amount of it has disappeared, most likely having crept up into my ears.