These days, a thick patch of chest hair is a great way to flash your man card. That being said, chest hair hasn’t always been such a definitive expression of manliness. Chest hair, over the course of the last 30 years, has gone in and out of style more than fatty foods. One minute a hairless Marky Mark is taking the early 90s by storm, the next there are entire websites dedicated to Mad Men star Jon Hamm’s burly chest. And while some men have it and some don’t, the good news is that, whether you’re hairless or hirsute, if you’re not getting much love now you will be at some point soon.
Why it’s there. For early humans, having a lot of chest hair made you a chick magnet, since a bug-free mate was a good mate. Before the days of bug spray, a frontal forest was the first line of defence against parasites, since it made it difficult for blood-suckers to find a place to feed. Also, as any shirtless guy in a breeze can tell you, our skin sensitivity is heightened by having chest hair. For our ancestors, that meant a chance to swat unwelcome critters before they had a chance to leave their mark.
What guys make of it. “It took me longer than most guys my age to grow chest hair, and when it did come in, I actually considered shaving it,” says 28-year-old John. “My girlfriend at the time (and several since) have told me to never, ever do this. I think having a hard body makes it easier to justify shaving your chest. Having a shaved dad bod probably just feels like cuddling up to a seal.”
What she makes of it. “A nice set of chest pubes is worth five inches in height when it comes to male attractiveness,” says 31-year-old Abby. “The cavewoman in me is more interested in a hairy, testosterone-filled shortie than some tall guy with a smooth chest. Which one do you think can protect me from a rampaging mastodon?”
What science says. Guys, don’t get it in your heads that your hairy mane is special—women have just as many chest hair follicles as men do. The only difference is that men have higher levels of testosterone, which increases the size and length of the individual follicles and encourages darker-coloured hair growth.
How to tame it. Remember, shaving your chest isn’t the best idea unless you’re cool with adding your torso to your daily shaving routine. The fact is, chest hairs are usually just as thick as beard hairs, which means a whole lot of stubbly, itchy regrowth if you put down the razor for even just a few days after a full shave.
If your chest has been deemed to be “sexy” (and your mum saying it doesn’t count here, you weirdo) it could save you a LOT of hassle going forward.