In the Seventies men roamed free on the streets with their chest hair exposed from a button down paisley shirt, blowing freely through the wind like some dishevelled wild animal. Fast forward a couple of decades later and now men’s chests look like baby seals; an ungodly plaque of smoothness in an age where body hair is shunned.
I understand the need to trim body hair, don’t get me wrong. The trimming of the nether regions has got to be up there with penicillin in terms of breakthroughs for the human race, but there’s a massive difference between taming and doing a Benjamin Button and reverting back to a childlike level of baldness with your chest. The only excuse for this is if you’re a secret agent and you need a wire taped to your chest or you’re an Olympic level swimmer.
It’s shows like The Only Way Is Essex and Love Island that have ruined the classic male body image. The everyman look of a few stomach rolls, stubble and unkempt hair has been replaced with rock hard abs, tans and 90% less hair. But guys, this look isn’t real. Reality TV stars achieve this look because they’re paid to sit around on their arse all day, so they’ve got time to hit the gym for five hours a day and get a weekly wax. Most of us don’t earn a wage for having the same amount of brain cells as fingers, so this look is vastly unachievable and costly, but most importantly, it looks shit.
Necklaces and button down revere collar shirts are all huge looks for men at the moment, and they just don’t look right on a bald chest, as a retro trend calls for a retro level of body hair. The same goes for scoop neck t-shirts too, because all that extreme grooming is going to do is get you turned away from a club, because the bouncers are just going to assume you’re out to spend your pocket money on Blue WKDs. And at the end of the day who do you want to look like more, Jon Hamm or Joey Essex?
Men on TV aren't always portrayed with a pre-teen amount of hair though, but it is mostly in period dramas (Poldark) and retro programming (Mad Men) that it crops up; there isn't really a modern portrayal of body fuzz on the big screen or the red carpet, it's only ever really seen these days in voyeuristic Daily Mail features where a photographer hides in a bush by the beach all day to catch celebrities undressing.
So with all this throwback grooming, this gives the impression that we've evolved. Like black and white has turned to colour, body hair has turned to clean shaven. But remember, new discoveries always seem better at first until the novelty wears off, leaving behind an annoying shell and wishing you could go back to the good ol' days. Just look at Facebook and vaping as evidence.
Another argument to make friends with being au naturale is that we live in an age where it’s getting harder and harder to grow up. We can’t buy a house until we’re 30, we can’t afford to get married when we want, we have to make withdrawals from the bank of mum and dad, so chest hair is a classically masculine way to say, “Hey, although my mother still does my washing, I am still a man.”
But if you're still not convinced, don't take my word for it. Just take 76% percent of women's word for it. That's right, in most online surveys it seems that females prefer men with hair on their chest. And if you're STILL not sold on the concept and prefer words to numbers, we asked a few of the Stylist girls to give their opinions on the matter:
Harriet Hall, Features Editor: "I love a hairy man. I find it totally sexy for a man to have chest hair – but I’m talking a smattering rather than a full-on Austin Powers blanket. A totally hair-free chest feels a little too baby-like and it’s not my bag - and shaved chests are an absolute turn-off. But obvs just whatever mama nature gave you is fine by me. Also, I kinda like a little bit on show in some circumstances, but I would never condone a shirt undone to the belly or anything. I’m talking a few whips popping out to say hello."
Anna Pollitt, Freelance Writer: "I personally love a bit of swarthy chest hair! No one will object to Poldark’s."
Moya Crockett, Digital Writer: "If I was describing my ideal man, an incredibly hairy chest wouldn’t be on his list of attributes. Having said that, I find the concept of man shaving his chest INFINITELY more unsettling than a bit of coverage. Work with whatever you’ve got, I say!"
Deborah Cicurel, Freelance Writer: "Definitely rather it was there than a TOWIE-style full on shaven oiled look! I don't mind hairy chests, but not a fan of hairy backs..."
Kayleigh Dray, Deputy Digital Editor: "I don’t mind a sprinkle – but I have lots of worries about what happens if they spill anything down themselves. Sticky matted hair. Ew."
So men, next time you’re in the shower and you reach for the razor: STOP. To paraphrase Bruno Mars, “Chest hair, you’re amazing...just the way you are.”