Our resident man on the good, the bad and the downright repellent from the world of male grooming. This week: the best hair removal for men
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment the hirsute gentleman fell from favour. Once upon a time, there was no greater symbol of masculinity than a positively wolverine torso, primitive and unruly.
Female readers of a particular generation will recall (with pleasure? Disgust?), the sex symbols of bygone eras - Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds, Sir Tom Jones… even Han Solo – and how they proudly sported tufts of untamed body fuzz. Their overactive follicles were an intrinsic part of their identity. Reynolds even appeared starkers in all his hairy glory for the centerfold of a 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan lying, rather appropriately, on a bearskin rug.
A brief glance around today’s changing room, however, and the male physique appears to have been sheared, plucked and waxed to within an inch of its life.
I would wager that this is the influence of footballers, those wonderfully bizarre barometers of nouveau masculinity. It would appear they have no qualms about shedding their body hair: Cesc Fabregas dropped a reported £3,000 on lasering his chest, while Rooney and Lampard regularly wax theirs. In stark contrast to Selleck’s inimitable shoot for Cosmopolitan, consider Beckham’s recent campaigns for Armani underwear, in which the demi-god poses semi-nude and eerily babysmooth.
This media-friendly smoothness has inevitably prompted leagues of men to (rightly or wrongly) ‘manscape’ their privates in, er, private. In a recent poll, 13% of men who groom admitted to shaving their chests on a regular basis, 11% had taken a blade to their backs and a particularly brave 6% confessed to a shaved arse (perhaps the most impressive of all, given the contortionist-like flexibility required to get the job done). In addition to the above there are Boyzilians (the male equivalent of a Brazilian), scro-tees (scrotum + goatee) and the occasional pe-jazzle (you can figure that one out), though these appear to be an urban myth.
Pubic topiary is no longer the domain of porn stars and sexually ambiguous metrosexuals; the average gym-going Joe has taken to the art of manscaping with no resistance.
And the benefits are many: a shaved torso accentuates that burgeoning six-pack, while a tidier bush successfully creates the all-important “optical inch”. The smaller the nest, the bigger the bird and all that.
What is woefully lacking, however, is technique. DIY jobs inevitably end in razor-happy scars, infected follicles, irritated regrowth and red, red rashes. In many cases, botched jobs often make men look worse / more ridiculous than they were to start with (NB, guys, body hair hides a multitude of sins; if your fur isn’t concealing a washboard stomach, you may very well end up looking like a stunned porpoise once you’ve shaved / waxed).
Most guys recycle standard razors or hack away at growth with a rusty pair of scissors, giving no thought to aftercare. And since most manscapers are also gym addicts, they usually make the beginners’ mistake of working up a heavy sweat within 24 hours of depilating. And we all know how that ends.
There are, of course, many products and services now aimed at the man wot manscapes. The hair removal industry was recently estimated to be worth £280m a year and offers men everything from old school hot wax and electrolysis to newfangled lasers and IPL. Ridding ourselves of one of our defining sexual characteristics appears to be big business.
Braun’s cruZer 6 is one of the many successful gadgets aimed at men. Part power-tool strength clipper, part wet shaver, it can mow its way through the coarsest of body rugs. Crucially it allows for a smooth finish without any nasty tugging or, ahem, pinching. Many man spas will even perform the delicate task of attending to a guy’s “back, sack and crack” (though they’ll usually advertise their services using more eloquent lexicon such as “intimate waxing”).
But no man – not even the body-conscious gym bunny - would be seen dead actually buying a professional product or strolling into a spa to get the job done. As men, we’d sooner make a mess of it all by ourselves. Possibly with a rusty pair of scissors and one of your Venus razors.
The best of hair removal for men
Ministry of Waxing
Boyzilians and a variety of ways to depilate, intimately. From £17
Braun CruZer 6 Body Groomer
A handy ‘all over trimmer’ with a flat foil blade that can be used in the shower.
£49.99 from amazon.co.uk
Laser Hair Removal
Permanent hair removal with the latest follicle zapping technology. Costly and laborious but well worth the effort.
Available at Destination Skin. Prices vary. See destinationskin.com for more details and to find your local clinic.
All in One Bodygroom Pro TT2040 by PHILIPS
Boasts both an adjustable comb clipper and a flat foil blade for those, ahem, trickier areas where you don’t want any unnecessary tugging. £74.99 from boots.com
Nads For Men Body Waxing Strips For Men
DIY strips, ideal for testing pain thresholds.
£8.99 for 20 from boots.com