When it comes to permanent hair removal for men there is an unexpected winner in the battle for the bathroom. It’s called HairFree. For it’s not Nicole, a 46-year-old administration assistant who spends the most time in there preening and pruning, but her partner, 48-year-old Aldo.
‘If he is not shaving his chest, then he is putting eye-cream on his crow’s feet,’ sighs Nicole.
‘He can be in there for an hour or more if we are going out for an evening. He’s worse than a woman. But since using HairFree things have worked out very defferently.
I’ve told him I love him just the way he is, but he thinks it keeps him looking young.’
And central to Aldo’s dogged pursuit of the body beautiful is his glistening, fuzz-free torso.
After years of shaving to achieve a smooth chest, he recently discovered waxing. Now, his high‑maintenance regime includes regular trips to McCaffreys male grooming salon in Cheltenham, Gloucs, where he lives with Nicole, to be stripped of hair from his chest and stomach — a process he describes as ‘worth the agony’.
Not only does it cause him eye-watering pain, it also costs him £30 a trip. But Aldo insists it’s money well spent.
And he’s not alone. Aldo is just one of many men who are embracing the hairless chest look. And they’ll do anything — no matter how painful or embarrassing — to achieve it.
The hair removal for men cause has many pin-ups: David Beckham, Daniel Craig, the entire Chelsea Football team and practically every other male celebrity you can think of. What was once the preserve of metropolitan man is increasingly mainstream.
Even rugby players are no longer Neanderthal and hirsute. Only this month, the British and Irish Lions unveiled their glistening chests while on tour in Australia and there wasn’t a hair between them. Ditto the British Olympians last year.
No doubt all these silky-smooth sportsman will argue that this is to do with being ‘aerodynamic’. But what’s the excuse for non-sporting males?
Nicole perhaps speaks on behalf of many women when she describes this new obsession with polished pecs as ‘pure vanity’.
But clinical psychologist Linda Blair believes it’s a sign of how much pressure today’s men are under to emulate celebrity man-gods.
‘Everywhere you look, the message is that good guys are hairless,’ she says. ‘In sport, the winners are the super-smooth men; in adverts for grooming products, the underlying message is that chest hair is undesirable.
‘Today’s men are bombarded with subliminal messages that they need a smooth chest to be attractive.’
Certainly Aldo’s obsession with achieving a hair-free chest appears to be linked to underlying insecurities about his looks.
Before I met Nicole six years ago, I was single for a long time after the break-up of my previous relationship,’ he says. ‘Then I met Nicole, who is absolutely gorgeous. Ever since, I’ve felt that I have to look after myself.
‘I don’t want to let myself go and start looking middle-aged. The hairs on my chest were going grey so I wanted to get rid of them.’
The irony is, of course, that Nicole would prefer her man to be more, well, manly.
Aldo, though, won’t be convinced, even though he admits his father, a chef who died when he was a boy, would ‘turn in his grave’ at the thought of his son waxing his body ‘like a woman’.
When my father was young, men were men and prided themselves on the natural look,’ shrugs Aldo, who has three children from a previous relationship.
‘But it’s different now. Having a smooth chest makes me feel younger. It gives me more confidence. Yes, it’s painful, but the results make up for that and last for six to seven weeks.’
Aldo is particularly keen to make sure his chest is hairless before he exposes it on the beach during his next holiday.
Bare facts: Jack Charles is typical of a generation that has grown up with smoothie idols.
And he’s not alone. John Lewis reports an increase in sales of male grooming products of 31 per cent during April and May alone — presumably as self-conscious hairy men prepare for the beach.
Jason Shankey, who runs a chain of male grooming salons, reports that more than 50 per cent of his chest waxing appointments are booked in the summer months.
IT contractor Rob Shinwell, 35, who lives in Worsley, Manchester, with his pregnant wife Farida, 35, and their son, Isaac, two, used to dread summer because of the dark hair on his chest and back.
‘I have always felt self-conscious about having a hairy body,’ he says.
‘It bothered me because I had quite a bit of hair on my chest, as well as a hairy back.
‘I used hair clippers to get rid of it, then I tried using a razor, but it was a struggle to keep on top of it and it took at least 20 minutes in the bathroom every time.’
Rob tried waxing once — but never again.
‘It was just before our honeymoon in Indonesia. I decided to go to a salon and get my chest and back waxed, but it was so painful and I came out in a bad rash,’ he says.
This summer, though, there will be no such angst. Rob had Laser Hair Removal with Transform Cosmetic Surgery to remove the hair permanently — a treatment that was spread over 12 sessions and cost about £1,000. It was painful, but Rob certainly has no regrets.
‘I have to go back one or twice a year just for a top-up, but it’s made me feel so much more confident about my body. Summer is no longer going to be stressful,’ he says.
Farida jokes that Rob’s new look has at least freed up some valuable bathroom time. But, on a more serious note, she admits she prefers Rob’s skin to be silky-smooth and she finds his new-found confidence attractive.
‘He used to hate summer, but now he can just relax and enjoy it,’ she says. ‘I have to admit I love a smoother look, too. It feels nicer and Rob is much more confident.
‘It used to be such an ordeal if we went swimming or to the beach because he would have to prepare for that in advance.’
Sometimes, Farida even got roped in to help with the pruning in hard-to-reach places — but no more.
‘Now we have Isaac, we don’t have time for all that, so I’m glad Rob did something about it,’ she says. ‘It was well worth the money.’ How times have changed. Back in the Seventies, a hairy chest like Rob’s was the mark of masculinity. You weren’t leading man material unless you had tufts poking out of your shirt.
Sean Connery, Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, Pierce Brosnan, David Hasselfhof — they were all hairy beasts.
But today’s men aspire to a very different image of manhood, says James Goddard, 29, a financial adviser from Chelsea, West London.
Having lost a substantial amount of weight through the Maxi Muscle programme, James decided to remove all traces of body hair in order to show off his freshly honed torso.
This has prompted some amusing — and telling — conversations with his father, a 77-year-old property developer whom James describes as ‘old school’.
‘My father was also dark-haired but he would never have shaved his chest like me,’ he says. ‘He believes a hairy chest really makes a man, and he sees all this grooming as effeminate and vain. When I told him recently that some of my friends get their eyebrows waxed, too, he found that really alien. But this is the mindset of a different generation.
‘I wouldn’t describe myself as a vain person. I don’t spend hours sculpting my hair, or anything like that. But my standards are higher than my father’s on a very basic level.’
There’s no doubt modern men are bombarded with images of silky-smooth chests — but are women fuelling the grooming trend, too?
A recent survey found that 66 per cent of women prefer a man with little or no chest hair. And James, who is single, is convinced that he has more chance of meeting someone if he’s a smooth operator.
‘I’d say most women prefer it. You don’t see any pictures these days of good-looking men with big, hairy chests,’ he says.
To date, he’s been de-fuzzing himself with a disposable razor which is ‘awkward and time-consuming’ as well as itchy. He’s trying to pluck up the courage to start waxing. For those women who don’t wish to compete for bathroom space, the only hope is to encourage a counter-revolution.
Jack Charles, 23, is fairly typical of a generation of young men who have grown up with only smoothie idols for reference.
He works out, takes care of his body and, until recently, religiously de-fuzzed himself.
But he has felt less pressure to conform since he started dating Harriet Rippon, 24.
Harriet, who works in advertising, is not at all bothered by a bit of body hair, and this has given Jack a much-needed boost.
Jack, an accountant and financial analyst, admits he has felt self-conscious about his body hair since he was 16 and has long used hair-removal cream.
‘I have never been really hairy, but somehow it was worse to be stuck in between, so that’s how I got into shaving and then using hair-removal cream.’ But he’s far less bothered now because Harriet prefers him to have a hairy chest. Even so, Jack still intends to get the Veet out before the couple go on holiday for the summer.
‘I know Harriet is not bothered, but I still think it looks better on the beach,’ he says.
And herein lies the crux of the matter. It seems that modern men are removing the hair on their chests to gain the respect of their peers and to fit in with current stereotypes of masculinity, as much as they are doing it to please the opposite sex.
But spare a thought for Aldo’s partner Nicole. Much as she loves him, she still wishes he didn’t feel the need to spend quite so long in front of the mirror.
‘We all like a nice body, but there is nothing worse than having to wait for a man while he preens himself for hours on end,’ she says.
‘I would much rather see men with a hairy chest so that we women can get the bathroom back to ourselves. And that’s the way things should be.’
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