More and more men are shaving ... their chests.
Heck, if you want, just ask the guys of Kappa Sigma at the University of Kansas. No, not models or bodybuilders. Just regular old Middle American boys.
"Put it this way," junior Brian Horn said on the phone, "there are six guys in this room right now, and out of that number ... wait ... hey, hey, quiet down! How many of you guys shave your chests? One, two, there are three guys out of six who do."
Half. Fifty percent, which hardly is scientific. Still, it's a lot. John Alden, owner of Salon Luda in Overland Park, Kan., says he has two or three customers— "Just regular old guys," he said, "from 21 to 30 years old"—paying upward of $40 to $50 to have their chest hair taken off with hot wax—yeow! The price varies, of course, depending on how furry they are.
Although Alden said male hair removal is not a huge part of his business, still, it certainly isn't uncommon.
"I would say the majority of guys in college do shave their chest if they have a lot of hair," said 19-year-old Miranda Noll, a KU Kappa Kappa Gamma and, incidentally, Horn's girlfriend. "A lot of guys think it makes them look more buff, tougher."
Which, indeed, is exactly how they feel.
See they, too, have looked at the rappers and TV stars and guys on magazines. Not since Tom Selleck, Jim Brown or Burt Reynolds have hirsute hunks been de rigueur. Thus, regular guys nationwide are whipping out their Bics and Schicks, their electric razors, shavers and clippers.
"Oh, yeah," said Kappa Sigma Matt Diehl, 19, of Longmont, Colo. "I guess I've been shaving since I started getting hair on my chest. I just think it looks a lot better for myself and for attracting women, which is the main motivation."
And which is a point we'll get to in a minute. But what Marianne Butler, director of photography for Men's Health magazine, will concede is that in the five years she has been there, she can think of only one or two occasions when the magazine has photographed a man who wasn't either shaved or naturally bare-chested.
Should a model come in with chest hair, Butler said, "we would shave him."
"I think it started out as a way to see muscle definition," Butler said. "But I think it definitely is more attractive. We have 18 international editions, and even in, um, how should I say it, the more `traditionally hairy' countries like Italy, Spain, France, the models on all our covers shave."
Jennifer Mangan, co-owner of Exposure Model and Talent Agency Inc. in Kansas City, said she thinks boys and young men "just want to imitate what they see." Most of Mangan's models are—what else?—bare-chested.
"I think it just comes from advertising," Mangan said. "There is so much more emphasis today on the body. They are inundated from the time they are young with images that tell them they have to be sexy and have the perfect body."
Today that image—chestwise—is of the hairless wonder.
"I know a lot of guys do it before they go on winter break or spring break, before they go to the beach," said KU's Alpha Epsilon Pi president, Benjie Kaplan, who is not a shaver.
"Never tried it. Never thought about it. It's a genetic thing," he said. "I'm used to having hairy people in my family. I don't feel out of place."
But as for why his fraternity brothers do shave, he said, there is no question.
"To pick up chicks," he said.
Which again is interesting, because when you ask young women whether they prefer their men with shaved chests, there's no consensus.
"I don't know what they're thinking," said Leah Green, 21, of Blue Springs, Mo. She's a recent graduate of Rockhurst University, where, she says, she knew multiple guys who shaved their chests.
"I think it's sort of a waste of time. If they are going to impress women, it's sort of over-optimistic to think that alone would make a difference. At this age, you'd think they would have accepted that they are going to be hairy."
Remember Miranda Noll, Brian Horn's girlfriend from KU? Although she says she'd prefer not to date someone who "was really, really out-of-control hairy—I think it's a gross look," she said—she otherwise wouldn't care whether her boyfriend had hair on his chest or not.
"It really doesn't matter that much to me," she said. "It's something guys worry about."