When I joined the British Territorial Army infantry back in the late '90s (bit of a long story) and had my medical, the (woman) doctor asked a topless me, "Do you shave your chest?" It was still verboten back then to be gay and in the army, so I hurriedly said, "Er, yes. I do bodybuilding, and it shows off the muscle definition better."
"Hmm," she said, sounding unconvinced, and made a note in her file.
How things have changed in the intervening15 years. I suspect that that Army doctor now quizzes recruits if they don't shave their chests, so widespread is body shaving/waxing with young men today. The Bootnecks posing in the recent Royal Marines charity calendar don't appear to have an undepilated pumped pectoral between them.
Why do so many men shave their chests now? Because, as I told the skeptical Army doctor, it shows off muscle definition. That's to say: It shows off. Now that metrosexuality is pretty much "normal," young men think nothing of wanting to be sexy. To be hot. To be porno. And what's the point of going to the gym religiously and spending a fortune on supplements if the world and your mates can't see the melony fruits of your labors? So scrape that chest fur off, guys! Tits out for the... lads.
Even as they cultivate fashion beards as adorable male accessories, men are saving their razors for their chests, abs -- and wedding tackle. They want their assets to be easily scoped. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, because no one seems to be listening: Men are eagerly objectifying themselves. They want us, all of us, male and female, to see their "meat." And want it.
And what hunks of meat you can see! Despite the ascendency of hairless male chests for some years now, those smooth chests on the British Lions squad enjoying a group swim on the beach recently caused a stir in some circles, perhaps because rugby used to be a sport for hairy beer monsters and "real men." But since it went "pro" a while back, that has all changed. "Rugby player build" used to be a personal ad euphemism for "a bit fat," but now it tends to mean "ripped to buggery" -- professional rugby players are living the Men's Health dream with their own personal dieticians, fitness trainers and masseurs. Look at how much the England rugby strip has changed in the last decade. It used to flap around in the wind, shapelessly. Now it's like something a male stripper might wear -- towards the end of his act.
And of course some of the tastier and tartier "pro" rugby players have been appearing naked, shaved and oiled for years in the high-production, low-morals Dieux du Stade sporno calendars bought by gay men, straight women -- and gay men again.
However, many gays themselves have been re-fetishing body hair lately, to the point where hirsuteness is now apparently akin to gay godliness. I can already hear hundreds of them complaining about what a crime against humanity those Marines' and rugby players' smooth chests are -- how they like their men to be men. In fact, quite a few gay men these days seem to want to present themselves as the hairy, beer-monster, real-men rugger buggers of yesteryear, the ones who used to chase them down the street.
I still remember the horror of my host on a visit to L.A. a few years back when he saw me apply a Bic razor to my chest. "What are you doing?!" he exclaimed. "No gay man in this town shaves his chest anymore!"
But as a hopelessly unhip fan of smooth, classical muscle myself, I'm praying that this is one gay trend that straight men don't get around to copying.