IT’s one thing for Jude Law to do it. But when bankers at Goldman Sachs in New York (and Russell Brand) start flaunting their “man cleavage” or “he-vage”, it truly is time to become concerned. Throughout the month of August, some Goldman staff were permitted to pay $25 to a designated charity in return for the freedom to embrace “casual Friday”. What resulted was a competitive zoo of open tops revealing pecs and, wait for it, hairless chests.
There are two issues here. One, as we’ve seen with Russell, Jude and co, is the bearing of the chest. Two is the bearing of a totally hair-free chest, courtesy of a shave or wax. One horrified Goldman firm analyst was reported saying: “It’s...ridiculous. Last Friday there were traders on the floor with three buttons of their shirts undone, showing off their pecs and hairless chests.”
Male vanity (the type normally associated with women, that is) has been on the up for a while now. Vests designed to control “moobs” (man boobs) were one of Asda’s best-selling products last year. And this week, the Harley Medical Group released figures saying that the number of men seeking cosmetic surgery rose by 93 per cent this quarter. And let us not forget the recent furore over the news that men are now a substantial market for hair straighteners.
But as men intensify their search for metrosexual perfection, women are faced with a quandary. On one hand, we’re thrilled we no longer have to put up with an average man who is both smelly and poorly dressed. On the other, we are now dealing with men who put us to shame in the grooming stakes. Have men got the wrong end of the stick? Would they be better off with bushy chest hair and a mild smell of BO, or is their new vanity a good thing?
WHEN I was first discovering boys, it was the mid-nineties. The process had its exciting moments but it also came with a lot of unpleasant ones. One of the biggest drawbacks was routine olefactory assault. In other words: boys smelled, and also had zits and flaky bits of skin on their bodies.
When I grew up a bit, I assumed the male offerings would become more appetising. I was, basically, wrong. My first proper boyfriend, though he was a recent graduate, smelled shamelessly of BO, had dreadfully unattended hair, overgrown neck beard, and irregular chest fuzz topped off by a smattering of rogue hairs near his nipples. He had other qualities, but sometimes it was hard to appreciate them.
So I have looked on with great satisfaction as men have first defined the term “metrosexual” and then embraced it via hair removal (back and chest in the main; back, sack ‘n’ crack is no evil either), moisturising, nice jeans, good haircuts and beard maintenance. They look better, smell better and age better. They also reserve judgement on female rituals of self-maintenance, which is handy.
I do have one reservation. It’s not that the Goldman traders have hairless, muscle-tastic chests (tell me what part of that I’m supposed to object to?), it’s that they’re sporting them in those awful low tops. Jude Law is hot. But even he looks like an idiot in a plunging V-neck. Such a cut makes men look slimy and untrustworthy.
Gents, we love your grooming. But leave the cleavage to us.
WHAT could be more off-putting than meeting your man after HE has had a manicure, or even worse, a pedicure? Many people might call me unenlightened, but they are missing the point.
Male grooming has its place: I am a firm believer in the benefit of a spray of a 48-hour long deodorant and even the odd smear of moisturiser to ward off dry skin. But I have my limits. Men should only buy the most basic branded goods and they should cost less than a tenner. There should be no fancy packaging and they should be causally thrown on a shelf or into a sports bag.
So why my Stalin-esque stance on male grooming? It’s two-fold. Firstly, it’s a way to differentiate myself from the male in my life. As someone who spends (too many) hundreds of pounds on face cream, eye contour cream, nail polish and shampoo and conditioner, I don’t want my partner to do the same. I take actual pleasure in perusing the beauty counter at Selfridges, opening layer upon layer of silky, luxurious packaging and giving them pride of place on my bathroom shelf. I don’t have any intention of sharing this pleasure with the man in my life any time soon.
Secondly, I’ve always had a soft spot for the rugged man. First, it was Harrison Ford, then Matt Damon and more recently Xavier Bardem. I just can’t imagine Jason Bourne or Indiana Jones going for a fruit acid peel or using cuticle cream. This means that I could never fancy a guy who would do so. As for the Goldman Sachs bankers with their waxed chests, they would need to pay a lot more than $25 a day to parade them around in my office.