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8 January 2008updated 05 Oct 2023 8:22am

Send me your beauty products

Herring ponders the possibilities of a hairless new year

By Richard Herring

Whilst dicking around on Facebook (yeah, how cool am I? I’m not hanging around on the New Statesman site like you middle-aged losers, I am down wid the kids – oh yeah), I chanced across a small link about a male body grooming product. Having nothing better to do (you know it was either this or do some work) and slightly intrigued by the existence of such an item, I clicked on it to discover this slightly coy advert.

Surely it hasn’t come to this! Surely men aren’t going to be encouraged and expected to get rid of or manage their body hair. It’s a step too far in the ever expanding beauty industry. And I can’t really see it taking off amongst the vast majority of blokes. Yet I would have said that five years ago about moisturiser. And look at me now. Cream all over my face and body.

Is shaving off the hair around my peach and kiwi fruits going to be my daily routine in the 2010s? Has the world gone mad?

The actor involved does quite a good job in the difficult part and it’s very nearly amusing, yet if you click around on the other parts of the site you will see that even the people behind the product are aware that they are facing an uphill battle and clutching at curls, arguing that shaving off hair can help with odour problems and make you more aerodynamic when you are swimming (which might be true of top athletes, where a hundredth of a second might make a difference, but for the rest of us, surely our hair is not slowing us down too much – with the possible exception of man-bear, Robin Williams, who I imagine acts like his own anchor).

So they are forced to attempt to appeal to men’s baser instincts, suggesting that shaving one’s nether regions may encourage ladies to indulge in an act that cannot be described on a family website, but which might be described as teabagging. It also might add an “optical inch” to your spam javelin.

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As the reader (there was just one – hello) of the excellent book “Talking Cock” will know, by trimming the hair around the base of the penis one can give the illusion that it is bigger. Viewers of pornographic films, so I am told, will notice lots of the male actors have strange cropped pubes, which tend to make one thing (I imagine) not “What a massive penis!” but rather “What’s going on with that man’s short and curlies?”

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An optical inch is all very well if you yourself are concerned about your penis length (and if more of you had bought my fucking book then you would know there is not really any need to be), but it’s not really going to impress anyone else. Because basically when a penis is in use it can not really be seen, so having an optical inch isn’t much use. You can’t say to your partner “Why aren’t you enjoying this more? I have an extra optical inch since the last time we did this!”

So will the grooming industry succeed in making men as self-conscious about their body hair as they have with women? I remember a time two decades ago when, if I was lucky enough to see a lady without pants on (usually in a magazine found under a bush in the woods), when we saw a lady’s nether regions they were resplendent with pubic hair, as nature intended.

And yet within a few short years fashions have totally changed and anything more than a tiny wisp of hair is quite an unusual discovery. And a hairy female armpit is now extinct, outside of certain hippy communes, whereas I would imagine that fifty years ago no one gave a fuck about this irrelevance, having better things to worry about.

But it’s a bigger ask to convince men that they shouldn’t be hairy, I think. I can see why you might be able to make women think that hair is unfeminine (I disagree with this incidentally and think it’s a pity that hair is a source of shame for many women), but having successfully made that lie accepted it will surely take bullshit of the highest order to make men believe that it is also unmasculine.

But advertisers and PR people and constant digging away at sexual insecurities may well succeed and shaving my crack in the shower might become part of my daily routine. In fact if any body grooming product manufacturers want to send me their products I will road test them for the New Statesmen website (which might be a first for this august publication). But only because I am concerned about the time it takes me swim 1000 metres and not because I am interested in optical inches or getting hairs in with my teabags.