Is It Okay For Men To Show Chest Hair At Work?
Body hair is political.
Its location, distribution, absence and presence constantly under surveillance and made available for discussion.
You can most certainly have hair on your head and face, but it needs to be carefully curated and still subject to the fashion of the day. Some of you might recall the tweezered to within an inch of their lives eyebrows of the '90s, versus the fully grown, slug-like ones of today. Or the '70s porno moustache, versus the great disheveled bearded hipster vibe of 2017.
But hair on other parts of the body, however, is highly contested.
Pubic, underarm, chest, leg – the average punter is constantly left wondering whether to shave or not to shave?
Hair-gate was brought to my attention again last week, when a friend of mine told me she wasn’t a fan of chest hair in the office environment. A certain other male friend had been exposing a few too many tufts of the stuff on a regular basis in the office confines.
Of course, the statement begs a follow-up question relating to buttons –- is it better to have one open button at the collar or a shirt opened to mid-chest? The latter, indeed, might be a little on the nose, but is the former a misdemeanor of the physical variety or quite simply an open button?
Chest-hair-gate was in full motion and there were many interested parties ready and willing to join the conversation and lend their views. The group was divided.
Some of them thought the old Chewbacca look was not a problem, while others found the presence of the protruding tuft borderline offensive and unprofessional.
The debate struck me instantly as odd -– women’s bodies have been objectified and contested for centuries and yet men’s bodies had always seemed to me as subject to less close inspection, analysis and conversation. Apparently that's an antiquated view.
According to a 2016 study conducted by Dr David Frederick (Assistant Professor of Psychology at Chapman University in California), 6 percent of men are "extremely dissatisfied" with how they look and 15 percent are unhappy with their weight -- a result of said close inspection.
One might ask, when exactly did chest hair become the cause of such epic concern? Hairless chests appear the going currency in male advertising, you really need to only peruse a few men’s health magazine covers for evidence.
But are there rules for different environments? And if so, how does one keep up?
Men’s Health magazine appears to be the authority on such environmental hair rulings. In a 2017 article titled, "How Much Chest Hair Should You Expose?" a series of situational chest hair rules were issued.
It reads a little like a chest-hair manifesto: the general gist, chest hair at the beach (tick), chest hair at the bar (tick -- provided it’s only one button), chest hair in the office (definite no-no).
Cory Fernandez writes: "Even if you don’t mind having some hair peek out of your shirt, know that there is a time and a place for it. If you work a high profile marketing job –- or heck, even if you work waiting tables –- keep things secured under your shirt. Not only can it be distracting, but it can also come across as sloppy and unprofessional. Make the effort to look as polished as possible and keep things buttoned up.”
Official verdict? Methinks open to being challenged!
After all, what type of impact will that singular tuft have on your work performance? Some might hazard to say, virtually none whatsoever. However, when did that ever stop the policing of our bodies in the workplace and beyond?
The age old questions continue, to wax or not to wax? To shave or not to shave? One button, two, or none all?
Over to you.