Shortly after he finished college, Eric Shoemaker, a 34-year-old Los Angeles-based public relations executive, allowed his chest hair to grow out.
“I don’t know if it was my age or becoming comfortable with myself,” he said, “but the thought of getting waxed — which makes your hair follicles bleed and you get ingrown hairs — you have to ask who you’re doing it for.”
Shoemaker’s decision came more than a decade after those touchstone Calvin Klein ads, featuring a smooth-torsoed Mark Wahlberg (then known as Marky Mark), popularized the hairless look.
Similarly, Gabriel Santos-Rocha, a 31-year-old model manager, stopped depilating roughly eight years ago, in his early 20s.
“I thought that the ideal body had no hair,” he said.
But frustration with all the upkeep nudged him back to his natural state.
“I hated dealing with the maintenance and the stubble and the itching that came with it,” Santos-Rocha said. “I’ve never noticed anyone not liking my body hair.”
For a new generation, the overly groomed body appears to be falling out of favor.
“We’re seeing a return to ‘70s fashion,” said Tim Bess, an analyst at the trend forecasting agency the Doneger Group. “The late ‘60s and early ‘70s were about freedom, the hippie movement, having lots of hair.”
Christopher Oldstone-Moore, the author of the 2015 book “Of Beards and Men” and a senior lecturer at Wright State University, in Ohio, said he thinks that an increasingly urban and digitized life has left some men “disconnected from their masculinity.”
Tom Speight, president of fashion label 2(x)ist, said, “We’ve seen everything from man-buns to full beards go mainstream in recent seasons, and we want to reflect that rugged, a tad unpolished, yet approachable look.”
As with most things, it is probably not a bad idea to be wary of extremes.
“I think we’re going to have to walk slowly,” Bess said. “Because if you go too far with it, it can look a little Neanderthal-y.”