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Press : The Psychology of Manscaping

03 Jun, 2010
By Sarah Baron

Manscaping – Part 4

So, we’re still talking about manscaping.   Why? Because after all of my research into manscaping, I was left with one nagging question.  If a guy manscapes, what does that say about him?  What kind of statement does it make?  Is it a reflection of him, as is his wardrobe or his car?  I mean, if you come across a man who shaves his chest or his legs or down below, is that a big red flag?  A warning signal? Is that a signal that he’s got one thing on his mind? Or that he is a neat freak? Or, is it something deeper? So, as usual, I did some more research. I have spent HOURS on this post, because after all of that research, I’m just as confused as when I started.  Why? I cannot get a straight answer on this one. I think the best thing to do is to walk you through the research process and then see if you come to the same conclusion.  (Parts 1-3 can be found here .)

Before we start, they say that when you are stumped, make sure you write with a point of view.  Therefore, let me tell you where I started.  I thought that the whole concept of manscaping was, frankly, weird.  Why mess with a good man, after all?  I’m in my early 40s, and I’ve been married for a long time, and it all seems like a lot of fuss and nonsense (well, maybe not after looking at that picture)… Okay, back to the beginning…

First things first. I eliminated two kinds of manscaping from the research, because they make logical sense to me.  Those two types are athletes like swimmers and those who trim to escape the heat (a category brought up by more than one reader in their comments ).  Those I consider both practical means of comfort. I get those guys.  Comfort and competitive edge.

Gilette’s Take

Then I did online research.  I didn’t come up with specific answers to my questions.  No one seems to have an answer, so next, I looked for some “experts” in male grooming and I did find a few. Here are their answers to my questions:

Remington style expert Jay Anthony Valadez kindly answered some of my questions. (My questions are italicized.)

What does it mean if a guy manscapes – his arms, legs, chest, below?

“There are several reasons a person manscapes first and probably number one reason is self appearance. Realizing that a little clean up can go a long way.”

Should this signal anything about his personality to a woman?  Is he vain, fastidious, both, or does it mean he just wants to get into bed?

“Vain is an overly bold statement. I feel that if a person manscapes it is more so showing confidence within and the caring of personal appearance..”

Also, does the trend of guys manscaping decrease if they are married?  If they are married for over 10 years?

“Hard to say being that it is a personal choice and most likely will continue married or not. I would not call manscaping a trend.  It has been going on for years it is just now getting recognized as acceptable and more mainstream. It is definitely not a fad  and is here to stay.”

If a guy does not manscape and he is pretty traditional – 40+, what does that say about him?  Is he confident enough not to?

“Nothing more than manscaping is a mindset and being age of 40 and over he is less likely to start or change his ways. I do not believe it is a case of confidence. It is more of the mindset – if it’s not broke don’t bother.”

Okay, that makes sense to me.  It’s a newer trend that I missed because I married before it became mainstream.  It shows a guy really takes care of himself and sees grooming below the neck as a way to look better.

Narcissism?

Here’s another perspective. Sam Vaknin, author of “ Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited ,” explains that “Manscaping is a form of ‘making love to oneself.’ By sculpting one’s body, one becomes one’s own object of desire and the source of one’s gratification.”  In his view, “Manscaping seems to be a manifestation of somatic narcissism,” which he defines as someone who “flaunts his sexual conquests, parades his possessions, exhibits his muscles, brags about his physical aesthetics or sexual prowess or exploits, is often a health freak and a hypochondriac.”

Hmmm….  interesting, but that seems to be one explanation and to me, it just feels like it doesn’t capture the whole picture. It certainly takes Mr. Valadez’s explanation to what could be construed as an extreme.  Or is it?

From the Field

Next, I received an interesting response from Reny Ryan, owner of a spa that waxes men and women and author of the blog wax confessions . She’s curious like me and she asks her male clients why they manscape, specifically below they waist.  Here’s who she sees and why they come in.  ”Everybody has their own reasons for doing it.  My body builder clients, as well as the bouncers do it in order to show off their muscle definition.  Also, for the tattooed body, getting rid of the hair will make the tattoos/designs more visible. Others wax their back and/or chest before going on a trip to the beach – some of them told me that women hate hairy guys walking shirtless on the beach and they all said they get more attention afterwards.  My cross dressers and gays do it for obvious reasons.  Many will do it to please their partners but the big majority do it just because of the smooth/hygienic feeling and for the clean look. The swimmers find that waxing lasts longer than shaving (very true) and having that peace of mind during practice or cometition helps them focus.
Nowadays I have more requests for the ‘boyzilian’ (removal of the hair in the entire male pubic area) than for any other body part.  It just seems that little by little men do not want to be left behind in this hair removal race (Brazilian).  Few of the guys told me that: since my girlfriend did the Brazilian for me, I felt like reciprocating the gesture and we are both closer and happier.  But the main reason guys do the boyzilian (I’ve gotten the same response from all of them)  is the fact that by having all the hair removed from their pubic area, their penises look longer  (read my blog about the giraffe’s neck factor in my website). Men from all ages are adventuring into the boyzilian with my youngest being 16 and my oldest is 68.”  She finishes with, “As I always say: the Brazilian (in this case the boyzilian)  not only boosts your self esteem, it boosts your sex esteem as well.”

Are you confused yet?  Because I am. We have practical, showing off muscles (all of them), narcissist, men who want a boost of their “sex esteem” and many reasons in between.

The Image Manscaping Represents

Finally, I received this answer about manscaping from  Erika Chloe, CEO of   My Image Expert: Image and Fashion Consulting firm .

“Just to be clear, the term manscaping refers to men grooming the hair below the waist. If you are a woman dating a man that has made the conscious decision to groom his genitals then you should be relieved.  It can be an uncomfortable conversation that you should be thankful to avoid entirely out of respect for the male ego. However, you can tell a lot about a man’s sexual behavior based on the means and efforts in which he has decided to present his package.  If your man has decided to manscape by means of a trimmer, that says he has put some extra thought into his overall cleanliness with consideration to the fact that his significant other would appreciation his efforts. The hair is not completely removed which means he has some traditional values but is concerned with overall cleanliness and your comfort.  If your man has completely removed all of the hair on his genitals by shaving with a razor this means he may have been trying something new. Manscaping with a razor can be extremely uncomfortable for both him and you when the hair grows back in.  He may be trying to impress you by opting for something new.  Any man that  has shaved with a razor for the sake of manscaping, knows the severe discomfort that comes along with it.  Therefore, they are dying breed.  If your man is a waxer, be aware! Men usually pick this budding trend up from pornographic films.   A waxed manscaper tends to have a promiscuous lifestyle or could be obsessed with his own body.  He is negligent, conceited, and may be a taker instead of a giver in the bedroom.  Ultimately,  it is always a good idea to talk shop and bring up the issue to find out what your man likes before plunging into a sexual relationship..  Women have been landscaping the property far longer than men and its easier for her to bring it up in a casual conversation.  This will also help her understand what he likes and in return, he should ask you the same question.  This will help you to help him and also allow you to avoid a hairy situation.”

Interesting…  Who knew that the WAY a man grooms tells a lot about his personality?

See why I’m ready to pull my hair out on this one?  (Bad pun, but it’s how I feel.) The answer you get just depends on who is giving the response and what resonates with you…

Here’s my conclusion.  If a man grooms himself below the neck, it can mean anything from him being a well-groomed, conscientious kind of guy all the way to be an insecure sex-crazed narcissist who wants to show off all of his muscles and tattoos – to everything in between.  And guess what?  In my book, that’s no real conclusion at all.

Men groom for different reasons.  The best thing to do is to ask them why and how and then figure out what that means about them in terms of self-care.  If a guy looks like the one in the picture above, what does it mean that his chest is sculpted and shaven clean? That’s a question for you to consider.

And guys?  Do what makes you feel comfortable and discuss your options with your other. As I believe, you are who you are and should be accepted as you… A good woman will look at the whole of you, flaws, perfections, hairy, hairless, and all…

If you have an opinion on how to make sense of all of this, please do share.
 
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