What happened to hairy-chested men?

Published 8:53 am Monday, April 30, 2012

Column: Something About Nothing

I was shocked the other day as I was watching some DVDs of the old episodes of “Guiding Light.”

“Guiding Light” was my favorite soap opera of all time. I was an avid viewer especially after the advent of recording equipment, so I never had to miss any of the episodes while I was working.

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I was enjoying my program when all of sudden they zeroed in on this hairy chest of one of the male actors on the show. Yes, in the 1980s hairy chests were in. I am so used to the “Dancing with the Stars” bare-chested, hairless, spray-tanned men that the sight of a hairy chest on TV made me blink for a few minutes. I started asking myself why I was shocked by this hairy-chested man.

I was shocked because most of the men on television and movies are bare-chested, or should I say no-hair-chested. And most of them are spray tanned or possibly tanning booth tanned. I don’t see too many real life men walking around without their shirts so I don’t know if the majority of real life men are hairy or hairless.

The hairy chest in my 1980s soap was also very white, instead of tanned, and not as muscled as the guys on TV today. I suspect weightlifting and fitness was not as popular either in the 1980s unless you were Jane Fonda.

I was curious when women started shaving their legs and armpits. It is said women started shaving their legs when shorter dresses came into style in the early 20th century. It is said that shaving underarms came into style after a Harper’s Bazaar ad in 1915 called The Great Underarm Campaign. Western culture embraced these practices more readily than other cultures. Wikipedia states the underarm campaign came first and then the leg campaign. Advertising made us aware of the problem woman were having with too much hair.

Steadyhealth.com in an article written in March 2007 states that women like men without body hair; however, flab is more visible without body hair. I guess I don’t see too many flabby, hairless, bare-chested, tanned men on the programs I watch today.

This may seem like a silly discussion, but I am so amazed at the tiny things that change and get introduced to us little by little by the media, by society and by life. I am sure the first few times I saw movies of no-hair-chested men I was taken by surprise and probably thought it was weird.

Now I am surprised when I see hair. Little by little, after being introduced to the changes, I didn’t even notice that the way I feel about something was changed and acceptance had set in.

I remember the first time I watched “All in the Family” or “Laugh-In” and was shocked by some of the behavior and language. I remember being shocked by swear words on TV and in the movies. I remember being shocked the first time I saw naked people in scenes, and now I realize I don’t think about it much. It is such a part of the norm today that what was once risqué is no longer shocking.

Gradual acceptance isn’t always a bad thing. I remember growing up with a dad who was a Protestant and a mom who was a Catholic. I was Catholic, but it was then a sin to go to church with my father. I never understood that. I feel I missed out by never being able to go to church with my dad. Now it would be OK. In my youth it was abnormal and now it would be a normal part of life to share church services with other religions. I consider that to be good progress.

As I sit back and think about all the changes in morality, relationships, media and our lives, I wonder what the future holds for my grandchildren. Where will the gradual, tiny changes that we do not realize are being introduced to our lives take us?

What will shock my grandchildren when they get to be my age? What will they accept and take for granted unknowingly because it has been introduced to them little by little so they don’t notice their values and their thoughts changing?


“Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own.” — Jean Toomer

“Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable.” — Denis Waitle


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at thecolumn@bevcomm.net.