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, which was further endorsed in the next decade by the hit TV show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
Similarly, Gabriel Santos-Rocha, a 31-year-old model manager, stopped depilating roughly eight years ago, in his early 20s.
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“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.
The response to his furry physique has been positive.
“I’ve never noticed anyone not liking my body hair,” he said.
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.”
Bess cited Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac — with his unbuttoned shirts and thatch of chest hair — as a prototype, adding that the preened look seems dated.
“It gets a little too perfect, too mannequin-looking,” Bess said.
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.”
“There are different ways to connect to your organic masculinity,” Oldstone-Moore said. “Hair is one way to do it.”
An unkempt body is a perhaps unforeseen corollary of the lumberjack look that has long since peaked in certain Brooklyn circles. Even the brand 2(x)ist, known for its sleekly textured models, has opted to show its underwear on the hairy frame of Nyle DiMarco, a recent winner of “America’s Next Top Model.”
Tom Speight, the brand’s president, 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.”