Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hair's Looking At You

Even some of us chicks “of a certain age” find that the imagery generated by the words “she ran her fingers through the luxuriant pelt of thick dark hair curling over the rippling planes of his powerful chest” at best runs toward the atavistic and, at times, invites a slight rising of the gorge -- even for we old school devotees of the manly-man hero.

Even so, today I’m writing in praise of pelted pecs, since I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hirsute heroes. Which is to say, I’d like to beg the question:

Where has all the chest hair gone?

I mention chicks “of a certain age,” cause I think – and may once or twice have been accused of over thinking – that the phenomenon of the all-but-disappeared chest fur on romance novel cover guys can be directly correlated with the rise of Menudo.

See, back in the 70s, savvy marketing guys – no strangers to chest hair they, since there was so much of it tangled up in the 24k gold Italian good-luck horns and zodiac medallions swinging round their necks, glinting lasciviously from their double-knit leisure-suited collars – figured out that pre-pubescent and adolescent girls were intimidated by young men with hair anywhere other than blown dry and feathered back from their earnest unlined foreheads.

So, from that time hence, girls' fantasies mostly were spun round "Tiger
Beat" pin-ups and baby-bum smooth chest skin of the teeny-bop pretty-boys offered them. And, really, I'm not sure I have a ton of trouble with that, if it gives girls a fun, safe little sexy-teen fantasy, what the heck -- as long as she's getting some good real safe-sex advice, too.

Forward fast to the new crop of 21st Century reader/consumers, and we've got chicks who're titillated by smooth-skinned definition, living in a society influenced by the health-and-exercise industry (influenced by competitive athletics that encourage or are enhanced by depilation), who buy books lidded w/images presented by talented art directors from a fine arts
world influenced by the beauty of homo-eroticism, and you've got...ta-da!...romance covers with headless male torsos sans man-thatch.

Or at least that's the way I over-analyze the psychographics of the thing. As always, my writing comes with the caveat: I could be wrong.

But I'm usually pretty right-on-time when it comes to strong-arming cool people and great authors into GuestBlogging for you, and this month I've got a few, one of whom has a new book out, the cover of which, above, inspired today's post.

-Suz Brockmann's here this Friday the 13th (woo-wooooo) to mix it up re tour de force "Dark of Night!"
-Super Cool, Feb 18: Group GuestBlog with Virginia Henley, Sally MacKenzie, and Victoria Dahl, Kristi Astor (aka, Bella fave Kristina Cook, who put this super "Lords of Desire" event together for us!)
-Kate Pearce, Feb 20: "Riding the Line," sexy new erom with all-American, hot hero who's got a mouth on him, girl...

Chest hair: For it or agin' it in real life and on covers?
Who'd you like to GuestBlog here at RBTB?
Encore! Tanya Hanson and Laurie, you've won prizes from Annette Blair's GuestBlog last Friday! Write me at mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com to claim your prizes.
Sign up in the sidebar for the NEW RBTB newsletter by 2.28 for a chance 2 win a $25 Borders card!
Authors: Wanna be a FOB? Link RBTB from your site/blog and send me your url @ mbuonfiglio@rbthebook.com. I'll link you up on the Friends of Bellas page!If you sent me your url in the past and don't see it here, I apologize! Please do send it again so I can make you a FOB.


Kristen Painter said...

I do not dig excessive chest hair, in real life or otherwise.

Madelynne Ellis said...

I'm all for a mix of the ol' chest hair. Sometimes I'm all for them nude, and sometimes I like something you can run your fingers through.

There you go, my total non-committalness!

Interestingly, my word verfication thingy is Ai Nest! LOL

Unknown said...

Love this post. :) I am for chest hair, i want to run my fingers through it. but please god do not let it over run on to the back, I cannot handle that. It should be on the chest and then taper down into a line showing your the way to the good stuff. heheehe we all like to get to the good stuff.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas! I'm kinda with both of you! Kristin, your 'excessive' is key; a little manscaping goes a long way. And why should guys be exempt from fighting the hair fight, anyways, you know? And Madelynne, the only thing I don't like is when the cover model looks like his waxing is growing out. ouch.

You know, it's interesting the comments I'm just finding on my facebook post about this. I'm totally interested in the age differential between women who dig the fur or hate it.

For me, I HATE the idea of men having to feel like they should get rid of what's natural. In the same way I hate that so many women now feel they have to do major bikini wax jobs and grooming to be attractive or sexy or sometimes even to think they're hygienic.

That's all about someone marketing to women (and I wonder, too, if women think about how much the adult-film industry has to do with influencing the waxing craze),and I hate that men have to be experiencing that, too. Good grooming's one thing, slaving to hair-removal fashion is another.

But maybe my feeling like an advocate about the thing has to do with being an Italian woman, too. :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I've got to agree with you, sarabelle!!! I think chest hair (on men) is pretty sensual.:)

I feel terrible for guys who have to fight the back hair thing. What a pain. It must be pretty embarrassing for them.

And I love when you write: we all like to get to the good stuff. :)

Stacy~ said...

I agree with Sarabelle - I like chest hair but not an overabundance. I find it very sexy and masculine, but not so much so that it covers his back and makes him look too much like a gorilla.

Michelle, like you, I hate all the grooming men (and women for that matter) seem to be doing these days - the manicures and facials, etc. I have never been much of a fan of the metrosexual guy who's so polished and almost feminine. I like the callouses on their fingers and the naturally tousled look, not the one that looks like it took an hour in the salon to achieve.

Manda Collins said...

Count me in as liking a manly mix (I guess that's sort of like wintery mix but with chest hair...)not too much, and not too little. Enough to run my fingers through, not enough to braid.

Ugh and I do NOT like the overgroomed look that's taking over these days. When I see a man who shaves his arms, I know he is not the man for me.

Good point, Michelle, about how the adult film industry has affected grooming in the US.

Portia Da Costa said...

I used to be all about men with super smooth chests, whether naturally so, or waxed or whatever.

Nowadays, I'm quite partial to slightly hairy chests. Not orang-utang hairy, just a nice manly little pelt on a husky masculine chest.

I'm divided on the grooming issue. I like normal everyday men who are clean and well turned out, but not finicky, but I also - in fantasy - like exquisitely turned out metrosexuals too.

Ack, face it, I just like all sorts of blokes!

Unknown said...

I have to admit, when I first got the cover for 'Riding the Line' I spent quite a while staring at it wondering what it was that was different-then I realized the guy had chest hair! And I kind of liked it-he looks like what he is, a real man LOL

This much chest hair is fine for me-I actually quite like it. Too much is a turn off-you know the kind that erupts from the neck of a guys shirt goes down his back and over his shoulders-too much.

I'm not a fan of the over-waxed de-manified man myself. I love a bit of stubble too :)

azteclady said...

I'm for chest hair--just look at Pierce Brosnan, and I will rest my case.

On the other hand, back hair? No thank you (and I was married to a man with patches of hair on his upper back--not sexy in any way shape or form, sorry) So in that case, a bit of help in the form of waxing would work for me.

As far as women fighting the hair fight (love the phrase, by the way) I think it should be a personal choice always.

Sela Carsen said...

Young Sean Connery, yes.
Pierce at any age, yes.
Robin Williams, NO!

I love chest hair, but not chest mops. It's incredibly masculine.

Lis said...

I'm firmly on the side of love a little chest hair going down the treasure trail to get to the good stuff. Also don't like the hairy ape look, but guess some guys can't help it if they're born that way. And it's always the ones who could use a little "manscaping" that don't get it!
Marketing influences so much of what we do/see/buy/wear/eat, etc. But good grooming should trump all - if you're not clean (or at least started out that way before you went to your job where you got all grody, and are willing to clean up afterwards), you're just not sexy!

Anonymous said...

A quick comment from the male perspective...
Having thick chest hair can make a guy feek like he's carrying another layer of clothing. It ads bulk, and that's the last thing many of us want to experience.
I realize chest hair is natural. But I get nervous with the "teen wolf" look, you know, when a thick bushy tuft of hair pushes its way through the top part of your shirt. For me, not good.

Stacy~ said...

LOL Dave. It's like a Gremlin or something growing out of the top of your shirt. Definitely not good.

Tiona said...

Hey, Bellas! Loving the subject today. Yes, too much chest hair is definately ICK! Love the guys perspective on that, too, hehe. Thanks! Yeah, I once saw this man with hair on his shoulders. Big YUCK!
A little, though, can be very sexy. Just enough to run your fingertips through, hehe. All the models that are perfectly chest hairless is a little too unbelievable, no matter how yummy they look, hehe.

orannia said...

I agree in part with Stacy. I don't like the groomed look - tousled definitely. However, when it comes to chest hair (and facial hair) I'm not really a fan. Then again, I suppose I won't know until I know :)

Ohhh, and as for guest bloggers - Nalini Singh definitely! Am so looking forward to meeting Suzanne Brockman. I'm currently reading The Defiant Hero and loving it :)

PS Congrats to Tanya Hanson and Laurie :)

Kati said...

You know, the thing about chest hair, is if there's an abundance of it on the front of him...there's an abundance on his back too. And well, EWWWW. You know?

I don't mind some chest hair, but I don't like a rug. Like say, Robin Williams or Alec Baldwin, who I think of as two of the hairiest men in Hollywood.

Michelle, RBTB wish list of author visits?
*Lisa Kleypas (duh, of course)
*Carolyn Jewel
*Colleen Gleason (Gardella ends in March *sob*)
*Nalini Singh
*Jill Shalvis (have you read Instant Attraction? RAWR!)
*Joanna Bourne
*Judith James (did you read Broken Wing? It was amazing!)
*Kristan Higgins (LOVED her newest rom/com)

That's all I can think of, but I'm sure everyone else has lots of suggestions too!

Jessa Slade said...

Manscaping... Hee hee. When my editor said I could send it ideas for cover art, I begged only for NO SHINY CHEST! I told her my hero fights demons, he has testosterone, damn it, and he doesn't have time to wax. So, fingers crossed that we aren't blinded by the Armor-All gleam.

I think Kate's cover artist did a fine job depicting sexy without being simian.

Estella said...

I'm all for a lightly haired chest.
I think no chest hair at all makes a man look wimpy----guess I'm showing my age.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, how nice to have the male perspective!

Jessa, isn't it funny that we have to remind each other that heroes have testosterone and, therefore, probably some body hair? I mean, unless they're hairless for a reason, like the BDB. Um, the guys are hairless, too, right?

You know, guys who don't have much hair probably have their own issues about that, too. At least some of them do. Of course, there always are folks in the 'I love hair" camp who reallllllly love a lot of hair. A John Waters film comes to mind, but I can't remember the title.

Ah, lis, 'good grooming trumps all.' Words to live by. Followed by the willing to get dirty/cleaned up after. Those kind of define real man for me.

Azteclady, I'm pro waxing for guys if it makes them feel better about themselves, too. And I'm for their all having to wax everything once if it gets them over their obsession with brazilian waxes. Ocassionaly? OK. Habitually? Creepy-bordering-on-pedophiliac. imo.

Virginia Kantra said...

See, all Portia has to write is, "just a nice manly little pelt on a husky masculine chest" and I'm so there.

That said, I've written heroes both ways. I wouldn't go all hairy or all smooth any more than I'd make them all dark or all tawny (though I do tend toward dark with chest hair in fiction and in real life).

FWIW, when I was writing for Harlequin, my editor told me chest hair is a bitch to paint. And in these days of mostly photographed covers, many models find more work if they're smooth. (Can you imagine the difficulties photoshopping in the chest hair? Yikes!)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

estella, we're just showing our lust is all. :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Thanks for the 'insider' perspective on the pec pelt, Virginia! We'll look forward to your visiting May 11.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Kate P, it took me a sec to catch on to the cover too. Then I was all, like, well howdy-do, cowboy!

Unknown said...

Well I fall into the norm like everyone else. I like a little bit of hair or even hairless works but I’m not that into the whole gorilla look.

I like the male POV, I would never have thought about it being uncomfortable for a male to have a lot of chest hair. But really it makes sense.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Stace, I don't think I'll ever get that 'gremlin' imagery out of my mind. thanks for that.

ev said...

I like my men with some chest hair. Not enough for a bird to hide in but enough for me to run my fingers thru it and twist it around if I want to. and then that nice little line down to the buried treasure.

Back and butt hair are gross. So's ear and nose hair. LOL

Anonymous said...

A little chest hair is good, but let's don't let it get out of hand. Of course if a man shaves his chest and doesn't keep at it, then you have to deal with the stubble and that's a real bitch when he's rubbing up against you. Add in chin stubble and you're one big patch of beard burn.

Jane said...

I like a smooth chest. I also don't mind a light patch of chest hair, but I do not like a super hairy chest or back. I, too, have read male grooming is being influenced by the porn industry.

Anonymous said...

I have to join Kati and would like to see Lisa Kleypas as a GuestBlog soon. Any chance of another sneak peek of Smooth Talking Stranger or Tempt Me at Twilight? Sorry to greedy.:-)

Also would love to see

Linda Howard
Joanna Bourne
Jennifer Crusie
Kresley Cole
JR Ward
Sabrina Jeffries
Carla Kelly

As for chest hair, I have to agree less is best, like the smooth look on the covers.:-)