Out in the Open

Three men talk about hair, masculinity and the stereotype of the hairy 'manly man'

A look at three men’s relationships to hair and masculinity
Jared Nicholls, Koji Steven Sakai and Evan Munday (Courtesy of Jared Nicolls, Koji Steven Sakai and Evan Munday)

Having body hair is loaded with social judgement for women. For men, it's a sign of traditional masculinity that is still alive and kicking. These days, more and more men are trimming or completely getting rid of their body hair but for some guys, not having that choice is a big influence on how they feel as men.

Take it from Homer Simpson:

Comedy aside, Evan Munday started going bald when he was around 26-years-old. He tried to hide his impending baldness, but after seeing a man with similar balding patterns on the subway who had spray-on-hair dripping down his face, Evan knew he didn't want to go that far to hide his hairless head.

"I think people just feel that being bald is still this kind of thing that men are self-conscious about," says Evan, "and to be honest I was for a while, and I think it's a bit jarring when the person you see in the mirror doesn't match the person you see in your head...I think I actually had less self esteem when I was trying to cope with it rather than when I just embraced it and shaved it all off."

As a kid, Koji Steven Sakai was already dealing with the stereotype that Asian men are emasculated and his lack of body hair didn't help. He recalls being on one date where a woman told him it was "like dating a little boy."

"I desperately wanted hair all over my body. A lot of people equated this idea of having hair with masculinity and I wanted to be seen as a man, as being tough," Koji says. So, he tried shaving everyday in hopes that his facial hair would grow in fuller and stronger and he would one day be able to grow a great beard.

Koji is now married and has a young son. He doesn't worry as much as he used to about the amount of hair on his body and how it relates to his masculinity. Now, he's more concerned about his child. "I would like my son not to have to worry. I think it's important for him to like himself and to be OK with whatever his body looks like.

Jared Nicholls, who has alopecia universalis, has had to go on a "journey" to overcome the fact that he will never fit the stereotype of the "manliest men" with big beards, chest hair and hairy legs.

"It sucks some days," says Jarred. "I'm not going to look like one of those 'manly men', so I need to show that I am equally as masculine as them, whether it's the way I talk, whether its the way I dress, whether its the way I convey myself."