For many years I’ve had a bit of a hangup about my hairy back and shoulders. A hairy chest is regarded as sexy and masculine, but I’ve often heard hairy backs referred to as unattractive and undesirable. In fact, in some people, they prompt a look of sheer disgust.
You rarely see models with hair all over their body, or furry muscled hunks advertising swimming trunks or underwear. This is despite the fact if you’re very hairy on the front, it’s likely you’ll also have some hair on the back.
It’s not uncommon for gay men to have hangups about their appearance, and over the years, I’ve turned to a variety of methods to tackle what I viewed as a “problem”.
Waxing left me breaking out into deep spots (surely not attractive to anyone). Depilatory creams work but trying to do one’s back is a challenge. In the end, I usually ended up getting roommates to clipper my back and shoulders.
This is even though no lover expressed criticism of my body hair. On the contrary, one or two said they’d prefer it if I left it untouched.
“I don’t think you should shave your shoulders. It looks a bit weird,” said one, diplomatically. It fell on deaf ears.
Maybe it’s partly to do with age, but a turning point came in the last year. Instagram is routinely blamed for fueling our physical insecurities, but sometimes it can also promote body positivity and challenge preconceptions of what’s considered attractive. I noticed how hairy the back and shoulders were of one particular hunk I follow: How blissfully unashamed or unbothered he appeared by his hairiness.
“You’re gorgeous,” I thought. “And your hairiness is a part of that.”
I resolved then and there to stop clipping my back hair.
At first, it felt a little strange to see this slightly different image in the mirror, and the hazy aura of fuzz around my shoulders. Then I got used to it, and it simply stopped bothering me. It doesn’t appear to put off any sex partners. It simply just feels like another part of me.
I began to take note of other hairy guys on Instagram who appear to have no hang-ups about their furriness. I reached out to a few—way furrier than myself—to ask them about their fuzz.
Adam, 51, is an Australian now living in Switzerland, who is known as @Firebreatherbear on Instagram.
“When I was in my late teens and until my mid 20’s, I didn’t really like my hair. It was the early nineties and smooth bodies were very much the thing. I did shave it off once but it didn’t really go smooth. I tried waxing it once as well but, I honestly could not take the pain.
“Looking back on it now, I feel that peer pressure could have been a reason, I tried this. When you’re younger, the need to be part of a group is very strong. Later in life, I did work out that I was just trying to fit in with the wrong group.
In his mid-20s, Adam realized that his hairiness was attractive to others.
“Around the age of 25, I started to hang around leather bars and found the bear community. My hairy body did open a lot of doors to me. But even when I felt accepted by my community of choice. I still did feel my body hair was not accepted by the larger gay community and straight world.
“I do remember taking my shirt off at a bear event for the first time and that’s is when I felt that men found the fur attractive. These days I am 100% natural. I do a little manscaping but mostly to show off my tattoos better. My fur is a major part of my life. It has opened doors to bear modeling, adult movie work, and I now love the attention it gets. It is part of me.”
Does he have any advice for other gay men struggling to love their bodies?
“I think body image for anyone is a hard thing. I think what finally taught me to accept my body and love it, was the realization that it is me. It’s not going anywhere. My fur, my greying hair, are what make me unique. The things that make us unique are what make men sexy. Having a husband who finds my hair sexy, also helps. As gay men, we need to tell each other more that uniqueness is sexy.
“My fur/hair has always been my calling card to the world I wanted to be in. I’m a proud hairy man, who just wants to show the world that uniqueness is what we should be celebrating.”
Kahan (@i.am.claxtoka), 45, lives in Toronto, Canada.
“I have always been fascinated by bodybuilders, so when I was younger, I tried different ways of body hair removal including shaving, depilation and full body waxing.”
Was there ever a moment when he realized other guys find his body hair attractive?
“My first foray into showing my body started with the dating app Scruff. There, numerous guys mentioned how much they loved my body hair. That gave me the confidence to start an Instagram page and I have increased my online presence from there.
Nowadays, with his body hair, he says he prefers, “to go natural. So much easier!”
He appreciates that many people have a hard time embracing their looks.
“I believe most people struggle to love their bodies; we are our own worst critics. If you spend anytime online, you see amazing developed physiques everywhere you look. I think realizing that these people are just further along on their physique transformation journey than I was helped me to use those images as motivation instead of feeling worse about myself.”
Hunter Harden, 35, is a podcaster, model, go-go and club host based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“I’ve always been furry. My whole body has very thick peach fuzz and I ended up with a very hairy butt right after middle school and my body hair started to slowly grow. But my legs, arms, and butt have always been hairy.
“It was very embarrassing for me growing up and I was terrified of people making fun of me for being so hairy. I Naired my butt before and used to trim all of my body hair down every couple of weeks.
“It wasn’t until I went on a gay cruise when I was 22 that I realized my body hair was very erotic to a lot of people. Then I found out my butt hair was perfectly covered in blonde fur and guys would go nuts over it.”
Nowadays, he leaves his body hair in its natural glory.
“I trim my face but the rest of my body hasn’t seen a trimmer or razor in well over 10 years. I do brush my fur out sometimes because it can get out of control.”
What has helped him to embrace his looks?
“I think working out gave me a lot of pride in myself because I set goals and accomplished them. I was always a very skinny kid so building up some muscle was exciting for me and made me love myself more.
“And the Bear community helped me love my body fur. Seeing other guys hairy like myself and getting complimented and guys wanting to ‘pet’ you. It made me feel accepted for my hairy body and not feel so alone.”
David Hudson is a contributing editor at Queerty. Follow him on Twitter at @davidhudson_uk