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Volume 136, Issue 8



Features

From XY to GQ
The Journey from simply male to super-attractive

By Elizabeth Davis

When asked if she prefers men with hairy bodies or smooth bodies, a 31-year-old political science major responded emphatically, "No hair! Body hair is so gross. No body hair is a definite requirement for me, preferably every body part should have no hair, but you can't always get what you want," she said, while shopping for scarves at a kiosk on Ram Plaza Tuesday.

Other women on campus had similar responses.

18-year-old Danielle said she did not like hairy chests, "hairy backs or hairy butts. Hair should only be where it's supposed to be," she finished.

But herein lies the question. Just where is hair 'supposed' to be?

Evolutionary theorists, anthropologists and archaeologists alike have tried to answer the question of why humans lost most of the thick body hair that once covered us.

About 1.2 million years ago, according to evolutionary theorists David Itlis and Stephen Wooding, our hominid ancestors sported thick coats of fur.

But why fur coats of the past were replaced by the relatively smooth skin of today, making humans the only land dwelling mammals without fur, is a question as yet unanswered, though theories on the topic are numerous.

One theory goes that our hominid ancestors departed from their arboreal life-style and moved onto the African savannah about 1.7 million years ago, according to Richard Klein, archaeologist at Stanford University.

This move out of forests and onto the semi-arid savannah exposed early hominids to direct sunlight for long periods of the day.

In order to cope with the savannah heat, certain biological adaptations occurred, including the loss of fur and the development of the thermo-regulatorydevice known as sweating.

Effective sweating, according to Bernard Cambell and James Loy, authors of 'Humankind Emerging', "requires as little hair cover as possible, as it needs air contact (particularly moving air) over the skin in order to remove heated sweat." In other words, hairy people get hotter faster because the heated sweat stays on the skin longer than it does on non-hairy people, therefore hairlessness is a good way to keep cool.

Campbell and Coy go on to say, "heat loss through sweating was an extremely important adaptation in the relatively large-bodied ancestors of humans in the warm climate of Africa."

This theory, however, begs one question.

If sweating is such a productive heat-loss mechanism, why is the African savannah teeming with furry animals? If temperature and thermo-regulation dictate hair loss, why, for instance, haven't the lion and bison lost their fur in favor of skin with sweat glands? The image of a bald lion isn't exactly pleasant, but the question is a valid one.

Another fur-loss theory proposed by Mark Pagel and Walter Bodman says fur loss was a way for our ancestors to rid themselves of ticks, fleas, and blood-sucking lice, which apparently flourished in their fur coats.

Not only was fur a great place for parasites to live, a lack of fur was a great way to advertise a lack of parasites. This, according to Pagel and Bodman, is why hairlessness was sexually selected for and passed down.

In other words, bare skin says "I am bug-free! Mate with me and your kids will be bug free too!"

This theory also leaves some questions unanswered, such as didn't the loss of fur subject the newly exposed skin to countless other stinging insects and

poisonous plants that it was previously protected from by fur?

While theorists, scientists and anthropologists search for the origin of fur loss in our ancestors, modern-day humans grapple with the problem of hair to this day.

Women wax and shave every unwanted strand from their bodies, while a booming industry pumps out hair loss treatments for men: Propecia, Rogaine, Revivogen, HairSoReal and Fabao 101, to name a few.

It seems we want hair in some places, but not in others, like 20-year-old philosophy major Rebecca, who said she prefers a man with a "silky-smooth chest, and long hair on his head."

Hairy men may feel the sting of discrimination after reading this article. As my best friend Colin, a pretty hairy guy said the other night, "Hairy is just how men are!"

Well, according to the article 'Real Men Are Back' by Jane Mulkerins and Roger Dobson, "what women really want is a man with a mat of chest hair planted on a mesomorph, a lithe athlete with broad shoulders and a slim waist."

Researchers from Cambridge University surveyed 700 women age 19-65 to find out what male body-type they found most attractive.

"When body hair spanning the chest area and reaching the naval was added to the image of the mesomorph", said Mulkerins and Dobson, "women were twice as likely to rank it more sexually attractive than they would have without hair."

So hairy guys, don't fret.

The androgynous image of Leonardo Di Caprio appears to be losing ground in favor of guys like Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery in all their hairy glory.

"More magazines are asking specifically for male [models] with chest hair," said Heidi Corkrum of Select Modeling Agency.

Perhaps we are returning to the styles of a few decades ago when Tom Sellick was the uber hunk. Now if we could just get the fashion industry to embrace the natural appearance of a healthy woman.