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Committed: Wolverine Wouldn’t Wax

071614_wolvie2As much as I enjoyed the last X-Men film (Days of Future Past), when Wolverine jumped out of bed in the 1970’s, his entirely hairless body came as something of a shock. Naturally I was happy enough to get a look at Wolverine’s bottom (seems fair, we see enough girl-butt in movies), but I found his complete lack of body hair incongruous, to say the least.

Now first of all, the 1970’s was definitely one of the hairiest aesthetics the world has ever seen. Secondly this is Wolverine we’re talking about, a man who’s mutant healing ability causes his bones to knit and skin to heal in front of our eyes. Does it not also ‘cause his waxed back to immediately regrow as well. Thirdly, most adult men simply don’t bother to wax or shave their bodies, particularly not men like Logan.

071614_wolvie1Wolverine suddenly didn’t look like Wolverine, he looked like a pretty actor, all plucked and polished. In a film with so many opportunities to take a viewer out of the delicately constructed suspension of disbelief, it stood out as being particularly jarring. Once I started to look into it, I realized that nearly all current movie superheroes are a victims of this ridiculous hairless aesthetic, whether it is plausible (i.e. it looks like they’re naturally hairless) or not. Somehow, just like the weird movie fallacy of women waking up in full make-up, or falling asleep in underwire bras (both things which, by the way, we really prefer not to do), the depiction of adult men with zero body hair has become a Hollywood norm. At is just as ridiculous looking. Henry Cavill was one of the only natural-looking superheroes in recent popular movies, and ironically he was playing an alien! His very human hair growth served to emphasize his apparent humanity, and to distance himself from his warlike compatriots, and so on that level the inclusion of chest hair was perhaps a savvy choice.

071614_evansAs a character with so many references to his bestial nature, Wolverine should never be hairless, but there are heroes who have Nordic or Asian heritage and so they could feasibly be hairless. Personally I doubt it, since they’re adult men and I’ve never met an adult man with ZERO hair on his body at all, but it’s possible. So let’s assume that maybe Thor or a very blonde Captain America have hairless bodies, fair enough. In most cases though, this is not the case and removing all body hair makes these actors look younger, less like the post-pubescent adults they are depicting, and this seems particularly inappropriate in heroic characters who’re intended to be figures of authority, not children. More to the point, on a practical front, where would these heroes find the time to remove their body hair?

Most of the adult men I know don’t have (and won’t make) the time to shave or wax their entire bodies, even if they wanted to (let alone being willing to put themselves through such discomfort and effort). But do you know who really doesn’t have time to get their body waxed or spend an extra half hour in the shower every day shaving? People with full-time day jobs, and secret night jobs as superheroes. A man with two jobs is hardly going to waste time on hair removal. And then he certainly wouldn’t have time to exfoliate to avoid annoying in-grown hairs (inevitable if you regularly wax or shave). It’s all just too ridiculous.

071614_baneThe outcome of all this is that we’re having our idealized superheroes concepts brought to life by actors who’ve been groomed to look like giant babies. They’re so hairless that they hardly look human, let alone like adult men, and it simply reinforces the idea that the whole concept is fake (which is not what you want when you’re trying to bring a potent story to life on the screen).

From a personal point of view, this week’s column became quite strange to research. I suppose I was relatively ignorant about what is currently “fashionable” for men’s bodies, since I’m not a man and aesthetically speaking it’s all pretty much equal to me. However, as part of my research I needed to find out what constituted a “leading man” physique over the decades, look at when the current preference for hairless actors began, and try to understand why…

071614_wolvieIn ancient Greece idealized male athletes were depicted in hairless marble. In the 1950’s the Hays code deemed Hollywood’s hirsute men to be “a source of moral corruption”. But the current vogue for male hairless bodies probably has less to do with men emulating the ancient marble sculptures of gods, or evoking a lost youth, or aiming for a prepubescent / de-sexualized masculinity, and far more to do with pressure from cosmetic companies looking for a new market to profit from. The social implications of male hair removal are still being investigated  but male grooming is a definitely a growing market  It is disappointing to see superheroes being co-opted to propagate this unnecessary trend. Hair growth is a sign of male maturity. That isn’t to say that all adult men grow body hair, but that when it is removed the implication is that he’s younger and / or less mature. Not only does it make these actors look less realistic, it makes them look like plastic Ken dolls – hardly a symbol of male virility, but instead the ultimate non-threatening, neutered, girl’s toy. What it doesn’t do is “bring superheroes to life”, the very idea behind making superhero movies, and that’s alone makes the entire process pretty ridiculous.

*You’ll have to forgive me for the lack of photos from X-Men: Days of Future Past, but it’s new enough that there aren’t a million photos of Hugh Jackman’s bum on the internet… yet.


Agreed. That is really weird. And if anything, I’d think Johnny Storm would be more likely to be smooth-chested than Cap, because of the whole catching-on-fire thing.

No mention of Henry Cavil in Man of Steel? I was glad that Supes brought back the chest hair.

I think the reason is pretty simple actually. Bodybuilders and fitness models remove their hair because it accentuates their musculature. Even a somewhat fit, lean-but-not-ripped guy can make his physique look more impressive by removing his body hair. This is why when you see those workout program or diet program before-and-after pictures, one of the common things you see is that the “before” picture shows a lot of body hair, but the after picture often shows the guy tanned and hairless in order to better sell the results. It makes sense that men in film and TV would remove their hair because it better shows off their physique and therefore emphasizes their heroic status.

I agree that at least Wolverine should probably be more hairy though.

@buttler – If that was the case, he wouldn’t have eyebrows or hair on his head. It’s all comic book physics.

I love the 1970’s hairy aesthetic. On men, too.

@The Mutt: I see what you did there.

Sonia, great article title.

And I agree.

Agree, I only pity actors working those days in all the movies, it looks especially ridiculous if a movie takes place in ancient Greece, XVI or XIX century etc. I don’t know if there was a time anywhere in the history our world when people waxed to look like kids but it’s a horrible idea and this fad (or if you want you can call it ‘fashion’) like afro, mullets, sideburns will be mocked in the near future.


July 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Wolverine didn’t start that way, per: http://www.dorkly.com/post/60875/hugh-jackman-as-wolverine-then-now

There are multiple reasons to do hair removal on set, including regular makeup, effects makeup, odors, and uniformity on screen, which can itself lead to easier digital editing.

About 30-40 minutes once a week, regular use of a decent shower gel usually helps with exfoliation. Was amazed at how much easier it made swimming feel, even if the extra second or two it saves me is arguably negligible. And honestly, I prefer the look. Chris Evans there definitely looks better to me as Cap there rather than Johnny, and no I don’t think he looks “baby-ish”. Certainly, Wolverine likely wouldn’t (and couldn’t) do so, but then I’ve never cared for the character and find something more appealing about, say, The Silver Surfer. I certainly wouldn’t go about arguing that one was somehow more “manly” than the other as that would be silly, and a trifle bit rude (could perhaps argue that one was more “civil” and less “dirty” than the other but that would also be rather silly).

Body hair is gross and unwanted. I like my men nice and smooth. Personal preferences!

P.S. Sonia, you women are lucky you don’t have chest hair. You actually don’t know how lucky you are to not have that disgusting burden.

Long live body hair! In comics and reality!

The reason for this might be less nefarious than you think. I have a friend who’s a bodybuilder, and he shaves his torso and arms because it’s easier to see the definition in the muscle if there’s no hair in the way. They might be shaving their heroes for the simple reason that they want them to look more muscular in their obligatory nude/topless scenes.

Maybe Wolverine’s body follicles were killed by the adamantium bonding process, and they’d shaved him first because of some science reason.

as a straight bloke, though, I didn’t notice the lack of body hair, I just thought ‘Oh, Christ, more of Hugh’s arse’ in DOFP’s case, in the case of Cap, I was just thinking ‘wow, dude’s ripped’ and in Bane’s case, ‘oh, crap!’

That’s actually a good point. Especially for Wolverine, he is always depicted as hairy in comics.

Actually, I think the lack of body hair might be in large part because it’s believed to look better on camera. With all the HD, its understandable that guys wouldn’t want every follicle projected 30 ft high.

Comics don’t have a good record earlier. I recall though out the 90s male character didn’t even have armpit hair. Even Wolverine.

It might also have to do with the need for superheroes’ musculature to show up on the big screen. Muscles show up better when they aren’t covered with hair, and they can be more easily covered with oil, fake sweat, or makeup to appear ultra-sculpted when filmed in HD. Women with smaller breasts sometimes have airbrushed cleavage; it makes sense that in the quest for the biggest pecs, anything that could obscure the muscles would be removed.

Erm… really?

It’s simply because body hair tends to hide natural musculature. We’re talking (in the case of Cap, as perhaps the best example) of guys known for having superhuman physiques. These are easier to portray without body hair.

Body builders are a prime example. When looking at musculature from an aesthetic point of view, it’s better to do so without hair in the way.

This isn’t some sort of anti-hair fascism thing, or an attempt to infantilise these men. It’s simply because it’s easier to show muscle not guarded by hair.

And I have NO problem with body hair – I have some myself, and I also work out quite a bit… but I did notice the one time I removed my body hair (for a costume) that it was much, much easier to see definition and tone.

As someone of Nordic ancestry, I can assure you that we are not hairless. I have long been puzzled by this growing trend in society to want men to look like women. Shaving swimmers makes sense because it reduces drag, but as a “fashion statement”? No thanks. And I agree that it looks weird on male superheroes – especially ones like Wolverine who have always been hirsute.

Wolverine is all about making sure others know about his musculature. He also wants to look like a sleek and beautiful dolphin.

The number one reason for hairless men in CGI-heavy movies is simply budget – it’s cheaper to digitally manipulate a smooth body in post-production than a hirsute one. You’ve seen photos of Tom Hardy on set as Bane, yeah? He still has his tattoos. Someone had to go in and painstakingly “airbrush” those out, frame by frame, on a big expensive computer (tweaking the musculature a little while they’re at it – sure, he’s already superhumanly ripped in real life, but that doesn’t always come through on film without.a little cartoonish exaggeration). Imagine how much more difficult a task like that would be if the digital artists had to re-draw a bunch of realistic-looking body hair on top of that! Just not practical… yet. Give it a few years, we’ve got some very smart guys working on this problem.

Another movie scandal, not only are comic movies adaptation mostly crap, but you tey can’t even get their heroes hairy (I mean, shaving Chris Evans, who in his right mind can have that idea?).
To ease your pain, you can always visit my modest blog of hairy chested heroes in comics :)

I always thought that Wolverine’s hirsute, like his perma-stubble and the bizarre shape of his hair, was a secondary mutation. So if he ever waxed his body, his healing factor would just grow it all back in minutes, making him permanently a hairy little man.

Since he’s A.) lost his healing factor and B.) is gonna die for a bit in the current comics, I assume Logan’s going to binge on all the pleasures that his immortality denied him, such as drunkenness, tattoos, and yes, waxing.

To the folks commenting on Wolverine’s hirsuteness in the comics, go back and look at those pictures again. THEN, go find a picture of a REAL hirsute adult man–especially one who would be as hairy as Wolverine is supposed to be.

If the PICTURES of Wolverine are to be believed, he must do SOME type of grooming because his body hair seems fairly well-spaced.

And, for what it’s worth, go back and watch Classic Trek. Take a close look at scenes with a shirtless Kirk. You might notice something’s NOT there (and it’s not like Shatner was just “naturally” hairless–his next major project after “Trek”, a show called “The Barbary Coast,” featured plenty of scenes with a hairy-chested Shatner).

But, I’d also point out that most male comic-book characters, when shown shirtless, are drawn smooth-chested–not hairy. So the movies are largely just showing us what we’re used to seeing.

And the scenes that I’ve seen for the upcoming “Hercules” film (with the Ro–I mean, Dwayne Johnson) show a smooth-chested Hercules.

It’s also worth noting that Roman men (back in the toga-wearing days) routinely PLUCKED their body hair. Not surprisingly, it helped keep down on things like lice and fleas..

It’s also a bit of a double standard to expect men to keep body hair that they may not want while women are expected to get rid of every bit of body hair that starts below the eyebrows. I know, from my own experience, if I could manipulate any single gene in my genetic profile, it would be the one regulating body hair. It’s incredibly unfair that, as the hair on the top of my head disappears, I find hair growing in places that I didn’t even know could grow hair.

Jeff Nettleton

July 16, 2014 at 5:46 pm

@Neil Kapit
re: The secret to his and Beast’s hairstyles was revealed in the interior cover of an issue of Classic X-Men. The secret: lot’s of mousse. I wanna say it was Art Adams who did the pin-up (may not have been) but there was an image of Logan and Hank moussing and combing their hair into shape that had me laughing for a good couple of minutes.

Hollywood isn’t alone in the body hair removal, as professional athletes quite often do as well (aside from wrestlers and bodybuilders) The aforementioned muscle definition is a part of it. It seems odd to me (especially in light of the beard obsessions of late), having experienced the 70s, when a hairy chest was considered sexy (though a hairy back was never in your favor). I remember seeing a piece about the original edition of the Joy of Sex, with some illustrations of very hairy participants (they didn’t show the naughty bits, in the article, though).

It’s just another example of Hollywood presenting unattainable bodies. I wonder if Gillette sponsored Days of Future Past.

My girlfriend LOVED Henry Cavill’s barechested scenes in Man Of Steel.
I can’t say I wonder why.

Monique Parent recently RTed this folically-related article on Twitter a few days ago, saying “And re growth pricklies are mighty uncomfortable!”.

If we are being serious, CGI isn’t the main reason for this look.

It’s purely a fashion thing, ala 70s haircuts in Star Wars.

As a hairy dude, I did appreciate Man of Steel, for keeping it real.

I don’t care about this at all in general, but in Wolverine’s specific case it seems like a goof. After all, being hirsute is as much a part of his “vicious, hairy little animal” gig as being exceptionally short. …oh, wait…

Machete don’t wax.

This is wild, I never really thought about body hair on superheroes before.

However, as a kid I ironically drew stubble and body hair on all the male superheroes I drew. I observed the world around me and saw that even clean-shaven men still had some indication of stubble and they’d have arm and leg and chest hair, so I drew that in where applicable. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing that.

In defense of Chris Evans’ Cap, though, his hairlessness is probably a result of the Super Soldier Serum.

Can you REALLY not figure this out? Bodybuilders shave their body hair off so that muscles, tendons and vascularity are shown to best advantage. Superheroes are muscular. Ergo, no body hair in the movies. In the comics, where a large triceps is obvious because it’s drawn in black ink, body hair doesn’t detract from the overall effect. It’s pretty obvious, folks.

Amen, Sonia! Bears for everyone!

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