Gentleman Scholar

Should a Gentleman Trim His Body Hair?

If it’s gross, yes.

Please send your questions for publication to (Questions may be edited.)

Troy Patterson.
Troy Patterson

Photo by Christina Paige

Dear Gentleman Scholar,

Kate Upton, at the behest of Gillette, has recently informed the world that she prefers gentlemen who trim their body hair. While the odds of Ms. Upton having a chance to assess my grooming habits are admittedly low, I feel it’s always best to be prepared.

Should a gentleman manscape? And if so, are there preferred methods for doing so?

A (Potential) Gentleman Gardener

Thank you for your letter.

A gentleman’s primary depilatory obligation is to avoid grossing out other reasonable people. It is therefore essential for the no-longer-young gentleman not to succumb to simple denial when he notices that ornery filaments have begun to sprout from his nasal channels or auditory canals. If, during his regular confrontations with the medicine-cabinet mirror or the still surface of a woodland spring, he notices that that his nose hairs or ear hairs have gotten unruly, he must resolve to rule them harshly, with mustache scissors, at whatever interval is necessary, until the morning of his 80th birthday, at which point to hell with it. (Same thing goes for moles.)

The beach-going gentleman should be wary of grossing anybody out with an unsightly overgrowth of hair on his dorsal side, be it a dense pelt stretching from nape to waist or simply a scut-like feature rising from his anal cleft. If the hair on a gentleman’s back is not insignificant, he should ask a trusted friend whether it is gross and, if so, exactly how gross. Depending on the answer to the latter question, he may choose to thin things out with a $30 electric razor or zap his follicles into submission with $3,000 of laser treatments.

A gentleman understands that the matter of whether the front of his trunk is bare has no bearing on his status as a gentleman. Unless there is a possibility that an observer might confuse his chest for a titi monkey, nothing genuinely objectionable will be happening there. (The closest thing to grossness that might be going on is an asymmetrical growth easily addressed with scissors or a safety razor.) It follows, therefore, that the shirtless gentleman should flaunt the smooth golden skin of his waxed abdominals or the downy platinum hairs netting his porcelain belly as he best sees fit. True, there is copious evidence that ladies of Ms. Upton’s generation tend to prefer the tonsured torsi favored by Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs, not to mention floundering mayoral candidates, but it is plain to see that the hairless abdomen of an averagely flabby fellow is a minor aesthetic nuisance. When deciding whether your body hair would benefit from a minor tidying trim or a wholesale deforestation or some intermediate measure, thou art advised, as ever, to know thyself and thine audience and what best flatters thine physique. But, hey, your body, your rules.

When it comes to pubic barbering, always give a proper hearing to a bedmate’s expressed preferences: Open communication is essential to a healthy relationship and a necessary prelude to getting into kinky stuff. Try going along with whatever she’s into, probably, unless her suggestions offend your dignity, your moral sense, your instinct for self-preservation, or all of these at once, like if she voices a desire to reshape your bush in the image of an insignia of the Schutzstaffel while fanning a butterfly knife.

The well-read gentleman is familiar with Christopher Hitchens’ account of submitting to the male equivalent of the Brazilian wax at a salon operated by the women who invented the term: “The combined effect was like being tortured for information that you do not possess, with intervals for a (incidentally very costly) sandpaper handjob.” The gentleman infers therefrom that waxing is not a preferred manscaping method and proceeds cautiously to evaluate depilatory creams, rechargeable trimmers, and saying, “To hell with it.”

Dear Gentleman Scholar,

I hope that you will not laugh at my question; I am embarrassed and frankly confused by this parenting situation.

Recently I caught my wonderful 15-year-old smoking marijuana. Big parenting moment, and I think my wife and I dealt with it well. We gave him a stern lecture and confiscated the weed.

Later that evening my wife and I discussed next steps, specifically what to do with the drugs. She proposed smoking it with my son to destigmatize it. I thought that was too weird. But rather than throw the marijuana away, I smoked it myself because why throw away good weed? My wife was scandalized, and I am struggling with what a modern, progressive (I hope) dad is supposed to do in this situation.

Thank you for your note.

Does the central tension here concern your self-indictment on charges of hypocrisy (a sensation perhaps intensified, in the immediate wake of your raid on the evidence room, by paranoia)? If, in the course of your stern lecture, you described the consumption of marijuana as an unalloyed evil, then you would indeed be right to feel like a hypocrite, reader. But if your lesson instead played up the particular dangers pot presents to a brain that is still developing, then you were free to alter your consciousness with a clear conscience.

I say this in the belief that the most honest and practical way to talk to kids about drugs is with frequent and direct reference to brain chemistry. This approach will help you to draw meaningful general distinctions between the hardest, most addictive drugs and their less pernicious cousins, while also allowing you to identify the specific hazards of the latter without trotting out a risible collection of bogeyman anecdotes. Also, this way of handling things is inherently a bit clinical, which may, among other benefits (such as cleansing the chat of some emotional charges), encourage the kid to develop his powers of discernment. And wouldn’t it be best if his abstinence were motivated by his own independent reasoning? Don’t you know the old adage? “Teach a kid to think critically about drugs and he’ll think critically about them forever. Talk down to him with an indiscriminate denunciation of drugs, and he’ll be huffing paint in the garage before dinner.”

I hasten to add that parents who tilt their pharmaceutical talkings-to in this direction may incidentally nudge their kids toward a superlatively useful understanding of the human mind. I believe that the children are the future and that the future of the philosophy of selfhood lies in neuroscientific study. Further, the field offers many opportunities for lucrative employment, as I was once told by a young lady on the eve of her graduation from college with a Certificate from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. “There’s a lot of fucking money in neuroscience,” she said, while rolling on Ecstasy.

Have we squared that issue away? Good. Now let’s talk about the real problem here. I hope it does not compound your embarrassment that I judge it a faux pas to have hogged all the confiscated weed. As the French playwright Jean-Nicolas Bouilly once put it, “Whatever we possess becomes of double value when we have the opportunity of sharing it with others.” If what you possess is drugs, it is polite to intend to distribute them to your romantic partner. A thoughtful husband who finds himself enjoying unexpected access to mind-altering substances should always ask his wife if she wants to hit that.