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Beauty Board

Where image is concerned, the 'manscape' is changing

Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 03:24 AM

For Bryan Schneider, getting rid of his back hair was all about comfort.

He tried shaving the unwanted hair off, but he grew tired of the daily maintenance.

About six months ago, the 36-year-old Tampa resident paid a visit to Angelica Beauty and Waxing in Tampa and experienced his first "manscaping." He's been getting waxed ever since.

"It just feels better when I don't have any hair there," Schneider said. Now he waxes every five to six weeks. "My shirt would sometimes pull on the hair, and it would hurt. And when I'd sweat, it wouldn't feel comfortable. I take off my shirt and it looks clean. I like that."

Welcome to the world of manscaping. A world where bare beats burly and doesn't mean girly. A world where men - yes, real men, manly men - shave, wax and trim their body hair to improve their appearance and to just plain feel better.

Back in 2005, a University of South Florida survey found that 64 percent of men take care of some unsightly body hair. Which means even average Joes are embracing the grooming rituals that used to be relegated to models, athletes and professional body builders. They're waxing their backs, brows, shoulders, chests and ... ummm ... anywhere else there's hair.

Angelica Ramirez, owner of Angelica Beauty and Waxing at the Palm Wellness Center, says her male clientele has more than tripled in the past four years. She sees an average of 10 men a week - including her husband - for hair removal needs above the waist.

Most of the men she sees are in their 20s and 30s, and they usually have their back and chest waxed, and sometimes their eyebrows.

Manscaping "isn't just for models and gay men," Ramirez says. Quite the contrary. Although some men, such as Schneider, show up on their own, she says most of her male clients make an appointment after getting some encouragement from a wife or girlfriend.

According to www.fitbuff.com, 73 percent of women say they prefer a man with a bare chest because it seems more sexy and sculpted. And when it comes to back hair, 85 percent of women said men need to mow.

"Women usually have something to do with them coming in," Ramirez said. "But once they get it done, they like it, and they usually come back regularly to maintain it."

The manscaping trend seems to have taken root back in 2003, when the stars of TV's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" coined the term to encourage better heterosexual grooming habits.

Suddenly, "metrosexuals" - men who weren't afraid to use beauty and image-enhancing products - were cool. Or, at least, they were trying. Who can forget "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," when Steve Carell attempts to de-fur?

More recently, music mogul Sean Combs has tweeted about his fondness for grooming his body hair. And the trend got a power boost last year from the clipped and gelled stars of MTV's "Jersey Shore," who appear to spend more time waxing than working.

"Manscaping is definitely on the rise, and we're seeing that reflected in the grooming category overall, which has seen a 10 percent increase in sales since 2008," said Jacopo D'Alessandris, vice president of marketing at Philips Norelco.

Research by the shaving company found that more than 50 percent of men age 18 to 65 remove or trim hair below the neck. Philips Norelco jumped on the manscaping phenomenon by introducing the Bodygroom Pro 2040, an all-in-one male grooming system that addresses all of a man's shaving needs.

"For guys, it's all about achieving a look that enables them to have the ultimate confidence in their everyday lives," D'Alessandris said.

At Xanadu Hair Design in Tampa, about 30 percent of Michelle Camara's wax customers are male - a 50 percent increase from last year.

Manscaping "isn't a secret anymore," said Camara, a waxing specialist. "It wasn't talked about as much in the past, but now we see a lot of men in magazines and on TV who do it, and that made it OK."

Camara said her burgeoning male clientele is made up mostly of single professionals, including doctors, lawyers and bankers, and college students who want to impress the ladies.

"They say it's more attractive to the opposite sex," Camara said. "I do think ladies appreciate men that take care of themselves this way."

Hair stylist Pepi Soler, who loves her fiancé's smooth physique, agreed. "It's cleaner, cooler and it really shows the body better," Soler said. "And if a woman can take care of her hair and keep it looking nice, I think a man can, too. And in Florida, who wants to have hair on their body?"

Ryan Marshall, vice president of Benz Model and Talent Agency in Tampa, has noticed more male models taming their body hair.

"Ten or 15 years ago, guys weren't trimming themselves as much as they are today," Marshall said. "Overall, men take care of themselves a lot better. Very few models come in here with natural chest hair."

Still, manscaping is a delicate topic. Ask a guy about his grooming habits, and he'll usually get very quiet.

"I don't think most guys ask their friends where to go to get waxed," said Schneider, who admits to discussing his grooming habits only with his wife. "A lot of guys are doing it. They just don't like to talk about it."

Reporter Cloe Cabrera can be reached at (813) 259-7656 or ccabrera@tampatrib.com.