Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It seems triathlon is a sport that is just as much about looking good as being good, maybe even more so for some.  Certainly it's hard to hide in a few tight fitting scraps of lycra.  Which brings me to the part of the sport that connects men with their inner woman: shaving their legs.

I've mostly resisted this (there was a waxing incident a few years back but I'm trying to forget that).  This is because, well, I can't really be bothered.  I brush my teeth, I shower, I shave (my face) but the whole male preening of moisturizers, conditioners, hair products, body products, etc is a step too far.  Once in a while I remember to visit the barber when it seems  like I might have to use a comb to stop looking more comical that usual.  So shaving my legs has never really appealed to me.  Until now.

What has given rise to this abrupt change?  What is it that makes me think it might be time to commit to getting a razor for the shower and an exfoliator Michael Jackson glove to avoid ingrown hairs?  Well let's look at the usual reasons triathletes trot out:

1. Speed
Yeah right - I don't think anyone really believes this nonsense.  Internationally competitive pool swimmers may gain tenths of a second from reduced drag due to a smooth torso, however triathletes mostly can't swim anyway and besides they wear wetsuits.

2. Crashes
Cyclists and by that I mean people who compete in cycle races at breakneck speeds on technical terrain in incredibly compact groups in all types of weather are prone to crashes, and often spectacular ones at that. In fact no matter how good you are, for real cyclists it is just a matter of time and bad luck.  These guys say that the inevitable road rash heals quicker and is less messy without hair - easier to clean out the gravel, and gauze coverings don't get caught up in all the hair.  I believe them and as far as I'm concerned these guys are hard as nails and can wear lipstick and mascara if they want to without damaging their claim to bad ass masculinity.

But triathletes?  We don't race in bunches, or at least we're not supposed to people - did you read the rules section of your race pack?!  Sure there are some draft legal races but that's just plain pointless and not part of this discussion.  Also our speeds (or at least my speeds) are slower and triathlon courses are mostly less technical - crashes should be pretty rare.  Of course they do happen but not with the alarming regularity of road racing.

Another small point - a crash is just as likely to cause road rash on the arms, but do you see anyone out there, cyclists included, shaving their arms..?

3. Massage
Your masseur will no doubt be your friend if you have nice smooth legs, and indeed if you are the kind of manly man who grows a thick mass of hair on the soles of your feet, then massaging the forest of your legs may well be a difficult exercise.

I've never had a problem with having my legs massaged and think the presence or absence of hair will make precious little difference. Ah now we come to the REAL reasons, the ones triathletes are less likely to trot out:

4. Vanity
You've spent months out on the roads, in the pool, in the gym - your tan is coming along nicely (well at least the bits that aren't perpetually covered by cycle gear) and you want everyone to check out your rocking calves and quads.  You want to look serious, you want to intimidate, you want to be able to show off your ironman tattoo on your left ankle that isn't in the least bit reminiscent of a prison cell but actually makes you look very cool thank you very much.

You know, I can live with that.  Vanity does begin to tip the scales for me where the previous (spurious) reasons do not.  If cycle chicks are going to look on me more favorably with bare legs then who am I to resist?

5. Belonging
I haven't seen this one written anywhere but I think actually it's likely the main motivation and actually the best reason out of the lot.  Shaved legs show you are part of the community - triathlon is a lifestyle choice and bare legs are a statement of that choice.

I get loads of peer pressure to shave my legs and I have sometimes thought this is just my friends wanting me to validate their own choice to do so, but now I think it's more them wanting me to join the community.  And that's not such a bad thing at all.

Perhaps the best reason to shave, exfoliate, and generally pamper my pins is to show that I am a triathlete and I have chosen that lifestyle - I belong to the tri community.  I'm close to convincing myself, but not there yet - any comments for or against?  Next weekend will be decision time..


  1. We do it because it makes us feel bulletproof as our freshly shorn legs slip into our work trousers. Placebo effectiveness is sometimes all we have. :o)

  2. Shave your head too. Or go Mohawk.

    The downside to consider on the legs is not the shaving per se, but the continuing maintenance.

  3. Yeh the maintenance aspect is my main concern. Been thinking about this one and have decided that basically I'm too lazy to go through with it. Maybe for a key race at some point in the future..