If you've got great legs, why not show them off? That's pretty much been the rule for women, so why not men?
Of course, women have also usually got smooth legs, which tends to help make them look good, but in case you haven't noticed (which is possible given it is winter), the creeping trend now is for men to shave their legs, too.
It started with cyclists and other elite athletes such as swimmers shaving down for races. It was taken up by weekend warrior male cyclists and triathletes. But increasingly as I swim, ride and run my way through the weeks and the streets, I'm encountering hairless legs among male runners, too. In fact, I reckon many men are more attentive to their leg grooming regimen than us women.
Is it a novelty, or is it here to stay?
When asked about it, men are quite coy, but really it seems to be just an extension of the boom in men's grooming generally. If it's OK for men to wear fragrance, have pedicures and get their eyebrows shaped, then why not shave their legs? Possibly because the types of blokes who run don't do the rest and don't want to be associated with those who do.
I want everyone to know I've put the hard yards in and I'm here to race – not just to fill up a lane.
Here are some typical reasons men have given me for shaving their legs:
- Gravel rash wounds heal quicker.
- Bandage tape goes on and off easier and less painfully.
- Massages are more effective and less painful.
- Compression garments work better and are easier to get in and out of.
- It feels better when running.
- It feels cooler in summer.
- It shows of the definition of cut muscles.
- For racing it intimidates rivals. It means I'm serious.
- Shows off the tattoos better.
- My wife/girlfriend likes it.
- I'm hoping it will attract a wife/girlfriend.
Actually, number 11 wasn't real feedback, but I reckon it could be.
The word from the experts
I sought out three experienced and dedicated male runners to explain the phenomenon a bit further.
Physiotherapist and ultra-marathoner
"That is a controversial topic! People come up with all sorts of reasons/excuses for shaving their legs [including cyclists] but I think 90 per cent of it is vanity," he says.
"The aerodynamic effect is not a good excuse for a runner to shave. Less than 30km/h doesn't really count when you are talking aerodynamics.
"Cyclists do it because it helps with gravel rash and cleaning wounds. That is, they are less likely to get infections and tape sticks better. But this also doesn't really cut it for runners. How many runners fall off their shoes regularly?
"Sports massage is a valid reason. If you have very hairy legs, then sports massage can be painful, and it also rips hairs out which can cause hair follicle infections. I have seen this a few times over the years, and it can actually be quite serious - worst case scenario being septicaemia if enough hair follicles become infected.
"Another reason is that It makes people 'feel faster', which is a reasonably poor justification.
"Lastly, it looks good. I think that is what it comes down to."
"I was coached by the brilliant 100/200m Commonwealth Games runner Chris Perry. Chris used to say that he would only start shaving his legs when it was the business end of the season and he knew it was time to get serious. This was one of his triggers.
"But the main reason he shaved, and this goes for most runners, myself included, is for massage. Once we get into really hard training and closer to competitions I get regular massages and it's much easier without the hair."
Anonymous masters athlete
"The reason can be summed up as 'because I think it looks good', but there are two main reasons:
Vanity: I've been training my whole life, my legs are reasonably athletic looking and shaving increases the definition of the muscles. When I'm warming up and on the start line I want everyone to know I've put the hard yards in and I'm here to race – not just to fill up a lane. It's a psych thing. I should mention that not many of the masters athletes shave their legs; it's more common among the younger guys.
Personal inspiration: I'm pretty attuned to changes in my muscle tone. When I move into a pre-event speed phase I get good vascularity on my adductors and good tone which is enhanced by shaving. I find this an effective signal as to when I'm near peaking. I can just tell by looking at my legs when I'm getting close to racing condition, and this motivates me because training in this phase is really hard.
"On race day I shave my head (No.2 razor), shave my face and shave my legs. It is part of making me feel fast (along with my race spikes and new compression gear). It's a very ritualistic and important part of prep for me.
"I could have said it's for the massage or wind resistance or something else, but that would be lying."
Do you shave your legs? Tell us why or why not in the comments.
Pip Coates is a running tragic who knows the euphoria of training for and completing a major race, but also the heartbreak of injury and every bend in the long road back. In between runs she is also the deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review Magazine.