A hairy chest can be a source of insecurity for some men, but it’s perfectly natural and may even convey some health benefits. Whether your body’s specific cocktail of genes and androgens has given you a baby-smooth body or the chest of an abominable beach Yeti, here’s what science has to say about your chest hair:
Chest Hair Might Mean You’re More Intelligent
The hairier the chest the smarter the man, at least according to one survey that found nearly half of medical students were considered “very hairy” compared to 10 percent of the general population. Although the research is dated, another study found that a majority of Mensa members had thick chest hair as well. It’s not completely clear why hairy men seem to be more intelligent on the whole, and it’s entirely possible that this is a convenient coincidence — or that hairy men choose to stay in and study, instead of attending pool parties.
It’s Normal to Have Uneven Chest Hair
Chest hair was categorized into 15 unique patterns, spanning four separate areas of the chest, in 1965, based on a study of 1,400 men ages 17 to 71. Sternal, infraclavicular (below the collarbone), pectoral, and circumareolar (areola) hair make up the four areas where chest hair grows, with a majority of it growing on the pecs and sternum. The most common pattern was the pecto-sterno-infraclavicular pattern, where the breast, sternum, and end of the clavicle are hairy. This early research also established that it was common for men to have asymmetrical chest hair that followed different patterns on each side.
In a word — whatever odd chest hair you have, you’re probably not alone.
It Probably Matches Your Father-in-Law’s Chest Hair
Oddly, studies suggest your chest hair might resemble that of your father-in-law. Researchers believe that women’s preferences could be heritable from their mothers, or that it’s a result of sexual imprinting. That is, women select men who remind them of their fathers — in chest hair pattern, too. Regardless, men may not want to be shirtless with their in-laws. They may recognize some uncomfortable commonalities.
Chest Hair Is Popular Among Older Women
Despite the fact that testosterone levels influence chest hair, when women are at their most fertile they’re not that into it, according to a study of nearly 300 women. Researchers found that more fertile women opted for men with less chest hair, and postmenopausal women preferred more chest hair. So for men who look like they’re always wearing sweaters, enjoy your one-way ticket to Cougartown. But for the hairy father who’s not ready to expand his family further, consider chest hair a natural second form of birth control.
It Could Always Be Worse
Even the hairiest men at the beach could’ve been hairier without the help of evolution, scientists suspect. Although early hominids were covered in body hair as a way to keep warm, about 3 million years ago that fur stopped serving that purpose and started put them at risk of overheating. Thanks to natural selection, humans shed the excess hair and evolved to sweat instead. So no matter how hairy you are, it could always be worse — you could always have inherited the chest of Australopithecus.