Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Manly Manual: How To Shave Your Hairy Gross Legs

The overarching question when I was in high school was, “Do you really shave your legs?” The only way to respond to this are, “Don’t you?” or “Wanna touch and find out?” But for many years, while feigning confidence and entering things like “Best Legs Competitions” at high school talent shows, being a male with no body hair was a difficult and trying experience. Which is why male swimmers tend to be the craziest, psychotic, most confident group of athletes in school. They have to do things no other male has to do during the awkward and insecure "growing years": shaving heads, legs, body, Speedos, etc..

But it takes a while to gain that confidence. And when you shave your legs for the first time, it's tough. No doubt about it. When I grew up – like many readers of this blog – there was no Google. There was no Internet. There were no blogs, and certainly there were no swimming blogs. The first time I shaved my legs, it was a crash-course, one that ended with a sliced calf, three bloody towels, and utter, wild confusion.

Which is why I’ve created The Manly Manual: How To Shave Your Hairy Gross Legs.

NOTE: This manual will be a free-running manual, which means I’ll edit in good comments or changes or points from commentators. The goal here is to provide 14-year-old boys who have never shaved anything before with some solid, proper instruction.




This is the most important part of shaving your legs, men. Especially in the age of digital photos/videos. If you’re shaving for the first time, just don’t tell anyone. Once you do, you’ll have everyone from the community – mothers, friends, uncles, teammates, siblings, girls you have crushes on, girls you don’t have crushes on, enemies, football players – all trying to snap the elusive “shaving legs photograph” for Facebook. I never lived in an age of Facebook. But if I did, I'm sure that every time I shaved my legs, there would be an accompanying photo album. This is because people are voyeuristic jerks.


Compiling teenage boys with razors is a Molotov cocktail for disaster. I know this because I was one. Group shaving is a scary environment, especially around hyperactive, chlorine-damaged teenage boys wielding razors. The first time I shaved was with a teammate. We had placed a bucket in between us for rinsing our razors. During, we watching the movie, “Die Hard.” It was an exciting part in the movie, and my teammate rinsed his razor, then quickly flicked his arm/razor up. "What's that funny feeling?" I asked to myself. I looked down. My entire leg was bloody. Of course Teammate had no idea, because he was watching Bruce Willis. Meanwhile, my calf was sliced open 5 inches.

(Note: There's also the risk that seniors will do something awful to you. Never get into the same room as seniors in high school when shaving. Never accept their invitation to “shave your head.” Just don’t.)


For backs: you want someone you trust. You want them to become familiar with the outline of your back, and specifically, the topography of your back. Moles. Weird skin things. Anything that could potentially “slice” or "carve." You want your back-shaver to be aware of your back topography. Preferably, you should find someone that you are attracted to – many high school girls are willing to shave a back, weirdly. Exploit their foolishness.


A calm mind is a calm hand. Doctors don’t listen to Ramstein before open heart surgeries. Neither should you. Find a little happy place, some little happy clouds, little happy music, in a shaded little happy area. Put on Bob Ross. Enya. Candles. Again, don't do this near other people. 


This process will take an hour, maybe longer. Shaving can drain you of the mental relaxation you need the night before a big race. So clip that afternoon. Then shave later that night. Break it down into parts, idiot. This isn't rocket science. You will need time to hack through the Sherwood Forest that is your leg hair.



Clip your hairy legs first. Clip everything. Clipping will save you hours, upon hours. Your body hair and leg hair is like a redwood forest. You are a logger, and you need something mechanical to chop that down. Clip everything prior to shaving. Unless of course you are some 200-butterflying masochist, and you just love that feeling of ripping inch-long hair particles in long, strong, slow strokes with a dull razor  blade. (Side note: Do not let 200 butterfliers shave your back.)


Your dad shaves with 50-cent cans of Barbasol. It's stocked under the sink, dated from 1988. You want to be tough too. You think, “I don’t need that feminine stuff because I’m a man! And real men shave their legs with manly shaving cream!” So you take out your Dad’s Barbasol and, 15 minutes later, your legs are bleeding, your skin is raw and bubbling -- all in the name of Chasing Manhood. Listen. Buy the more expensive stuff, the $5 Cadillac of Shaving Cream stuff. If you need to, organize a can drive so your team can purchase nice, soothing, lavender-scented shaving gel. “What’s this fundraiser for?” they ask. “So we can shave our legs.”


Really this should be subtitled, “Don’t listen to women who give you advice about shaving legs.” Never listen to women about this if you're a Shaving Rookie. Ever seen a woman shave her legs? It’s violent. They take these long, swift, fluid swipes at the legs, sometimes without shaving cream at all. They're straight from the movie, Misery. All of them. It's a terrifying experience, watching a woman shave her legs. They have years of practice, so don’t listen to when they say, "Quick! Fast! Like a Band-Aid! Against the grain!" You’re a first-timer. Go with the hair. If you want to do another shave-over, you can, but that first blade-swipe, shave with the grain.


Most important part of the shave. Go slow. Short strokes. Soon, your legs will look like they did when you were 8, or what they will look like when you’re 80. Smooth and hairless.


A lot of my teammates watch TV while shaving legs. TV-watching leads to cut calves, bleeding thighs, chopped-off moles (or nipples, if shaving the chest). 14-year-olds can barely ride a bike without crashing, much less navigating the crevasses of the human form with a sharp metal object. If you're watching Mortal Kombat, you're not doing it right. (You shouldn't be watching Mortal Kombat at all, it's a terrible movie.)



You might want to slather on tons of lotion, put on pants, and head to bed to rest for tomorrow’s prelims. But the entire point of shaving is not only to reduce drag, but more importantly, to help you gain a “feel” for the water. Shaving = you’re really getting rid of dead skin on your body. That gives you that awesome feeling when you hop in the water, like you’re “grabbing water” and flying through the pool. Putting on lotion is just counterproductive to this entire process. Plus you spent $15 dollars on expensive shave gel. Cocoa-butter lavender aloe powder with Vitamin E cream is unnecessary.


Hilarity ensues.


After you shaved your gross, hairy legs, there is no going back. Point of no return. Everyone will ask you the same question, “Do you shave your legs?” Conjure a confident response. Embrace your legs. High school kids are like wolves. They smell fear. Show no fear, and they’ll respect you. Maybe.


And even though you've embraced it, you've rocked the super-short mesh shorts in springtime even when it's 50 degrees outside just so you can flash your newly-shaven swimmer legs, you're confident with your silky smooth angelic cocoa-butter-infused legs.... keep it to yourself. No one wants to see your black stubble and plethora of in-grown zits. Regrow your hair in seclusion, put your Enya soundtrack away, hide your sensitive skin shaving gel, pack up your 30-pack of disposable Bic razors, until next year, when it's time to do it all over again.


  1. LOVE IT. This needs to be published and sold through the ASCA online store. Seriously.

    The bloodiest first time shaver I ever saw was a guy named Bob Kinneen. I will never forget the horror.

    So what did he end up being when he got all grown up? A gourmet chef. He works with razor sharp blades every day.

    See, kids... there is hope!

  2. This was amazing. Thanks for brightening my Wednesday morning :) As a girl, I can't totally relate, but it was flawless none the less.

  3. Dear Gus,
    Shouldn't you add something about doing it in your Grandma's bathtub? Or on David Cromwell's living room floor? Too bad this post doesn't include an instructional video of some sort. (I miss Chlorination!)

  4. Thankfully that video has been lost into the Internet's deep dark black hole. I am sure it is floating out there somewhere, unfortunately popping up into unsuspecting web browsers at inopportune times. Since it is gone forever, all we have left are my cartoon drawings above, which I hope adequately represented what was so brilliantly covered back in 2008.

  5. Where is this damn black hole?!?! It keeps sucking up all the good stuff :( As for your cartoon drawings, very Mangus-esque.

  6. In my latter years, I started using a Shick Intuition women's razor that had the shaving cream built in. Fantastically smooth. Never bit the bullet, but also toyed with the idea of going Nair...

  7. I always thought that Nair was BS because it didn't give you fresh skin the way shaving did. Do we need to debate this?

  8. I used the cheap-o multicolored Bic razors that came in the mega packs. Shaving, I would probably go through 20 razors. Pink was everyone's favorite.

  9. One of my teammates used some device similar to the hair-removal Nair thing. But my coaches always told me the entire point of shaving was to remove the layers of dead skin, which Nair doesn't do. Also up for debate, maybe in another upcoming Point/Counterpoint blog, is the debate of what body parts to shave and what body parts to NOT shave. Specifically with three parts of the body:

    1.) The tops of the feet.

    2.) The inside of the forearm (for breaststroke)

    3.) The palm of your hands.

    Many of my friends and coaches had totally different perspectives on each of these three body parts. Some believed adamantly that the inside of your forearm should NEVER be shaved. Some believe that was the most important part TO shave. It was always so confusing for me as a kid and maybe, 10 years too late, we can put the issue up for debate.

  10. Oh, you definitely have to shave the inside of your forearm. Especially if you swim breaststroke! How could you not do that Gus?

  11. After a few taper busts, I finally did shave the inside of my arms. My age group coach said definitely do that, but a few teammates did not. They left the inside of the arms unshaved, with hair, because their theory was that the hair would act as a "catching device" in the water, like a hairy paddle. Their complaint was that when you shave the inside of your forearm, you slip through the water, and lose the grippage feeling. I have done tapers using both of these shaving styles.

  12. Being a visual learner, the illustrations really brought it together for me. Thanks for that. :)

  13. I had a swimmer use Nair once even though I told him not to... he broke out in a gigantic rash. Haha. That's what you get for disobeying a direct order from the Viking.

  14. I would recommend a sub-section in the shaving portion of this article be dedicated to the two most frequently cut areas: The Knee and the ankle.

    Nothing is more awkward then trying to shave around the ankle bones and which jacked up angle you need to contort your body to get around the back of your knee without wiping out a couple of tendons.

    Furthermore, how about the weirdness of the back of the thigh. Where, undoubtedly, you will spend some time looking at your own, uh, speedo?

  15. I don't mean to lower the tone, but a team mate of mine once did his balls too. I still to this day have no idea how that helped his 'feel' for the water.

  16. yeah... and shaving the crack becomes an interesting adventure too. I know a guy. I don't really want to get into that. Let's just stay away from that topic.

  17. ...and people ask me why I love this sport. You think LeBron lays in a pool of his own blood before a big game? On purpose? I think not.

  18. Really good article, it opend my eyes, many thanks!

  19. Wouldn't waxing be better?

  20. What is it with smooth skin males? I like some hair!!

  21. I think it's better to wax than to shave. Shaving can be tedious indeed. If you really want to have a smoother skin without hairs, then try laser hair removal. It's effective and pain-free.

  22. I just undergone laser hair removal last week and I am very happy with the results. I am trying to do another method on my armpit and I would like to consider your method. I think it's an effective procedure too. About hairy armpits, I think it's better if they're shaved. It's much cleaner and presentable whenever you need to raise you hands.

  23. I have read similar advice in one of these velvet effect lasers reviews. For long lasting results though, you may want to visit a laser hair removal clinic.

  24. Great article, I definitely learned a lot of new things. Thank you very much for sharing.

  25. How to stop the itch, please some assistance on HOW TO STOP THE ITCH!!!

  26. Hilarious man! You are so right about shaving. I'm not usually self-conscience but I sure am when my leg hair grows back in.
    And my wife dare not rub up against me at night.

    I have to admit though, I frequently use an epilator in the shower . It quick & convenient & the shards easily wash down the drain.

    Oh yeah, it's painful for the first month. Ok... two months.

  27. I had a swimmer use Nair once even though I told him not to... he broke out in a gigantic rash. Haha. That's what you get for disobeying a direct order from the Viking.