Professional athletes are a competitive crowd. Olympians strive for the gold medal and they eat healthily and train for hours on end in order to stay in the best possible shape. I mean, they couldn’t possibly have the time to worry about something like the loose hairs on their legs ... right?
Well it just so happens that the opposite is true! (I know, I’m as surprised as you are.) The fact is, more often than not you’ll find many full-time professional athletes actually choosing to go full commando—only on the body-hair front.
Here are the reasons why so many professional athletes are such fans of removing body hair (and it’s not usually because they think that it is aesthetically more pleasing):
For Enhanced Performance
Many competitive athletes believe that removing their body hair can result in a better performance overall. (Yes, it’s a thing.) For many, getting rid of those pesky arm hairs can actually—ahem—shave off those pivotal few milliseconds in a race that could mean the difference between first place and second. One report, for example, actually revealed that a runner can cut their time down by 5.7 seconds during a marathon race. And when you’re in a head-to-head competition, sometimes even one half of a second matters.
Competitive swimmers are one category of athletes who believe that having a hairless body can reduce their swimming time significantly by allowing them to cut through the water with as little resistance as possible. There is even a term for it in the swimming vernacular; it’s called hydrodynamics.
Cyclists are another group of athletes known for going hair-free. They believe that the absence of hair can make them more aerodynamic. In some cases, athletes have also claimed that being hairless means that they are able to cool down a lot faster than they otherwise would, and that can also help to contribute to better performance. Every little bit counts.
But not everyone is convinced that total body hair removal can really improve an athlete’s time and give them an extra edge. But there’s a lot to be said for the power of the mind: If the athlete believes that it can, that alone may give them the confidence boost that they need to make that extra push for the win.
It Ups the Comfort Level
Athletes are often required to wear all sorts of protective accessories and equipment on their heads, arms and knees (just picture how rugby players, skiers, hockey players and cyclists look in their full gear). Hair can frequently get caught in all the equipment, which can pinch and hurt, and is just all around uncomfortable. Being comfortable is extremely important if you want to give your best performance and going hairless is definitely a clearcut way to resolve this somewhat hairy predicament.
For a Smoother Recovery
As an athlete, injuries on the job are par for the course. Cyclists fall, and footballers are stepped on. Cuts, bumps, bruises and sprains are things to be expected. And when your body is free of hair, it makes ointments, oils and other medicines that much easier to apply. Besides, massage therapy is a common practice for those who participate in competitive sport and it’s a much more therapeutic experience when hair isn’t getting in the way. More importantly, a smooth surface would be much easier to work on if an injury should require stitches. The absence of hair also reduces the risk of infection and may even allow wounds to heal up sooner. When it comes to bruises and cuts, it would seem that going without hair is pure practicality.
It Sells Tickets
The reality of the sports industry is that appearances do matter. When it comes to competitive sport, it’s not an exaggeration to say that ticket sales and advertising dollars are of paramount importance. And in order to attract an audience, it doesn’t just matter that you are in your athletic prime, it also really matters that you look good while doing it. (It’s the same reason why certain female athletes wear short skirts even though shorts may be much more practical attire.) And in this arena, an athlete with toned and smooth, hair-free skin is considered more attractive. In short, more skin, less hair.
There are certain sports that specifically require that their athletes be well groomed and have a clean and smooth appearance. Those that come to mind are the performance-based sports, where neatness and grace play a major role such as gymnastics, figure skating and volleyball.
As you can see, when it comes to the arena of competitive sport, hair is truly serious business. Whether or not it really aids in an athlete’s performance, we can be sure that it makes them feel good about themselves (which counts for a lot). And we know that they definitely look good while doing it! And that’s about the long and short of it.