What Does "Manscaping" Really Mean? Where Did the Word Come From?

Find out why James Bond and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy caused the rise of "manscaping."

Man looking at shaved face and beard in mirror.

What Does "Manscaping" Really Mean? Where Did the Word Come From?

After we ran this piece on whether or not manscaping a lone body part looks odd, a few readers asked us what the term manscaping really refers to—does it simply mean any kind of trimming of body hair, or is it strictly referring to trimming below the belt? Which led us to a second question: Where did the term come from, anyway? We decided to investigate.

“When I entered the business in 2011, ‘manscaping’ was already a commonly used term,” Melanie Mari, owner and trained manscaper at Bare Skin Studio, told us. “But I specifically remember it making rounds amongst the masses in 2006.” Mari is correct in her recollection: Male body hair removal did indeed become a hot topic in 2006, with multiple outlets running stories on the growing trend, and numerous products—like the Mangroomer—being introduced in the hopes of cashing in on it. But what caused this sudden upswing in popularity? The answer, as with white tuxedos in the 1970s, can be traced to James Bond.

2006 saw the release of Casino Royale, and with it, its famous gender-reversing take on the classic swimsuit shot. Ursula Andress made the notion of “Bond Girls” famous when she emerged from the ocean in her white bikini in the very first Bond movie, Dr. No. But since Casino Royale was a whole new take on the franchise, in this iteration, it was Bond himself who would be made the aquatic eye candy. Daniel Craig became an instant sex symbol when he stood up, muscles rippling, but the most revealing thing wasn’t his powder blue trunks—it was the idea that a completely hairless body could look manly as hell. As style publications debated the merits of Craig’s hairless torso, the term—and the practice—exploded in popularity.

While Casino Royale helps explain the popularity of manscaping itself, this gets us no closer to figuring out who coined the term, and more importantly, its true definition. Fortunately, both are relatively simple to determine. According to The Body Reader: Essential Social and Cultural Readings, the term “manscaping” was originally coined by the hosts of early 2000s television show Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. A simple portmanteau of “man” and “landscaping,” manscaping was defined at the time as “waxing, shaving, lasering, or simply shaping any hairy region of the male body below the head.”

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According to Mari, this is still the definition that holds up within the manscaping community today. “Manscaping refers to any type of body grooming below the neck—whether that be waxing, shaving, lasering or shaping. If you’re talking about strictly grooming the pubic area, we estheticians call that a Brazilian.” And while she herself prefers the term “body grooming,” the rise of the word “manscaping” has actually had a beneficial effect on her chosen business. “Increased awareness around male grooming as a whole has brought more interest to our industry. But more specifically, the word ‘manscaping’ has lots of guys asking questions about the process, and—as time goes by—I think this part of the grooming industry will continue to grow as a result.”

So now we know what manscaping means, but next comes the tricky part: Actually doing it. Just remember, you don’t have to be afflicted by the dreaded post-manscape prickle.