It was the summer of 1990, and Stephen Bullard had become a dedicated triathlete, fit and fast for swimming, running and cycling after five years of regular competition. He was a burgeoning young buck, eking up in the local ranks and looking the part — all hot pink and Spandex and mirrored sunglasses — save for one fuzzy detail: He had hairy legs.
So it was one bright spring evening when Bullard, now a management trainer in Minneapolis, took blade to skin and began the deforestation of his lower leg. “It was the thing to do if you were serious about triathlon,” he said.
Bullard turned 50 this year, still a committed triathlete, cyclist and Nordic skier. It’s been 18 years since his virgin shave, and Bullard’s legs have been shiny and smooth ever since.
Beyond aerobic sports, in no other part of mainstream Western society does the male species commonly take wax or blade to leg hair. But among the Lycra set — particularly cyclists, swimmers and triathletes — smooth legs are touted as a rite of passage and a performance-enhancing procedure.
Bullard, who shaves twice a week, up to 45 minutes at a time, said hair-free legs identify a man as someone who takes his sport seriously. “It’s a badge,” he said.
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