His crisp, white shirt unbuttoned almost to the navel, a cheeky smile on his face and a thick thatch of manly chest hair on display — I don’t mind telling you that I nearly choked on my cafe au lait when I saw the pictures of French President Emmanuel Macron man-spreading on a dodgy-looking leather sofa.
At first glance it could have been an album cover featuring some perm-haired 1970s crooner. Or a 40-year-old advert for the MFI sale. Only in France would a man attempt to use his body as a (not so) secret weapon in a presidential campaign.
In the hours after the image was published, social media exploded. Some folk on Twitter even wondered — understandably — whether the image was fake. Surely a world leader wouldn’t resort to such desperate measures?
‘OMG, the chest hair — was not expecting that!’ said one commentator. ‘What, no gold medallion?’ joked another.
I woke up at my home in France yesterday to a flood of emails from my UK friends. Some mocked, some sneered but the consensus was clear: they prefer their politicians buttoned up and with a little more dignity.
But Macron isn’t trying to woo the British voter — and in France, when it comes to political stunts, this picture has been a master stroke.
I don’t mind telling you that I nearly choked on my cafe au lait when I saw the pictures of French President Emmanuel Macron man-spreading on a dodgy-looking leather sofa
Did I zoom in on the image? Mon Dieu! Guilty as charged.
‘Good Lord, have you seen the Macron pictures?’ I texted one of my French friends.
‘I can’t stop looking — he’s got my vote!’ she replied.
This was no off-guard snap as his campaigners would have us believe. Macron knew exactly what he was doing when he released that photo. Clearly, it was entirely calculated.
In the current French election, Macron and his far-Right rival Marine Le Pen are neck and neck in the polls. The gloves are off — or, in the case of Macron, the shirt is (nearly) off.
He needs the female vote, and the simple truth is that Frenchwomen adore a hairy chest — and secretly many British ladies do, too. They don’t just find it masculine and sexy; they find it safe and reassuring — everything you want in a leader.
I know from wine-fuelled chats with my midlife girlfriends that there is nothing more heavenly than snuggling up in bed and nuzzling into your other half’s hairy chest.
Macron is known to be fiercely intellectual and prone to quoting poetry at his electorate on the campaign tour.
The Poldark revival was one of the biggest TV hits of the past ten years. And we all know why. It wasn’t the Cornish scenery that kept millions tuning in. It was those magnificent scenes of Aidan Turner
As well as wanting to entice the female voter, I have no doubt he is also aware of the studies which have demonstrated that the hairier the chest, the smarter the man.
In one survey, researchers found that nearly 50 per cent of medical students were considered ‘very hairy’ compared with 10 per cent of the general population.
I adore Brigitte Macron. She is the epitome of French style and chic. If this photo op was her handiwork, I have only two words to say: ‘Bravo Madame!’
I’m an Englishwoman who, for the past 14 years, has lived in France with my French husband, Pascal, who is also the proud owner of a full chest rug. Naturally, I’m a fan.
Pascal unashamedly wears shirts open to his mid-chest, his sleeves rolled up to his biceps, and, when off duty, he prefers to be sockless in espadrilles in the summer — hairy legs and all. I have a foot in both British and French culture, and I can report that there is little of this ‘manscaping’ that seems so widespread in the UK.
Shaped eyebrows, a spray tan or a tidy mani-pedi are alien to French culture.
Just as French women are confident, comfortable in their skin and in airing their opinions — so are French men.
The idea of going for a his’n’hers spa day with my husband is about as realistic as us going on a trip to the moon. The last time I was in the UK, I noticed how many advertisements there were for male grooming products. Ads for such items on French television simply don’t exist.
Frenchmen embrace their brute inner and outer masculinity — and the hairier the better.
Unruly eyebrows, days-old stubble, hair peeking out from a shirt — chest cleavage, if you will — is seen as totally normal.
But the tendency for modern footballers to wax their chests, coupled with the influence of young actors like the decidedly un-hirsute Timothee Chalamet, is starting to have an impact
The only tan men get — outside of the annual August holiday — is when they garden or work outside. Bottled hair dye isn’t on anyone’s shopping list and most Frenchmen I know have their hair cut by their other halves.
But the tendency for modern footballers to wax their chests, coupled with the influence of young actors like the decidedly un-hirsute Timothee Chalamet, is starting to have an impact — with body waxing becoming more popular among French millennials.
This plucked, sexless look is the talk of many dinner parties where Boomers and Gen-Xers don’t attempt to hide their disgust.
Any man prepared to be dripped in hot wax is dismissively referred to as a ‘peacock’.
Shaving, waxing, plucking and electrolysis might all be words familiar to any self-respecting footballer. But I do wonder why.
The smooth, hairless torsos of David Beckham and his ilk hold zero sex appeal for women.
French icons such as former footballer Eric Cantona and actor Jean Reno have the chest rugs Frenchwomen adore — and, yes, British women, too, even if they are reticent to admit it.
French icons such as former footballer Eric Cantona and actor Jean Reno have the chest rugs Frenchwomen adore
The Poldark revival was one of the biggest TV hits of the past ten years. And we all know why. It wasn’t the Cornish scenery that kept millions tuning in. It was those magnificent scenes of Aidan Turner, hairy chest and six-pack on display, scything away in the fields.
From an anthropological perspective, hairy chests exist for a reason — those tightly curled thick hairs trap the scent associated with the male musk smell.
Those aromatic chemicals are more of a turn-on than any pricey made-in-a-laboratory scent.
Little wonder then that scientists have discovered that excessive body hair is linked to higher levels of testosterone. Maybe there is some truth in the rumour ‘the hairier the chest, the better the sex’ after all.
While the likes of Beckham and Chalamet are easy on the eye, in an emergency would they rescue us — or their designer sunglasses?
I don’t apologise for saying I think Macron looks hotter than an August weekend in St Tropez. If he is concerned about voters dithering over whom to give our treasured X in next Sunday’s ballot box, he needs to worry no more.
I have French citizenship and I’ll be voting this coming weekend. I would be fibbing if I said that those images of our President won’t be at the forefront of my mind.