Carefree? Hair-free? Fuzzy? The Her-story of Shaving

BlogHer Original Post

Woman Shaving Her Legs

For St. Louis fashionistas, summertime means sandals, sundresses, and swimsuits. (Oh my!) Clothing that covers less constitutes a necessity for keeping those legs and underarm areas looking smooth and sleek. But have you ever wondered, as you grabbed that razor or booked that waxing appointment, who decided we femmes should be hair free? And when did this movement begin?

Actually, odds are your grandmother was wrestling with the same issues when she was your age. According to Christine Hope (via Straight Dope) the “anti-underarm hair campaign began in May, 1915, in Harper’s Bazaar, a magazine aimed at the upper crust.”

According to the article, the first ad “featured a waist-up photograph of a young woman who appears to be dressed in a slip with a toga-like outfit covering one shoulder. Her arms are arched over her head revealing perfectly clear armpits. The first part of the ad read ‘Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.’”

While some ads claimed hair removal was the more hygienic route, most were simply spinning this as the cutting edge and a necessity of the fashion. (Even back then, many a woman aspired to be hip and trendy. Go figure!) By 1922, Sears was hawking women’s razors and depilatories in their catalogs.

The anti-leg hair campaign worked wonders too, though not as quickly as the anti-underarm one. Waxing became a more common way for women to rid themselves of unwanted hair by the early 1930′s. But when hemlines dropped that same decade, many women found themselves content to leave their leg hair alone. It wasn’t until World War II that the idea of shaving legs became far more common. A pin-up picture of Betty Grable became women’s envy and inspiration. Showing some leg became as American as apple pie -- patriotic, even!

While lots of men find women with hair free gams and underarms seriously sexy, there are some who find a woman choosing the au natural route a total turn-on. There’s even porn targeted at men who want to “admire” these women. Take for instance, Furry Girl. She bills herself as a “naughty, all natural girl.” (Her cover page is safe to view. No nudity but really, are you sure you want to check this out if you’re at work?) Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a plethora of porn sites that feature women who haven’t been friends with a razor in years, or if ever!

While it is obvious that we woman bought the anti-hair pitch hook, line and sinker, “some argue that there’s more to this than short skirts and sleeveless dresses. Marg Meikle (Dear Answer Lady,1992) notes that Greek statues of women in antiquity had no pubic hair, suggesting that hairlessness was some sort of ideal of feminine beauty embedded in Western culture.”

Everyone seems to have an opinion. There are even references in the bible both for and against. Feminists have varying views as well. Are you going carefree and hair free this summer? Or have you trashed the razor and fired your waxing guru? Either way, we’d love to hear from you!

Lisa is a contributor for Girls Guide To The Galaxy, where this post was originally published. She is a freelance writer and the founder of StLFamilyLife. You can follow her on Twitter @LisaOnTheLoose.

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