Evolution of Pubic Hair…. Removal
We see thousands of celebrities sauntering up the red carpet, their skin flawless and…. hairless. For years, our ideals of beautiful women are the ones who are devoid of hair on their bodies. How was it in the past?
Well… it was the same! Human beings have been shaving their body hairs since time immemorial but probably not for beauty reasons as it is today.
Rewinding to the Stone Age, the men and women had sheared off their body using sharp, coarse stones (ouch!) and flint blades. Though the method sounds agonizing, it served its purpose.
Most removed the body hairs to prevent frostbites in cold regions and the infestation of lice in sensitive parts of the body.
One another reason for shaving body hair and hair on the head was to hinder the snatching of hair during fights. It helped in their survival.
Now coming to the ancient Egyptians. They were sticklers for cleanliness, perfection, and class hierarchy. Heck! Even the nail polish colors symbolized class differentiations: light and nude for the lower classes and bright red for the upper classes and nobles.
During this time, the standards of removing body hair deviated slightly from being a necessity to a luxury, for beauty purposes. This was prevalent especially after Cleopatra set trends for a clean, hairless body.
It is no surprise that the middle-class and the upper-class women were expected to be delicate, subtle, and hair-bared. The women used sweet, sticky goo that was similar to today’s wax to rip their hair off the follicle. They also used tweezers, mirrors, and blades for removing unwanted hair.
In Rome, people were obsessed with women being hairless. All the women and goddesses depicted were sans body hair, even in the pubic region.
Though part of the reason was sanitization, it was focussed on upper-class women and the expectation men had on them being hairless (all parts except head and eyebrows)
But men were free to flaunt their body hair like pros. Ahh, the chauvinism!
Roman poet Ovid urges women to groom so “that no rude goat find his way beneath your arms and that your legs be not rough with bristling hair.”
The body hair was scraped with pumice stones, specialized tweezer-like equipment called “Volsellas” for yanking out tiny hairs and sometimes blades.
Late 16th — Early 17th Centuries
The main focus shifted from body hair to facial hair. Women of the class were expected to groom their facial hair — removing hair on the upper lip, chin, eyebrows, and forehead — to provide a clean-faced look.
Since their dress involved tight bodices and long skirts that covered most parts of the body, they were free to not shave their legs and pubes (Yay!).
18th — 19th Centuries
Things took a very different turn in this era. Women started protesting for equal rights and shunning removing of body hair became an integral part of it. It was in this era where feminism was resplendent.
Jean Jacques Perrett created the first straight razor and both men and women used it freely. There was no single beauty norm that forced women to alter their appearance.
In the 1800s, King Camp Gillette invented a safer version of razors though it was never gendered specific until the next decade.
Early 20th Century
Another drastic change in the body hair cycle. Now women were pressurized to shave off their underarm hairs too. Many actresses and models began wearing sleeveless dresses and exhibited clean underarms.
In 1915, Gillette launched the Milady Décolleté (aka, “The First Great Anti-Underarm Hair Campaign.” ). The fashion industry started monetizing the change by embedding insecurities into the minds of women. They advertised body hair as being abhorrent.
World War Two
World War Two pushed women to wear shorter clothes and hence remove the visible hair. Women had to start shaving their legs too to wear shorts and skirts.
With new methods for hair removal, like electrolysis, more and more women started resorting to the practice.
Moreover, the discovery of Bikinis in the year 1946, made the trimming and shaving of pubic hair a norm.
Late 20th Century
With the advent of easily available porn, where women expose body hair-free bodies, men were misguided into thinking this is the sign of beauty and sex appeal. Playboy magazines are also popular, displaying nude, hairless women promoting negative body image.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, when celebrities rarely rebel and boast armpit or pubic hair, they took the world by storm and garnered a lot of harsh criticism.
Still, women around the world are changing the temperament by frequently dying the armpit hairs and adorning it with glitters as they would do with the hair on the head.
Now if an actress reveals her hairy armpit, there is not much opposition. Just a few heads turned.
Though the chauvinism and hostility towards this are still steep, there has been a decline and it’ll probably lead to more open-mindedness in the future.