Let’s get back to basics. Armpit hair occurs naturally on our bodies.
If you’re eating you may want to stop now. Hair is basically dead skin. Part of our skin is called the follicle. Hair cells are constantly growing. When they die they are compacted in the follicle and make a protein called Keratin. This is then pushed out of the body and you get hair.
Armpit hair starts growing around puberty. It’s unclear why we still get it; after all the days where our ancestors were covered in hair were long, long ago. It may be to keep us warm. Or to stop friction when the arm is used. Another theory is that it’s there to soak up our underarm sweat. Lovely stuff.
Armpit hair helps to transmit pheromones. These are substances released when you sweat into the atmosphere. They send signals to other members of the species. Pheromones cause alarm, tell you to back off and even make you horny.
This is not a modern thing. As far back as 4000 BC women were using stuff like arsenic to keep smooth. Just like an ancient version of Veet. By 500 BC the Romans used pumice stone to shave. They even created a prototype razor. But apart from that what did the Romans ever do for us?
Myth: Shaving your armpits is more hygienic.
Actually armpit hair means less smelly bacteria.
But it was around 1915 when the modern obsession with shaved underarms became all the rage. Before that point, fashion meant that women were covered from head to toe. New fashion trends meant that a woman’s whole arm was on show for the first time. Believe it or not, this was revolutionary.
A 1915 Harper’s Bazaar advertising campaign stated that sleeveless fashion and “modern dancing” meant “objectionable” underarm hair had to go. Why Harper’s Bazaar decided a shaved underarm was the definition of femininity is unclear. It may be linked to renaissance art where women are portrayed as completely hairless. Maybe that’s taking artistic license too far?
Myth: French women don’t shave their armpit hair.
This myth apparently started just after World War II. It’s untrue.
Whatever the reason, over the years it has become a societal norm that women shave their armpits and men don’t. Chest and armpit hair have traditionally been related to masculinity. However some men are breaking the trend. A lot of male athletes prefer a smooth cut and 16% of young British males shave their armpits.
Thousands of girls in China are taking part in an armpit hair competition. They are posting images of their underarms on a social media website.
Activist Xiao Meili started the competition to combat the view that you must have shaved armpits to be attractive. Shaving armpits has only become the norm in China in the past decade.
And before you take sides in this debate why not check out other famous examples of women who let it grow.