Pit Stop: A Quick History Of Women & Shaving

November 8, 2011 by
Woman shaving underarm
BeautyOff Beat

Pages: 1 2

Most women we know perform the grooming ritual of shaving some area(s) of their bodies a few times a week. Of those who do, the great majority would probably agree that it’s an annoying chore. Shaving can become even more tedious when it affects your wardrobe choices. You know those mornings when you get out of the shower and go to put on that sleeveless shirt, only to realize you forgot to shave your pits. This always seems to happen on days when you have an activity that will make it impossible for you to get away with keeping your arms tightly at your sides all day. So you debate – jump back in the shower, pick a different outfit or throw caution to the wind and let it all hang out. Ugh!

As with most cultural customs, everything we do has a traceable origin… the moment that something goes from idea to societal norm. But, where did all the fuss over women ridding ourselves of body hair come from anyway and when did it all begin?

We certainly had no idea, but really wanted some answers. So, Women You Should Know turned to mental_floss, our go to resource for learning and laughing about some of the most intriguing, out there and even banal, yet curiosity piquing, subjects. The magazine and site make us feel smarter and we’re imparting some of our new found knowledge on to you. Thanks to an info packed mental_floss blog post we came across, we can now tell you exactly when women started shaving their underarms (and other body parts). click page 2 below to continue reading…

Pages: 1 2

  • Thya S.

    Thank goodness for Harper’s Bazaar! Nothing is more unsightly than pit hair, seriously.

    • http://pointless-ideas.com Donna

      How DARE you have hair on a certain body part… when I think that you should not have it there. Remove it. Now. I order you. (And the foolish women follow it, blindly.)

      There’s nothing the least bit attractive (or unattractive) about shaving (or not shaving) hair under your arms.

      • nypheria

        Do what you want to do, I don’t see why another women should have say over what you do with your body. If you want to shave, do it. if you don’t, then don’t. I choose not to and I don’t judge anyone who does or doesn’t (because I understand!). :)

  • Anne J.


  • Katheryn

    I don’t shave my pits or legs. I wear sleeveless dresses and short skirts. To everyone who thinks its abnormal, I say, “lick it!”

    Nothing is worse than pediphiles…. Young children don’t have hair. Women have hair. It’s natural, it’s beautiful, and it’s liberating.

    • Robert

      Ok, Katheryn I can take you up on that offer. hehe. Though I like naturally hairy women, mostly forearms and legs. Armpit hair on a woman is nice too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001846742862 Anand Vyas

      Some women dont even “grow” hair like my girlfriend, thats just moronic to say “women have hair”… Do you want pics for proof ? Time lapse perhaps ? Cunty Bitch for calling all men who like hairless women pedophiles, some are just “born this way”

    • http://www.facebook.com/teegan.mullins Tee OccupyAustin Mullins-Getti

      Living in Texas, I occasionally find it nessecarry to shave underarm hair. It itches and collects grime that’s difficult to bathe off during my siesta bath- running to the bathroom after fixing lunch to wash my upper body in the sink, as Grandma taught me to do.
      Also, I want to get rid of my genital hair occasionally for hygeine reasons. It makes things less messy 4 days of the month, and I’m planning on getting waxed a week before my baby’s estimated due date to make things less complicated for that event.
      I am against the horrible social bullying for women to shave. It’s a personal hygiene choice. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

    • nypheria

      Amen! That’s how I feel :) I’m 24, not a 10 year old. It’s very liberating to be free of social expectations for my own body.

    • Amber

      I really dislike when people bring the whole pedophile thing in. First of all, guys who like shaved legs, underarms, and anything below the waist aren’t necessarily pedophiles. That’s an extremely ignorant thing to say as your defense against shaving. Secondly, I get the whole freeing vibe you’re trying to put out, but honestly, shaving is important for hygiene. B.O. worsens in the pits if you don’t shave and dead skin collects easily on hairy legs. I won’t even start on the hygienic reasons for shaving “down there”. Anyway, do what makes you happy, but stop with the whole “Men who don’t like body hair on women are pedophiles” show. It’s annoying and, quite frankly, immature.

      • gasolinerainbow

        It’s obviously wrong to label men who like the whole ‘shaven haven’ thing peados, considering men are swamped with that kind of sexual imagery HOWEVER hair removal is not more hygienic than leaving your hair where it is. That’s absolute nonsense and I honestly thought that myth had been debunked quite some time ago: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/aug/07/pubic-hair-has-job-stop-shaving

        • ▲mber

          Huh. I guess I was wrong about the pubic hair one. Um how are men swamped with that? No, they’re really not. I hate how people just label guys like animals craving sex, constantly filled with sex thoughts and sexual images.

          • Daniel Bryant

            yes, we really are. it’s like carrying a loaded gun in your pants.

      • Gaynor

        Sure, that’s why all men shave their legs and armpits too, right? For hygiene. Or do you think men don’t sweat or produce skin cells? If it was for hygiene, both men and women would do it (unless you’re saying men are filthy and repulsive- is that what you’re saying? Cause you don’t really come across as that much of a radical feminist otherwise…)

        • ▲mber

          Nope, not saying that at all. Taking my comment out of context – the entire thing revolved around not calling guys who liked girls shaved pedophiles. And no, I’m completely anti-feminist.

          Anyway, I acknowledge the fact that shaving was, in fact, a fashionable thing that sprung up in the ’20s. No doubt about it. So no, it’s not all about hygiene.

        • barbs

          But men aren’t really required to smell like ‘roses’ are they? as is the requirement put out there for women.

          • PJM

            Get over yourself if women had to smell like roses then no couple would have morning sex.

      • na

        fun fact: it’s actually more hygienic to have hair “Down there” than it is to shave it. The hair is on your body for a reason. And that reason is to keep you clean.

        • ▲mber

          Yes, I’ve already covered this with someone else. I was wrong about that.

    • PJM

      I attended a talk at my sons preschool from a former FBI investigator with over
      30 years investigating pedophilia, the condition is hardwired into their
      brains. It still makes everything they do wrong. Never once did he
      say a man who sees a woman shaved is a pervert.

      The speaker who came from a strict Irish Catholic background
      said few key things to remember. Pedophilia is hardwired in their brains.
      Stranger danger is bunk. The sex registry is bunk and gives a false
      sense of security. Talk to your kids as early as they can talk about
      healthy sexual activity so they learn the difference.

      Katheryn to spread false statements about men
      who like women shaved as perpetrators of sex crimes is dangerous and wrong.

  • Pingback: OKcupid Skipped Questions: Hairy Issues | Searching For Her

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Nicola/1002206962 Linda Nicola

    I thought the ancient Egyptians shaved. didn’t the Romans and Greeks too?

    • WomenYSK

      Hi Linda – The history above was specific to shaving/body hair removal customs of American women. You are correct that the ancient Eqyptians, Romans and Greeks were all into some form of body hair removal. Stay tuned for that story next!

    • PJM

      If they did shave it was for hygiene. My
      son is reading a book called “disgusting history” most Romans had flees.
      So yes if they shaved, the book does not mention this it would most
      likely have been so flees were easier to pick off.

  • Norma

    I am one HAIRY gal. Part Italian, part monkey, not sure, but the hair on me “au naturel” is one big messy, sweaty, stinky, hot mess. I don’t like the way it feels…forget about what people say, I (italicized ) don’t like it. I like the way my skin feels with no hair. I like the way my clothes and sheets feel up against my skin with no hair. (I need not continue with more romantic descriptions, but I think you get my drift…)
    Bottom line, I just plain feel better without body hair.

    Yes, I spend a small fortune on hair removal–waxing, YES, stringing, YES, tweezing, shaving, NAPALM, YES! Whatever it takes–it’s worth it to me. And it is indeed at times torturous, but again, worth it to me.

    As for abiding by what nature dictates, ok, I get that point, but while I love the beauty of nature, I also love the way a manicured garden looks, as opposed to an overgrown, unkept one. So I cut back, weed, prune, mow, weed-whack, etc…my body…and my garden :-)

    • Natalie M.

      Hahah! Napalm! Weed wack! Preach sister! I’m with you. Total TMI but if I didn’t get after my hairs the word unsightly doesn’t even come close to properly describe my buns…
      ARGH! :P

  • Pingback: What I Stopped Doing So I Could Start Living | Community Of Women

  • Pingback: Preparing. Releasing. Growing. | Detoxifying Body & Empowering Soul

  • Pingback: The Hair Dare: No shave…Never. | The Femme Word

  • barbs

    pretty crappy that the picture is of a woman shaving a hairless armpit. shaven ones aren’t that ‘hair free’ or attractive actually.

  • Pingback: Hair brained | You... Only Wetter

  • Travalot

    I guess I never will get it. For as far back as I can remember, even as a child, I’ve preferred natural women. Does that make me weird? I’ve always thought that natural beauty was the best kind of beauty. It was never a requirement; only a preference. But I just don’t understand why someone would declare at some point in time that body hair on a woman was unattractive or ‘objectionable’. How was that idea formed? I asked my wife shortly after we were married if she would stop shaving – just for a little while. Of course she wanted to know why. I told her that I’d like to see who she really is – what she really looks like. I knew her heart, but not her body. Surprisingly, she was receptive to it. As her natural beauty began to emerge, I complimented her frequently about it. She never shaved again. She became even more sexy and beautiful to me. And after 10 years, I still tell her how gorgeous she is. I wish all women could understand the cultural man centric traps that compel them to do things that, in my opinion, inhibit their true beauty.

  • Suzy

    I am a shaver. I shave when I want. it’s up to me! If you men don’t like it, I say lick it! :)

  • Pingback: American Apparel au naturel (sort of). | Reproached Blindness

  • Pingback: A Leg Up on the Hairy History | Potato Skin Belt

  • Ash

    Given that different societies have different rules on shaving, and that they all started at different time periods, your statement [Quote: "we can now tell you exactly when women started shaving their underarms (and other body parts)."] is moot. Your article only focuses on one society that is American society, yet you declare it as fact for all societies.

  • Pingback: Epilator Tips - How To Guide For Using An Epilator • Epilator Central