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.

      • thething thatdarknessfears

        Of course you can and should do with your body whatever you want and makes you most comfortable…
        But if you are willing to entertain unsolicited commentary: pubic hair in no way interferes with or complicates child birth. It is so messy and complicated on its own already! Good luck with it.

    • 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.

          • canaduck

            Yep, social conditioning is a real pain in the ass. Feminism is completely against the idea that men are brainless, sex-obsessed animals when it’s so clearly a product of our society.

            Fun fact: a couple of hundred years ago, it was thought that women were the insatiable, sex-crazed monsters–why else would they want to have sex when it so frequently ended in pregnancy and even death? Back then, of course, it was a bad thing that tempted otherwise pure and loyal men, instead of a “natural” need that we were all meant to dictate our existence by.

          • Me

            you’re wrong about a ton of things dingy! Why bother raging at someone when you are totally clueless- you just make a messy fool out of you’re self! Stay in school tool because your airhead persona will eventually wither away and without a brain, we’ll see you in the soup kitchen line!

      • 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.

          • Stacie Danielle Reeves

            Then I guess you don’t like the right to vote?

          • ▲mber

            haha you clearly haven’t seen third wave feminism. It is disgusting.

          • canaduck

            Apparently you are the one who hasn’t “seen” third-wave feminism, unless you’re fine with being paid less than men, A runaway rape culture, an epidemic of violence directed at women, increased oversexualization and objectification, etcetera. It drives me nuts when people think that feminism has anything at all to do with hating men (I’m going to assume that’s your objection, because that’s the general, catch-all complaint) because it hasn’t, not from the very beginning. It’s about changing sexist gender roles, something that is good for all of us. See, for example, the documentary Miss Representation, or its male-focused counterpart, The Mask We Live In.

            There is nothing “disgusting” about wanting women and men to be treated like equally important members of society.

          • Will Phoenix

            Did you really need to get political? Yeah, equality is one thing BUT what most women want is to have MORE than men. it’s 2014 and women get hired over men simply because the govt says so AND yet they sit silently while men pay for dates and go through the same relationship and dating rituals we had to go through back when we had good jobs and women were not hired before us simply because of gender/quota/EEOC etc. Take all the jobs from men but then make sure you are the one paying for MY dinner, mmmkay?

          • ozzysstash

            I think YOU are confused about third wave feminism. It’s teachings are so generalized that it’s not feminism anymore. If you are a third wave feminist you might as well say that you’re an educated human in the 21st century. However, YOU wouldn’t know that if you’re source of information is restricted to documentaries. PS, the objectification of women issue is more in previous feminist teachings, third wave feminism pretty much instructs the woman to not care and to roll with it, using it to her advantage if she is able to avoid hurting anyone because of it.

          • ozzysstash

            I completely agree with what you’re saying, Amber. Third wave feminism is entirely useless if you already have an intelligent 21st century world view; holding everyone in equal regard and understanding not to judge because you understand psychology, especially since third wave feminism oversteps its bounds and tends to give generalized advice on things other than the disenfranchisement of females, such as accepting the world of differing sexual tastes (which makes it… not strictly a feminist philosophy?). Besides, no one really set out to undermine females because of their gender (except individuals and Papists haha); humans simply are willing to make others do work they don’t want to do until they are forced to see the error in their ways… See: slavery. When you drop the righteous fury, you even see that the advent of Islam was an improvement in the way women were treated in the middle east in the 500’s, it just hasn’t been updated in 1400 years lol…

          • Me

            Anti-feminist? You do mean complete airhead then! You would be your husband(future husband)’s CHATTLE if it weren’t for the feminists that came before you…that’s *if* you are actually female.
            Women were not allowed to vote, men could beat the crap out of you and you would have no recourse/no escape…Women get beaten and killed by their husbands and boyfriend’s now all over the world, more women live in poverty and most of the world does not have equal pay laws, some men want you to think that your life ends at 29/39 by sexualizing everything you do to make you feel insecure and submissive…

          • Nonita YaBiz

            <3 to you sister

          • Nonita YaBiz

            Oh wow antifeminist so you do not use birth control. Or have a bank account or own land or enjoy being able to get an education. OBVIOUSLY!

        • 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.

      • huffposter

        Actually the hygienic reason is more applicable for people who do not shower daily. If you bathe daily and do a good job of it, hair in the nether regions will not impact hygiene whatsoever. It’s the same myth people use to justify circumcision. JUST BATHE DAILY PEOPLE AND YOU ARE HYGIENIC AND CLEAN ENOUGH!

      • Nonita YaBiz

        STDs spread easier on a shaved ” down there” ( think you mean vulva. As for body odor. If you use salt deodorant you will have Zero body odor. And yes women past puberty have hair. All the most sensitive places on our bodies have more hair. Head , vulva, armpits. Hair in these areas act as protective padding.

      • alasia min

        Actually hair guards against infection”down there” so your argument falls flat. What’s hygenic is washing. Take a shower daily, use soap and deodorant and you shouldn’t have a problem. You didn’t explain how it’s not pedophilic fro men to prefer women shaven as though they are pubescent so your counterargument fails.

    • 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.

      • stevesharkman

        lol…you’re fbi guy likes his girls looking like a prepubescent little girls.
        it’s sick.
        real women wear hair.

        • Will Phoenix

          Real women don’t let strangers online dictate/define them.

          • stevesharkman

            says a closet pedophile.

      • Will Phoenix

        Thank you. “Smooth” is my Kryptonite and makes me weak in the knees but that doesn’t make me a pervert. I AM a pervert but the shaved thing has little to do with it lol

    • stevesharkman

      amen sister!

    • huffposter

      I feel like your decision may be easier if you have thin or light coloured body hair. I know that if I do not shave my legs, I have thick, dark hair all over my legs. I wish people weren’t so judgemental and I was more invisible so I could get away with not shaving my legs. Perhaps when I get old(er) I will opt out of leg shaving except for the beach.

    • lalitha

      Soooo true

    • daisy

      Me too I agree. X daisy

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  • 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

    • Will Phoenix

      I like the way it feels, too!

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  • barbs

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

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  • 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.

    • Will Phoenix

      Wow. This was very smart! it sure was cheaper than buying the lady flowers or an actual gift or even dinner too!

      • Travalot

        Would you mind describing the tortured logic you used to conclude that because I compliment my wife on her natural beauty that I do none of the things you mentioned? How do you imagine that you could possibly know such a thing? I’ll leave you with a paraphrase of an old saying: It is better to remain silent and thought a fool than to post something and remove all doubt.

        • Will Phoenix

          Don’t take it personally! We are not “real” people here. These are just posts that anyone can make. I can no more prove you do not do those thing than you can prove you do. I was just referencing the posting itself. Now if you had mentioned Mark Twain someone above I would have definitely been impressed even though we know nothing about each other.

  • 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! :)

    • Judith Rosa

      I am an old school or maybe just plain old feminist and since I adhere to your way of dealing with the shaving issue ( and wearing make-up, etc too): I shave when I feel like it and when I don’t feel like it I go au naturel. So I am used to being hounded by both sides. I am either a whore trying to get male attention or a filthy hippie. LOL I don’t want anyone to lick it but they can all bite me.

    • Will Phoenix

      I think I’m in love!!

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  • 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.

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  • huffposter

    I don’t mind shaving armpits it helps when sweating to reduce odour and as someone with sensitive sense of smell it’s a good thing. I absolutely despise shaving my legs. I avoid it at all costs, barely wearing shorts at all. And sometimes when I let my hair grow in a bit I am paranoid everyone is looking at and noticing the dark roots on my white calves. I have sensitive skin and ingrown hairs cause much irritation and itchiness. So bad that I often find myself awoken by scratching my legs in my sleep! Curse you 40s fashion style!! >:(

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  • Will Phoenix

    BTW the jury is still out on the hygiene issue: http://americanlivewire.com/2014-07-07-underarm-hair/

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  • Angelique

    I shave & wax my parts because I feel dirty & gross if I don’t & I’m a feminist. I just feel very clean & sexy when I do. I love the feeling of having bare, smooth, hair free skin. That feeling makes ME feel free. I don’t give a rats ass what anyone thinks. I’m a hair free woman & I love it. Hair removal just isn’t for everyone.

    • Guest

      I guess you shave your head too right? to feel clean or do you wash your hair? yea, that’s what I thought.
      also, looking like a prepubescent little girl will only attract closet pedophiles.
      be a woman and wear hair.

  • Ramome

    I just hope they don’t cancel Duck Dynasty. There’s enough hair in that show, for you gals to talk about for the next ten years.

  • little poots

    this business that we all see shaving as some huge tedious chore is ridiculous. takes me about 40 seconds in the shower every morning.

  • Danyiel Romo Mendoza

    lies. greeks.

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  • Elise

    fiy, I don’t possess any ‘naughty bits’….every part of my body is legitimate and supposed to be there ;-)

    but thanks for article!

  • Janice M. O’Reilly

    Women, what did we get out of this article? Not much more
    than a large tub of useless whining.

    I began reading “Mental-Floss” seeking education and all
    this “Cosmo-esque” crap, got me was a slam-it-shut-and-toss-it-in-the-furnace
    waste, of my time plus, an insult to intelligence, across the board.

    Girlfriends!! If this is the
    level of information, you are satisfied with…keep the razors sharp for more
    productive use; peeling off your eyelids.

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  • J3551C4

    People are happy to tell me that I can do whatever I want with my body in certain corners of the internet, but in real life, I’m disgusting for not wanting to shave my legs. Even the very same people shouting “BE WHO YOU ARE” on the internet do a 180 in real life. Admit it, ladies; of all the rights we’ve “earned”, we are not welcome to “love the skin [we’re] in”. We’re taught to be disgusted by it, purchase products to “fix” it, and we’re ridiculed if we accept what nature gives us.

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