Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"When did we decide women should shave their legs?"

That's the title of an article in Australia's 'Daily Life'.  Here's an excerpt.

Before the First World War, virtually no woman in the West shaved her legs. And yet by 1964, 98 per cent of them under the age of 44 did so. What happened in between?

Advertising happened, that's what.

Christina Hope researched the evolution for her 1982 paper titled 'Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture'. Through surveying ads in old issues of Harper's Bazaar and McCall's magazines, she could track how women were progressively browbeaten into going hairless via an extreme marketing assault.

At the turn of the century, women – and men, presumably – didn't particularly care about body hair as long sleeves and floor-grazing skirts concealed most of the body.

According to Hope, things began to change in 1915. As sheer sleeves and Greek- and Roman-style dresses came into fashion, ads in Harper's Bazaar started to target underarm hair, informing American womanhood of a problem it had but didn't know existed until now. "The Woman of Fashion Says the underarm must be as smooth as the face," read a typical pitch. "Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair," said another.

Beauty writers jumped onboard, too, ushering in a vogue for body hair removal. Cue, a whole new outlet of female hang-ups for advertisers to exploit!

There's more at the link, including many advertisements illustrating the point.

I must admit, I've never been bothered at the thought (or the reality) of body hair on women.  Of course, I come from a continent where shaving legs and arms was a luxury reserved for the wealthy few, and women in rural (and particularly tribal) environments would have laughed at the thought.  I'm informed by Miss D. that this is also the case in large parts of Alaska.  She's quipped before, "Ah, Alaskan women - skin like porcelain, legs like Chewbacca!"  It always makes me grin - but in so cold a climate, I find it perfectly understandable.



Wraith said...

I made that decision when I discovered my cheeks were very ticklish.

(This is where Peter bans me for life)

Paul, Dammit! said...

LOL at wraith. I married a Brazilian, anyhow. They don't believe in shaving, either. Hot wax. Lot of hot wax. Everywhere. They're very grumpy for an afternoon after, though.

Will said...

I still remember the staggering turn-off of the golf ball size clump of hair that protruded in front of and behind a girls' armpits, in my late teens. I was stunned. She was smiling at me, and all I could see was that hair. Yuck. I was also wondering what else she was lax about. I didn't hang around to find out. This was about 1970. I don't mind body hair, as I'm pretty hairy myself. But, at least keep it neat, girl.

I think shaving underarms is a bit odd, actually. Just keep it trimmed.

Anonymous said...

My Mom was born in 1918. She was raised a rural girl in California. She said she noticed the shaving trend in the late 1920's. People were making everything from cars to toasters look more streamlined. She thought they were applying the same notions to women.
While I grew up on California in the '60s and '70s, the whole notion of shaving always seemed a horrendous waste of time to me. I'll do it and trimming to maintain the appearance I want and my husband likes, but much of the skinned chicken look borders on pedophilia to me. These days, that includes the way many women seem to like their men to look.


Proftel said...

Well, I know where European women decided to shave her legs.
Around 1500 some Portuguese and Spanish liked what they saw in the Indies (the American continent).
Sleeping with hairy woman is like sleeping with dog, kiss woman with mustache then, nor think!
Native America have always been smooth skin, are the only ones by the head, and inside the nose.
The "fashion" came from there!