Hair removal has been a thing since the beginning of time. The ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians all had methods and reasons for removing hair, but in modern history hair removal for women took hold, as we know it, around the turn of the 20th century. Exposed armpits and legs that were normally hidden away were now exposed, and in the late 80’s the Brazilian wax really took off, (that was almost a pun and it was half intended). Now in the 21st century, women (predominantly) are sold products to increase luscious shiny hair growth on the top of their head, pencils and ink to thicken their eyebrows, extensions for eyelashes, and then razors, crèmes, epilators and waxing kits to remove every strand of hair below the nose. All because hair on any part of the body is simultaneously, not right, gross and dirty.
As a child I vaguely remember the front-page furore of Julia Roberts at the premiere of Notting Hill, wearing a sleeveless dress and showing off her bountiful underarm growth to the crowds. Julia didn’t seem that bothered, although I remember the general consensus at the time being that it was a bit too long and a bit too exposed to be a forgivable ‘faux pas’.
Although I didn’t even have any hair under my arms at that point, I was repulsed and mortified at even the thought of being seen with underarm hair. How had Julia not died of embarrassment? It didn’t even bear thinking about, I knew that I would never allow myself to be caught in such a humiliating situation.
So, when all my extra bits of hair did start to grow, it brought with it multiple attempts at hair removal. This in turn brought pain in the form of folliculitis, ingrown hairs and shaving rashes, all of which were expensive. Then, just before venturing into the even more costly laser hair removal, (which promised to get rid of hairs once and for all), I started to notice under arm hair on women was becoming quite commonplace. Jemima Kirke appeared in Girls as Jessa with underarm hair, Ilana Glazer had dark tufts of hair on show in Broad City and nobody was really batting an eyelid. I also noticed that it was becoming more normalised for women to have underarm hair. Women and men were dying it, putting glitter in it, and embracing it.
Around this time, I went travelling and lost my razor, throwing caution to the wind I decided to grow my underarm hair as a middle finger to the patriarchy, slowly but surely it grew. I kept it until Christmas and then New Year, and then I kept on growing it, firstly just to annoy a friend that I was travelling with, who thought it was repulsive, and secondly just to see how long it would get.
A few people would double take when I raised my arms and others asked if it made me sweat more, (which no it definitely doesn’t). I grew very fond of it, and despite the underlying misconception that pubic hair makes you dirty, it actually made me feel cleaner.
Teenage me would have been disgusted at my hairy underarms which makes me laugh now. But teenage me was also mortified and shamed into being asked if I had a “Shaven Haven” or a “Hairy Mary”, which I also couldn’t care less about now. Although, apparently, full hair on top with a Brazilian underneath is the popular style for pubic hair in your crotch at the moment – a design which seems to overcomplicate things a bit. On that note, a recent chat about pubic hair under your arms lead quite obviously to the pubic hair on your groin. A friend of mine said they didn’t care about hairy legs, and that hairy underarms were pretty impressive, but absolutely drew the line at ‘hair down there’.
So maybe Hairy Underarms aren’t a symbol of freedom or defiance, maybe they’re a fashion trend that i currently ‘in’. A trend , which hasn’t yet been afforded to the other place, ‘down there’ where, naturally, hair grows – naturally.
Hair – on – a – vagina. What a horrible thought.