Prior to World War I, most women only worried about the hair that could be seen; hair on the scalp, and for some, facial hair. Around 1915 however, fashions changed and sleeveless dresses came into style. And so began The Great Underarm Campaign – whereby companies that made razors sought to inform American women of a problem they didn’t know they had: unsightly underarm hair.
The campaign began with an ad in the May 1915 issue of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. The ad featured a young woman in a toga-like dress. Her arms are arched over her head revealing perfectly smooth armpits. The first part of the ad reads, “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.”
Around the same time this ad ran, Wilkinson Sword launched a marketing campaign for razors aimed at women, and within two years sales of razor blades had doubled.
The advertisers succeeded in convincing women that armpit hair was unattractive. They used an advertising technique that is still hugely successful today: invent a problem and then offer your product as the solution. It’s commonly used in anti-wrinkle cream advertising, for example. It doesn’t get much more natural than wrinkles, but advertisers have millions of us convinced that (a) they’re a problem, and (b) we can “cure” them with creams and botox injections.
So, we know why most of us shave off our pit hair, but are there any good reasons to grow it? There are plenty of reasons not to, the least of which being that you’re likely to be called a femi-nazi, man-hating lesbian, angry hairy bitch, or some other cruel name. (I mean, seriously? All that anger over a few wisps of hair!? Get over it, people!)
Well, here’s one reason why you might want to consider growing it back. In one of the most popular and trusted books on sex, The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort, the authour makes such a strong case for female armpit hair that I had to share it here.
“The natural perfume of a clean woman [is] her greatest sexual asset after her beauty (some would say greater than that). It comes from the whole of her – hair, skin, breasts, armpits, genitals and the clothing she has worn…[some women] chop off their armpit hair, or did until a new generation started to realize that it was sexy. This might be forgivable in a hot climate with no plumbing. Now it is simply ignorant vandalism… A woman’s little tufts [are the] antennae and powderpuffs to introduce herself in a room, or in lovemaking.”And it’s true… humans are attracted to each other on a primal level by the way we smell. Your own unique smell is an extremely powerful force, and armpit hair is there to capture it.
Despite my awareness of how ridiculous it is that women shave their pits, I still do it. It’s a social norm that’s extremely hard to break away from. But after reading about armpit hair in The Joy of Sex, I have to admit I’m tempted to give pit hair a chance! “Little tufts”… “Powderpuffs”… Why, it sounds simply delightful! And despite what the media tells us, there are plenty of folks – both men and women – who find the au natural style very attractive.
Whatever your preference for pit hair may be – bushy or bare – I think we all need to respect the choices of others. We shouldn’t be disgusted by women who grow bushy little powderpuffs, and we shouldn’t assume anything about their sexuality, anger levels, involvement in feminism, or anything else! And for those of us who shave or wax, we need our hairy sisters to understand that most of us won’t ever go there, mostly because we’ve been so brainwashed to think it’s unattractive and we’re terrified of what other people might think.