Every time I visit my Mom, she grabs me on the shoulder, meets my eyes with a look of utter desperation and concern, and asks, “Do you need a razor?” When I was a pre-teen, I begged my mom to let me shave. Now I beg her to just let me not shave.
I stopped shaving my armpits back in 2013 for a couple reasons:
1. I was surrounding myself with people from the Burning Man community, many of whom didn’t shave because they embrace the natural human body (figuratively and literally. They give damn good hugs.).
2. There was a dude. A dude who liked armpits. He never said he specifically liked pit hair. He was into pit smell, and I figured the pit hair would help cultivate a fragrant forest of pheromones.
I’ve kept my pit locks long —if you don’t count one Mother’s Day when I shaved as a gift to my long-suffering mom. It’s less maintenance, for one, and I really like the way it looks and feels. It’s also a great conversation starter:
Them: “Are you foreign?”
Them: “You have more pit hair than I do.”
Me: “That’s hot on a couple levels.”
Them: “Are you gay?”
Me: “It’s basically 50-50.”
Most of these come from men, but women are equally baffled, so I want to start a conversation that will make you rethink how you feel about pit hair, not just mine, but yours (even if it’s just stubble). It’s a conversation about women, and yes, we can blame men.
A century ago, women didn’t shave their armpits. Prior to the early 20th century, Edwardian fashion was de rigueur, so ladies were clothed from top to toe. Skirts were trimmed with trains, hands were cloaked in gloves, and Gibson girl hairstyles were topped in hats. The 1910s gave women more freedom with fashion: skirts got shorter, hair got shorter, and those long Edwardian sleeves disappeared. With this change in style came the exposure of a woman’s body part that had long been scandalous even to mention in polite company: her underarm. Once society became “aware” of the female armpit in all its hairy glory, men in the ad industry and the mass media used body shaming to brainwash us into a beauty standard we can’t let go of a century later. Let’s blame this ad in Harper’s Bazaar, which suggested that you can’t possibly dance with “objectionable hair” under your arms.
Ever the entrepreneurs, Gillette created the first female razor around the same time. Men’s razors had already been around for awhile, but this was the perfect opportunity for Gillette to launch an incisive ad campaign aimed at getting women to buy their fancy new razor. The Gillette “Milady Decollette” was designed to appeal to upper class women with discerning taste in the smoothness of their pit area, thereby setting the standard that freshly shorn pits meant luxury, wealth and power.
And setting the future standard that pit hair meant something was abnormal about you. That you bucked the “system.” That you couldn’t afford a damn razor unless your mom gave you one. More recently, depilatory companies stayed on the shaming bandwagon with this infuriating “Don’t Risk Dudeness” ad campaign.
It’s been about a century since the Milady Decollete hit the market, but we’re still grossed out by pit hair, and we shouldn’t be. Here are some real-life reasons to keep those lovely locks flowing under your arms.
For the Love of Pit Locks
Yes, pit hair helps you attract mates, even if they’re not dudes who like burying their faces in your armpits during the sex act (true story). According to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, pit hair can “aid the dispersal of odorants in sexually mature humans.” It’s science! When I started trying to study the science of scent and armpit hair through in-depth experimentation (read: not wearing deodorant EVER) the results were not always positive. A couple hetero female friends of mine really liked how I smelled when I was “cultivating my natural essence,” as I called it.
I’ve found that gay women don’t seem to mind it, so I thought I’d do a little research on this. I Googled “lesbians and armpit hair.” I didn’t find any conclusive facts to back up the rumor that I’ve heard about lesbians being into pit hair and scent, but I did find a lot of porn to back it up. A pleasantly distracting amount of porn…
I also have my own scientific theory that pit hair repels bugs and narrow-minded mates. When it comes to dudes, you’ll find that pit hair quickly separates the wheat from the chaff. I mean, if random dude gets to rock his hipster beard, I best be able to let my pit hair flag fly.
Revolt Against Razors
I’m making it my personal mission to undo 100 or more years of damage and start taking back control of our tresses. Try not shaving your pit hair for a week. It may seem freakish and difficult to unbrainwash those antiquated beauty standards, but damn it feels good not to shave.
If you see a gal with pit hair, give a nod of solidarity, whether you shave or not. It’s a badge of honor. It’s a badge of bravery. It’s a badge of bucking all that long-standing body shaming.
Let me see you put your hands up! Shout the rallying cry: #PitHairDontCare
(Top right photo courtesy of the author)