Body Hair: Bold and Beautiful

Alexa Yuen, College Page Editor

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As the weather grows warmer, shorts, skirts, and dresses make their way out from the back of closets, long sleeved sweaters are traded for crop tops and tank tops, and girls once again start shaving their legs after hiding under leggings and skinny jeans all winter and spring.
But why do girls have to go through this grooming process? Today it is part of daily beauty regimens, but that hasn’t always been the case. Believe it or not, the original practice of removing hair dates back to cavemen and cavewomen. The purpose of this, performed on both genders with sharpened rocks and shells as tweezers, was to prevent frostbite as well as eliminating anything for opponents to grab onto in battle.
The removal of hair on women for beauty and cosmetic reasons is believed to have originated in ancient Egyptian civilization. Both Egyptian men and women removed all of their body hair, including the hair on their head, but not their eyebrows.. They used shells as tweezers, as well as beeswax and sugar based waxes, in order to conform to beauty standards of the time and to demonstrate a look of cleanliness. Ancient Rome had similar beauty standards concerning hair, but only for women, as men could wear hair and facial hair in any style. In the Middle Ages, Queen Elizabeth I set a beauty standard of removing eyebrows and moving the hairline up to expose the forehead, but not removing any other body hair. Finally, in the 1700’s and 1800’s, women caught a break, and there were no beauty standards to dictate how women should maintain their body hair.
This changed in the 1900’s when depilatory creams and female razors were invented, and a leading women’s fashion magazine featured an ad with a woman with no underarm hair – once again setting beauty standards for women. Since then, the methods for hair removal have improved, with options such as electric razors, wax strips, and even lasers. Hair removal in women became increasingly accepted, especially after WWII when nylon shortages forced women to go bare-legged. Now, as early as the age of 10 or 11 girls begin shaving and removing body hair.
It seems that in the past, society has dictated what was seen as acceptable for women in terms of their body hair. In the current day and age however, the rise of modern feminism has challenged these societal standards. Body positive movements are springing up everywhere, including embracing your weight and body shape, as well as choosing what to do with your body hair regardless of what common culture suggests. As a result, many women are opting not to shave, and many of the teens surveyed at Warwick support this choice. Raina Searle, a senior, stated her position, “You can do whatever you want with your body. I’m heated because it’s natural, so why can society dictate that what’s natural on your body is wrong?” She also pointed out that in other cultures, such as in Europe, body hair on women is accepted and women there do not shave.
Most students agreed that what you do with your body, including your body hair, is strictly your choice. Alyssa Schaechinger, a junior, stated, “If you’re going to remove body hair, do it for you, not for anyone else.” Madison Grefski and Preston Grzegorzewski, both seniors, had similar sentiments, “Who cares what anybody looks like as long as they don’t smell”, said Madison, and Preston commented, “Do whatever the hell makes you happy.”
Students at Warwick are not the only ones with this ideology, many celebrities have also decided to forgo the societal norm in favor of doing what makes them comfortable and happy with their bodies. Public figures like Lena Dunham, Miley Cyrus, Paris Jackson, Mayim Bialik, Drew Barrymore, and Madonna have been known to be open about their choices with their body hair. This includes posts on social media, such as Madonna’s Instagram post captioned, “Long hair…..Don’t care!!! #artforfreedom”, and shows her arm raised with grown out arm hair. Miley Cyrus has also often posed with her underarm hair showing, even dying it for extra emphasis. Mayim Bialik, an actress on the series The Big Bang Theory once stated, “I remain the tomboy/feminist who has never in her life shaved her legs or armpits. Ever….. Seemed like a waste of time, a conformity that disgusted me (I was a feisty feminist even at 14).” It is celebrities like these women that help reset societal expectations and promote personal choice over your own body.
Although not very common, new trends have emerged for those who are confident with their body hair. These trends extend not only to women, but men as well. These trends include dyeing your underarm hair vibrant colors, such as Miley Cyrus, or even applying glitter to them. Men have also joined the trend of dyeing their underarm hair, and some have even decorated their facial hair. “Glitter beards” are one trend in which men completely cover their mustache and beard in glitter.
Not everyone may be this brave or bold in their fashion, however, these trends are positive signs that people are becoming more accepting of body hair on all genders. Now, body hair has evolved from natural necessity, to symbols of class and societal norm, and are now used for fashion statements. Who knows what crazy fashion trend will emerge next?

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