A brief history of the female underarm, from 1915 when it began to a conundrum today.
2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the social trend of female armpit shaving. I can’t guarantee the trend started on April 22nd, 1915, but I’ve got a 1/365 shot. Hey, better odds than the Browns winning the Super Bowl.
Before 1915, there was no real impetus for women to shave their underarms because no one ever saw them. But as society became looser and clothing items like sleeveless dresses became fashionable, women’s underarms were on display. An ad in Harper’s Bazaar told women that the “removal of objectionable hair” was a must before wearing the dresses — and you didn’t want to cross Harper’s Bazaar when it came to beauty tips. It was the Michelle Phan of the turn of the century.
So by the 1920s, female underarm hair was all but gone.
It made a brief comeback with the hippies, but didn’t last.
A news story came out last year about a salon in Seattle that dyes women’s armpit hair, but that hasn’t taken over the world like other members of its grooming ilk (Brazilian waxing, eyebrow threading, rectal bleaching).
So to this day, women’s armpit hair removal remains a seemingly unchallenged pillar of grooming (even if some celebrities and one girl I once dated occasionally make a small push to bring it back).
But is it time for female underarm hair to make its triumphant return?
Des Tobin is a biology professor at the University of Bradford in England, and he says yes — at least if you’re interested in dating. His theory: Growing long armpit hair could help you find a mate.
In other mammals, body hair is very important for dispersing odors, such as pheromones — chemicals that can help to attract mates … shaving your underarm hair could mean that odors are not dispersed into the air so quickly.
Hear that? You’re just a hairy armpit away from finding the man or woman of your dreams!
Of course, you may lose them once they get a look at the hair, but that’s a clear “cross that bridge when we get to it” situation. And therein lies the armpit hair paradox.
The conclusion? Like everything, do whatever and stuff will happen and other stuff won’t and things will be things and so on. Meanwhile, happy 100th anniversary, smooth female underarms — you beguilingly smooth entanglement of confusion, femininity and pheromone regulation.