A History of Why The Heck We Shave Anyways
Spoiler alert: it's totally sexist.
From the Stone Age to the Elizabethan Era to the present day, women (and men) have been shaving their bodies and setting trends on what is socially acceptable in terms of body hair. Whether you shave once a day, once a week, or you've decided to never shave, here's a brief history on why the heck people shave anyways.
Body Hair: A Historical Timeline
The Stone Age: Both men and women shaved for safety, not vanity. They shaved their heads and faces so that their battle opponents wouldn't be able to grab onto anything when fighting.
Ancient Egypt: women and men would remove all of their body hair (minus their eyebrows) to allude to cleanliness, and conform to a beauty standard (here we go, people). These beauty standards were set by women like Cleopatra.
The Roman Empire: Just like ancient Egypt, hair removal signified cleanliness, but it was also a signifier of class for women.
Elizabethan Era: Queen Elizabeth I, the ultimate trendsetter, shifted shaving priority from leg hair and pubic hair to shaping eyebrows, removing mustaches, and even removing the hair from the top of your forehead in order to make your face seem longer.
1700s and 1800s: The first straight razor is invented by men, for men. Women used them too, but razors wouldn't be marketed towards women specifically until later. A man named King Camp Gillette (sound familiar?) invented an even safer razor in the 1800s.
1900s: Societal pressures and the beauty standard really begin to take a hold on women.
Gillette designed a razor specifically for women in 1915 and created the Milady Décolleté, which launched what's known now as "The First Great Anti-Underarm Hair Campaign."
An ad appeared in Harper's Bazaar in 1915, which showed women with completely bare underarms, calling this type of underarm a "necessity."
1940s and 50s: Fashion basically demanded that women shave their legs. World War II brought a shortage on nylon, among many other things, which meant women couldn't wear stockings every day. Skirts also started to get shorter, and more leg shown meant more pressure to shave.
Keep in mind that no one has been telling men to shave anything.
'80s and '90s: Wondering about trimming things down south? The bikini's invention in 1946 prompted women to start shaving their pubic hair and after the encouragement of growing out your hair down there in the 60s and 70s, women started focusing on shaving their pubic hair again in the 80s and 90s due to pornography and fashion photography.
Today: We've come a long way since the Stone Age, and women have been embracing their right to choose what they do with their body hair. More and more women are choosing to forego shaving altogether, and now some women are dying and "glitter bombing" their armpits.
Pretty cool, right? Women deciding what to do with their own bodies and all that. We've been shaving since we were cavemen and cavewomen, but now we've reached a point where we can shave (or not shave) for ourselves and for no other reason whatsoever.
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