If you are constantly short on time, like me, chances are you have lamented the fact that shaving is a societal expectation and something that takes away your few, few minutes you have in the morning or the precious minutes in the shower at night. You might have even wondered to yourself the purpose of all this body hair removal: for women, shaving or waxing legs, armpit hair, bikini area, upper lip, eyebrows, and even peach fuzz on your face. For men, shaving pubic hair, shaving beard and mustache area, waxing eyebrows, and even excess chest hair. This may seem excessive to you when all laid out in a list, however many people do all of the above every day.
This body grooming may seem new to you, however, it is a tradition that has been traced back to 3000 BC, through ancient art and depictions of women from Egyptian and Mesopotamian times. Additionally, the nude Greek statues that were often depicted as hairless began the human movement toward the removal undesirable body hair: one that continues to this day, and one whose history is ever evolving and changing.
From 3000 BC to now, much has changed on the topic of body hair removal, and public persona and viewpoint with it.
Methods of body hair removal have begun to evolve greatly, even more with technological advances like laser hair removal and mechanical evolutions such as epilators, changing the efficiency and ease that body hair removal requires.
With basic methods such as waxing and tweezing ranging to higher tech and even perhaps considered “trendy” versions like sugaring and body hair removal cream. The wide range of body hair removal tactics has made the action commonplace and thus is a contribution to the societal expectation. The capitalist driven market of body hair removal continues to drive the propagation and image of the hairless human, perhaps costing us those extra minutes in the shower.
The reasons why we remove our body hair may be nuanced, however, there are several evolutions in history that likely encouraged the ritual of continual body hair removal.
For women, World War 1 in the 1940s caused a rise in the popularity of shorts, causing leg shaving to be commonplace. The rise of the bikini led to a more extreme case of hair removal, increasing the popularity of bikini waxes. On the men’s side, the rise in popularity of bodybuilding (Arnold Schwarzenegger) led to the exposure of more skin, and thus the men’s body hair removal tradition begun to gain traction.
However, perhaps as a backlash to all this body hair removal, the general population seems to have had enough. Movements like feminism have begun the protestation against these rather rigid societal expectations. So the next time you’re in the shower, remember that while body hair removal may be expected, it is always optional.