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Why Do Women Shave?- A Brief History

The History of Women Shaving

Did you know that people have been plucking, burning, and ripping out undesirable hair since 4000 B.C.? Honestly, that is one of those fun facts I may not have ever discovered if I weren’t doing a little research. Now I have something interesting to bring up at dinner parties.

Cave Man/Woman Shaving

There are actual cave drawings of people shaving with flint knives and shark teeth. For centuries, people used other dangerous substances like arsenic and quicklime to remove hair. The Egyptians removed all of their hair- from head to toe- for the streamlined, slick look. They believed this also discouraged the spreading of diseases, lice and other nasty creepers whose mention just made you itch your own head. Solid gold and copper razors have been found in some Egyptian tombs as far back as the 4th millennium B.C.

By 500 B.C., Roman ladies had learned how to use pumice stones and even a primitive version of the razor. Depending on the culture, women shaved different areas of their bodies for various reasons, such as showing submission, being a slave, or preparing for the night of their wedding. In other cultures, you shave, you go to hell. Who would have thought shaving would be such a controversial topic? (Side note: Nazis also shaved their prisoners, and male slaves were shaved by their masters.)

Underarm Shaving

Fast forwarding to modern days, why do we women shave? Who came up with the idea that we had to do this 2, 3, 4, or 7 days a week? You will all be happy to know, I found someone to blame. Underarms were hidden until the early 1900′s. Women wore long (or longer) sleeves, so that their under arms never showed. Even saying the word “underarm” would get you kicked out of a fancy place. But in 1915, an ad in the fashion magazine, Harper’s Bazaar had a picture of a woman wearing a sleeveless dress. The magazine spread the word that in order to look sexy, “objectionable hair must be removed”. Within a few years, underarm hair was, “like, so yesterday”.

Leg Shaving

Though it didn’t take very long for underarm-shaving to catch on, leg-shaving was a bit more difficult. My theory is that underarms had very little hair, and it doesn’t grow that fast, while leg hair seems to grow a quarter of an inch every time a slight breeze passes by. Who wanted to deal with all that? Flapper girls wore shorter skirts for a time, but in the 1930′s, hemlines were long again, and women everywhere rejoiced, just like we do now when winter is here, and we can get by for weeks at a time without shaving our legs.

So what was the tipping point for us ladies? Then World War II erupted, an iconic pin-up picture of Betty Grable became part of pop culture almost overnight. Women wanted to look just like her, but in order to copy her look, they had to wear a short skirt and sheer stalkings without furry leg hair poking through. We have been shaving ever since.

Conclusion

We ladies like to look good. We also tend to follow social trends, which is why we like to post selfies on Facebook when we get a new haircut or outfit. I know, I’m guilty of it too. The funny thing is that shaving had some practicality hundreds of years ago. Historically, it even has a lot of cultural and religious significance. But for modern American times, it’s more of a social trend, with the perception that we look better with smooth legs. I happen to love the way my legs look shaved. I have a friend who could care less if she ever saw a razor again- she likes her legs au naturale. We all have preferences and reasons to do what we do. But it’s interesting to know the history behind it all.

Now, what I really want to know is, when we started the trend of only shaving to the knee because that sure saves me a lot of time in the mornings!

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