Many women perform the grooming ritual of shaving some area(s) of their bodies, with the frequency of the task varying from person to person. So we wanted to know… where did all the fuss over women ridding ourselves of body hair come from anyway and when did it all begin?

As with most cultural customs, everything we do has a traceable origin… the moment that something goes from idea to societal norm. So to get some answers on the topic of women and shaving, we turned to mental_floss, our go to resource for learning and laughing about some of the most intriguing, out there and even banal, yet curiosity piquing, subjects. Here are the nuggets of info they shared (circa August 2009):

Underarms
American women had no need to shave their underarms before about 1915 – after all, who ever saw them? Even the word “underarm” was considered scandalous, what with it being so near certain other interesting body parts. Then came the sleeveless dress. An ad in the fashion mag Harper’s Bazaar decreed that to wear it (and certainly to wear it while participating in “Modern Dancing”), women would need to first see to “the removal of objectionable hair.” They didn’t need much convincing, and by the early ’20s, hairy underarms were so last decade, at least in America.

Legs
The ’20s fashion was risqué on the bottom half, too, but most women of the era didn’t seem to feel the need to shave their legs, and when hemlines dropped again in the ’30s, the point became moot. The ’40s, however, brought even shorter skirts, sheerer stockings, and the rise of leggy pin-ups such as Betty Grable. “The removal of objectionable hair” suddenly applied to a lot more surface area.

As for hair removal on what mental_floss refers to as “Naughty Bits,” they ask, “Was it porn actresses who started this one? GIs concerned about disease? The Brazilians?” Here’s their answer.


Want to know more about lots of other interesting topics? You can pick up a copy of In the Beginning: The Origins of Everything in the mental_floss store.

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