How Underarm Hair Became “Gross”
In the early 1900s, as women’s fashion evolved to show more skin, razor companies seized the opportunity to broaden their market. A Bustle article showed a 1915 Gillette advertisement of the first women’s razor calling underarm hair “an embarrassing personal problem” that needed to be solved. It also said that “a feature of good grooming and good dressing is to keep the underarm white and smooth”. Alas, our obsession with hair removal was a product of MARKETING.
Soon enough, women’s magazines would pick up on this trend of shaming women for having hairy and dark pits. Over the years, hairless armpits turned into a sign of class and femininity – if you had hairy pits, you were dirty, lazy, and unappealing to men. This drove the majority of women to shave their pits, even though this double standard never applied to men!
In the ‘90s, laser hair removal went commercial, and women would pay thousands of dollars just to make sure their pits would become hairless permanently.
Is Armpit Hair Bad?
Though some cultures, like in certain African and Chinese groups, don’t consider armpit hair on women particularly offensive, most of the Western world (and those heavily influenced by the West) still do. Thankfully, we’re experiencing an upsurge in body positivity – a trend that celebrates physical differences rather than what’s considered the “norm”, and that includes hairy armpits.
And even if you seemingly have the longest armpit hair in the world, there really is nothing to be ashamed of. Armpit hair has many benefits! According to Hello Giggles, armpit hair reduces friction and minimises chafing, helps wick sweat away from our skin, and helps your body to send out pheromones – those scents that are meant to attract potential mates! Yes, turns out, underarm hair is meant to turn men ON not OFF.
On top of that, shaving and waxing can actually lead to problems such as skin irritation and ingrown hairs.
The Hairy Revolution
In January 2019, the hairy armpit trend peaked when we saw a growing trend called “unicorn armpit hair” where women shared photos of their dyed underarm hair. From bright pink to neon green, to all the colours of the rainbow, these hairy pits looked like they came straight out of Taylor Swift’s ‘Me!” music video. (There was also a brief braided armpit hair trend, but sadly that one didn’t stick.)
Hair positivity also became huge among celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Amandla Stenberg, and soon enough we began seeing fuzzy celeb armpits out on the red carpet. Finally, unshaved pits have begun to conquer the world – and we’re so glad for that!
However, we still have a long way to go. A lot of people still consider hairy armpits disgusting (just peep Reddit’s celebrity armpit threads), as evidenced by the latest Nike ad that drew a lot of ire from disgusted commenters, as well as the Nuud deodorant ad that had a lot of haters.
7 Hairy Celebrity Armpits
Ever the provocateur, Madonna frequently flashed her armpit hair whenever she could. In 2014, she posted this photo on Instagram captioned “Long hair…… Don’t Care!!!!”
Just like Madonna, Drew didn’t care about long hair up there. She would often turn up to red carpet events in sleeveless dresses sans bra and with her underarms full of hair. Check out this photo from 2005.
Former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne has been flaunting her hairy pits for a while now, and a quick Google search will yield A LOT of results. But one of the most iconic moments was when she shared an Instagram photo set on November 2018 featuring herself, Madonna, and Julia Roberts all rocking their hairy underarms.
Her caption was a simple but provocative “beautiful in every way”. Way to go Bella!
Here’s another former Disney star who’s no stranger to pushing buttons. In 2015, Miley showed off her pink (or “pank” as she puts it) pits, which she achieved after a “pit party” with her colourist Justin Anderson. In true Miley fashion, she spent the dye sesh drinking beers and pretending to eat the bleach.
Julia Roberts inadvertently became the face of the celebrity armpit hair movement when she donned hairy pits on the red carpet in 1999. Apparently, she wasn’t really trying to make a statement, as she shared in an interview that she had simply miscalculated the length of her sleeve length that day.
"It wasn't so much a statement as it’s just part of the statement I make as a human on the planet, for myself,” she said.
Hunger Games and The Hate U Give star Amandla Stenberg has always been an advocate for body positivity. Practising what she preached, Amanda showed up to the Hate U Give European premiere with unshaved pits.
Talking to People Magazine about her non-conformist ways, Amandla explained that she wanted to “show people who follow what I’m doing that you don’t really have to conform to those constructs in order to be valid or be worth something. It’s been such a blessing to watch people who care about what I have to say feel more comfortable in their identities because they see I’m out here doing my thing”.
Emily Ratajkowski shocked everyone when she proudly displayed her hairy underarms in a Harper’s Bazaar editorial in September 2019. The proud feminist also penned an accompanying essay where she discussed femininity, sexism, and a woman’s ability to choose what to do with her body.
“If I decide to shave my armpits or grow them out, that’s up to me. For me, body hair is another opportunity for women to exercise their ability to choose — a choice based on how they want to feel and their associations with having or not having body hair”, she wrote.