Writing by Eloise Skeet // Photograph by Resa Rot
We are so bombarded these days with images of smooth, tanned, skinny, blonde women lounging on the beach in bikinis that frankly would not look good on me in a million years. But once you learn just how manipulated we are, it becomes that little bit easier to resist. For uni, I recently had to read an extract from Naomi Klein’s book No Logo. She has done all the dirty research so we don’t have to, and let me tell you, marketers and market researchers are the devil. One strategy they use is ‘cool-hunting’, where they infiltrate high schools, choose who they deem to be ‘cool’, and copy their style and analyse their buying habits to better target teenagers. This is obvious when Kylie Jenner uses Instagram to promote her skinny tea or thousandth sports car, but I never knew that it started at our own schools. No wonder we are retail addicts.
Our beauty standards have been carefully honed to squeeze maximum sales out of the poor victims. We are the victims. Make-up, razors, waxing, clothes, and products of all sort tell us how we should look. Push back is not encouraged. Until now. My quest for armpit acceptance began with Caitlin Moran. If you don’t know her, I recommend everything and anything she has ever written. She and her wonderful writing lead me to appreciate the world of the big hairy muff. Her story of when the dye melted off her armpits at Glastonbury allowed me to see both the humour and the fashion that could be gleaned from loving one’s pit hair.
A recent article I read about the history of hair removal gave me an insight into the changing social norms. We actually aren’t the first civilisation to engage in hairless pits and muffs: in Ancient Egypt, both men and women went almost completely bald over their whole body. Hair was removed by both sexes because it was believed that hair was uncivilised and that the practice prevented lice. In Europe in the 1400’s, sex workers were so into hair that they would remove it to prevent lice, and then proceed to wear a wig! Imagine that—shaving everything off and then wanting hair so much as to have prosthetic body hair!
Shaving only became commonplace again this past century, when the shaving companies wanted to increase their profits, and did so by waging a war on body hair. In 1915 Gillette produced its first razor directed at women. But here we are 100 years later and some of us have stopped! Out of the five ladies I am currently living with, three of us have stopped shaving our pits. And you know what has got us excited? OUR ARMPIT BEAUTY ROUTINE! The other day we bleached Phoebe’s armpit hair thinking it was at its longest, and now she has dip dyed pit hair because it carried on growing. It never ceases to make us laugh. We considered zebra stripes, but maybe next time. So female identifying folk—join us in the exciting new world of armpit hair care. It makes the stigmatised little hairs a little less scary.
The thing we find the funniest is when other people catch a glimpse of it. Sometimes they look shocked, sometimes they laugh, and sometimes they look disgusted. But hello world, this is my armpit hair and I love it. I see it as a beacon of feminism, existing against all odds and poking out the edge of my t-shirt. Perhaps it’s even a good judge of character! The people who don’t care if you shave or not are probably the ones that are worth it.
Another reason I love my armpit hair is the connection I feel to other women when I catch a glimpse of a furry pit. Whether they are on the red carpet like Lola Kirke or Hilary Swank, or the sweaty tube fanning themselves—I love it. Hi friend, I love your hair—I’ve got some too!
This isn’t to say, however, that I have never been hairless, or won’t be again. Sometimes I get annoyed and sweaty, and just have to go bald for a bit. Sometimes I just smell, like right now when I’m on the train (sorry guys). But the point is that it’s always my choice. No one else is dictating what I do with my body. I refuse to conform to the perfect women that evil marketing executives throw at me. I REJECT YOUR BEAUTY STANDARDS! I will make my own, thanks.
Having said all this, the most important aspect of our bodies is that we should love them; warts, scars, hair, and all. No matter if you prefer to be with or without hair, you are beautiful no matter what the hair removal adverts and fully lasered models tell you. Acceptance of ourselves is the most important thing.