From the first bloom of adolescence, when those initial bits of hair in funny places begin to sprout, women are already conditioned that yes, this means becoming a woman but yes, you must remove this hair. This hair is unnatural for a woman to have; unfeminine, unhygienic, unclean, unsexy, and unattractive. A lot of un's on the go there. Well, what about adding another word to the mix — unreasonable. I stopped shaving my armpits as a part of my self-care routine, and let me tell you, on the contrary to what they say, it's ben quite the opposite. In fact, it's actually been pretty great.
I'm going to be real and say that having seen many people I admire, on both a personal level and, well, Instafamous/famous-famous people drop their razors, I have long thought it was a pretty cool thing to do.
However, seeing someone like model Gigi Hadid letting it all roam free is a bit different from your average gal choosing to shirk shaving. Why, I hear you ask? Well, look at the actual flack received by women like Hadid, who modelled showing her armpit hair in Love magazine's 2017 video advent calendar. This is a woman who is perceived to represent perfection and flawless beauty. If that's the response she faced, how much more guff would your average gal get?
The history of hair removal, both male and female, has very much oscillated with the fashion. From Hollywood, to Brazilian, to '70s full-on bush, women have long dutifully adhered to whatever society wants them to do with their body hair. However, there is something particularly prickly about armpit hair and when I say prickly, I don't mean stubble.
Who doesn't remember that now infamous shot of Julia Roberts on the red carpet at the premiere for Notting Hill flashing her underarm tufts while enthusiastically waving at fans. Guys, this was like huge news at the time. But that was nearly 20 years ago (I know, WTF?) and this is now, well, this is 2018. A time where women flaunt their underarm hair, even dying it crazy colours, maybe glittering it, no matter what they are doing with it. In 2018, armpit hair is there for everyone to see and to celebrate. But if that's really the case, then why in gawd's name does it still seem so flipping wild to go all natural?
My personal foray into natural underarms was born of necessity. Believe it or not, I did not feel in any way confident to follow this trend. Basically, I have delicate, sensitive Irish skin (a posh way of saying I am rashy). After what began as a hint of eczema in my pit region (I know, line up ladies) turned into a hellish and painful affliction, a friend suggested I down my tools and leave them the hell alone. I was so so so worried about it being unsightly and more importantly, smelly AF, as well as what people might think of me. What happened surprised me beyond belief.
I am not being in any way OTT or hamming it up when I say, guys, this was 100 percent the right choice. Let's start with bye bye eczema and you know what? I have never been so BO free in my damn life. Real talk. Sweat patches are relegated to exercise and particularly bad hangovers. Days when an unfortunate coloured top ended up looking like a Venn diagram have been relegated to the past.
People's reactions to sighting the patches were far more positive than not because, generally, let's be real, who has time in their life to be concerned about someone else's underarm pruning routine or lack thereof? As expected, the exact sort of conservative people were anti pit. I had my boss at the time shout "put it away, Aoife" and I was actually relegated to pot wash on the day when I turned up with a side slash top. I have to be real, it was really funny and became a low-key iconic moment remembered fondly by all of my former colleagues. Who knew a bit of armpit hair could feel so rebellious? I got the professional equivalent of time out for having it. Armpit hair felt anarchic.
The underarm revolution has been suggested to be super connected to the body positivity movement and I can understand why. Body positivity is a daily challenge to society's cookie cutter version of how we should all look but also a celebration of you for who you are. You are you and you are gorgeous. No matter what society tells you is wrong with your skin colour, size, hair, shape, disabilities. The body positivity movement is not only owned by plus size people, but by everyone.
Antiquated connections between feminism and body hair sadly prevail. I would strongly disagree that having or not having body hair identifies you as a feminist. What identifies you as a feminist is supporting fellow female-identifying human beings, cis or not, in whatever choices they want to make. Appearance related or not. You cannot solely subscribe to how you look and live as being what's right. We are all different and should strive for equality.
Yes, I am an advocate of natural armpit hair. Honestly, I actually think it looks quite sexy. But in my opinion, the most important thing to remember about underarm hair or lack thereof, is like, babe: it is all up to you. It is your choice to have it or to take it off. Nobody anywhere has the right to criticise you for your appearance or to instruct you on what your body should look like.