For those of you who don’t know, No-Shave November is a unique way to raise awareness for cancer and men’s health issues overall. Many cancer patients lose their hair, so the goal is to educate men about their health while having everyone appreciate the hair their bodies can still grow. While many assume No-Shave November is a male only event, all genders can participate in the festivities.
In honor of No-Shave November, we’re going to look at the history of shaving various body parts. This week we’re focusing on leg shaving.
Hair removal is not new trend. According to Taylor Barringer’s Elle.com article “History of Hair Removal,” wealthier citizens of the Roman Empire, both men and women, would remove body hair with “razors made from flints, tweezers, creams, and stones.” In her Chicago Tribune article “Shaving and fashion: A storied history,” Lauren R. Harrison notes that Egyptians also “used beeswax and depilatories made from an alkali, like quicklime, to remove leg hair.”
In the United States leg shaving didn’t really take off until after World War One. In the Women You Should Know article “Pit Stop: A Quick History Of Women & Shaving,” the female-centric website reveals that fashion had a major influence on the American hair removal movement. While the Roaring 20s saw a rise in hemlines, it was nothing compared to the 1940s. This decade “brought even shorter skirts, sheerer stockings, and the rise of leggy pin-ups such as Betty Grable,” all of which influenced American women to remove “objectionable hair.”
Barringer also points to the 1940s as an important time in leg shaving history. The first electric razor specifically designed for women was released in 1940, making shaving easier for more and more women. World War Two also had a major impact on women’s fashion. While many every day items were suddenly rationed for the war, it was the nylon shortage that helped the hair removal industry most. With pantyhose almost impossible to buy, “more products and techniques for hair removal hit the market as women were forced to go bare legged more often.”
By the 1950s shaved legs were the norm. Since depilatory creams were too harsh and irritated the skin, many women opted for razors to keep their legs bare and smooth. However, that changed during the 1960s after wax strips were invented and “quickly became the method of choice for removing unwanted hair under the arms and on legs.” The first laser hair removal method also became available in the 60s, but didn’t gain the same popularity as waxing due to negative affects on the skin.
Not much has changed in the hair removal industry since then. Laser hair removal has become safer and more reliable, yet many still rely on the favorites of previous decades like razors and waxing. While many wish to return the cultural norm to embrace natural leg hair, we only need to look at history to see the outcome. Much like the 1920s and 1940s, our high hemlines, from mini skirts to tiny shorts, will keep leg shaving in the cultural norm for decades.
That being said, fall is the perfect time to embrace your natural body hair. The cool weather will keep everyone in pants or tights for weeks to come, so what do you have to lose? Join No-Shave November and learn some health tips that could save you or a loved one’s life. And for those of you who refuse to put down the razor because your partner will make negative comments about a some extra hairs, do you really want to be with someone who is against raising cancer awareness?
lil’_wiz. HFTM Cycle 1 – Theme 9 – “Everyday Modeling” – Betty. 4 Apr. 2013. Online image. Flickr. 5 nov. 2014. https://flic.kr/p/e8Mh5J