Why We Shave

Cristinaby Cristia RoseBrooklyn, NY

A few years ago I was getting ready to go out with a girlfriend for a night out in Manhattan.I was decked out in a gold dress and red heels. Smoky eyes, and curled hair, We were ready to take the city. Then suddenly as I was about to call a cab, My friend softly grabbed my hand and whispered in my ear. “ Would you like to borrow my razor?"

I couldn’t help to feel embarrassed  Especially since this isn’t the first time I have completely forgotten to shave. I have heard the words “Do you want to shave? ...Do you need a razor? ...Maybe you should wear pants” whispered in my ears throughout the years and it has always killed my confidence and sent me back into the bathroom to remove my unwanted hair.

But I want to share a story that might make you thing differently about shaving.

Here is some nostalgia for you. Picture the Nair commercial. Beautiful tanned and hairless woman jumping happily outside to the tune of “Who wears short shorts?” The tune continues…"Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts! If you dare wear short shorts, NAIR for short shorts!” The catchy tune gets stuck in your head and you are reminded of it on those hot summer days when you slip on a pair of jean cut offs.

The women on this commercial are beautiful, confident and fearless. They have influenced women around the country to purchase the product making Nair, America’s #1 hair removal brand owned by the powerful CPG company Church & Dwight. Studies show that 90% of women find leg hair to be unattractive and therefore, remove it.

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But did you know that beautiful, confident and fearless women used to NOT shave?

Jane Austen, Marie Antoinette, Pocahontas, Helen Keller, Emily Dickinson, Harriet Tubman. These women we learned about in the school books are celebrated to this day for their achievements, but they weren’t spending an extra ten minutes in the shower alone with their Venus razor.

So when did women start shaving? Well the answer is a little shocking.

In the 1900’s, Gillette had a meeting with their advertisers on how to increase sales for their company.

The result was a chance to capitalize on the modernization of women’s fashion. Dresses were being offered sleeveless, and hem lines were slowly rising. The new fashion was so new it was still a shock to society. SO new, that if Gillette could convince women that their body hair was offensive and unattractive in their new threads, then they may rush to buy razors as well. If it worked, sales would essentially double!

unnamed-1In 1915, Gillette’s first ad catered towards women was printed in Harper’s Bazaar. It was a picture of a beautiful, confident and fearless women with shaved arm pits. The tag line? “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair”

Great. Let’s make women feel bad about themselves because it’s good for business.

The funny thing is, Women weren’t convinced. Why would they shave? That was so…masculine. Shaving was for men!

Believe it or not, those vintage pictures of flappers dancing in their frocks, only half of them decided to shave. The other half were still doing the Charleston covering up their leg hair with stockings, or not at all!

Gillette kept cranking out those ads, objectifying women’s hair and continued to produce safety razors in mass, until the mid 1920’s when it finally became the norm for most ladies who dared to go out in a knee length dress.

And that is the story about how a shaving company run by men somehow convinced 90% of the female western population that their leg hair was unattractive. The rest is history.

I’m not saying you should ditch your razor. I sure don’t. But, the next time you opt for a mini skirt, or short shorts and realized your legs are a little stubbly, there is no need to feel insecure until you finally have a chance to hit the shower. Remember that you are still confident and fearless, and perhaps a little more so than the day before because you are shaving for yourself and not for the approval of others.

Your StoriesErin Bagwell