Body Hair: The Long & Short Of It

Bliss Spa is hiring people in gorilla suits to roam the streets of New York handing out coupons for waxing to promote hair-removal services. The slogan: "We're wild about hair removal." Our slogan: obsession with hairlessness is out of control.

Earlier this month, the New York Times noted that "American women didn't shave their armpits en masse until the 1920s." These days, Nivea.com has a demonstration of male body shaving.

In a piece from Friday's Wall Street Journal, Cameron Stracher writes: "The same people pushing hairlessness are the ones selling the products. In the best tradition of hucksterism, we must have what we don't need." But Stracher noticed something else important:

Recently I went to see the play Hair, the '60s musical about hair as a metaphor for rebellion, pride, power, sexuality and love. As the talented cast sang about the joys of their God-given hairiness, I realized that at least half the men in the cast had shaved their underarms. In a generation, hair had gone from plumage to be worn "long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty… bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied," to being plucked, shorn, waxed, buzzed, razored, tasered, lasered and depilated.

Over the weekend, I went to my friend's parents' 40th anniversary party, which means they got married the summer of '69. The party was hippie-themed, with tie-dye and what not, and someone joked that they'd Googled "Woodstock" to get a costume idea and "everyone was hairy and naked." How did this happen? How did Americans go from being proud of their body hair to being stalked on the streets by gorillas and encouraged to strip it all off? Being shamed into hairlessness can't be progress.

Or course, all things are cyclical — the Ancient Greeks used depilatories. Hairy pits and bush will probably come back around to being "in style" again in another 40 years. Meanwhile, we'll continue to be stripped not only of our hair and pride, but our hard-earned cash: According to WSJ, the shaving and hair removal business made about $1.8 billion in the U.S. last year. Almost makes you want to be a hippie.

Gorillas And Women Tag-Teaming On Spa's Hair-Removal Campaign [BrandFreak]
Receding Hairlines [WSJ]
Do Women Like Men Quite That Cleanshaven? [NY Times]