Hairy Legs are Not a Trend

Image from Cosmo Brazilian Guide Page 1Image from Cosmo Brazilian Guide Page 2

Despite the fact that the New York Times found two anti-shaving celebrities last week, (Mo’Nique and Amanda Palmer, who, I am pretty sure, can only be considered “famous” because of this article) and decided to build a whole story around them, which has had much of the blogosphere in a flutter ever since.

Don’t get me wrong: I want hairy legs (hairy everything) to be a trend. Actually, I want the whole thing to be an old trend that has slogged past the tipping point of trendy and become just a fact of modern life, like iPods or iced coffee. How amazingly freeing it would be if hair removal — arguably the most deep-seated and impenetrable of all our beauty myths — became strictly optional, and being hairy was considered maybe a little hipster-ish (or insert your-favorite-youth-culture-group-here), but basically cool?

But this is not the case. (And I know my readers at women’s colleges will disagree, but bear with me ladies, because I’m talking about out in the real world.) Two hairy quasi-celebrities does not a trend make.

Remember two weeks ago when I asked what’s the deal with waxing? The comments are still rolling in and for sure, this is a shades of gray kind of issue. Some of you shave daily. Some of you obsess over legs and pits but forget about your bikini line until summer. Some of you care about your eyebrows and the heck with the rest of it.

I’m hearing the same kind of thing at Beauty U, where, as you might imagine, we’ve been mired in the subject of body hair removal for weeks now. And the biggest complaint we all have about waxing isn’t the pain (though yes, there is so much pain). It’s the logistics of the thing; the fact that you have to let your leg hair grow in to be a quarter of an inch long before waxing will work. Which means you have to walk around all stubbly for at least three weeks. There’s a lot of discussion about wardrobe planning, and how much stubble can be visible now that we’ve hit capri pant season. “I can’t take it anymore!” says Brooke, a former daily shaver after going cold turkey on the razor for two weeks. “If we don’t wax my legs tonight, I’m shaving. I feel like Sasquatch.”

We wax her. And then compare leg hair length to see who can go next.

Because, despite Mo’Nique’s no-shaving stance, despite the NYT’s raised-eyebrow coverage, the overarching theme is this: Women remove body hair. In fact, we don’t just remove it, we have specific rituals, preferences about what and how much, and schedules to which we must adhere, in order to stay on top of this business. We’re investing time and money ($1.8 billion in 2008, says Mintel Research) to get this done. We’re fitting it in around final exams, and work deadlines, and the kids’ soccer practice. And most of us aren’t giving those routines or our body hair much thought — until it starts to grow back.

“It’s good you held out,” Miss Susannah tells Brooke after we finish her leg wax. “Now it will grow back so much finer next time.” Because getting it to grow back finer over time is the whole goal of waxing, with the Holy Grail being no hair at all, obvs. Waxing (as almost everyone knows from reading instructional women’s magazine articles*) rips each hair out by the root instead of cutting it off on the skin’s surface, buying you extra weeks of hairlessness (before you have to go into hiding for the three weeks of stubble), which, in theory, would enable you to spend less time and money on hair removal.

But we’re all so busy contemplating the hassle, the injuries, and the expense involved in hair removal that I think maybe we’re missing the key question: Should we be removing all this hair in the first place?

The fact that the answer is such an obvious “duh” is the reason why Mo’Nique and Amanda Palmer are making headlines (yet not trend-setting) in the first place.

I’m with Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory who says, “…like most of the women I know, shaving generally remains the one burdensome, nonsensical, politically indefensible beauty ritual to which I cling.”

But it’s my turn next for the leg waxing. And I can’t f***ing wait.

*Like the above spread from this month’s Cosmopolitan, which includes instructions and cut-out stencils for giving yourself an at-home Brazilian. Via Jezebel.

Filed under Beauty Schooled, Beauty Standards

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6 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Kate
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    This is one of those things that will take forEVer to take root (so to speak), and the problem is this: If I was a blond woman with wispy body hair, I’d be happy to buck the trend. I had a friend in high school who didn’t shave, and it didn’t really matter, because you couldn’t see her leg hair anyway. But I am a dark brunette with pale English skin and not shaving just feels a little more … Tarzan-ish for me. And in that sense, keep in mind, we don’t even celebrate hairiness on MALE bodies. (Didn’t I read somewhere that Penn Badgley has to shave his chest hair for Gossip Girl?) If Dan Humphrey can’t be out about his body hair, how do we expect women to do it?

  2. BikeLizard
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I don’t remove any body hair. I find it very freeing, in that I’m not wasting any time and I get to feel all feminist for literally doing nothing. After half a decade of hairiness, I’m surprised that more women don’t make that choice. Any man who’s not receptive to hair is not the kind of man I want to date. I’m not knocking women who do it for themselves, but it’s a ridiculous standard for an entire society.

  3. Victoria
    Posted April 22, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I take issue with this: “…Amanda Palmer, who, I am pretty sure, can only be considered “famous” because of this article”

    Let it be known that I have spent more time and money on AFP’s excellent records than I ever have/will on shaving my legs.

  4. Posted April 23, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Victoria: Point taken! I admit to being fully music illiterate, so the odds of Amanda Palmer being quite famous/amazingly talented despite my not having heard of her are incredibly high.

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Virginia at Beauty Schooled deftly explains why, contrary to the New York Times‘ proclamation, “Two hairy quasi-celebrities does not a trend make.” [...]

  2. By Reclaiming the Leg Wax? « Beauty Schooled on September 21, 2010 at 6:10 am

    [...] and Miss Stacy insisted we grow in all of our hair so we could practice on each other, I completely did not get leg waxing. It took the most endless three weeks to get my leg hair to waxable length. (About a quarter to [...]

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