Pubic Hair. To shave it, wax it, trim it into shapes, let it grow Au Naturale or go full out VAJAZZLE? The options are endless. Historically the standards for pubic hair maintenance have ebbed and flowed with the trends of the time and what society deemed as acceptable. From ancient Egyptian grooming techniques to media influences of today, join me, Jordan Quinn, as I investigate La mode des poils pubiens – The Fashion of Pubic Hair
Honey and the pubic hair
The method of waxing can be seen as far back as Ancient Egypt, with the application of honey to the pubic region, followed by the removal using cloth.
Other waxing techniques used a concoction that would harden before being ripped off. The blend was a mixture of crushed bird bones, oil, sycamore juice, and gum, which was heated and applied to the skin, much like waxing today.
The Egyptians removed all manner of bodily hair in a bid to stay cool in the hot climate. Pubic hair was seen as unhygienic and was removed as a way to stay clean and avoid pubic lice. Pubic hair can still be seen in Egyptian art in the form of black triangles, but it is thought that only the lower class kept their hair.
Leave it to the Greeks
Plucking was widely used by the Greeks and Romans, as again, pubic hair was unsightly and a lady of class wouldn’t be seen adorning such a bush. I cannot imagine wanting to pluck each individual hair, but at the time it was normal for a young pubescent girl to have each hair plucked away as soon as it appeared by using tweezers known as volsellae.
These trendsetters may also have very well created the ancient equivalent to the modern day, Nair. Philotrum or dropax, are creams which included “stuff like resin, she-goat’s gall, bat’s blood, and powdered viper”. Imagine the smell!
The Mighty Merkin!
In the 1400’s arose, the Merkin! No, it’s not a cute little creature like a Gerbil, it’s a pubic wig. During the Victorian era, it was popular for ladies to adorn a full blown bush! A Merkin was worn by ladies who had shaved for hygiene reasons, but who were required to have a bush. Prostitutes especially wore Merkins to give the illusion of hair, or to hide infections.
The bush was popular right up to the 19th-century Victorian period when even collecting a curl of your lover’s pubic hair was the thing to do! King George IV kept a “snuff box” of all his Mistresses lady gardens.
For centuries, pubic hair has been brazenly displayed alongside often exaggerated genitalia, in the Japanese erotic art form of Shunga. It is suggested that Shunga, meaning spring and a euphemism for sex, was heavily influenced by Chinese Medical Manuals of the Muromachi era. Perhaps this is the reason why pubic hair is clearly shown because it is anatomically correct?
Home Hair Maintenance
In 1904 the Gilette safety razor was born and in turn, home hair maintenance was more accessible than ever. Gillette marketed their new razor with the idea that hair was “unsightly and objectionable“. But it wasn’t until the creation of the bikini in the 1940’s, that the safety razor became most popular at home for the ladies. Women sporting the skimpy swimwear number were conscious about their bikini line and avoiding unwanted hairs peeking out! The trend to “de-hair down there” boomed!
Go the Bush
But “pubes” made a come back during the 1960’s hippie movement in the United States. Hippies were often long haired, free spirited youth, who rejected the societal normals. Their free love, tolerant nature and easy going attitudes towards nudity and sexual liberty made the bush acceptable again.
In the late 60’s two of the biggest magazines, Penthouse and Playboy were at war. Each slowly pushing the boundary between what was deemed acceptable and pornographic. Nicknamed the “Pubic Wars” by Hugh Hefner, it was Playboy who boldly crossed the line by showing visible pubic hair in 1971 with the Liv Lindelands pictorial, and a fully nude frontal centrefold in 1973 of Marilyn Cole. The bush or trimmed versions of it, was trendy and continued to be sported by women in men’s magazines. The same was true throughout 80’s porn available on VCR (doesn’t that make you feel old).
The Brazilian, OUCH!
The Brazilian (dreaded by many a woman) was first invented by the commonly known “J Sisters” who opened their salon in New York in 1987. However, it was Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City who introduced millions of women to the idea being sex-ready and going bare down there – “I’m so aware of down there now“.
The fashion continued to influence women through the 90’s and into the millennium.
I myself, got my first Brazilian a few months shy of being 16. I remember telling my mother I wanted a bikini wax as I was embarrassed while swimming. When in fact I was about to have my cherry popped. I was heavily influenced by gossip magazines that suggested that pubic hair wasn’t clean nor sexy. Thankfully today I know otherwise.
So whether you’re shaven, wax, had your hair permanently lasered, like a bit of sparkle or let the bush run wild, if the sex workers of Twitter have taught me anything, it’s that there is no right way for pubic hair maintenance!