Underarm Hygiene in the Golden Age?

Discussion in 'Beauty' started by DecoDame, Jun 23, 2012.

  1. DecoDame

    DecoDame One of the Regulars

    Hello, all.

    This might seem like an odd, out-of-left-field question, but i was wondering when women shaving their underarms became the common majority in the United States?

    I've been catching up with "Boardwalk Empire" (love it!) and being an HBO show and having scenes in an up-scale dress shop, you see alot of bare arms along with the bare bodies. And it struck me that all the actresses are shaved, and I wondered if that was actually period/historically accurate for 1920.

    Was it the sleeveless shift dress fashion of the 20's itself that shifted underarm shaving to the norm here?
  2. C-dot

    C-dot Call Me a Cab

    Toronto, Canada
    You're close - It was just before the 1920s that underarm hair removal once again became the norm. Both women and men have been removing unwanted body hair since the era of the caveman, with the relevant areas (head, legs, eyebrows, etc.) changing according to fashion.

    For our purposes, 1915 was the year the first women's razor came out. It was also the year Harper's Bazaar ran an ad for X Bazin Depilatory Powder featuring a model with hairless underarms:


    I'm sure they sent out may generous samples that year! The ritual of shaving underarms, at least in North America, has continued ever since. :)
  3. DecoDame

    DecoDame One of the Regulars

    Thanks, C-Dot! It started much earlier than I imagined....Hmm. But did the product address the need, or did it create it? ;) Would the practice have become so widespread if it weren't touted as the "refined", modern way to go? Interesting.

    Advertising - Hard to measure how much influence it's had on our outlooks without us even knowing it...

    But my understanding was that among "bohemian" circles and in Europe, unshaved was still the norm then, yes?
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    It coincided with the rise in popularity of sleeveless evening wear -- it wouldn't do for an elegantly-dressed woman to flash a handful of thatch every time she raised her arm to greet someone.

    Waxing was being done before razors were marketed specially to women -- the "ZIP" brand of wax goes back to 1910 or earlier, and was specifically intended for underarm use. "It's off because it's out!" Depilatory creams were being sold in the Sears catalog -- a definitive guide to what was popular among the middle class -- as early as the turn of the century.
  5. Amy Jeanne

    Amy Jeanne Call Me a Cab

    Ads I scanned from 1923:



    From 1918...not hair removal, but she looks pretty hairless under there ;)


    I have a huge collection of vintage magazines and the advertisements from the 1920s and 1930s were OBSESSED with not smelling bad. Everything from bad breath, feminine hygiene, to general body odor! Shaving armpit hair cuts down on odor so I'm sure the practice was carried on as a way to combat "B.O."
  6. DecoDame

    DecoDame One of the Regulars

    Thanks, all, for the replies and scans. Those oh so artfully posed models ("What? I'm just stretching... elegantly") are pretty amusing. i didn't realize that an early form of Nair existed then, either.

    I knew you folks would have the scoop. Thanks again.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.