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Hair Removal In History

Updated on August 22, 2014

Hair Removal Evolution

Evolution and Hair Removal Trends

As I was trying to identify when body hair removal trends appeared, or how the removal of body hair developed and its social implications, I found myself wondering what on earth I thought I was doing. Was this the first sign of up and coming madness? After all the subject is far to large to be able to do it justice. I then reflected on why I wanted to even delve into a subject like body hair removal.

At first sight it is a ludicrous subject from the scientific and historical point of view. Or is it? Body hair removal has played an important, though hidden, role in ages past, in a wide variety of different settings.

Think, if you will, of the Vestal Virgins during the Roman Empire - they removed their body hair, completely. If anyone interfered with them, politically or otherwise, catastrophic times hit the Empire.

What about ancient religions?

Let us look at the Aztec Empire in the late fifteenth century. Priests and nobles dressed and painted themselves in accordance to strict dress codes. Part of these codes included hair removal.

We also see ancient Egyptians, again both the priesthood and nobility, removing their body hair.

Classical Greeks, athletes and warriors removed their body hair.

So is the relationship between body hair, or more specifically, its removal, and its reflection on societies and different times, quite so ridiculous?

Hair Styles as a Reflection of the 21st Century

We are now at the beginning of the twenty first century and if we could project three hundred years into the future and look back at our society from a historian's point of view, we would very probably be quite surprised.

  • The enormous mixture of different cultures, habits, lifestyles and languages seem to draw a map towards a cultural melting pot.
  • Perhaps a sign of disruption, a dyslexic society. At all events, the writing on the wall is exemplifying the exhaustion of our cultural and social way of life. The massification of social identity and the loss of direction.

But then, if we continue with our historical research and view this age from a different perspective, and we start looking at the social influence reflected through attitudes towards hair removal in this society, we would be pleasantly surprised.

Three hundred years on we can see that changes that began in the twentieth century, reflected social maturity, influenced and guided by men and women who acted and lived by their own standards. Their hair removal habits reflected an attitude towards life, towards freedom, as it was an attitude free from social pressure and restrictions.

These men and women, who were the focal point of change, by coincidence, nay by choice, removed their body hair. Not all body hair removers were at the front of this change, but perhaps all who were at the front of this change, were body hair removers.

Three hundred years from now, we would look back and see a trend in body hair removal, a trend that respected people's freedom of choice. There were full body hair removers as well partial body hair removers. But many did have in common, as a matter of choice and not due to a follow the group mentality, their natural selection, their preferred system.

We would then -three hundred years form now - apply more historical research and find the preferred system with a simple click (perhaps blinking or just a thought that is picked up by the equivalent of a personal computer?). In the meantime ...


Hair Removal as a Reflection of Society

So is the relationship between body hair, or more specifically, its removal, and its reflection on societies and different times, quite so ridiculous?

To give you one example. During the thirteenth century in Europe, the Black Death spread over Europe, causing much havoc and death, probably killing millions. Personal hygiene and grooming habits were primitive to say the least. In fact if anyone had more than one bath a year, he or she would probably be accused of witchcraft.

This was obviously not very conducive to cleanliness. It therefore seems that all requirements for the rapid and devastating spread of disease were just waiting the right moment.

Imagine now, if you please the effect the practice of hair removal would have had in regards to overall hygiene during the middle ages?

Cortez reached Moctezuma's Aztec Empire in the sixteenth century. We have grown used to hear how a handful of bearded (and smelly men) on horses defeated an empire. Few have heard of the decimation of an entire people through the spread of disease - a battle winner if ever there was one.

Even fewer have heard about the stink they brought with them. An astonishing break with the normal habits and cleanliness of your typical Aztec and Pre-Columbian native. So astonishing a fact that it caused confusion amongst the native people. It was so extreme that it couldn't logically have been just plain ignorance and disgusting habits. It must be, they thought, magical power beyond comprehension, a power leach that was destroying them - and in a sense, it was and did.


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