Hair or Bare?:
The History of American Women and Hair Removal, 1914-1934Senior Thesis in American Studies
Barnard College, Columbia University
Thesis Advisor: Professor Rosenberg
18 April 2007
I came to write this thesis because of a personal curiosity about hair removal and its origins. Among my female friends hair removal is considered an annoying, arduous, often painful, but necessary ritual. Most insist on removing leg hair before putting on a skirt or shorts, and balk at the thought of wearing a bathing suit without shaving or waxing the bikini line. Hair removal is considered so essential to some of these women
that they refuse to participate in daily activities such as exercising or going on a date if they have not paid proper attention to removing their body hair. Furthermore, hair removal is generally considered to be a timeless ritual, or at least one that all American women have always practiced. Through my research, however, I discovered that hair removal is not an ancient tradition, nor is it an isolated behavior. Hair removal was introduced first in the nineteen teens and twenties, and coincided with a momentous change in the definition of the American feminine ideal.