Armpit hair is so hot right now. (Wait! Hear me out!) This summer, major media outlets like The New York Times and the National Post have christened untamed armpits the trend du jour. I know what you’re thinking — that pit growth functions as a sort of short-hand for “Beware: Angry feminist on board.” But this ’70s-era aesthetic is back with a vengeance. Celebrities from Madonna to Miley Cyrus are letting their follicles fly. (Lena Dunham went so far as to slot “grow underarm hair” at the top of her summer to-do list.) Even regular, non-famous women like you and I are opting to dye their pits every colour of the rainbow. And though the practice is still, in 2015, widely met with vitriolic disgust, I decided to see what all the fuss was about and stop shaving for two weeks. Here’s what happened.
My pit project begins with a bit of cruel irony: The arrival of a “VERY EXCITING” email in my inbox, heralding the opening of a new waxing bar three blocks north of my apartment. Unfazed, I file it under “Saved.” Later that afternoon, I ask my normally progressive roommate what she thinks of women who grow out their armpit hair. “Ew,” she replies. Then, “What are you trying to prove?” That small plain between your boobs and your biceps is a surprisingly political body part.
At the outset, I envisioned my underarms abundant with dreamy cotton candy–like tufts. “Onlookers will marvel at my womanly bravery!”’ I think to myself. My hopes are dashed when I remember that my hair texture is similar to that of a wild lynx covered in Brillo pads — wiry, feral and generally hostile. In the shower, I reflexively bring razor to pit, and am filled with immediate distress. I shave my legs twice as consolation.
“Let me seeeeee!” says my previously disgusted roommate before dinner. In the span of one day, I have graduated from unsavoury feminist Frankenstein to lovable apartment Chia Pet.
Armpit hair renders almost everything a logistical nightmare: reaching, high-fiving, choosing shirts, executive meetings. And don’t even get me started on deodorant. My hair has formed an impenetrable barrier against my Dove stick. I am forced to use an aerosol deodorant I snagged from the work free table and spray it point-blank at my underarms. I have never been so upset to smell of cucumber and melon.
I am scheduled to attend a wedding shower with conservative middle-aged women, so I pull a summer dress and a blazer from my closet. It is 35 degrees, but I don’t want my undergrowth to overshadow my friend’s crudité-filled celebration. By mid-afternoon, I am praying for death. After winning a veil-making contest, I go to raise my hands over my head in victory, but instead do a weird Mr. Burns–inspired clapping motion. I feel like a terrible feminist.
Halfway point! Woo! I have now read upwards of 30 articles about natural deodorant and celebrities who have braved the always-treacherous red carpet unshaved. (Props, Julia Roberts.) I decide to tweet at Girls star Jemima Kirke, who recently went full arm-bush at the CDFA Awards. “Any advice for an intrepid journalist who is growing out her armpit hair for an assignment?” I write. “Your CFDA look was inspired.” No reply.
I schedule my first fitness test at the gym I’ve just joined. Everything is going swimmingly until Geoff, the attractive trainer, asks me to raise a metal bar over my head to assess my shoulder flexibility. “I feel like I should tell you I work at a women’s magazine and I am growing out my armpit hair for work,” I warn him. “You really didn’t have to tell me that,” he replies, wide-eyed. “FOR WORK,” I say again, but any possibility of him asking me to dinner has evaporated.
I wear a tank top to the office. When I reach for a paper towel in the women’s bathroom, an unsuspecting colleague makes eye contact with my impenetrable underarm forest. She is visibly upset. “It’s for an article! Ha ha —” She is gone before I can finish my sentence.
I continue to probe my close confidantes about their stances on pit hair — this time, a married male friend.
Me: “What would you do if [wife] grew out her armpit hair?”
Male friend: “No offense to your current predicament, but unruly armpit hair on women is, at least for me, a pretty big turn-off…. I’m sure yours looks great though!”
I head to a rock concert that doubles as a high school reunion of sorts. Emboldened by a combination of cheap Bud Light and a devil-may-care attitude, I approach a former love interest. “How’s it going?!” I bleat nervously. I put my hands on my hips in an effort to expose my armpit project, which I hope will lead into a conversation about my successful career as a gonzo beauty journalist. The chat concludes without him mentioning my hair. I feel vindicated that I never dated such an oblivious dude! And drunk. I feel drunk.
For my final act, I consider an armpit dye-job as a fittingly colourful send-off to my experiment, before realizing that it would involve two hours of stinging bleach and then looking like a Jim Henson castoff.
A co-worker inquires about my plans for once I am “shorn.” I remember how much I hate the word “shorn.”
I made it! Aside from a new, weird obsession with my armpits, I am jubilant! I am liberated! Hear me roar! I arrive at my apartment after work, grab a BIC razor from my medicine cabinet and, rather unceremoniously, hack away at two-weeks-worth of depilatory restraint. I throw out the razor. I feel so…exposed.