I am a hairdresser, a photographer, and a mother of daughters. So, making people feel beautiful has been my craft ever since I dove headfirst into the beauty industry at 15. I love what I do. Four years ago, I started writing about my love affair with hair on my blog, How-To Hair Girl.
I write about topics like “how to do a Dutch braid” and “how to cut your dude’s hair.” I also write about body hair. I happen to absolutely hate the act of shaving. And, I happen to find absolutely nothing wrong or abnormal with not shaving my armpits. I figure if hair weren’t supposed to be there, it wouldn’t grow there. So, I let it grow. Not even on principle, really: just as a personal preference.
Recently, my dear friend Rain Sissel and I unintentionally brought the colourful-armpits trend into the mainstream. We weren’t the first ones to do it, but it appears that we were the first ones to document and photograph the process.
Four months ago, I publicly “came out” as a woman in the beauty industry with hairy pits, telling the story of how going without shaving or waxing had inspired me to make more conscious choices for myself. A month later, Rain volunteered to let me colour her pit hair at the salon where we work, as a creative experiment and as a celebration of body hair and of women making conscious and bold decisions for themselves. And, it was a gorgeous success. I documented it and wrote an article about it that I was excited to share.
On Thanksgiving morning, while pies were being filled and popped into ovens with gusto, two women with enormous influence on the American public, after getting their hands on the article, missed a perfect chance to steer opinions on women’s body hair in a positive direction. This was a bummer for them, because they missed the point: The conversation had already started without them, and it was about much more than underarm hair.
Instead of using their public forum to create constructive dialogue, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb scoffed and snarked in response to the “dyed armpit-hair trend,” making comments that were negative, vicious, and unthoughtful (their rant starts at 4:05). "Why would one want to celebrate [armpit hair]?" snarked Gifford. "That's really freaky," said Kotb, with a look of disgust on her face. While I watched them, I could sense the fear they felt as they tried to make sense of something they didn’t seem to understand.
Here’s what I say to them: I know you’re trying to pander to your audience, but you don’t have to understand it. It doesn’t have to be a fashion trend, either. It is simply a choice made by a woman that you have never met, regarding her body and how she chooses to use it, and it is not your place to judge that.
I opt to exercise my freedom to choose the “freaky” things I do to my own body, and to me, this is an important message to spread to other women. Trust your gut. Do what feels right to you. Experiment, and don’t judge each other. This is about more than pit hair: It’s about empowering women to celebrate their bodies, in whatever ways they choose.
Fifteen years in the industry have shown me that beauty is a feeling that comes from within. It is in the places that make us unique and distinguish us from each other. The ideas that beauty is a standard we must all rise to meet and that it must be bought are bogus. It’s time to evolve.
So, today our experiment becomes the Free Your Pits Movement. We would like to use our armpits to start an evolving conversation about feminism, identity, body positivity, judgment, acceptance, and freedom of choice.
Kathie Lee and Hoda, we thank you for setting an example of something we shouldn’t do, which is be judgmental and reinforce negative standards set against women’s bodies. It has given us the opportunity to talk about these issues in a constructive way and on a much larger scale. And, that is a major win for coloured pit hair. We invite you to join the movement!
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