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Why don’t men shave their armpits?

When it comes to body hair grooming, there seems to be a double standard between men and women. While it’s generally expected for women to shave their armpits in most modern cultures, the same expectation doesn’t seem to apply to men. So why is that? Let’s take a deeper look at the history, cultural norms, practical considerations, and changing attitudes around male armpit shaving.

History of Armpit Shaving

Shaving body hair, including armpit hair, is not strictly a modern practice. Back in ancient Egypt, both men and women would remove all of their body hair, including armpits, through either shaving or depilatory creams. The practice was related to both hygiene and ideals of beauty and cleanliness.

In ancient Greece and Rome, removing body hair was again common for both men and women. However, the practice declined with the fall of the Roman empire as did general standards of personal grooming. By the Middle Ages in Europe, grooming practices were relatively lax and shaving was largely forgotten.

This began to change again in the Renaissance period as standards of personal hygiene were revived. The art of barbering flourished once more and men would have their beards groomed and faces shaven. However, shaving the body, including armpits, did not come back into fashion for European men or women at this time.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that shaving armpit hair started to become popularized for women. One of the first products aimed at women for shaving armpit hair was developed in 1915 by King Camp Gillette. Advertisements of the 1920s and 30s then began promoting the idea that women should shave their armpits for hygiene and aesthetic reasons.

Around the same time, sleeveless dresses came into fashion, making underarm hair more visible. This added to the social pressures and advertisements directed at women to keep their armpits shaven and hair free. Although some men would continue occasionally shaving their armpits for hygiene or athletic purposes over the decades, the practice did not catch on in the mainstream male culture.

Cultural Norms and Expectations

Today, female armpit shaving is still considered the norm and social expectation in many cultures. There are certainly subgroups and movements challenging these norms, but the mainstream expectation still typically remains. The norms and expectations around male armpit shaving, however, still differ significantly.

So why did this gender difference in cultural norms develop in the 20th century? Many point to the rise of advertising and consumer culture. Advertisements aimed at women frequently pedaled the notion that body hair was unhygienic and unfeminine. Portrayals of clean-shaven female bodies in media and popular culture cemented the association between hairlessness and femininity.

No similar targeted advertising swayed men’s cultural attitudes toward shaving their armpits. The ideal masculine image remained stoic, rugged and hirsute. For heterosexual men, keeping armpit hair may also have been seen as a way to differentiate themselves from women and assert their masculinity in a time of rapidly changing gender roles and expectations.

Practical Considerations

There are some practical factors that contribute to the differing norms around male and female armpit shaving as well.

First, men tend to have coarser and thicker armpit hair compared to women. Shaving coarse hair takes more time and effort, and can lead to a higher rate of skin irritation, bumps or ingrown hairs. Therefore, the process is less convenient for men.

Second, men’s armpit hair also grows back faster after shaving compared to women’s armpit hair. This means maintaining smooth armpits would require shaving more frequently. Given the hassle, men may weigh the personal grooming benefits against the time and nuisance factors and decide it’s not worth the effort.

Hair Growth Patterns

Here’s a look at the differences in hair growth patterns between men and women:

Factor Men Women
Hair coarseness Coarse, thick hairs Fine, thin hairs
Hair density High density Lower density
Growth rate Fast growth Slower growth

These biological factors make shaving less convenient for men compared to women. So when combined with the cultural norms and expectations, it provides a rationale for why armpit shaving remains far less common among men.

Changing Attitudes

While female armpit shaving remains the overwhelming mainstream norm, attitudes around male armpit shaving may be gradually shifting.

With greater examination of traditional gender norms and constructs of masculinity, some men have felt more freedom to shave or groom areas like their armpits without it threatening their masculinity. The rise of men’s swimwear like “mankinis” have also made male body hair grooming more prominent.

The strong association between armpit shaving and femininity is starting to change among younger generations. But the change is gradual. Even among celebrities and athletes, male armpit shaving remains relatively uncommon compared to women.

There are also practical considerations around skin irritation that continue dissuading many men from adopting the practice. The popular “manscaping” trend focuses more on trimming and neatening pubic hair rather than shaving armpits.

So while it’s likely more men today shave or groom their armpits than decades ago, it remains a minority practice. For those who want to reduce sweat or odor, trimming long armpit hair may provide a middle ground approach.

Health Considerations Around Armpit Shaving

If you’re a man considering shaving your armpits, there are some health considerations to keep in mind:

Skin irritation

– Coarse hair can lead to shaving irritation, bumps or ingrown hairs. Use a sharp razor, shaving cream and gentle technique to minimize irritation.

Cuts and infection

– Cuts in the armpit area are prone to infection since it’s a moist environment. Apply antiseptic if cut and keep the area clean.

Hair growth

– Armpit hair that grows back after shaving may feel coarse and stubbly at first. This usually softens over time but can be itchy.

Regrowth issues

– Repeated close shaving can damage hair follicles. Limit how frequently you shave armpits to prevent excessive irritation and follicle damage.

Skin discoloration

– Darkened armpits can develop from shaving irritation and ingrown hairs. Exfoliate regularly and allow armpits to heal between shaves.

With proper skin care and shaving techniques, these side effects can be minimized. But avoiding too-frequent shaving is key for men.


The practice of armpit shaving for Western men never gained mainstream cultural traction in the 20th century like it did for women. The reasons range from culturally shaped beauty ideals and gender norms to the coarseness and quick regrowth rate of male armpit hair making routine shaving less convenient.

These norms may be gradually shifting for some men who feel more freedom to shave without cultural stigma. But practical considerations around irritated skin and stubble regrowth often outweigh the grooming benefits for many men. Trimming long armpit hair offers a middle ground approach.

While female armpit shaving continues as a widespread practice, shaving or removing armpit hair ultimately comes down personal choice and comfort for both men and women.