People have been removing unwanted hair for as long as they have been making
records of themselves. Cave paintings at Lascaux show obviously grown men with
no- or short beards. Stone razors with wooden or bone handles have been excavated
and carbon dated from the Neolithic period.
In Egypt, 7,000 years ago, upper class men shaved their faces and heads.
Razors and tweezers, along with instructions for their use have been excavated
from mastabas dating from 4,000BCE. Finely worked obsidian blades were used in
Mesopotamia in 3,000BCE, and in Sumeria in 2,800BCE.
Today, 92 percent of North American women (13 years and over) routinely shave their legs. Hardly
any did in the 1920s, when the practice was often associated with chorus
line dancers. Both men and women considered it somewhat immoral and
During World War II, part of the Women's Effort was to make clothes out of
less fabric. One result of this was that skirts became much shorter than people
were used to. Another part of the Women's War Effort was to always look as
beautiful as possible, to keep up the morale of the entire country. At the same
time, stockings became very difficult to find, leaving women with the bare skin
of their legs showing in public for the first time in their lives.
During this time, Gillette launched an advertising campaign, telling women
that a good way to look beautiful was to "smooth" (women didn't shave,
then, they smoothed) away the hair from their underarms and legs.
Many women began routinely shaving at that point. Even during the 1950s, when
skirts became much longer again many, if not most North American women
continued to shave their legs on a daily basis.
An article printed in the Journal of American Culture in 1982,
"Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture," argued that "superfluous"
body hair had come to be considered offensive, often smelly, and "defective
Now, if you would like to shave your legs, here is a quick how to for your edification.
My personal choice is to use a Gillette Mach III men's semi disposable
razor with hair conditioner.
I chose the Mach III because it looks nice and does the job I want, and the
hair conditioner because it is milder than soap and because I always have
plenty in my bathroom.
Run the bath with water of the temperature you desire Check your razor is
ready for use, ie. check the sharpness of the blade and replace or sharpen it
if it is not very sharp. Put your razor, face cloth and your wetting
agent on the edge of the bathtub.
Get in. Relax for a few minutes. Pretend to yourself you are letting the
hairs absorb the nice hot water. Live a little.
Now sit with your back against one end of the bath. Put your the heel of
the leg you wish to start with on
the edge of the bath so that your entire lower leg is out of the water. Pour a
small amount of wetting agent into the palm of your clever hand. Smooth the
wetting agent over your entire calf and shin from ankle to the lower half of
your knee cap.
Remember: It is quite easy to cut yourself along your shin bone and around
your ankles if you do not take care.
Rinse your hand thoroughly. Dry it with the facecloth. Pick up your razor
and, starting at the ankle*, make a slow, smooth, even stroke up the length of
your leg. Lift the razor and wash the hair off in the water. Repeat. Be sure
to go from the bottom of the leg upward - this ensures you cut the hair off as
close to the surface as possible, eliminating stubble.
Lower your first leg into the water. Swoosh water over and around it, to
rinse off any loose hairs. Lift it out again and check for missed hair - there
will be some. It is easy to miss hair growing around your ankle, at the
very back of your calf and around your knee-cap.
Reapply your wetting agent. Use the razor on the missed spots. Rinse again
Now change legs and start over.
When you have finished removing hair from both lower legs, pull the plug,
stand up, and turn the shower on, washing all the little yucky bits that were sitting
in the water away.
Get out of the bath and pat your legs dry - rubbing them would be
If you wish to, put an aftershave lotion on your legs.
Dry shaving is far quicker than wet, but you are likely to have results
which are not as good.
You will need
If you have chosen newspaper, spread it out underneath your chair. Put your
foot in the place you have chosen for it. Pick up your razor and, starting at
the ankle*, make a slow, smooth, even stroke up the length of your leg. Tap the
hair out of the razor onto the newspaper of floor after each stroke. Remember
that it is quite easy to cut yourself along your shin bone and around your
ankles if you do not take care and that it is easy to miss hair growing
around your ankle, at the very back of your calf and around your knee-cap.
Repeat on the second leg.
Stand up and brush yourself off onto the newspaper or floor.
Apply the moisturiser to all the skin the razor has passed over.
Either pick up and throw away the newspaper or vacuum the floor.
It has been brought to my attention that shaving advice written for men often says to shave with the hair growth, rather than against it - ie down the keg - in order to minimise skin irritation.