Style Confessions: I Don’t Shave My Armpits — And It’s a Fashion Nightmare

What do you wear when you've got hairy pits?


Note: I do not look this glamorous with my armpit hair.

An Arizona State professor is offering her female students extra credit if they don’t shave their body hair for the semester, and her male students the same if they do shave from the neck down. It’s a weird academic gambit, and I don’t know what I think about it from a scholarly point of view, but it’d be nice to have an excuse not to shave. As it stands now, there’s really no acceptable societal excuse, which troubles me because, well, I don’t shave my underarms. You know, like Madonna, who I have so much in common with already.

The reason I don’t shave is because of my boyfriend. He likes armpit hair. He won’t let me say it’s a fetish, but I looked that word up on (because we’ve all become morons) and found this: “any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response.” So…that.

Relationship columnist Dan Savage says if your romantic partner is turned on by something and it’s not too difficult to oblige that turn-on, you should try your best. And this isn’t too difficult. I mean, it’s not as though he’s asking me to stick a ball gag in my mouth or pee anywhere other than a toilet. So what’s the problem?


If I felt comfortable with my decision, I could go sleeveless all the time and not worry about what people think. After all, I did that for years.

For instance, when I was in college at The Most Hippie College In the U.S., it was a free-for-all. Boys wore skirts with bare feet and it did not hurt their chances of getting laid. My then-boyfriend saw the shower room maybe once a month and was apparently unfamiliar with a product called “deodorant.” The idea of shaving? Pfft.

For graduate school, I was in Austin during the era of Slacker. That says it all, pretty much. I even made money off of not shaving at a photo shoot for an “art book” about “natural women.” It later became clear that the photographer wasn’t actually an artist, if you get my meaning. Thank god that book does not exist.

But nowadays I feel deeply shameful about body hair, and when I go sleeveless, I assume everyone is looking at me in disgust. Which may be true. It’s not like I have an eyebrow piercing and white-person dreadlocks. I work at Philadelphia Magazine and get pedicures. You see the problem.

Because of this I am compulsively shopping for coverups so that I can wear all my sleeveless clothing but obscure the truth of my underarms. And you know what? THERE’S NO SOLUTION. Here’s what the over-40 bloggers recommend to hide your upper arms (or hairy underarms):

1. Shawl: Effective enough at a wedding, where you can argue that it’s chilly in the ballroom, and where other women are wrapped up in similarly dull swaths of fabric. But completely impractical at any other time, as it has no arms, thus no staying power, and is an OCD nightmare if you worry about it remaining in the same position.

2. Shrug: Are these in style anymore? I don’t think so. There’s just no such thing as a hip shrug. The one I have has scalloped edges, which is worse still. When I wear it, i feel like I’m saying to the world: “I don’t know what I’m doing with the top half of my body.”

3. Long sleeves in “light fabrics”: What are light fabrics? Think about it. Lace. Chiffon. Semi-transparent polyester. Sheer something-or-other made from a chemical blend of sadness. There is not a single “light fabric” that looks good in a long sleeve.

4. Short sleeves with an “airy” shape: Such shapes are: the batwing, the butterfly sleeve, the bell sleeve, the bishop sleeve. In other words: NO.

5. Chunky sweater, denim jacket, blazers, etc: Summer exists.

6. Twenty-five huge bracelets to deflect attention: I’ve tried this but when I go to type it sounds like a train is derailing. Plus, I’m not sure anyone is fooled.

The solution I most often employ is keeping my arms glued to my sides as though I threw my back out. Or I wear incredibly hot cardigans, sweat, and then tear them off as soon as I’m out of work because once I’m on SEPTA, I’ll be damned if I’m going to worry about what people think of me.

I am thinking, however, of taking correspondence courses at Arizona State. I believe they have an online curriculum.