Women are conventionally expected to keep their armpits perfectly shaven at all times. This societal law doesn’t apply to men, but it does to women, hence the saying, “All girls shave their pits.” Women don’t usually wear sleeveless shirts without shaving their armpit hair first. It’s literally a taboo.
But… it wasn’t written in any constitution or amended onto any acts of parliament that women would be breaking laws if they don’t shave their armpits.
37-year-old London-based photographer, Ben Hopper decided to do a shoot to create awareness on the beauty of hairy women. The Hackney studio owner began the project officially in 2016, and he named it ‘Natural Beauty’. He’s captured a lot of women showing off their full-grown armpit hairs with pride and boldness. He shares his work with the world on Instagram.
Speaking to Mail Online, he said : “I like natural beauty on a woman. I think it can be very beautiful and under the circumstances empowering and sexy. You need an attitude to be a female with hairy armpits nowadays.”
He says he strongly admires women who couldn’t care less about the criticism they would receive when they step out with their armpit hair in full glare. Shaving and waxing are sometimes turn-offs for him.
“From the reading I’ve done about the subject, I learned that women’s societal pressure to shave has to do with beauty brands such as Gillette who needed to extend their razors clientele and created one for women about a century ago,” he said.
According to him, a lot of people can’t stand the sight of armpit hair on a woman, and in his opinion, it’s a brilliant marketing strategy.
“I don’t want to say that I want women to start growing their armpit hair, I just think that it’s a possibility and people shouldn’t dismiss it. I’d like people to just question the whole thing,” he said.
A growing community
Since 2007, long before showing his work to the world, Hopper had been capturing women who have chosen not to shave their armpit hair. His work isn’t always accepted or praised, but that’s beside the point. He initially began by recruiting models, designers, and performers for his work, and the criticisms were flying left, right, and center. Now, women from every nook and cranny of life reach out to be photographed by him.
“For this project specifically, I get a lot of people complaining about the models who are too skinny or have makeup or pluck their eyebrows, too young, aren’t real women and so on,” he explained. “I’d like people to understand that my reasoning to choose these specific subjects was exactly because of that; this way the project is much more effective. The contrast is stronger.”
Since the inception of his pet project, Hopper has photographed 45 women who aren’t afraid to rock their armpit hair. From all over the United Kingdom, he’s had eager participants pose in the Hackney studio, East London, to make a statement to the world.
“If I asked people, ‘who would you expect to have armpit hair?’ You would never imagine a fashion model or a very beautiful ‘hygienic’ looking female,” he said. “That’s the stereotype and I’m trying to use it to intrigue a stronger reaction.”