What French Women Really Think About Body Hair

WTG gets to the root of the mystery.

Image: via @annabfromthetree on Instagram 

Unicorn Frappuccinos are neat and all, but the WTG team decided to bring up another creature of legend this week: The Impeccable French Woman. She’s the gal who eats half of her body weight in baguettes, smokes like a chimney and looks like a clone of Inès de la Fressange. She’s the woman for whom “bed-head” is not an insult, and cobblestones will never be an excuse for not wearing a pair of heels (although she’ll look just as chic in a pair of Stan Smiths). She’s effortless and au natural. She’s Parisienne. “What about the body hair thing though?” one of our American staff members said, “do you think that’s true?” 

Body hair has actually been having a bit of a moment in the United States. An article in The Atlantic cited recent studies that found more than 99% of American women choose to remove body hair, most often from their legs, underarms, eyebrows, upper lips and bikini lines. These practices "appear to transcend ethnic, racial, and regional boundaries," the report states. But more and more millennial women are starting to appreciate the real purpose of their armpit fuzz, and American celebrities like Miley CyrusDrew Barrymore and Lola Kirke have set an example for young women to embrace their body hair. Now, almost one in four women stopped shaving their underarms, according to research by analysts at Mintel. Even so, these figures show a high percentage of women feel still pressure to appear a certain way. 

So where do our female friends in France stand on this issue? 
 
“I want the legs of Venus,” declared Feryel, a Parisian designer who was one of several French women WTG spoke to about a myth that’s since been puzzling our team: do French women have fewer hang-ups about shaving? Or, at least, fewer than American women? Feryel seemed to sing the contrary – only to pull a 180. Kind of. 
 
“It’s different now,” she explained, saying that she’s been in a long-term relationship and feels less inclined to shave. She also said that, as her twenties inch farther and farther away in the rear-view mirror, she stopped “paying attention” to “little things” like waxing her armpit hair. Less often, at least. “I stopped [associating] leg and armpit hair with a weird pressure to put on myself,” she said. 
 
Roxanne, a literature student at the Sorbonne, agreed: “I think French women prefer having shaved armpits, but they don’t beat themselves up for not doing it like Americans.” Léa, the creative director of a Parisian fashion house, also didn't see what the big deal was all about: “walking down the street in the summer with hairy legs? Count me in. Zero complexes there. [Waxing] is something I do as a treat for myself.” 
 
We spoke with Piu Marie Eatwell, author of They Eat Horses, Don't They?: The Truth About the French, to set things straight. “I found that, whilst French women caught on to the habit of shaving later than the Americans, the practice is now virtually universal."

"Indeed, a survey quoted in Le Monde last year found that 92 percent of French women shave." Eatwell’s book goes in depth on the topic, and discovers that the practice of hair removal traveled across the Atlantic in 1946, the consequence of the postwar arrival of the nylon stocking from the U.S. An inquiry conducted in 1972 found that 80% of the French women who were questioned regularly removed hair from their legs and armpits, although 43% of them only did so when they were visible. "Hardly a ringing endorsement of the hairy French woman myth, then.” Touché. 

Put your pits and legs on display, hairy or bare, with our selection of shoppable summertime pieces.

Power Pits


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Dolls Kill Goodnight Tonight Sequin Halter Top - $48
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Free People Dream Big Jumpsuit - $98
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3/10
H&M+ Jumpsuit - $60
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4/10
Topshop Petite Tie Bandeau Jumpsuit - $110
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5/10
& Other Stories Spaghetti Strap Tank Top - $39
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6/10
Nasty Gal On the Cowl Crop Top - $36
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Jaded London Faded Pom Pom Dress - £45
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Forever 21 Plus Size Tie-Dye Maxi Dress - $20
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Circus Hotel Plaid Dress - $231
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Modcloth Sartorial Storyteller Tank Top in Sea Glass - $40
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Legs For Days


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Jaded London Silver Sequin Fringe Shorts - £40
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Isolda Tropical Playsuit - $167
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New Look Curves Red Ribbed Swing Dress - €13
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Modcloth Fluent in Finesse Shift Dress - $90
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Slink Jeans Cutoff Denim Shorts - $59
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6/10
Brandy Melville Matilda Shorts - $18
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7/10
Mango Medium Wash Denim Shorts - $50
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8/10
Petite Gingham Short Line Skirt - $60
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9/10
Carven Embroidered Dots Shorts - $356
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10/10
Nasty Gal Wild Guess High-Waisted Leopard Shorts - $40
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