I was chatting to some lady friends the other day and asked them if they had, too, noticed the increasing trend of women leaving their pits au naturale. Now, it may be because we mostly live east (in London) and have memberships at our local yoga studios, but they largely concurred. I then asked the same question to a few female colleagues of different ages (just to make sure my sample wasn’t biased) and the response was mixed.
One said: “All I see is cleanly shaven, tanned bodies on Love Island every night when my teens tune in”, others informed me that they haven’t been shaving for years for many different reasons (some down to skin conditions that meant shaving wasn’t physically possible). I found this fascinating; the clash of mainstream entertainment and many brands still embracing the perfectly polished look, and then a wave of other brands and people, such as Burberry, moving further towards gender neutrality.
The Big Idea
It felt like an odd and exciting coincidence when US razor brand, Billie, launched its #ProjectBodyHair campaign a week after my informal focus group. The bit that got everyone talking? It kicked off with a video that featured something no other women’s shaving brand had done before… Yes gurl, it was actual female body hair in EVERY shade and length. We see women shaving it off, keeping it on, blow-drying it, combing it and all-round being comfortable and proud of it. No more of this nonsense where a woman shaves her perfectly smooth and photo-shopped leg sitting on the edge of a tub. The message in this ad was clear: “However, whenever, if ever you want to shave; we’ll be here”.
What They Did
The brand partnered with acclaimed photographer, Ashley Armitage, also known for her Instagram movement that embraces pubic hair. She directed the video and photographed beautiful imagery of women half, fully or not shaven at all. A dedicated campaign section was set up on its website, including a link to a free gallery for anyone to download more accurate imagery of women ‘helping make the internet a little fuzzier’ in its words. The campaign also encourages fans to upload their own photos using #ProjectBodyHair to help expand the database and normalise women with body hair, especially when searching image libraries.
I bloody love this campaign. Billie satisfied a gripe I didn’t even really realise I had until I saw the glorious video; and now I will not shut up about this. Why should women be pressurised by society to be perfectly smooth in order to looked ‘groomed’. And if we do miss a spot or leave things to grow freely for a while, there seems to be shame associated with this – self-inflicted or brought on by a partner’s passing comment. To add insult to injury, we then have to spend waaaay more on the flipping products or treatments (google The Pink Tax for more info) than men do.
A bikini wax sets you back about £40 in most London salons, and there is also a reason that the Venus razor blades usually have an alarm tag in Superdrug. Billie beautifully addresses both these issues with its current campaign and competitive price point.
There is nothing about this campaign that I would change, if anything, I am on the sidelines cheering loudly for it to continue with this type of messaging. It’ll take many years, if not decades to change such a hard-wired grooming trend. It was only in 2014 that Veet got shut-down for its ‘Don’t Risk Dudeness’ campaign which, I believe, was developed by female creatives. However, we’re progressing.
Even Dollar Shave Club has moved away from the type of advertising that made it so famous in 2012. In its new campaign, we see people of all ages and sizes getting ready in their own unique way; a 30-year-old trimming his pubes, a cross-dresser shaving his legs and a geeky guy removing hair from his nipples by ripping off tape (ouch!).
This campaign is brilliant because it pushes women to really question: “What do I want? Do I want to shave because I like it or am I doing this because it’s what I’ve been primed to do my whole life by brands and the media?”. My current answer: I’m still gonna go down Superdrug until Billie arrives in the UK. But, that is my choice… And maybe it will change if I feel braver in the future (no immediate promises).
My final point: a big-up should go to those who have been refusing to let gender stereotypes define how they present themselves, way before disruptive brands started ‘normalising’ it. You are the real trendsetters and the people moving society forward.