American Apparel caused quite a stir recently, displaying mannequins festooned with voluminous pubic hair wigs and sheer lingerie in the window of its Houston Street store in New York City. The tableau has caught the attention of onlookers and Web-surfers alike, eliciting a range of reactions from bemused curiosity to appalled incredulity to fiery debate about the sexiness or unsightliness of a naturally hairy pubis. Whether you rock a 70s bush like Gwenyth Paltrow, or started waxing in your teens, what we know about biology suggests that American Apparel’s stylists are onto something: Science is pro-bush.
Pubic hair plays several evolutionary roles, the largest of which deserves at least some credit for the very propagation of our species. It provides a large surface area to disperse sweat and pheromones to attract prospective mates. Indeed, differences in genetic fitness can be detected in an individual’s body odor. Pubic hair is also a form of protection. In the days before Hanes, it acted as a lubricating buffer to reduce chafing during movement, and shielded our genitals from the elements.
These days, it is more common than not for women to shave, wax or pluck at least some of their pubic hair, especially among younger women and those who are partnered (but not married), according to a survey of nearly 2,500 American women ages 18 to 68 published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. Certainly, modern woman’s dedication to pubic-hair removal has introduced its own elements of danger to the region. The number of women who visited an emergency room for down-there injuries jumped almost six-fold between 2002 and 2010, according to a study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco.
In an interview with Stylite.com, American Apparel visual merchandiser Dee Myles suggested that the retailer’s choice reflects a retreat from the supremacy of the Brazilian bikini wax. “I think being comfortable with the bush is making a comeback,” says Myles. “American Apparel has always been a company that celebrates natural beauty…. It’s not about being controversial. It’s about sparking conversation.” We, for one, are happy to join in.