are unshaven legs unprofessional?

A reader writes:

I’m just about to start my first professional internship, and I don’t shave my body hair for a lot of reasons I won’t go into. It wasn’t an issue at my last retail position because I was working in a air-conditioned warehouse and could stick with jeans. I could definitely just wear dress pants all summer, but I’d love to wear some of the shin-baring professional dresses I want to buy. Not too noticeable but maybe slightly too noticeable for some people, you know? Am I less likely to face issues if my new manager is an ex–Women’s-Studies prof? Am I going to be considered unprofessional in my first internship ever?

I think you should handle your legs however you want to, but yeah, there are offices where this could be A Thing.

That’s especially likely in particularly conservative environments, or in fields or regions that put a particular emphasis on conforming to a certain appearance (like the fashion industry, as an obvious example).

Even outside those examples, though, you will still run into people who think that skirts or dresses with unshaven legs is unprofessional looking or insufficiently groomed. Some will notice and then get over it, some will forever think of you as the intern who doesn’t shave her legs, and some may even say something to you about it (this group is by far the most rare).

That said, it’s reasonable to decide that you don’t particularly care how they feel about it. This isn’t like coming into work wearing a ripped t-shirt and shorts, where you’d clearly be violating a dress code; this is about how you choose to keep your body, and that’s really no one’s business. I’d be lying to you if I said that no one will have opinions or feelings or bias about it (although, yes, working for a former Women’s Studies professor probably means that your boss will not be in that group), but it’s unlikely to get you formally talked to the way ripped t-shirts would.

And you know, some people also think other people would look more professional if they wore lipstick, or had more polished hair, or stopped wearing flats all the time … and yet lots of people are quite successful without ever wearing lipstick or thinking much about their hair and despite never wearing heels to work. Unshaven legs are less common in offices than lack of lipstick/heels/chignons (or at least, visible unshaven legs are — I’m sure there are plenty of unshaven legs hidden under pantsuits), but if you’re okay with some people having Feelings about it, I think you’ll be fine.

{ 628 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn

    I think it’s only likely to reflect negatively on you if you’re not on top of your game with regards to your internship- so if you’re totally on top of stuff, professional, do a good job, etc. then it’s going to be overlooked. However if you’re sloppy with your work, don’t dress professionally otherwise, come in late/leave early, etc, then you’re probably going to get judged *hardcore* for it. Sucks, absolutely, but I think that’s just how society is about bucking personal appearance norms- if you’re otherwise adhering to societal norms with appearance and decorum, then one or two “odd” things are seen as personal quirks and overlooked. But if you’re acting like a boor AND look like you haven’t had a shower in a few days AND have unshaven legs, it’s much more likely to be A Deal.

    1. fposte

      I think that’s a general rule, in fact. What you want to do is to conduct your life so that it’s clear an outlier presentation is a choice, not laziness or mindlessness.

    2. Junebug

      I totally agree. I used to work with a woman who also chose not to shave her body hair, which in principle is totally fine with me. However, in all other aspects of her conduct in the workplace she was a disaster. She constantly missed deadlines, refused to take responsibility for the consequences of her actions, and could not manage to communicate appropriately with anyone she worked with. None of this was good, and it made many people resent having to work with her. But the fact that she was terrible at her job AND had unconventional personal grooming habits (which also included rarely washing her hair or feet and re-wearing the same clothes for multiple days in a row) really made it difficult to muster up the will to approach her professional habits with a problem-solving stance in mind. (It was more, “Boss, I think it’s just going to be better if I make all the teapots myself instead of collaborating with Jane,” rather than “Boss, I need some guidance on how to deal with Jane’s endless teapot backlog/hostile emails/daily errors on spout dimensions.”) They did try moving her to basically be a department of one, but that was short lived and she was fired for poor performance. I think management handled it well – it was always about performance, not appearance – but I know that I and many other of her peers might have been more willing to try and work with her through some of her professional issues if she had looked different. I feel awful for feeling that way, but it’s the truth.

      (And no, there were no financial/emotional/psychological issues underpinning Jane’s grooming habits. She preferred to look that way and felt it was fantastically quirky to do so.)

    3. periwinkle

      “Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press will think you’re ‘colorful.’ Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob.”

  2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    You go for it, LW! For what it’s worth, I sport unshaven legs most of the time, and don’t worry about it when I want to wear cute things. If you’re going to be in an office, most of the time your legs will likely be under a desk and no one will even see them — and no one should really be staring at your calves anyway.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny

      and no one should really be staring at your calves anyway.

      As my grandma says (about sewing), “if they’re that close to tell, they’d better be interested in something other than your stitching!”

    2. Connie-Lynne

      I wore professional skirts with unshaven legs while working in Aerospace in the early 90s, and if anyone was judging me, they kept it to themselves. LW, I think you’ll be fine.

      1. Chinook

        For those of you going around with unshaved legs, can I ask what your skin and hair colour is? After all, the lack of response could be chalked up to leg hair being less noticeable (I am looking at all the blondes out there) and someone with my combination (pale legs and dark hair) might be looked down upon because it is blindingly obvious when I skip a week shaving.

        1. KR

          I don’t shave in the winter and my body hair is dark and course (though the hair on my head is blonde and fluffy – go figure).

          1. Afiendishthingy

            Weirdly, the hair on my head is dark and thick, but my leg hair is sparse and like half brown and half blonde. I’m very fair skinned. I wear skirts all the time, and I decided the other day to stop shaving my legs altogether. (Previously, I shaved them infrequently and haphazardly, but my skin is so damn sensitive and the hair so hard to see that even that doesn’t seem worth it.)

            1. SallyForth

              You don’t want it to go grey. Grey hair has a different texture. However, I have good news. My hair is steel grey (under the colour) but my leg and arm hair have gone blondish in the last few years and a lot of it thinned out. My mom, too!

              1. Wren

                I’m only mid 30s, and my hair (head and otherwise) is black, and while I’m not loosing colour yet on my head or limbs, arm and leg hair has definitely thinned out.

              2. Artemesia

                As you age you tend to have sparser hair. I am an old lady and rarely shave anymore unless I will be in a bathing suit — arms or legs. Either my eyes have gotten so bad I can’t tell or my armpit hair is almost unnoticeable in my old age. I can tell my leg hair is much finer and sparser.

                I do think the point is well taken that if you have noticeable leg hair you want to make sure it comes across as a choice and not just slovenliness. So leg hair on someone who doesn’t attend to laundry often enough, who wears sloppy clothes, has unkempt hair and general grooming is going to make a much more negative impression than a well groomed, well pulled together person who also have leg hair.

                I personally would not go unshaven with dark hair (and didn’t when it was me) but I am of a different generation, your grandmother’s generation, and things are much less rigid some places than they were when I was starting out.

                1. GreenTeaPot

                  I agree! I noticed in my 30s that my blondish leg and arm hair was thinning. I seldom need to shave and I wear pants and lower heels for work. I refuse to wear mini skirts and stilettos. What’s on my legs is my business. But Artemesia nailed it.

              3. Bea W

                I wish I could say the same. My head is grey. My legs are still stubbornly near black. It has thinned out a little, but that’s relative, because I had hairy gorilla legs when I was younger.

            2. Blue Dog

              It doesn’t go gray. But it does stop growing as thickly when you become old. Both my husband’s grandmother and my grandmother were able to stop shaving their legs at a certain point. Unfortunately, I don’t think that happens for most people until they’re quite old, like 70s.

              OP, did you used to shave your legs or have you never shaved? Leg hair used to regular shaving looks stiff and coarse, with blunt ends but virgin leg hair lays closer to the skin. If I saw a coworker with virgin leg hair I’d assume she didn’t shave for reasons and think nothing of it. But with previously shaved hair I would probably wonder if she was out of razor blades. It wouldn’t affect my opinion of her work, though. If she’s a good worker I’m not going to think much about her leg hair.

            3. Mallory Janis Ian

              My leg hair is so much more sparse now (age 46) than when I was younger. I used to be so hairy! It’s nice to have at least one positive physical benefit of aging.

              1. RDB

                I didn’t notice a decrease in leg hair growth until I also noticed a decrease in stamina – recently found myself unable to walk more than a few blocks without stopping to rest. My legs felt like they weighed a thousand pound each. It turns out I have peripheral artery disease, and thinning/sparse leg hair is a symptom.

          1. my two cents

            The longer you go without shaving, the thinner each hair shaft will get with time just from wear and friction. Some active folks, particularly men, even end up with ‘bald spots’ worn from cycling or other activities. There’s also a myriad of self-tanner products that could help disguise darker hair against a pale backdrop. If OP hasn’t shaved in a long time, her leg hair is likely much thinner than new growth post-shave.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian

              Oh, a friction bald spot, like what babies get on the backs of their heads before they learn to roll over!

        2. Megs

          Pale skin and pale/sparse hair here, and yes, I’ve definitely thought that I might not be so blase about not shaving if I had darker hair.

          1. Michael

            OP, shave those legs. It’s gross not to. Sorry, but that’s what your coworkers are going to think.

              1. Kelly L.

                Yeah, I understand why people might think it’s unusual, but I really don’t get gross. Because then men’s legs would be dirty all the time. My legs aren’t any cleaner when I’ve shaved, they’re just less hairy. I still showered and used soap and all.

                1. Jay R.

                  I won’t say “gross.” It’s not gross. But at some point, you might have to accept a double standard with this. Leg hair for women is looked upon by some as unattractive and even radical. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to agree with it. But ignore it at your own risk.

            1. pope suburban

              “Sorry not sorry,” rather? That was as unkind as it was judgmental, and at least some degree of wrong in the bargain. The site’s commenting guidelines are linked above the comment box; you may want to review them.

            2. Megs

              Well, if Michael thinks I’m gross, I’m definitely going to change my personal grooming habits right away. To the drug store!

              1. Yogi Josephina

                LOL! That was exactly my thought. “Oh NO! *Michael* thinks I’m gross! Everyone, stop! MICHAEL is displeased! We have to put out this fire IMMEDIATELY! TO THE RAZOR, POST-HASTE!” :-P

                This is always what I think whenever I see stuff like this. It never ceases to amaze me how some people think that their individual preference/opinion should be the barometer against which everyone else is measured. As if they feel that their personal standard = that of the world’s, and there’s NO WAY it couldn’t be equally important. Incredible.

                You do you, OP! Keep that fuzz if you wish! :)

              2. orchidsandtea

                Yes, Michael’s three sentences have revolutionized how I think about my own body. There is nothing else to be done but to comply.

                Michael, tell me, what about plucking my eyebrows? Do you think I should go for a Lauren Bacall look, or more of a Dita Von Teese?

            3. KT

              While I think Michael is dead wrong, I do think it’s worthwhile for the OP to here. You’re always going to have a Michael Scott in the office who WILL think less of you for your choices on grooming, so you should keep that in mind–rock it and dismiss them, or take it into consideration. That’s something you do have to weigh.

            4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

              I remember the Great Pantyhose War on here a few years ago. There’s this weird subset of folks who find women’s legs deeply problematic. But they’re not the norm, and you don’t need to pay attention to them.

            5. Katniss

              If you find women’s leg hair gross, you need to grow up. Unless you’re 12.

              Actually, even if you’re 12, grow up.

              1. Myrin

                I daresay it’s especially important for a 12-year-old to learn this lesson, otherwise he’ll be a jerky adult!

              2. Kathlynn

                I’m a lady, and I find body hair gross. But I know that my body hair is the only hair I get to have a verbal opinion about. Doesn’t mean I’m immature though. Just icked out by it.

                1. Bea W

                  I feel icked out about pit hair on both men and women, and at the same time I get annoyed when people judge other’s choice to go au natural. What one does with their own body hair is a personal preference and doesn’t impede my ability to get my job done.

              3. KhalDrogo

                I’m also a woman and find leg hair kinda gross. I don’t like it on men either, but normally it’s covered by pants. There is nothing wrong with pointing out that people may have a negative reaction to someone’s unshaved legs in the office. There is a difference between what’s most charitable and what is actually going through people’s heads. Not sure why all these commenters feel the need to belittle Michael.

                1. Hrovitnir

                  Because he didn’t point out that people will be dicks (as aptly described by AAM so not really bringing anything novel anyway), he said “it’s gross”. He insulted someone based on his personal (albeit socially mandated) aesthetics: I fail to see what’s surprising about people responding negatively.

                2. pope suburban

                  He was mean, and he presented his opinion as a universal fact. These are things that will likely result in someone getting called out. It also ignored the fact that most people, while they may have negative opinions, know enough not to voice them at work. Dear Abby suggested that one ask oneself three questions before sharing something: Is it true? Is it useful? Is it kind? That post struck out on all three counts.

        3. CMT

          I definitely wear skirts and dresses with unshaved legs, but I’m pale and have very blonde hair, so I don’t think it’s that noticeable.

        4. E.

          Yeahhhh, I have relatively light skin and dark, coarse, fast-growing hair and I’ve been stopped by strangers who’ve demanded to know why I don’t shave my arms. I would LOVE to stop shaving my legs for good, but I just can’t face strangers commenting on that too.
          I honestly get really frustrated when my lighter-haired friends talk about how they haven’t shaved in weeks, like “OH REALLY, MUST BE NICE!!!” For some of us, it’s just a lot harder to get away with.

          1. Artemesia

            Strangers? Your arms? I assume you mean arms not pits? How weird!! This really happened more than once? I am just flabbergasted that anyone would say something like this to someone they don’t know.

            1. E.

              Yeah, my forearms! Interestingly, it’s always women who say these things to me — unfortunately, we tend to do a really good job of policing each other over these kinds of norms. :(

              1. Jaydee

                Ugh! That has to be one of the most ridiculous things to comment on to a stranger. I went through a brief arm shaving phase in high school because I thought if I was supposed to shave my legs why should I have hair on my arms. Thankfully, I realized that was silly. Not just because I am blonde and have fine, light colored arm hair. But because who shaves their arms? Not that I’m judging anyone who does. I mean, the same argument can be made about leg shaving – and guess what I did this morning? But societal norms against women having visible body hair are silly. I personally like the feeling of freshly shaved legs. If I didn’t, then I probably wouldn’t bother shaving them. My point is, we should all maintain our bodies how we feel most comfortable as long as it is in keeping with basic hygiene (so bathe/shower/wash your hair/wash your clothes often enough to not be stinky or visibly dirty) and not judge others if their choices differ from ours or from “the norm.”

        5. Lizketeer

          I’ve got the same situation – super pale with thick, dark hair. Added bonus that my hair also grows super fast (yay for my head, not so yay everywhere else) so if I shave in the morning, I’m prickly by the evening. It didn’t used to be an issue since I basically live in pants, but since moving to Florida I’ve had to drastically change my wardrobe and it’s a pain shaving every time I want to go outside for more than 5 minutes.

          My mom and sister on the other hand have fine, light hair and can go several days before even having to think about shaving again. Where my hair came from, we will never know.

          1. Artemesia

            Those devices that work by essentially plucking the hair actually do work and make it easy to not have to shave every day and when the new hair grows in it is virgin hair not hacked off little stubbles. The downside is if you get an ingrown hair it can leave a dark scar which is not an improvement. I have just one of those on my leg, but it is grosser than hair. But for years I used one of these on my legs and it meant I rarely had to shave my dark hair and it looked smooth and groomed with less effort and better results.

        6. Tea

          Medium olive toned skin and black hair, though relatively sparse. It’s definitely noticeable if I don’t shave for a couple of weeks, but I’ve told myself that I don’t care and mostly can believe it.

        7. (Another) B

          Just adding to the commentary here.

          I shave or wax most regular areas (legs/armpits/bikini line) but I have very blonde hair on my arms and upper legs, and head. Lower legs is dark, and you can even see the brown follicle through my skin. Eyebrows and lashes are dark too. Very weird. I have a 100% European background – I think I’m a mix of Italian fighting with Irish/German/Polish.

          1. Anxa

            Same here. My leg hair is just a dirty blonde, but the follicles are pretty obvious (mine are more on the pink end).

            Even shaven I’m a little embarassed to go go bare-legged.

          2. Amber T

            The dark follicle is the worst. My legs never looked shaved, even 20 seconds after I shower. Same with the armpits :(

            1. Elysian

              This is why I started epilating. But I can’t do my legs on a regular basis, so I just wear pants.

        8. A Signer

          I have medium brown hair and pale skin. Most people don’t notice my unshaven legs, but some people do and comment on it. If my hair was darker, I might be less likely to go natural.

        9. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          I’m a blonde with pale skin and black leg hair… lucky me. My hair is noticeable within the day I shaved it. I’m not comfortable going unshaven, so I’ve never tested how people would react.

          That being said, I hope the LW goes ahead and wears her shin-baring skirts. As Alison said, it’s nobody’s business but hers, and I hope she is able to feel comfortable and successful in her internship.

        10. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Very pale skin, dark brown hair — but very fine dark brown hair, which can make it a little more difficult to spot at any kind of a distance.

        11. Reba

          I have very fair, spotty skin (i.e. follicles are darker than surrounding skin) and medium-brown hair. I think that longer leg hair is less noticeable than fairly-fresh stubble because it more or less lays down flat, rather than sticking out. But maybe this is wishful thinking. ;)

        12. Murphy

          Pale (super pale) skin with dark (black) coarse leg hair. It’s noticeable if I don’t shave for even a day. Hell, but the afternoon I have stubble.

        13. Maiasaura

          I think in discussions like this that people with thin/light/sparse hair just have no idea of the attention, disdain, and abuse very hairy women may receive if we make different choices–particularly if we don’t fit other standards of what is beautiful. I periodically went with unshaven legs/pits for years at a time, and honestly, as a woman with very pale skin and thick, luxuriant dark hair on my head AND MY LEGS, it was miserable. My legs were hairier than most men I know (including my husband, to his absolute indifference, bless him), and it was extremely noticeable. My skin reacted to any efforts at hair removal with rashes, ingrown hairs, and scarring. It painful and gross.

          I think the standard of body hair removal as basic grooming is stupid, but I finally decided that being pointed and whispered at/never ever wearing shorts or skirts wasn’t going to Solve Sexism and I got a groupon for laser hair removal. It makes me a little sad that I gave in to conformism, but not as happy as being able to wear a pair of shorts any old time I like without thinking makes me.

        14. Honeybee

          I’m African American with medium-brown skin and dark-brown leg hair. It is definitely noticeable, and I don’t care.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            My college roommate was African American and had never shaved her legs until college. She said her mom commented on her shaved legs, “I knew you’d get around those little white girls and want to shave your legs.” So I guess it’s a more “white” cultural phenomenon? After she satisfied her curiosity once, she never really shaved again that I know of.

        15. Ears

          I have pale skin and medium-brown leg hair. I haven’t shaved my legs in over a year. When my legs are uncovered there’s definitely no overlooking it! I always wear leg-covering clothes at work. Outside of work, I go with however I’m feeling that day – still getting more comfortable about openly not shaving.

          I work in a business-casual office and wear slacks or a pencil skirt. Sometimes I wear a dress. If it’s the skirt or the dress, I wear opaque tights, which I love because they’re super cute. My wardrobe is the same year round since our office is air conditioned.

        16. Kalli

          I have pale skin to the point that foundation is hard to match, and dark leg hair (light black). The last time anyone commented was in highschool.

          I also wear sheer black stockings, sometimes.

        17. Landshark

          I’m part-Sicilian with pale skin (because the other parts of my family are largely pale with origins in the British Isles) and I can’t get away with fully unshaven legs and a skirt without it being very noticeable (though stockings or knee highs cover stubble well, in my experience). I prefer pants anyway, though…

          Meanwhile, my stepmom basically never shaves her legs because she’s fairly pale and blonde and it’s basically impossible to notice unless you’re right up on her legs.

        18. Sarah

          I have pale skin and light/medium leg hair (darkest at my ankles, lightens up to blond by the time it gets to my knees).

          Unlike a lot of commenters, who say their leg hair lays flat when it’s long, that is absolutely not my experience. I let my hair grow out every winter because I always wear pants when it’s cold, and by the end of January it’s long, soft, fluffy, and curly, much like how some guys’ leg hair is.

          It’s extremely visible – it looks like my legs have a fuzzy halo about half an inch thick. It catches the light from every direction. Even the blond parts are super-visible. I kind of like it! But I always start shaving again when I want to wear warm-weather clothes.

    3. Sydney Bristow

      I’m pale with light leg hair and almost never shave my legs. I work at a biglaw firm, which is typically seen as a fairly conservative environment. Nobody has ever said anything to me and I get the same type of assignments as everyone else so I don’t think it has affected me. I honestly don’t know whether anyone has noticed.

      1. TL -

        Yeah, I got really lazy about shaving since I moved to New England (once a month to once every few months) and I honestly don’t think anyone has ever noticed unless I point it out to them.

    4. BusinessCasual

      I have dark hair and medium skin tone and I have been going without shaving my legs for years. I work in a casual office, but still dress up in sheath dresses and heels for some meetings. No one has ever said anything about it. I’m convinced no one notices. I do have sparse hair, so that does make it easier.

      I agree with the grandma comment. No one is looking close enough to care.

  3. RKB

    Oh, this is interesting. I’m Sikh (from Punjab, India) and I shave my legs but I’ve never shaved my arms and this has never affected me professionally. Sikh people aren’t supposed to alter their body in any way, shape, or form, so I have female coworkers who have facial hair and leg hair and no one has said anything.

    We work for the government though, so that’s different. But I never realized t could potentially be an issue, since I grew up around it my whole life. Huh.

    1. KimberlyR

      Just curious-when you say you don’t shave your arms, do you mean the hair on your forearms or under your armpits? Not that it matters-I think you would be fine either way. I’m just wondering. I’ve never shaved my forearms but I know some women do.

      1. Hairy G

        Some of my female Asian friends shave their forearms. Other friends who are of Mediterranean extraction are self-conscious about their forearm hair, although I don’t know if any of them shave. I think it’s a cultural thing plus the spectrum in hair color and texture across ethnicity.

        1. K.

          I had a friend who is Armenian, with pale skin and fast-growing black hair and she had laser treatments to remove all her body hair, including on her arms. She said she had to shave almost daily so the laser treatments were worth it (although she said it was really painful).

          I’m black, with a caramel complexion and dark hair; the hair on my forearms is fine and soft. I’ve never shaved it. I do shave my legs and underarms. (I’m particularly fastidious about my underarms.)

          1. Christopher Tracy

            I’m the same complexion with jet black hair, and I don’t shave my forearms either. I rarely shave or wax, and when I don’t, I wear patterned tights or fishnets under my dresses/skirts and a cardigan over my arms to hide the armpits. I work in a conservative environment, and body hair of any type that isn’t on your head or forearms if you’re a woman would definitely be noticed and commented on by people who think they’re doing you a solid.

          2. Artemesia

            I know I had fine down on my arms during my youth and middle years but now as an Old I just looked at my arms as a result of this conversation and I have no hair at all on my forearms. The downside is this is part of the decay/decline of old age — the joints are also stiffening and various things are painful or not working right any more. But part of senescence is less hair (except of course for that one ugly course hair on the chin that has to be plucked from time to time)

            1. Linguist Curmudgeon

              I haven’t shaved my legs since aught six (except for a couple bridesmaid gigs), but I hate my chin-hairs with a burning hatred. (Because they itch!)

          3. Spooky

            I live and die by my laser. I’ve got an at-home one now. Best money I ever spent (and not nearly as painful as in-office.)

        2. Karo

          I am of half Mediterranean, half Scandinavian extraction (read: pale with lots of dark, coarse body hair. yay!) and I absolutely shave my arms. Not on a day-to-day basis, like I do with my legs, more on days I want to make sure that I’m presenting well (interviews, date night), or days where it’s really started to bother me. On the other hand, my mother doesn’t, but she also is 100% Sicilian so her skin color is a darker than mine so her arm hair isn’t as noticeable.

          It wasn’t intentional on anyone’s part, but I was definitely taught to be ashamed of my body hair. I’m always incredibly impressed with people who have the self confidence to wear skirts or shorts without shaving.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Jeffrey Eugenides described the Mediterranean as the “hair belt” in “Middlesex”. I don’t know if I have any Mediterranean descent (Scottish, Irish, and Native American that I know of), but I’m pretty hairy. Thank goodness for the middle age thinning of body hair!

      2. BananaPants

        I only shaved my forearms when I was a competitive swimmer and was shaving down for a conference or state championship meet. We usually didn’t shave legs for 2+ months during the season and then at the end we’d shave everything not covered by swimsuit or capt/goggles, with the theory being that without body hair we’d have less drag in the water and therefore faster times. Given that we weren’t exactly elite athletes I suspect it was mostly a pre-meet ritual/psychological boost.

        Having the hair regrow on the forearms was an awful, itchy, prickly experience. I don’t recommend shaving forearms unless you really, really want to.

        1. matcha123

          There are special razors for women (and men I assume) to use on their arms and faces. They aren’t as harsh as a typical razor. I felt so weird shaving my arms the first time I did it, but it made me so happy. I’d always been teased about my body hair and never knew that shaving my arms was an option. It hasn’t grown back prickly for me.

      3. KT

        I shave my arms from wrist to shoulder because arm hair freaks me out. On men too. I find it gross.

        (my personal weird hangup, you do you! I know I’m bizarre in this preference)

        1. TL -

          Haha, armpit hair freaks me out, regardless of gender (I swear this is why I don’t like basketball as a sport.) I’ve gotten a lot better about it, mostly because a couple of my friends stopped shaving and I forced myself to say or think something positive every time I noticed it.

      4. Kay J

        Culture! Shaving armhair is a big thing in Japan for women and men. They are encouraged to have as little body hair as possible, and while it’s nice to see some beauty standards not being women-only, it seems like such a pain. Some kids called me a gorilla the other day because I don’t shave my arm hair.

    2. fposte

      I don’t think arm-shaving is a big thing in the US. (Or a big thing yet, anyway–it’s the sort of thing that could really take off here.) I am profoundly glad for many reasons, one of which is my discomfort about using a very sharp blade on my right arm held in my shaky left hand.

        1. Editrix

          I’m a 30-year-old black woman, and it’s not a thing for me. I don’t touch the hair on my forearms nor the hair on my fingers (or toes…haha).

          1. Honeybee

            I’m also a 30-year-old black woman. When I was younger I used to shave my forearms because I got teased about how hairy they were, but I can’t bring myself to care anymore, so now I don’t.

        2. Furry Mediterranean Jew

          Yeah I think this depends very strongly upon your ethnic and racial background. For instance, I know that in some Jewish, Arab, and Mediterranean communities, in which people tend to have dark hair and LOTS of it, there is definitely pressure on women toward hair removal of all kinds, including arm hair. On the arms, it tends to be done by waxing rather than shaving, but it is most definitely done.

          1. Jennifer M.

            Exactly. I lived in the Middle East for three years and most of the women waxed their forearms. My Indian friends do it too. I asked the ladies at work if I should get my arms done too (I’m half Asian so have pretty dark skin and almost black hair). They inspected and said nah, even though the hair is dark, it is super fine and so I shouldn’t go down that road as it is hard to stop once you start.

        3. many bells down

          I think it’s a thing for younger women, maybe? My daughter and almost all her friends shave their forearms. I notice women in their 20’s seem to do it as well. I’m 43 and it had never occurred to me to do so, even though I have a LOT of forearm hair.

          1. Kelly L.

            I never had any clue it was a thing until I saw a commercial for the “No-No” hair remover, and they were using it on their arms. This aired during a show that’s aimed at a younger, hipper audience than I, so maybe there’s something to the idea that it’s a young trend.

          2. Myrin

            Seems to be a cultural thing as well – I’m young but from Germany and the only times I’ve ever heard of arm-shaving have always been, funnily enough, on this very site! Although I do admit that I’m horribly out of touch when it comes to things like this but my sister, who is 20 and a veritable people person who knows these things tells me it’s not something she’s aware of, either.

          3. Bea W

            We’re the same age, and my peers were totally judgey about body hair. All the girls were shaving by junior high. If I went with bare legs or sleeveless I was teased mercilessly. My mother, who hated visible body hair, had neglected to talk about shaving when she gave me the talk. So it wasn’t until the summer after I had sprouted all my body hair that she handed me a razor and showed me how to use it. :/ No one clued me into removing facial hair either, and being part Mediterranean descent I have visible upper lip hair and a unibrow. I didn’t know facial hair and unruly eyebrows were normal on women until well into adulthood, because apparently everyone knew to remove it, and in ways that were better than shaving which is what I did to avoid more high school acts of cruelty.

      1. Allison

        I shaved my arms once, and almost immediately regretted it. I felt like an alien! Any time I’ve felt self-conscious about my arm hair, I just bleach it, but I haven’t done that in almost a decade!

      2. Cecily

        Yeah, it’s more of a thing if you’re an ethnicity that’s “super hairy”. I’m mestizo (part European Spanish and part indigenous South American) with a white Cajun mom and she would always make comments about All My Hair That’s Just Everywhere That’s So Strange (it’s not strange at all mom) I Don’t Have It Therefore It’s Strange (all of dad’s family has it) But IIIIIII Don’t (okay whatever).

        I actually shaved my arms at one point, but for Sensory Processing Disorder reasons, and it ended up being more trouble than it was worth so I’ve since stopped.

        1. matcha123

          I totally feel you on that. My mom was like “Why do you go through so many razors?” and “You’re not supposed to have hair in those places.” I think I’m the only female in my family that actually needs to shave.
          Finger and toe hair also make me :(

          1. Mallory Janis Ian

            Ha! I wax my chin hairs and my “horrible man-stache”, as my daughter has dubbed both hers and mine, and while I’m at it, I wax the little bit of hair that grows on my big toe.

        2. Hairy G

          This is a really interesting discussion. Now I really want to know what the standard is for tropical Asian nations where businesses have asked men to not wear three piece suits in the summer to save on A/C and instead to wear those “walking short” suits with really lightweight button-down shirts and jackets. Are those guys expected to shave or not?

          1. matcha123

            Which countries in particular are you thinking about? Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan all (I think) have relaxed summer dress codes since it’s so hot and humid, but men in shorts would be a huge no-no.

            1. Hairy G

              Honestly I can’t remember which one I was reading about, it was a couple of years ago now. Singapore maybe? Philippines? It was a conservative place where not a lot of women work in business and all the men wear three piece suits and the “walking shorts” requirement was seen as very radical, hence the news article. Maybe it tanked? I’m still curious :-p
              I also want to know what the standard is for men in Europe who wear what we Americans consider capris. My spouse was rather taken aback at meeting young European men dressed in cropped pants, but maybe those are just casual wear?

              1. Patrick

                Cropped pants in general have been a trend for men for the last few years, but there’s a big difference between those and capris – ending above the ankle vs ending mid calf. True capris on men are generally a very “Euro” thing. If you work in an industry that’s more casual/fashionable I don’t think it would be a shock to see someone wearing cropped trousers while wearing capris would essentially be looked at as wearing shorts.

              2. DMented Kitty

                I’m from the Philippines, we still stick to the dress code — most men do not wear cargo shorts (or any “formal” shorts). We do have our own business casual derivation of a “barong”, which is a very breathable (sometimes sheer and you wear a shirt underneath) collared shirt usually made out of fibers native to our nation. Most people wear the more formal version of the barong on special occasions (they ARE expensive), however, there is a more casual version of it these days that is made out of cotton — and it’s available in short sleeves. Pair that with the normal polyester slacks and black shoes it is an acceptable business attire for my country.

                My US husband has a few sets of these barongs because he says it’s very cool in hot summer days, and since he works in an office where there’s a lot of Filipino consultants wearing the same thing they hardly bat an eye at him (except to compliment on the novelty of a foreign person wearing barongs!) :)

                1. DMented Kitty

                  I’ll also mention three-piece suits are really not that common unless it’s a very formal occasion (or if you just prefer to wear it) — with an average of upper 80s-90s temps, and the fact that you walk around a lot between commutes, it’s really not practical.

            2. Hairy G

              I just found an article about Japan, specifically government workers. I’ll keep looking.

              1. rock'n'roll circus

                I lived in Japan for 8 years, and even during the super Eco times post fukushima I never saw anything about shorts, short sleeved shirts, yes, but no shorts.

                Also, all of my Japanese female friends shaved their arms and faces!

            3. Patrick

              I’ve always known this as more of an Americas thing – there’s a reason they’re called Bermuda shorts.

          2. KR

            That’s so interesting that men have been asked not to wear suits! It’s such a good idea too- men shouldn’t have to suffer in suits to be professional. I just talked to grand-boss today and he’s wearing long pants and a long sleeve shirt with a tie in 90 degree weather – his office has AC but I feel bad for him on his commute home.

            1. Anxa

              I know I get incredibly frustrating when I have to bundle up in summer and part of the argument is to keep it cool inside in case anyone’s wearing a suit (few people do in these environments, but I understand that long, dress pants are kind of the minimum at a certain level.

              It would make so much more sense to dress more appropriately for the weather. I think there are so many ways to keep cotton pants and shorter sleeves and a no-tie ensemble looking snazzy for most environments.

          3. Wren

            Not that I can possibly speak for every asian culture, maybe not even the one associated with my background, since I’m North American born and raised, but I don’t know of any culture where male body hair, particularly limb hair, is taboo.

        3. Betty Sapphire

          I’m half-Portuguese and half-Irish with fair-ish skin (that tans) and red hair. My arm and leg hair is blonde, but my arm hair doesn’t lay flat. It never occurred to me to shave it until my drop-dead-gorgeous Italian friend in high school was so self-conscious of her dark arm hair. However it was fine hair and laid flat on her arm, and that’s when I started realizing people had Arm Hair and their Arm Hair was Different than mine. I’m considering laser hair removal, since my sensitive skin doesn’t react well to waxing, depilatory creams, and sometimes shaving.

          1. TL -

            My brother’s arm hair is thick and blonde/brunette mix and stands a good inch above his arm. He has a thick scar from a wee chainsaw accident and it’s actually almost completely hidden by him arm hair, unless you know what you’re looking for.
            Mine is the same color but much sparser and flatter and I honestly think I never noticed the difference until his college girlfriend was asking him about the scar.

          2. Meg

            Laser hair removal is unlikely to be successful if your arm hair is blond because the lasers work by detecting the pigment in hair and zapping what stands out against the skin color. That’s why it is most effective for pale people with dark hair.

            I feel your pain though — I am white as the day is long with lots of blond arm hair that sticks straight up. My only options would be shaving or waxing and I just don’t wanna.

        4. Kaitlyn

          One solution not mentioned in this thread is bleaching arm hair. My friends and I did this in high school after being made fun of too many times. Wow does the bleaching cream itch though!

          I did like the aspect of not having to deal with stubble though.

      3. Bowserkitty

        I was called in by my aunt to try to explain to my then 12-yo cousin why she shouldn’t need to shave her arm hair. She’d been really self-conscious about it and I felt so bad for her (she’s pale with dark hair). As a pale blondie it never occurred to me that some girls were self-conscious about it. :(

        1. Sally-O

          So uncool that someone shamed you for it. I actually think hairless arms look odd, like something is missing. (Unless it’s natural, of course – my Finnish friend simply has no body hair!)

          1. Katie the Fed

            Once was when I was getting my first-ever manicure at 17! The manicurist was giving me grief about how hairy my arms were. Now that I’m old and snarky, I would just tell her to stop talking about it. But at the time I felt AWFUL. She was Vietnamese though – I know some cultures are more direct about such things. But still…

          2. OlympiasEpiriot

            Yes, me too. If I don’t see some fuzz on an arm, I do a double-take and expect to see scar tissue.

          3. NoLawNoMo

            I’ve been shaving, waxing or lasering my arm hair off for the past 15 years. My sister still feels the need to tell me my arm looks like a thigh every time she notices the lack of hair.

        2. fposte

          It doesn’t count when it’s from somebody who could make money from your shame. That’s how telephone sanitizers got started.

          1. Artemesia

            I don’t know. Since I started automatically sanitizing hotel rooms — phones, door knobs, tv remotes, and plane train tables, and public computer key boards before use I have had far fewer colds when traveling.

      4. Sally-O

        I sure hope it doesn’t become a thing. I have dark arm hair and I don’t care. I assume no one notices, since I have never noticed another woman’s arm hair. I do shave the hairs on my upper lip, though. :-/

        1. Hairy G

          *looking at my arm hair, which I never actually think about* nope, I like it, shaving would be weird. I have a condition that makes me grow hair ELSEWHERE in male patterns and that hair really stresses me out and I shave it constantly, even though I have hairy legs and arms and legs.

          1. Anna

            My friends and I all shaved ours in 8th grade one time. I didn’t do it again after that because of the stubbly feeling when it started growing out. I have very light hair on my arms and can’t even fathom why I thought my arms were too hairy ever.

  4. KimberlyR

    I see nothing wrong with it. But you may get Looks and (less commonly), comments so as long as you’re prepared to brush those off and not be bothered or affected by it, go for it. Your work should speak for itself and as long as you’re following office dress code, your appearance shouldn’t matter otherwise.

  5. Hairy G

    I agree with Alison. I know there are some uber-conservative offices where the dress code stipulates something like “sheer or nude hose with skirts”. Not knowing your industry I would say wear pants the first day and see if they have one of those dress codes, if not then no worries. I personally do no shave my legs but I do bleach my leg hair (like in Brazil) and I do sometimes wear longer capris or skirts (shin to ankle length) to my dressy-casual, no public interaction work environment. I don’t think any of my coworkers have noticed or care, as it is not like them to have any sort of filter at all. Yay hairy legs!

    1. Not Karen

      Also depends on whether or not people follow the dress code. At LastJob, the dress code said one must wear hose with skirts but I wasn’t the only one who didn’t, and no one said anything.

    2. Elizabeth West

      Hmm, maybe I should try that. I would love to not shave, but my leg hair is not light.

      I hate the not wearing hose/tights with a dress thing–but mostly because 1) chafing, and 2) blisters from dress shoes. But I’m old-school; I grew up wearing hose with a dress, always. To not do so with a professional outfit looks somehow unfinished to me. Depending on the office, this might be the case there too.

      I hate dresses and skirts as a rule, and I won’t wear one if I can’t wear tights unless it’s summer and I’m going very casual.

      1. Hairy G

        I use Sally Hansen Extra Strength something something. The box is orange. It’s in the same store aisle as the razors but will be grouped with the wax and mustache bleach. I have fine hair that is blond to medium brown on my legs and it is fairly sparse. I have never shaved above the knee, even when I did shave. My spouse pretends to be offended by the “Sasquatch” fuzz and I ignore them. You can definitely see a golden halo if you look at my legs in sunlight from a distance but I don’t care. I dress rather conservatively in public anyway.

      2. Al

        You’ve probably heard of these both offense , but I swear by a combination of jockey slip shorts (not tight like spanx) for and those little mini nylon sock things (I always get the ones with the gel grips, because I refuse to wear shoes barefoot).

        1. Liana

          I looooooove those little mini socks, since I wear flats pretty much every day and I hate wearing shoes with no socks. I also despise wearing hose, so if I’m wearing a skirt/dress, I’m almost always bare-legged.

        2. Jubilance

          I just discovered this and they are so amazing. I used to suffer in Spanx and I tried the chafing gels but you have to reapply them throughout the day. The Jockey slip shorts prevent chafing but don’t have any type of compression, so they are so much more comfy to wear. And they are available everywhere – Macy’s, Kohls, Amazon, etc.

          1. Megs

            I used to use these, but then I found a deal on super cheap cotton “yoga shorts” and like them much better – I found the slip shorts didn’t breath well and because I’m short they came up way past my waist.

            Yoga shorts being in scare quotes because these are super thin and see through and I’d never ever consider wearing them as anything other than an undergarment.

        3. jazzcat

          I could have written this exact comment! I swear by the jockey slip shorts _or_ cheap spandex running shorts, and I detest wearing shoes barefoot (unless they are open toed, backless etc sandals) so I basically wear those little mini sock things nonstop in the summer! The gel grips ones are really the best, as I HATE socks falling down while I’m walking. :)

        4. themmases

          I love those mini sock things. The gel grips are the best– they allow them to be worn really low on your heel (so they are actually no-show, not “pretend they don’t show”) and mostly stay in place.

          My only problem with them is that on some brands the stitching on the edge is incredibly tight and I have to move it around during the day or it is painful. If I find a brand with gel grips and normal edges, I just stock up.

        5. another IT manager

          Bandelettes are also awesome for preventing chafing. Fabric tubes with that non-slip stuff on thigh-highs.

          1. OpheliaInWaders

            +1 to bandelettes, they are GREAT. Also less hot than running shorts under a dress.

        6. Liane

          I had a friend 30 years ago in college, with dark, heavy leg & arm hair who told me her stepmom wanted to pay for Friend to have her forearm/upper arm hair removed by electrolysis. (Only permanent method then for readers younger than I.) I thought, & still do, that making such an offer was *Gross!* even though I have wished since middle school that I would wake up and my own thick-but-dark-blond leg/arm hair would have magically disappeared permanently.

          1. Liane

            Oops that was meant to be way, way above. Got put in wrong place because (tl;dr) I forgot to list my username.

            What I actually wanted to say here: Thanks for the tip about the Jockey slip shorts. I have several split half-slips because of chaffing, but they are getting old. I will try these.

      3. brightstar

        I had the same issues, and then I started wearing Jersey’s Skimmers. They come in different lengths, are super soft and act like a slip but are shorts. And someone recommended liner socks from Costco in a weekend thread, and they’re great. They stay in place and make shoes, for me, much more comfortable.

      4. LawBee

        deodorant on the inner thigh where it rubs is MAGICAL. If it works on your underarms, it will work on your legs. Also, you probably already have some.

      5. Cristina in England

        I usually wear American Apparel bike shorts in spandex or cotton. They come in tons of colors and are comfy, fitting like the top half of leggings. They’re like what used to pass for bike shorts in the early 90s!

    3. Bob Barker

      In re pantyhose, I worked some years back at a PR firm in DC, the old-school, white-shoe kind (I was a temp). It was there that I discovered the exec. assistant of one of the bigwigs routinely wore sheer, light pantyhose and did not shave her legs. She was just like, Yeah, nope. I don’t do that.

      And I’ve puzzled about the social circumstances about that ever since. Was she able to get away with it because she worked for a bigwig and he didn’t care? Was she able to get away with it because she was a career exec. assistant (i.e., not a PR flak herself)? Were the pantyhose, whatever color they were, sufficient “cover” that that made it inappropriate for anyone to notice her leg hair (which was quite dark against her skin)? Was race/class a factor (she was black, as were most support staff, while the PR people were white)? This was the kind of place where PR men still wore undershirts under their dress shirts, and the PR men with dark body hair wore those white collar, blue body dress shirts to disguise their hairiness. So, very sartorially conservative. And yet she was completely cool about having hairy legs, and nobody said boo to a goose about it.

      Mostly, I think that the pantyhose were her concession to “appropriate,” and she was conceding no further. She was very good at her job, and well-liked, which I’m sure helped. But at age 19 and clueless about the world, I very much appreciated that she decided what she would do, and did exactly that, which in no way impeded her ability to look great and do good work.

      1. zora.dee

        I think the reason no one said anything is because, you just can’t tell someone that. Just like Alison said in her answer. I just don’t think, even in the most conservative work places, that the state of body hair is part of the dress code and it’s not up for discussion. Like, would someone in HR tell a woman: you have to wear makeup or you will be asked to leave? I think it’s the same thing. If someone tried to talk to someone about their body hair, it would be extremely awkward and inappropriate.

        so, in my experience a big part of it is just having the confidence that this is what I’m going to do and I don’t care what people think. And even if they notice at first and think it’s weird, they get over it. Because we are all here to do our work, not look at each other’s body parts.

        1. Christopher Tracy

          Like, would someone in HR tell a woman: you have to wear makeup or you will be asked to leave?

          Someone in our HR department recently told my previous division’s admin that if she wanted to move up in this company, she’d need to stop wearing blue eye shadow, get better clothes, and cut her long hair.

          1. zora.dee

            Right, but you kind of proved my point. It’s not like a dress code, where it’s something you have to do or you can’t work here. It was a recommendation if she wanted to advance. Which I think has a different standard.

            And in my case, if I was told this about my body hair, I’d be like “thanks for letting me know, I’ll be looking for another job now. Peace.”

    4. hugseverycat

      I haven’t shaved my legs or underarms in 10 years or so? And the only person who has ever commented on it was a little kid. Kids will say anything! She asked “How come you don’t shave your legs?” and my answer was, “Because I don’t want to.” That seemed to be a reasonable enough answer for her. I think most adults realize it is rude.

      That being said, I’ve never worked or lived in a super-conservative place, and I do have really sparse hair.

      1. Bartlett for President

        I have pretty dark, coarse arm hair. My nephew – maybe 4 at the time? – said to me “you have hairy arms like Dadda.” I thought it was the funniest thing, but my sister-in-law was horrified and apologized for like a month. If an adult said that to me, I wouldn’t have thought it was so funny.

    5. Artemesia

      If you are in an environment where being professionally groomed is important then opting for linen slacks in summer rather than skirts is also an option that doesn’t force you to alter your body.

    6. JennyFair

      I had NO idea bleaching leg hair was a thing, but now I feel like if you can bleach, you can also dye, and perhaps I need to grow mine out and dye it purple or something! :D

      1. Hairy G

        I picked it up from Brazilian friends. It is a Big Thing there. I see that some very young women are dying their armpit hair, so I suppose leg hair could also be dyed. I don’t think either is great at work but that is just me being old and grumpy :-p

        1. Hairy G

          If you do it please report back with results and what happens at work…for science :-p

          1. JennyFair

            LOL, I shall, if I do it. Although I’ll be honest, I’m not sure any of my co-workers (all male lab/field techs) could pick me out on the street if I were in a group of similarly-sized women. They just don’t look at me much. I *did* once reach distractingly-sexy-in-the-lab status, but that coworker is no longer with us :)

        2. Bartlett for President

          The dying armpit hair rainbow colors is a.thing. now, apparently. They also add beads and stuff! I don’t understand.

          1. Liza

            I did that for a while! I’m thinking of going pink soon, maybe. It’s fun because it allows me to keep my hair long (shaving them gives me a feeling of visceral horror, as though I’ve turned my armpits into a dystopian alien landscape) but also lets me feel like I’ve got them intentionally and not just to avoid hideous alien landscapes.

      2. Anna

        I am trying to figure out how this would not be awesome and I cannot think of any reason other than residual purple dye on legs. Other than that, it sounds wonderful.

        1. JennyFair

          I sometimes dye my hair purple and when I do, my only concern is whether it will go with all my outfits. But I’m mostly over that now. Well, I did hold off once while waiting to find out if I was being assigned to a a government project, because they’re super strict here.

  6. Sandy

    I think this is going to depend very heavily on the workplace culture at your office.

    We are very much a workplace where certain things are done and certain things are *NOT DONE*. Should you should break those invisible rules, you just aren’t taken seriously, and thus get passed over for projects, promotions, etc.

    Lest you think I’m exaggerating, TEN YEARS AGO, we had an employee with hot pink streaks in her hair. She was quietly shuffled out after less than six months, and TEN YEARS LATER, people still reference her in conversation and everybody knows exactly who they are talking about.

    My office can be really full of jerks. Hopefully your office is not full of jerks.

    1. Katie the Fed

      I’ve found that usually, unusual appearances are less notable with time. You stop thinking of Heather as The One With The Nose Ring and just Heather who is good at her job.

      1. Turtle Candle

        Really, really true. And part of that is that when you don’t know much or anything about something, it’s normal to kind of latch onto something physical to help you remember who’s who (Jane with the bright red hair, Bill with the thick black plastic glasses, Heather with the nose ring, Sam with the neck tattoo)–not even so much because the physical things are so important but that you don’t yet know the intangibles that will later best distinguish them to you (Jane with the infectious laugh, Bill who never gets his reports in on time, Heather the one who always knows how to fix the spreadsheet, Sam who plays lacrosse on the weekends). But once you learn that Heather will be your lifesaver when you bust the spreadsheets or that Sam always has great stories about his team, the physical attributes become less important.

    2. Alienor

      I think there are also invisible rules about who can break the rules and get away with it. Quite a few years ago, I worked with a woman who liked to dye her hair bright colors. She didn’t work with clients and her hair in no way impeded her ability to do her job, but it was a constant issue, and she was eventually told she had to stop. A couple of years later, after Woman #1 had gone, we had another woman who also dyed her hair bright colors, but no one ever said a word to her about it except to compliment her, or ask what color she was going to do next. The difference between the two of them: Woman #1 was probably 100 pounds overweight, and Woman #2 was slim and very conventionally attractive. I am totally sure that this is why Woman #1’s hair was seen as sloppy/unprofessional/inappropriate and Woman #2’s hair was seen as cute and fun, which is really unfair, but there it is.

  7. AFT123

    Even though it isn’t anyone’s business, I would recommend having an answer at the ready that you’re comfortable with sharing for when people ask about your choice. Even if it is a non-answer answer; just something to move the conversation forward and not catch you off guard. People will definitely ask, privacy be damned, though I suspect you’re used to this and probably have some good responses already.

    For what it’s worth, if I worked with you I’d probably assume you’re making a statement with that choice (though I wouldn’t ask why, it’s NOMB). I’d also think it was a pretty awesome statement, and I’d try to be friends with you.

    1. Koko

      I actually tend to agree with Alison that it’s unlikely anyone will say anything to her about it, even if they notice and have opinions about it. I don’t shave my legs regularly (kind of on a whim when I do or don’t), and in a decade in the professional workplace – in a city that gets so muggy in the summer that I’ve bared my legs all summer long every year – not one person has ever said anything to me or asked me about why I don’t shave.

      I’m sure people have noticed and had opinions, but I just…can’t imagine how that conversation would go unless you’re dealing with a Mean-Girl type who is passive-aggressively trying to shame you. “I noticed you don’t shave your legs. Why?” would come across as a barely-veiled, “Ew, gross, your legs!” because everyone knows why some women don’t shave – she either doesn’t care enough to shave or actively opposes the expectation of shaving for political or religious reasons. And most people are’t trying to encourage a debate about politics or religion in the workplace. Shoot, even if it’s something more obviously out of place like tacky make-up or greasy hair, most people have enough social grace not to question or call attention to someone else’s grooming habits, even if they side-eye those grooming habits pretty hard.

      1. K.

        Yeah, I think people are going to notice the OP’s legs and some will think it’s gross, but I doubt she’ll get comments. There was a woman where I used to work who had a goatee, basically. And, like, what are you going to say? “What’s wrong with your face?” “Why don’t you shave your face?” You can’t say that. Nothing you can say would be appropriate. People left her alone.

        People are even loath to comment on peoples’ grooming habits when they’re in violation of company policy. We’ve read letters here about colleagues with offensive body odor or halitosis, but the letter-writer doesn’t want to say anything.

        1. AFT123

          “People are even loath to comment on peoples’ grooming habits when they’re in violation of company policy.”

          That is a really good point that I hadn’t thought of.

        2. Katie the Fed

          There was a story a year or two ago when some guy posted a picture of a woman he saw who had heavy facial hair. She got wind of the picture and posted a response – that she’s Sikh and in her religion it’s forbidden to modify your hair, and she loved and accepted herself. He was pretty chagrined and apologized.

          The moral of this story being – you don’t know what someone’s reasons are for having different grooming standards and it’s better to just ignore it.

          1. Artemesia

            I agree but this doesn’t help the OP. Of course she doesn’t have to shave and of course probably no one will say anything about it. But what makes it hard is that it may genuinely hurt her professional advancement in many environments and that will happen without anyone saying a word.

            I worked in the US South. People are generally cordial and friendly to your face, but very harsh judgments are made about all sorts of things and people are essentially blackballed without anyone having let them know that their voicing of controversial opinions, their religious choices, their grooming choices etc etc are offensive or unacceptable. Some of these things you can’t change e.g. religious or ethnic identity but those you can like shaving legs are particularly likely to hurt you without you every being given any negative feedback at all. It is why people usually recommend being observant — if everyone in the office wears heels, shaves legs, uses lipstick whatever, then that is likely the expectation for professional presentation of self and deviation will need to be careful if one is not going to be penalized for it. (e.g. exquisite grooming except for the leg hair so it is clearly a choice rather than sloppiness)

            The OP is asking if it will hurt her. The answer is ‘in many settings, it will.’ In some it is not big deal.

            1. Katie the Fed

              Not every comment has to be 100% oriented to helping the OP – I was responding to a different point.

              As far as I’m concerned – the problem is on the side of those doing the judging. If the OP wants to take that risk, she should go for it. We have no way of knowing what the particulars of her office will be.

            2. Mallory Janis Ian

              Re: American South: I guess it’s from decades of fairly homogenous culture, but there are things that “go without saying” and that “everyone just knows“, and Lord help you if you get crossways of any of these unspoken norms. Nobody would dare be forward enough to tell you, so you’d better be very observant or very immune to a little light shunning.

      2. AFT123

        You are more optimistic about people’s manners than I am. :)

        I could also see people asking from a different perspective too – perhaps a fellow non-shaver, or a supporter of that movement, or just someone genuinely curious asking benignly. “Hey I noticed you don’t remove your leg hair. I think that is admirable. I’ve been considering stopping shaving as well – if you’re comfortable sharing, what led you to this decision? Do you have any advice? I know we haven’t worked together long, so I apologize if I’ve offended by asking and please know that I won’t be put off if you prefer not to talk about it!”

        Or –

        “Hey I don’t shave my legs either! High fives for us! If you’re comfortable sharing, what led you to this decision?”

        1. Megs

          I suppose it depends on your region (I’m in the Midwest and we’re kind of notoriously non-confrontational) and coloration, maybe, as my hair is very fair and fine, but I have never once been asked about my lack of shaving in the 6-7 years since I gave up on it entirely.

        2. themmases

          Yeah, I really wouldn’t appreciate being asked that by a coworker even when it is framed as approval. I don’t think even the “I apologize if I’ve offended” part makes it OK coming from a coworker– if it’s not work-related and you’re not sure if it would offend them, then just don’t ask.

          I’ve had friends, including work friends, that I talked about this with. One of us broke the ice by talking about our own grooming choices, not by asking about the other person’s.

          1. AFT123

            I’m certainly not saying that phrasing makes it OK – I’m only saying that it might be helpful for the OP to be prepared for any type of comment with a canned response at hand.

        3. Batshua

          Whenever I see someone with dark leg hair wearing a skirt, my admiration for them blossoms. I have dark leg hair and I don’t shave, but I also don’t wear skirts without covering my legs. I just don’t have the guts yet, I guess.

        4. Reba

          Yes, it matters who asks and in what way. I have had a comment from an older person in a disapproving/”young people today” tone… but I’ve also had several nice conversations with women around my age and a bit younger who seemed not to have considered NOT shaving to be an option before. I am pretty conventionally feminine-presenting in other ways, and so I think some people—who know me a bit, that’s key—have been interested in my decision to stop shaving altogether.

        5. zora.dee

          I have had a handful of people ask me about my hairy legs, ever in my life, and none of them were coworkers or in the context of work. They were all friends or in social situations. And I have just said: “Oh, lots of reasons I don’t want to get into.” and that was enough and the conversation was over. And other times I’ve felt like getting into a long conversation about it. I really think people feel it would be rude to say anything.

  8. Leatherwings

    LW I would wear pants for your first few days before you get a good handle on the office culture around dress.

    At my workplace, this would be no big deal and is much more casual than the “official dress code” says. If you see other people wearing things like tank tops, sandals, colored hair, shorter skirts (than knee length), t-shirts, leggings, etc. then you have some pretty good signs that it’s a more casual workplace and people probably won’t be too fussed about some leg hair.

    But if you’re in a place wearing suits everyday, like a law practice, you’ll know you probably need to cover up or find another option.

  9. NJ Anon

    I’m with you. Lw! I am sick and tired of being told what I should and shouldn’t do! Makeup? Nope! Stockings/panty hose? Nope! I don’t smell, i wear deodorant.
    Good enough for me.

    1. Leatherwings

      Totally agree. I do wear a bit of makeup most days and shave, but I’ve given up straightening my hair, and I no longer bother hiding the belly I’ve developed recently. It’s most comfortable when it’s hanging out a bit, so screw uncomfortable spanx!

      1. Honeybee

        Oh man, not straightening my hair anymore was probably one of the most freeing things I’ve done. I’m African American with kinky Afro-textured hair and I used to get it chemically relaxed. Now I just let it grow out of my head and throw some gel in it. Not only do I like the way it looks a lot, it is sooooooo much easier and far cheaper!

      2. Fawnling

        +100000. When boyfriend and I first got together I would sleep in a Spanx so he wouldn’t catch a glimpse of possible belly. This went on for 2 1/2 years.

        Now I just wear an oversized tshirt which he has dubbed Muumuu and 6-day scratchy unshaven legs, and I’ve never felt better about myself.

  10. Sibley

    I’m terrible about shaving my legs. I also get cold easily, so I wear pantyhose otherwise I freeze. Personal preference.

  11. Green

    For what it’s worth, I don’t fit the stereotype of “the polished professional female lawyer.” I wear Puma flats literally every day. I haven’t worn heels except for big out of office meetings (with external folks) since I left the law firm environment. I wear makeup <10% of the time, and I wear ponytails when I feel like it. But I do my job well, my "clients" trust me, and I got promoted after a brief time with the company.

    I'd wear pants for a week or two, establish yourself as a professional person, then wear whatever you like (that fits with the general dress code) after that. If you have meetings with external stakeholders (or subsequent interviews), I'd wear pants as well, just because they haven't had a chance to learn yet how awesome you are.

    1. Triangle Pose

      Green, I’m a woman attorney as well and I’m curious – are you very senior? Did you wear heels and makeup when you were still in the law firm environment?

      1. Green

        At the law firm I wore heels but wore makeup only for big meetings, client meetings, depositions, etc. I wore my wet hair in buns sometimes and ponytails often. I have about six years’ experience out of law school. On the plus side, in law firms the worse you look, the harder people think you’ve been working. :)

        In-house I am clean and don’t wear dirty, ripped clothes. I think I look “nice” but not “polished” in the way that women who regularly wear makeup and actually style their hair and clothing do. When I do wear makeup, it’s foundation powder, brows and mascara. I haven’t worn a suit since my interview, except when I’m representing the company at external meetings. I have found that it hasn’t negatively impacted my career and people still think I’m a “rising star” etc. I am not morally opposed to looking polished; I’d just rather spend my morning time sleeping than curling my hair or lashes.

        1. Triangle Pose

          Yep, totally get it. As someone who left BigLaw for in-house super early in my career (about 2.5 years out of law school) I’m trying to project polish in all things, including appearance. It doesn’t help that my workplace is business formal (the men wear suits and ties every day but can leave their jackets in the office) so I feel like while I can wear something less formal than a suit everyday, it has to come pretty close and I need to be able to throw a blazer over whatever I’m wearing in case I need to meet C-suite people. I would like to get to a level here where I can feel more comfortable skipping some of the morning routine…

          1. Green

            I left biglaw after 3 years, but my in-house corporate culture is more business casual, which helps.

  12. NJ Anon

    “I would recommend having an answer at the ready that you’re comfortable with sharing for when people ask about your choice.”

    How about MYOB?

    1. Leatherwings

      As an intern though? I think that anyone who asks is rude, and does need to mind their own business but realistically this isn’t the most diplomatic response.

      I think something breezy like “It’s just easier” or “Just a personal preference. Anyways, about lunch” is better.

      1. Allison

        Right. I hate when people I don’t know ask me why I do what I do, and I would love to tell these people to mind their business, but I know it’s rude to say that, so I generally give a vague “I just like it better” sort of answer. It took a while for me to be okay with people being disappointed though.

        1. Mike C.

          I don’t think it’s rude at all to say that. Sure, there’s a spectrum of ways to say it, but sometimes it’s really not the concern of anyone else.

          1. Green

            “None of your business” would definitely be interpreted as rude. I’d go with something on the softer end of the spectrum as an intern.

            1. Brooke

              Ditto this. I’d keep it fairly light and congenial, assuming good intent until proven otherwise.

            1. TootsNYC

              Add in a slightly puzzled and absent-minded tone, and it’s a very polite way of saying, “This isn’t your business.” The implication, “Why are you asking this?”

        2. themmases

          Me too. I was vegetarian for many years and I hated being asked “why” by relative strangers. Similar to not shaving your legs, if you think about it for a second before asking you will realize the answer is either ideological or health-related… Not appropriate stuff to ask about someone you don’t know.

          And when someone has been doing something for a long time, there are a lot of reasons and no reason. The reason you started doing something 10 years ago is probably not why you keep doing it today. (That reason would be “Still works for me given my evolving personal beliefs and circumstances” / “Habit”.)

        3. Anna

          I think it’s okay to turn it back on them. “Why do you ask?” Chances are good they won’t have a great answer and it puts the responsibility back on them where it belongs.

          1. Ife

            In my experience, the type of person to ask “Why don’t you shave your legs?” [ie, blatantly ignores social cues/personal boundaries] wouldn’t miss a beat if you asked them why they asked you that. They would just use it as an opportunity to ask again in a more confrontational way. You still need something else to say to shut down the line of questioning. Preferably, as others have suggested, something bland and hard to argue with/ask questions about: “Oh, I just don’t/I just prefer not to.” Repeat as needed.

    2. Green

      As an intern, you probably shouldn’t be rude back, even to rude people. If you can accurately say “Oh, I have religious/cultural/health reasons” it should shut down any further conversation, because most people know those are off-limits areas for discrimination. (Yes, the whole line of questioning could also be gender-based, but those questioners may not think of the fact that women are expected to shave their legs but men aren’t … although men are generally expected not to show their legs in the office, so the standard could be gender neutral.)

      1. zora.dee

        I think exactly what the OP said in her letter is an appropriate workplace response tho: “A lot of reasons I don’t want to get into.”

    3. AFT123

      That’s an answer! If OP is cool with telling people that, then by all means! I just meant to have a “line” ready to go so she doesn’t feel flustered about being put on the spot.

      Though hopefully Koko and Alison are right and people just won’t ask at all.

    4. BRR

      I totally agree with you but there are a lot of times where there is a “how the world should work” answer and “how the world works right now” answer. The answer wouldn’t get you far in a lot of offices even though it really isn’t anybody’s business. I would even consider saying it’s for a medical condition because that would likely make it more acceptable to those who oppose (who should learn to just deal with it).

      1. Turtle Candle

        Yeah. “That’s none of your business” is definitely true, but it would be misleading to imply that answering that way doesn’t come with consequences–potentially serious ones, depending on the industry, the location, the culture, and who you’re saying it to. “Oh, I prefer it that way” + change of subject is also true, and while it is not potential-consequence-free (I mean, nothing is) it has much less serious potential consequences than “MYOB.”

        I mean, we are giving advice to real people navigating the world, not to people living in a hypothetical perfect world.

  13. Vic

    Basically, showing body hair at work is unprofessional. This is why men wear long pants (even in summer) and don’t wear low-cut or sleeveless tops. (I guess arms are the exception.)

    1. Not Karen

      By that definition, men should also cover their mustaches and beards or be clean shaven.

          1. zora.dee

            Exactly. Women’s arms show as well, and they have hair on them.

            The line in the US about what hair is acceptable and what should be removed is completely arbitrary. That’s fine, that’s how culture works, but let’s just acknowledge that it’s arbitrary.

            1. zora.dee

              Right, there’s an exception. So therefore it’s not a hard and fast, existential rule. It’s a convention, which is malleable and has exceptions.

    2. Leatherwings

      It’s pretty fashionable for men to wear high water pants these days – those show leg hair. I don’t think that’s necessarily the standard for professional dress

        1. Triangle Pose

          I think by high water pants Leatherwings means “ankle pants” which is very trendy right now for men and women. In general, slim fit, slim lapel and slim cut suits and workwear are very much in style right now for men and that extends a bit to ankle length pants.

          1. Michelenyc

            Actually men are wearing shorter thank ankle length pants all over my office. I do work in fashion so I have pretty much seen it all!

            1. Bea W

              I haven’t seen this in Boston, but then we were named one of the worst dress cities at some point. :D

            1. Ultraviolet

              They have! I’ve seen it here. If you haven’t seen it in your area, you could be a pioneer and adopt it now before it’s widespread (or God forbid, passe)!

                1. Bartlett for President

                  Def. Portland – though, I’m sure they’ll all tell you they were doing it before it was cool or a.thing.

            2. Windchime

              I haven’t seen it in my part of the West Coast, but I do see a lot more kilts than I used to.

        2. BRR

          I see it extremely often in the financial district of NYC. Assuming the definition is pants that show some ankle and it usually only reveals socks. It can be part of a more conservative look often times (suit and tie).

    3. KR

      Clothing’s different for men and women though – it’s fine in most offices for women to wear skirts or dresses. I don’t think we can ignore that.

    4. Green

      That’s a very arbitrary standard of “professional” and one that is biased against people from many religions and cultures.

      1. BRR

        It is but Vic is not avocating for it, only commenting on how that seems to be the case which I would say is more or less accurate of the conservative side of American office wear.

    5. Bob Barker

      I mean, I really like the idea of Scottish men having to shave their knees (and knees only; they wear tall socks) for wear with kilts at, say, formal events. And then they go around with sad, bald knees, but hairy calves and thighs, the rest of the time.

      But I don’t think that’s how it actually works.

      1. Katie from Scotland

        Scottish men do not shave their anything under their kilts, including not their knees. I’m much amused by the suggestion though!!
        Having said that, it’d be a really weird day if there were blokes wearing kilts in the office – they’re for special occasions like weddings, worn formally, or patriotic /cultural events, like sportsball and ceilidh dancing parties, worn casually.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          {wistfully remembers being in Scotland during a big sportsball event and seeing all the guys in kilts… it was marvelous}

        2. Koko

          There’s been a semi-recent (~10 years or so) trend in certain cultures here of the “utilikilt.” It’s basically like a kilt and cargo pants or bondage pants had a baby. Knee-length wrap skirt for men with tons of pockets, and clasps and loops to hang things from.

          They originally were fashionable with men who went to Burning Man, but they’ve spread outward a bit and aren’t all that out of place in Silicon Valley nowadays.

      2. Hlyssande

        I’ve suggested to my colleague in Cluj, Romania that he should look into getting one of the ‘fancier’ varieties of utilikilt or something similar. Apparently it has been extremely hot there and the building climate control can’t keep up. I don’t believe the dress code prohibits men from wearing ‘skirts’, so…

    6. Mike C.

      I don’t shave my head, eyebrows, eyelashes and so on. So I guess I’m being unprofessional?

    7. my two cents

      FWIW, I think bare arms inside the office are FAR more casual than a conservative or knee-length skirt with unshaven legs. I don’t want to stare into other people’s armpits, as I’m 5’1″ and am typically the right height for such a focus. But legs? Who the heck can even see the hair on a woman’s legs from another 3+ ft up?

    8. Bea W

      Men don’t wear shorts at work because wearing shorts is considered unprofessional, and many work places do not allow them for men or women. You’ll notice women don’t wear shorts in the office either. I’m pretty sure if they had the option to wear shorts to the office in the summer, they’d do it in a heartbeat. At least the men I know would be all over that.

  14. Elizabeth the Ginger

    If your office is like the office where I did an internship in high school, this won’t be an issue because the AC will be up so high that those nice-looking dresses just aren’t possible. :-(

      1. TheSockMonkey

        Yeah. I’m thinking this will be a non issue in most offices given the need to wear stockings or something on your legs to survive in the AC.

        1. Koko

          My office has at least 12 distinct climate zones ranging from “fires of hell” to “hypothermia risk.”

          I used to sit in a “hypothermia risk” area of the office and used a blanket and space heater 12 months a year. I now sit in the “fires of hell” end of the office and I wear a skirt with a camisole base layer under my outfits 12 months a year so that I can strip down to the tank top while I’m in the office and layer up before going outside in the winter.

          1. Turtle Candle

            I’m reminded of the time the AC went down in my office, and The server room was hastily relocated to the one remaining relatively-cool room (cool because it had decent airflow) so that all our server machines wouldn’t overheat and drop dead. They rented some conference rooms at a local hotel for people who had to meet with clients or etc. The rest of us were given temporary dispensation to wear shorts and t-shirts and flipflops to work. :D

  15. Raine

    Another thing to consider is that leg hair is not usually as noticeable as people tend to think it is. Unless yours is unusually dark or thick it’s likely your coworkers won’t even be paying attention to your legs.

    I’ve had female friends lament the fact that they’re wearing shorts and haven’t shaved yet, only for me to go “wait, you haven’t shaved?”

    Leg hair is definitely one of those things that is not nearly as obtrusive as people like to make it out to be.

    1. Lady Kelvin

      That’s how I feel about it. If someone said something to me about my long leg hair, my first thought would be “why are you looking so closely at my legs?” Thats not even a normal body part for people to notice.

    2. sam

      This – I did the full “women’s studies major” stopped shaving my legs back in college and realized that no one really noticed.

      But it probably helps that I’m relatively fair-haired. I have some friends who feel compelled to shave their legs daily.

      I work in a fairly conservative, dressy environment these days, and I’m probably a little less ‘radical feminist’ and more ‘corporate lawyer’, so my failure these to shave my legs is driven mainly by laziness – so I get my legs waxed about once a month to keep things under some sort of control, but no one notices when I’m desperately “due” for an appointment. Except me. Because I can feel my own legs :)

      1. sam

        to add – I’m not suggesting OP start getting her legs waxed – her reasons for not shaving are her own. I’m just noting, for those who don’t know, that in order to wax, you actually have to let the hair grow out to a reasonable length in order for the waxing to work ‘properly’. So I end up towards the tail end of the month with some pretty robust (albeit blonde) stubble. No one notices.

      2. Leatherwings

        Just to jump on the women’s studies thing, I didn’t see that anyone had mentioned to OP, having a WGST boss probably WILL help them – folks who are immersed in feminist literature tend to have more liberal views on beauty standards/body hair and is far less likely to be one of the conservative workplaces that will look down on it.

        Impossible to know for sure, but that factor makes it more likely OP will be totally fine.

        1. Sparrow

          Yes, I wanted to respond to this point, too. Every women’s studies-inclined person I’ve ever known or worked with would have no problem with hairy legs and wouldn’t want OP to be worrying about this. I think she’ll be fine, too, but if the office seems pretty conservative (i.e., other colleagues might silently judge her even if the boss doesn’t), it’s probably safest to wear pants until she gets a feel for the place.

    3. KarenD

      I try to fool myself that this is the case, but the reality is that the combination of very fair skin and very dark/coarse/thick hair is quite noticeable and rarely seen.

    4. addlady

      My sister gave up on shaving her legs, and it took me weeks to notice, and she has thick brown hair

    5. Rusty Shackelford

      True. I shave my legs at my chosen frequency because I don’t like the way they feel otherwise, not because of the way they look.

    6. themmases

      Yes, definitely. I am very pale with dark hair and I have still managed to go out with my ankles showing when I am well past due for a shave (by my own standards). A lot of times I don’t even notice until halfway through the day, and they’re my legs! No one has ever said anything. When my friends have done the same thing, I didn’t notice until they told me. Sometimes after they told me, I still couldn’t tell.

    7. Katie the Fed

      It really depends on your hair. My husband is so furry it looks like he’s wearing hair pants. If my hair was like that it would be really noticeable.

      1. many bells down

        This is me from the knees up. I’m like Chewbacca. I remember in middle school my friend (who was tan with very blonde hair) telling me that you “shouldn’t” shave above the knee. That’s all right for her and her barely-visible blonde fuzz!

        1. Koko

          I had never heard that “rule” when I first learned to shave, and around 9th grade or so I was at a sleepaway camp and my bunkmate was so surprised to learn that I shaved above my knees and told me that her mother had taught her that “nice girls” don’t shave above their knees!

          Which makes me think it’s less about the idea that hair above the knee is less noticeable or less in need of a shave, and more a puritanical idea that no one should be seeing or touching you above the knee, because you would be wearing a knee-length or longer skirt and not engaging in sexual activity.

          1. Lily Evans

            That’s the same thing my mom told me! But my skin is so super pale and my hair is so dark I didn’t listen. I was also a teen when super short-shorts were the cool thing to be wearing, so most girls my age wer also shaving their full legs.

          2. Megs

            Hand to god, I didn’t know that women grew hair on their upper legs until I was well out of college.

          3. Buffay the Vampire Layer

            As always, the Golden Girls addressed this situation appropriately:

            Rose: When men see that you shave your legs above the knee, what does that say to them?
            Blanche: Hopefully it says, ‘”Touch my leg!”
            Dorothy: That’s in case they miss the tattoo that says the same.

          4. Bea W

            Full leg shaving where I grew up. I rarely shave above the knee now just because that hair is just not noticeable, so a lot of work for nothing!

  16. Betty Sapphire

    Thinking back on the females I’ve interacted with or crossed paths with in my professional life, I realize I never really concentrated on the state of their body hair. Granted, I have female friends who do not shave various body parts for various reasons and body hair is not A Thing in my realm because Everyone Has Hair.
    With my optimistic outlook, I’d like to think that your leg hair is the last thing on your coworkers’ minds, unless their face is very close to your legs. I get self-conscious when I wear sandals and I didn’t shave my feet, so I understand where you’re coming from, OP. After getting a good sense of the office culture, I would wear the dresses you’d like to wear and not draw attention to the fact you don’t shave. And if someone mentions it, brush it off! Most likely people will first notice (and compliment!) your outfits and work ethic before your actual body.

  17. some1

    Some offices get way too cold with the AC in the summer to bother with bare legs so it might be a total non-issue. Or you may find that the internship means a lot of filing or hooking equipment that involves crawling under desks and tables all day so that you don’t feel comfortable in a dress or skirt.

  18. cjb1

    I don’t know what it is, but I love seeing unaltered bodies. This sounds creepy… What I mean is that I see it as a sign that someone is comfortable enough in their own skin to not worry about others or they are strong enough to NGAF about what others think or say. I would have no issues with this, however, I’m in Graphic Design/Marketing/Art where people can get away with a lot more than in a more formal/professional office setting.

    I shave legs and underarms, but that is what I’m familiar and comfortable with and what makes me feel good. I think everyone’s advice is pretty spot on with wearing pants or a long skirt on day 1 and then just gauging where to go from there. Having a canned response is pretty good too – although I’m blanking on anything other than, “Not shaving is a personal preference. That’s all. How was your weekend?” Basically not making a big deal out of something that is really no big deal.

    Also, body hair is really not a big deal. Shaving is such a recent phenomenon that it really should be considered “not the norm” taken in historical context.

    1. Mazzy

      “Shaving is a recent phenomenon” isn’t a valid argument, as anyone working today is at least a few generations if not multiple generations into it being the mainstream thing.

      1. KR

        Just 100 years ago, it was a fairly new idea that women should even shave under their arms, much less their legs.

      2. cjb1

        I probably wouldn’t recommend using it as within an argumentative stance because I can see it coming off as pretentious or kind of “holier than thou” (maybe that’s just me). Just pointing out that it is the norm to a few, but not the norm for most of historical society and also not the norm and/or banned or seen as sacrilegious (not sure if that is the right term to use?) for some as well.

      3. Green

        Ah, yes, we must all follow gendered stereotypes regarding appearances because our mothers (and possibly grandmothers?) may have.

      4. Anna

        “Because everyone expects you to” isn’t a good enough reason for it to be a professional standard for appearance either. Especially since it’s specifically gendered.

    2. KR

      +1 to your last point. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune (link to follow), body hair was removed by nobility in ancient Roman, Greek, and Egyptian cultures because it was seen as uncivilized to have body hair since animals also were covered with hair. Shaving for women in America really took off in 1915 when Gillette figured out it could market a razor specifically to women as the “safest and most sanitary method of acquiring a smooth underarm”. As hemlines rose, so did the pressure for smooth skin.
      Shaving your body hair is a corporate ploy. You don’t have to do it to be professional or feminine.

      1. Brooke

        “Shaving your body hair is a corporate ploy.”

        This insinuates those of us who do shave have fallen victim to the con. Thanks for that…?

        1. Act

          We have, though? We’re all a function of the messages we’ve received. And it is a con, literally born in the boardroom to sell a product. It doesn’t make you a bad person to live in a society with shitty gendered expectations, but that we feel the pressure of those expectations doesn’t make them valid.

    3. Rusty Shackelford

      Shaving is such a recent phenomenon that it really should be considered “not the norm” taken in historical context.

      While that may be the case, if anyone does take issue with LW’s unshaven legs, “it’s so recent that it shouldn’t be considered the norm” isn’t going a good argument for an intern to make.

      1. cjb1

        Not suggesting that. Just making a general comment about norms.
        I think trying to make that argument would lead to a more confrontational standpoint than an intern would probably want to make. Just trying to help the OP have a mindset of what could be perceived as out of the norm really isn’t…at least IMHO.

    4. Daisy Steiner

      Yes, I love seeing people with ‘out of the ordinary’ or ‘not beautiful to society’s standards’ (for want of a better descriptor) bodies or bodily features who just rock them with confidence. I love it! Contrast with people who have something they’re insecure about, and are constantly mentioning it or trying to hide it. It makes it so much worse!

      Example 1: I knew a guy who was embarrassed about going bald early, so he constantly wore a cap. Constantly. It looked really weird. But eventually he took it off and wore his receding hair proudly, and I think I noticed the first time ‘Huh, he doesn’t have much hair’, and then I never thought that again. You just get used to it.

      Example 2: I worked with a woman who had a moustache – like, not just some dark downy hair. A full moustache that a man would have been proud of. The first time I met her I was taken aback, but after about a week? I just didn’t notice it. When new people would meet her and then comment on it to me, it would honestly shock me because it was so off my radar that I just didn’t see it any more.

      So my prediction, OP, is that people might notice the first time, but then they’ll just get used to it.

      1. cjb1

        Thanks for getting it and saying it in a less creepy way than I did. : )

        And totally agree with the “notice it then forget it” phenomenon that will happen with the majority of people.

  19. Not Karen

    You are not alone. I have been in the professional world for four years with unshaven legs and they have never come up. As far as I can tell, no one has even noticed (though my leg hair is very light, so one can’t really tell from far away).

  20. LawBee

    LW – dive in with your unshorn legs. Unless you have very visible leg hair, I doubt most people will notice. Be a great intern, be professional, and even those who care will get over it. I shave my underarms but rarely bother with my legs, and it’s never been a deal.

    (Why the underarms? Because something about deodorant having to fight its way through underarm hair just skeeves me out. I have no idea why.)

    1. KR

      I totally get what you mean. Seeing the dried deodorant stuck on my boyfriends armpit hair grosses me out. I always want to tell him to comb it out for some reason- not like I ever would tell him that, lol.

        1. Anna

          I’ve not experienced this for myself, but I do have a friend who doesn’t shave and gets kind of whiffy when she starts sweating. I’m pretty sure it’s mostly because she uses the natural deodorant or crystal crap that doesn’t actually work.

          1. Lily Evans

            Having armpit hair doesn’t inherently make pits less sanitary, but it does make it easier for sweat and bacteria to hang out there and can hold the scent longer if people don’t wash thoroughly. I’ve noticed that with both men and women who had pit hair.

          2. moss

            I use gel deodorant (so no white clumps, ugh) and do not get whiffy … not the day of my shower anyway. Subsequent days, all bets are off. I have Muppet underarms (no shaving).

    2. Liza

      There are so many great deodorants that won’t leave hideous white clumps! Lush’s T’eo deodorant block was my favorite for a long time, but I’ve also found men’s deodorant-sans-antiperspirant to be very effective. I also have far fewer problems with sweating and pit stains than I did before I stopped shaving, so I don’t need the antiperspirant part at all.

  21. KR

    OP, I think you’ll be fine. The hair grows naturally there and shouldn’t bar you from wearing what other women can wear. I agree with the others that you should wait a few days and see what other people wear first – if no one else is wearing summery dresses and skirts I would ask before wearing them.

  22. Audiophile

    I’ve gone really long periods without shaving my legs, but I also mainly wear jeans as part of my wardrobe. I have maybe 4 dresses, 2 of which I bought only recently.

    When I’ve worn dresses I have shaved my legs but I also haven’t been overly worried about coarseness, so if I had some hair left over it was no big deal.

  23. Mazzy

    I disagree with all of the comments so far, you should endeavor to cover your legs if you can’t/don’t want to shave them. As has come up multiple ways in responses, there are norms for offices. Following the norms is shorthand for “I know how to operate in all ways in a corporate environment.” Some of the norms are visible, some are not. Not following the visible norms will put you at a disadvantage to people who do follow them. Even if your company is OK with your legs, they still may not want you representing the company in certain ways, because they want workers who are seen for their work and not “the one who won’t shave.”

    I don’t think it’s a sexist thing and going down that path will only set you up for disappointment in life; these sort of office norms impact both genders, though in different ways. For example, my male coworker wears his hair long and likes to dress casual every day of the week. He is a middle aged metal head, which is cool, but he wants to portray that image 7 days a week, and it overrides his attempts to appear as a serious worker who prioritizes work at work – and this is at a very laid back and liberal small company that is managed by genxers who for the most part don’t dress up every day.

    1. Mike C.

      This is silly. Norms are norms because people keep choosing to enforce them as norms, no other reason. Following stupid ideas for the sake of following stupid ideas is shorthand for “I can’t be bothered to understand why we do this and I’m just going to enforce this rule because I got used to it and I can lord it over anyone else who dares step out of line”.

      And seriously, “they still may not want you representing the company in certain ways” goes way, way overboard when you’re talking about something like shaving legs. What other parts of your body should a company control so that you can “properly represent them”?

      There comes a time when we need to stop following dumb rules that don’t hurt anyone else just because it’s “not traditional”. Those that care about such things need to suck it up and deal with it.

      1. Mel

        id hate for that to be the advice the op takes away- that appearance shouldn’t matter and that your work should speak for itself. That makes for an awfully frustrating and disappointing start to a career.

        1. Mike C.

          This particular idea, the idea that women must shave their legs to be considered “professional” is a dumb idea that needs to be put down. There’s no reason to enforce such a norm, and conflating that with “appearance in general” isn’t a convincing counterargument.

          1. Mel

            you werent speaking of all “silly” norms in general? How is it different from say other silly norms like “can I wear tennis shoes instead of heels?”

            1. Murphy

              Honestly, I don’t know. If it doesn’t impact your job in any way why can’t I wear tennis shoes? I did after I broke my leg and it was all that I could wear and for those weeks my job performance wasn’t affected, so what was different after my leg healed?

    2. Leatherwings

      Yeah I really disagree as well. I think professional norms are changing rapidly to move toward more gender-equal policies. Dudes can often wear long hair and women can often not shave. It obviously depends on office and industry, but a lot of places this would really really really not be A Thing, even a subtle and unspoken Thing.

      Maybe there are geographical differences in play here as well?

    3. Not Karen

      it overrides his attempts to appear as a serious worker who prioritizes work at work

      To everyone or just you?

      1. Kelly L.

        Yeah, I don’t get how one’s hairdo affects one’s thinking–whether people like the hairdo or not, I don’t think the hairdo would make him think any more or less about work during work.

      2. Mazzy

        Oh you got me there. Well, not really. He’s been in the same position for years when everyone else is getting promoted. Please don’t pin negative responses on me just because I’m the only one who opposed the internet group think that occurs here and on many other websites. I really doubt you could get a large group of people t 100% agree that not shaving is completely fine anywhere in real life, but it’s entertaining to read the verbal gymnastics here that are trying to rationalize it.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          This is starting to skirt the line into adversarial, so could you take it down a notch? Thank you.

          Dissenting opinions are welcome here and they’re valuable. But I want people interacting kindly with each other and not snarkily, and that’s especially true when your dissenting opinion happens to be telling other people that there’s something wrong with their appearance.

          1. Liz

            If I may, Alison – I think Mazzy’s second comment was borderline adversarial, but I read it as a response to bordeline adversarial replies to his/her original comment that disagreed with the (vast) majority opinion of the other commenters. I love this site, but want respectfully voice my concern when a dissenter is chastised while equally – if not more- adversial members of the majority are not.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              That’s actually why I added that second paragraph, because I thought about that too. I think when you’re expressing an opinion that says something that’s frankly not too kind (like that something is wrong with someone’s appearance), there’s extra obligation to be thoughtful about your wording. I think, too, that when reacting to someone saying something harmful/oppressive to others, there’s a little bit of room to sound obviously frustrated/irked.

              But I take your point, and thank you for speaking up about it.

            2. Mustache Cat

              when a dissenter is chastised while equally – if not more- adversial members of the majority are not

              I don’t see it, to be honest. Could you point it out?

          1. Liz

            Not really, though. The reasoning behind the opinions varies, but almost every comment has been supportive of unshaven legs at work.

              1. Liz

                Well, I interpreted the general gist of Mazzy’s comment as being unsupportive of unshaven legs. Whereas almost all of the other comments are supportive of unshaven legs. So in that respect, his/her opinion is completely opposite of the majority, regardless of anyone’s reasons. I guess, to me, it just comes down to wanting people to be able to comfortably and respectfully dissent without it being implied that their opinions are silly or stupid, which it was in at least one person’s response.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  In Mazzy’s case, it’s that she’s made several comments that basically say “you shouldn’t care about challenging sexism,” which people understandably find pretty problematic.

                  There are other people here saying “nope, I think you’ve got to shave or lots of offices will think it’s unprofessional,” but because they’re saying it politely and without snark, they’re not drawing the same pushback.

    4. Oryx

      Um. No.

      So I broke my ankle about six weeks ago. My left leg has been in a cast up to my knee and just basic showering is a whole production. Shaving my right leg is far too much effort and I really just don’t care. Because of the cast, I’m limited in what I can wear so I’ve basically been rotating my vast collection of yoga pants (I do work in a casual office), and said yoga pants stop at the knee. Which means my unshaven right leg has been hanging out all summer.

      Do you know who cares? Nobody. And it’s summer here and hot and we work in a casual office. Shorts, sundresses, all the women have their legs out in the open and I honestly couldn’t even tell you who shaves and who doesn’t because who actually pays attention or notices that sort of thing?

      1. TootsNYC

        I don’t think comparing someone who’s been injured (cast, and injured foot w/ sneakers) with someone whose default choice -for everyday- is at all logical.

    5. AFT123

      I really hate sentences beginning with “You should…”. I agree that there is a potential for small but insidious consequences of having visible leg hair, but I don’t agree that it isn’t sexist or that that it will set one up for disappointment in life to think that way. I do agree that challenging the status quo can be difficult, but I don’t agree that that alone is a reason not to do so if one has convictions against said status quo.

      Personally, I think it it’s great that OP challenges the hairless status quo, whether that is her reason/intent or not. However, I still shave my legs, as it isn’t something I personally feel strongly enough about to challenge myself. Does this make me a hypocrite? I don’t know. More power to people who challenge pointless social rules though!

      1. Christopher Tracy

        + 100. I get what Mazzy is saying and as much as we’d all like the pretend otherwise – she may have a point. Depending on the work environment, which OP has no way of knowing yet, coming to work with unshaved legs while wearing dresses may in fact cause others to have a negative (and stupid) perception of her that can impact her with this company. I hope that won’t be the case since the person she’ll be reporting to sounds like she would understand and support OP’s decision; however, we don’t know what the boss’s boss or any other decision makers at the company will think about this. Warning OP that this may be a potential consequence isn’t wrong, but telling OP she absolutely must conform so that she can avoid something that may or may not happen is.

        OP, take the advice of others here who say wear pants the first couple of days, watch what other people are wearing, and then if you choose to, rock your dresses and unshaved legs with abandon!

        1. Mazzy

          This is what I mean, especially since the OP is an intern. I think especially when you are new to the work world, you need to show that you can pick up on norms and standards of behavior before your in a position to break them, especially since IME anyway, interns don’t really provide much work output compared to their head count. The employers I’ve had that have hired interns do it more as a tradition and almost a favor to future graduates; especially at my current company. There isn’t much work we can give interns, so they don’t do that much but we do fill up their time with a lot of industry related exercises that are useful for them (usually research into nice to know but not essential topics) in how to get to know the industry without making mistakes that could cost us a lot of money. So given that type of setup, an intern is definitely not in a position to be breaking dress codes and work norms yet.

          I may have overdone it with the snark but it is a lot to take in, reading all of these comments that completely contradict the fashion standards that have been in effect since even the oldest of us were alive. It’s almost as if the breaking of the fashion rules is more important that contemplating why they are in effect.

          I also don’t think it adds credibility to the anti-shaving argument to pretend that every standard of dress is bad, or that other commenters accused me of being the only one biased against our office 45-year-old metal head. Yes, I totally admit I am biased on this one, but it’s the image he put out there. His hair is long and sometimes disheveled and sometimes sheds and he often puts it in a messy bun on top of his head. That, coupled with his tshirts and casual pants and sneakers does not make for a professional or even attractive look (yes, I know, attractiveness isn’t something you rate your coworkers on, but sometimes his getups look so bad I can’t even look at him). I don’t get the comment above that the hair doesn’t prevent him from thinking, no one ever said that. But if its a choice between a cleaner cut worker or him to go to a nice lunch or make a presentation to our partners, they are going to pick the more polished worker, and have been. They apparently want to send people who project the “I’m leaving my personality at the door so I can focus on you,” not “my personal preferences trump my company’s mission.”

          What the discussion here doesn’t mention is that there is always someone smarter and more driven in every job, and you are going to have to compete with them for the plush assignments. Why make it any harder for yourself by making the hill you want to die on your individual fashion choices?

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Well, because for many people this isn’t a fashion choice — it can be about health, religion, or deeply held feeling about sex-based stereotypes. In fact, I’d guess that for most people it’s not about making a fashion choice.

          2. Murphy

            It’s almost as if the breaking of the fashion rules is more important that contemplating why they are in effect.

            I’d argue that lot of people are arguing that sometimes it’s good to break the fashion rule because of why they’re in effect. They’re gendered and sexist and a byproduct of a time when a woman’s worth was judged on her appearance and not her contribution. So when I argue that someone should be able to have unshaven legs I’m not ignorant of the historical context, but rather the opposite.

            1. Megs

              There’s also a real effect on women’s success in the workplace when they’re “required” to spend extended periods of time each day grooming where men are not. That extra half hour or hour of sleep can be vital to your health and productivity, and I genuinely believe that maintaining these standards contribute to the burn-out that keeps women out of the highest levels of the professional world. You know, on top of the fact that even in two-income households, women usually spend more time on chores and childcare.

              And then there’s the money side of it. The entirety of my husband’s grooming expenses are razors, deodorant, and body-wash. I’m really very low-key, “gross” some might say, but I still pay to have my hair colored every five weeks with a cut at least a couple of times a year, body wash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, and moisturizer with sunscreen. I invested in a professional-grade hair dryer a couple of years ago (highly recommend!) and only wear lipstick to interviews or extra fancy events. Imagine how much money a women with higher fashion expectations would spend, then tell me it’s just a “fashion choice”.

              1. Jaguar

                I’m confused. You just explained how you choose to do far less than some other women, then mention those other women… and explain that it’s not a choice?

                As for the money side, men are judged heavily on how expensive their clothes (and other presentable) are. You think it’s awful how women are judged on their looks? Well, let me tell you about how men are judged on their wealth and how far the history of that goes back.

                1. Megs

                  Hm, I could see how my phrasing could be confusing. To clarify: these sort of presentation issues are not about having a specific choice to do a specific set of things. Acceptable presentation is a moving target, as this thread clearly illustrates. When I say that I “choose” to do far less than some other women, I’m saying that I’ve weighed the potential downsides and my own circumstances (certainly including the fact that I have “good” skin and very light body hair), and decided it’s worth those potential downsides not to shave or wear makeup. If you search for my comments through this thread, at least one commentator said this was “gross.” Many women in different situations than me make different calls about how much is necessary. This doesn’t mean the issue is non-existant.

                  As for your second point, you seem to be saying that, because men have it “worse,” women shouldn’t complain. I’m not sure that’s an argument worth engaging – people should be fully capable of recognizing that various different gender standards are problematic without feeling the need to rank them. That’s called “oppression Olympics” and rarely if ever leads to useful discussion.

                2. Jaguar

                  Right. I had half-written but deleted a ramble about how it’s similar to a free speech issue: there’s no violence or sanctioned punishment against non-conforming to style and grooming rules (except public indecency), but making a non-conformist choice will carry consequences that you have to live with, fair or not. If I say something socially taboo, people will make judgements about me, could ostracise me, etc. Same as if I dress socially taboo.

                  As to the oppression Olympics, I didn’t actually say anything about who had it worse (I actually think, at least on a day-to-day basis, women do). I was responding to your comment comparing genders when you said your husband’s expenses are trivial. That may be the case on daily grooming (although, I would point out that male grooming is still a very time consuming process), but it’s not the case for presentation and appearance as a whole.

                3. Megs

                  You’re right, I did make that comparison – and I actually did think about noting the clothing difference, but decided to keep it simple because I was trying to focus on daily grooming specifically.* And if you didn’t intend to play OO, I apologize for the interpretation. That said: “You think it’s awful how women are judged on their looks? Well, let me tell you about how men are judged on their wealth and how far the history of that goes back.” reads an awful lot to me like “You ladies don’t have it so bad – let me tell you how bad WE have it.”

                  *And yes, some men do take a long time to get ready, but I really strongly suspect the overall difference is substantial. My husband is an extreme case to be fair – he’s bald and gets ready in 20 minutes.

                4. Jaguar

                  Well, okay. Admittedly I did punch up the language. I was responding to what I felt was a comment implying there is no comparable economic pressure on men’s appearance, which I feel is false.

              2. zora.dee

                Yes, to the time and the expense! In fact, the time is a major factor in my decision to stop shaving. I just couldn’t handle spending that much time every week removing body hair, I have better things to do with my time and it was driving me crazy.

                And yes, to hold up the ‘expected standard’ women have to spend sooooo much more money on products, etc. I think that has a significant effect on women’s success as a whole.

          3. knitcrazybooknut

            And there’s a difference between “this guy in my office who has long hair” and what you describe in this comment, as a dissheveled, messy coworker who does not care about his appearance.

            His having long hair, and his unkempt appearance are two different things, and it feels like you’re conflating the two to mean the same thing: unpromoted, unprofessional worker.

            1. Liane

              This! I have a male friend of the family who for may years had very long hair.* It was always clean & neatly in a tail, and he was always clean and neat otherwise, even when in work or social environments that allowed jeans and tees.

              *for so many years that me, my husband and our 2 then-teens felt like we’d been dropped into a strange alternate universe when he announced on a Skype call, “I got my hair cut and donated it to Locks of Love!”

          4. afiendishthingy

            It seems really unlikely one would have to die on this particular hill. It’s unlikely to be much of a hill at all, frankly — obviously some people share your views that unshaven legs are inappropriate for the workplace, but many, many more won’t even take leg hair into consideration when evaluating their employees.

    6. RWM

      It’s totally fine to have a different opinion, but to say this “norm” is not based in sexism is just…false. You’re right that these sorts of norms impact both genders…but whether they are a problem for men or women, they are still rooted in sexist belief systems about what is “feminine” and what is “masculine.”

      1. AMT

        I say this as a guy — comparing the way women get treated based on their appearance to the way men get treated is apples to oranges. Gendered complaints about women are usually wrapped up in expectations that (a) women should be modest, which requires policing necklines, high skirts, and tight clothing, or (b) women should be sexually attractive, which requires them to shave and wear makeup and feminine clothing. The whole madonna/whore complex just does not exist for men.

          1. Oryx

            Right? Look attractive but not TOO attractive but don’t overcorrect into the opposite side where you’re “frumpy” because that’s not allowed either.

            1. Turtle Candle

              Yeah, there’s definitely a ‘you need to look cute but not too cute’ thing in many contexts. And the line between ‘not attractive enough to be paid attention to’ and ‘too attractive to be taken seriously’ is sometimes so thin as to vanish entirely.

              One of the most honest conversations I’ve had at work was with a female coworker of similar age and ‘status,’ when we were first both asked to attend a schmoozing-the-clients type mixer. We both knew perfectly well that we’d be expected, in that context, to be ‘pretty but not too pretty,’ and navigating the boundaries of that was really helped by putting our heads together. (Thankfully, most of the time our job is such that ‘slacks and a button-down’ is the easy, and perfectly fine, option.)

              1. PollyQ

                But don’t look like you’re working at being pretty, because then you’re just vain & shallow.

        1. RWM

          Oh, I completely agree with you AMT! (Trust me, I’m a…very angry feminist.) I’m just saying to Mazzy that the fact that men experience other versions of this doesn’t mean there’s NOT still sexism at play. Hope it was clear that I don’t personally think men experience the same amount of BS around dress codes and appearance expectations that women do because holy hell, they do not.

          1. AMT

            Sorry if my comment sounded like I was disagreeing with you — I was actually agreeing with and adding to what you said.

      1. Mazzy

        I don’t see the value in deconstructing different gender beauty standards, do you really think that is a valuable discussion? I mean, do you really think standards are interchangeable? Would you think a man in blush and lipstick is attractive? Of course not.

        1. Kelly L.

          We’ve been doing it for decades. If you are a woman and have worn pants to work, it’s because that barrier has already been broken down, but it used to be there. Leg shaving is something that’s kind of on the frontier now, but pants were on the frontier once too.

          1. zora.dee

            If you are a woman and have worn pants to work, it’s because that barrier has already been broken down
            Preach.

        2. AMT

          “Attractive” isn’t a job requirement at the vast majority of workplaces. “Professional” should be enough. I have actually been in plenty of workplaces where it’s okay for men to wear feminine clothing/makeup/whatever and women to wear masculine clothing. No one cared, work got done, people still dressed professionally, and it was a very welcoming environment for gay and trans people.

          1. A Bug!

            “Attractive” isn’t a job requirement at the vast majority of workplaces. “Professional” should be enough.

            Yes. I would actually posit that the conflation of “attractive” with “professional” is a significant part of the problem.

          2. sam

            I did once get into a fight online with a guy who absolutely insisted that I was a corporate shill because I kept trying to explain that ‘fair or not’, he was going to take a hit if he walked into corporate office for a job interview with a giant face tattoo/piercings. He seemed to believe that those things should just be completely irrelevant.

            I didn’t even disagree in the abstract that work ethic should obviously matter more, but kept trying to explain that that wasn’t the *actual world we live in now*. And that if you’re going to get a giant face tattoo, or a bunch of facial piercings, you should do so with the full knowledge that it will have an impact on your future job prospects.

            But trying to understand that realism, and thinking that it’s “fair” or “right” are not necessarily the same thing.

            (although getting a giant face tattoo (and by this I’m explicitly excluding, say, a religious/cultural tattoo) and then expecting to get hired at a conservative corporate office may tell potential employers something about your judgment).

            It’s an extreme example, of course. But it is worth thinking about. Do I think that people should be required to comply with sexist gender norms? Not at all. Do I think people get penalized for not complying with those norms? yes. Do people who get penalized get told that’s the case, or even realize it? most of the time, no.

            And it’s not even “gender” norms – Our office dress code is ‘business casual’, but I know full well that you will only get invited to attend meetings with the bigwigs if you are wearing a suit or suit-like clothing. So the people who sit near and report to said bigwigs? wear suits pretty much every day. It’s not a rule, but it’s just “known”. When I was brought on board permanently (I was a temp for about a year) that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with the way I dressed, but if I wanted to move up/get invited to the big meetings, I needed to step up my game – I had held off because I didn’t want to invest in a new wardrobe for what was essentially a temp job (I also lost about 40 pounds, so the clothing thing was a bit fraught at the time). I definitely stepped it up. And I probably steered into the gender norm curve a bit, because I preferred to step it up by wearing more heels and skirts over full pantsuits, but that’s just me.

            (But you should see what goes on here when we all know that the e-suite is going to be at another office – all the guys ditch their ties and sometimes even their jackets, it’s like bedlam!)

            1. sam

              something got dropped – there was an “I was told” after that parenthetical about temping.

          1. Turtle Candle

            I have a massive weakness for men in eyeliner and skirts. #ThingsIDidNotExpectToRevealOnAAMToday

            But yes, while it may seem obvious within a certain cultural context that certain things (body hair on women, eyeliner on men) are inherently unattractive, it’s useful to point out that those standards are cultural, thus malleable, and thus perhaps worthy of attempting to shift.

          2. Windchime

            I am entranced by guys with eyeliner, actually. I had a huge crush on the guy from Green Day for years.

            1. AMT

              After your first sentence, I was going to be like, “fellow Green Day fan”? And then I read your second sentence. Between Billie Joe Armstrong, Jack Sparrow, and Legolas, our generation’s appreciation for macho guys was pretty much destroyed. :-D

        3. Tea

          “Of course not”? Speak for yourself. Perhaps it’s worth considering that what you consider attractive may not be universal. Other people do, in fact, have different opinions.

          I think that men with blush and lipstick (and eyeliner and eyeshadow and a full face of makeup and shaped brows etc.) are attractive. I think that men (and women) not wearing any makeup are attractive as well. Consider this– in South Korea, major makeup and skincare brands are typically modeled by famous men. There are entire countries that disagree with your statement here.

        4. Aunt Helen

          I and many other fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race would vehemently disagree.

          You are making some sweeping assumptions here. It might be helpful to separate your personal opinion from “how it is.” Yes, sexist and racist systems are in place. We are in support of challenging them.

        5. LawBee

          Dude, Gerard Way wears makeup a lot, and I find him wildly attractive. David Bowie made many a woman’s heart go pitter-pat.

          Deconstructing different standards is always worth a discussion. It’s how women got the vote, it’s how civil rights got started – the status quo should always be questioned and challenged.

          1. Mazzy

            I didn’t say “deconstructing standards,” I specifically mentioned beauty standards. Frankly, the responses to that aren’t adding credibility to the anti shaving side. There are 5 people who say they love a man in makeup, yet almost no men actually wear it or want to, it’s not a thing. To pretend it’s a thing is disingenuous and veers quite far off topic.

              1. Mazzy

                I do, but I don’t see that that is what is being discussed here. If leg shaving is considered oppressive, then things are going well. We’re not being told that we have to wear long hair or cover out entire bodies even when it is hot outside, those would be oppressive. I’ve gotta say though, it’s very hurtful to be called a troll by the other readers because I made a reference to men wearing makeup. It was supposed to be snarky but not adversarial, but apparently got taken as a serious comment and garnished a load of apparently serious responses which does not add credibility to any of this discussion, as men wearing makeup is very much not a thing if the only examples being raised are Prince and David Bowie. They are very much not representative of the average bloke.

                1. Sadsack

                  The men who work at my local Sephora all wear makeup and give great makeup recommendations. Saying that being made to feel we should shave is better than being made to feel we should have long hair does not make feeling forced to shave any better. Do you not see there really is no distinction?

                2. Katie the Fed

                  “If leg shaving is considered oppressive, then things are going well. ”

                  But, that’s not how this works. We don’t have to accept an oppressive expectation because we could have it worse. It can be wrong by its own merits.

                3. KR

                  The thing is, this system of saying only women can wear makeup and only men can let their body hair grow out isn’t working for many people. More men would wear makeup if they didn’t have to worry about people assuming they were gay or “girly” (because that’s still a bad thing, remember) or what-have-you, and to take it further more men would be open to exploring their gender and sexuality if they didn’t have to worry about the stigma and the negative response to trying these things out. Using men who wear makeup as material for snark doesn’t give credit to the many people who either currently wear makeup or want to but can’t.

                4. Mookie

                  If leg shaving is considered oppressive, then things are going well.

                  Nope, it means we’re talking about leg shaving, not that the world is without its problems. Dear Muslima is not a valid, logical, in-good-faith response.

            1. Turtle Candle

              My feeling, from having discussed this, is that men don’t wear makeup not because women don’t want it but because other men will harass them if they do. Or assume they’re gay. (Or harass them because they assume they’re gay.) It’s “not a thing” in at least some part because of sexism (do you want to look like a giiiiiiirl, dude?), not because we’re just hardwired to like pink lips and lined eyes on women and not on men.

              It’s an interesting thing, because from my discussions with both men and women, it’s pretty clear that women’s beauty standards are set by men… and men’s beauty standards are set by men.

              So yeah. It’s very much an issue of sexism. And thus, worthy of deconstruction.

        6. Christopher Tracy

          Would you think a man in blush and lipstick is attractive? Of course not.

          Um…Prince was hot. So is Matt Bomer. Both men wore a face full of makeup while working (and sometimes when not).

          1. Liane

            My daughter (just graduated high school) tells me that the boys, especially the straight ones, in drama with her, had to be reminded (multiple times, every production) that Famous Hot Male Stars didn’t get away with refusing to wear makeup for roles. I found it amusing.

        7. Katniss

          Yes, I do think there’s value in deconstructing sexist beauty standards. And yes, a man in blush and lipstick is attractive, if that’s what he prefers to do.

        8. JennyFair

          I love it when men tell women that they really shouldn’t concern themselves with the sexism they’re experiencing.

            1. JennyFair

              And you may be right, in which case I would dislike the comment for its lack of solidarity amongst women :) I will never understand, nor accept, being told not to worry about things like that. The little things pave the way for the big things!

              1. Mazzy

                “Solidarity amongst women?” We all think the same and aren’t allowed to disagree? Wow.

                1. JennyFair

                  More of a ‘hey, these women are standing up for the rights and betterment of life for all of us, so probably I shouldn’t poo-poo their efforts or do anything counterproductive’.

        9. Turtle Candle

          In addition to the notes above about how, yes, of course beauty standards differ and are changeable, and yes, of course it’s worth examining them–

          –why is this work discussion about ‘beauty standards’ at all? Why did we decide that people at work need to be beautiful? Cleanliness I’ll grant you; nobody wants to be in close proximity to someone who smells bad. But beauty? And why are these discussions almost always about beauty standards for women? Yes, of course there are variable cultural standards of attractiveness for men, too–but there’s a reason that the hot button posts that get hundreds of responses are about lipstick, leg hair, pantyhose, and hairstyles for women. Because as a culture we seem to feel that a woman has an obligation to be attractive.

          Even if I took it as a given that beauty standards were inherent and set in stone, as you appear to do with leg hair on women and lipstick on men… why should beauty be a requirement? Is there a rational argument for that? I can’t think of one.

          (To be clear, I understand that the world as it is now does operate that way to some degree, and especially for women–as long as they aren’t too attractive, of course. But that’s a different question than whether it’s “valuable,” to use your words, to “deconstruct,” to push back on those things. Absolutely it is valuable to deconstruct and push back on an irrational and discriminatory practice. It is inherently valuable to do just that.)

        10. Murphy

          Yes. To all your questions. I think there is immense value in both the discussion and the changing of standards.

          And yes, I’ve seen men in make-up and thought they looked very attractive.

        11. Crystal Vu

          Tim Curry as Dr. Frank N Furter was HAWT because he wore makeup and lingerie. You’re free to think that’s not attractive, of course, but your sweeping “of course not” doesn’t apply to all women’s preferences.

          Also, deconstructing gender standards is a great way to expose what’s iniquitable and possibly break them down to something that’s fair for all people.

        12. Liza

          I saw the comment about men in blush and lipstick and my heart sank on behalf of so many of my friends, but then I read the next comments and it was a huge relief. It’s awful that people shame men for wearing makeup.

        13. Say My Name

          “Would you think a man in blush and lipstick is attractive? Of course not.”

          Uh, yes. Yes I would. There are PLENTY of men in makeup who are attractive. The man I find most aesthetically attractive wears a LOT of makeup. Guyliner is a thing.

          What an utterly weird thing to say. You seem to have a very worrying habit of assuming that your (VERY LIMITED) experience is somehow universal. How sad.

    7. Aurion

      Judgements applied to one gender but not the other is pretty much the definition of sexism, though? I mean, I understand you’re speaking about office norms in general, in that some norms affect men and not women and some norms affect women and not men, but I think there are far, far more expectations for women but not men than vice versa.

    8. Katie the Fed

      “I don’t think it’s a sexist thing and going down that path will only set you up for disappointment in life; ”

      I’m having trouble with this line of thinking. Don’t consider sexist things sexist because you’ll get disappointed and frustrated? How would anything ever change if we ignored it because of the potential for disappointment?

    9. Faith

      I agree. Grooming standards are a thing, and be prepared for a negative reaction when you go against them. Of course, you may never know about the negative reactions, but they will be there. I’m not sure why so many readers here are against them.

      1. Sadsack

        The standards Mazzy is referring to are sexist and some people are trying to change the norm. Women having hair on their legs is not unhygienic, so why does it matter so much? Honestly, I would not care a bit if men wore skirts and ankle pants to work, as long as their clothes and bodies are clean.

        1. Mel

          I’m going to challenge that thought a bit. Why do clean clothes matter? And what exactly constitutes clean clothes? Clean as in free of stains and smells and freshly pressed? Because what would be wrong with any clothes as long as they don’t smell to the point that it bothers others. And what’s wrong if I looks a bit dirty and unkempt as long as it has no real effect on you?

          How can you have some appearance standards if your argument is that appearances shouldn’t matter?

          1. Sadsack

            Hygiene, for one thing. For another, a stain gives clothes the appearance of being soiled whether it is a fresh stain or one that didn’t come out in the wash. It looks unhygienic. Who wants to get near a dirty looking person at work, especially as a client?

            That aside, I didn’t say looks don’t matter. I said if your grooming is not unhygienic, then it shouldn’t matter.

        2. Mazzy

          Why are you pinning this on me? The only dress standard I referred to is leg shaving? That is unnecessarily adversarial; shaving definitely didn’t start with me.

          1. Sadsack

            I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you mean. I am not pinning anything on you, I was referring to your comment about shaving standards, which started this long thread.

        3. Navy Vet

          Actually, if you look into it, leg shaving only became “A Thing” during either WWI or WWII. When Gillette and other razor manufacturers were looking for a way to sell razor blades while the men folk were out fighting the war.

          This “grooming standard” that is being discussed was brought to you by corporate America.

          Frankly, it’s time we deconstructed many of these gendered rules. Honeslty…as long as you don’t smell like a dumpster fire….I don’t care if you shave your legs or not.

          1. Kelly L.

            Makes sense–and that’s the same time period when women couldn’t really get stockings because of rationing, and so the shaving might help create the fake-stockings look that was done with makeup.

            1. Turtle Candle

              My grandmother (who was in high school during WW2) told me about putting foundation on her legs and then using a makeup pencil to draw a seam up the back of her leg. I was fascinated, not least because none of the stockings I’d ever seen had vertical seams!

      2. Dawn

        Because at some point you gotta look at grooming standards and go “hey, does this make sense to enforce in this context?”

        Showering every day before you go to work at a professional office = totally make sense
        Showering every day when you’re doing fieldwork in the middle of nowhere = doesn’t make sense

        Flip flops at a professional office = doesn’t make sense
        Flip flops when you’re the head lifeguard at a water park = totally makes sense

        Shaving your beard when you work in a professional office = individual decision, up to the employee
        Shaving your legs when you work in a professional office = why doesn’t the rule for beards apply?

        1. Student

          How about – hairy areas should be well-kept? I don’t think every man should shave his beard nor every woman should shave her legs. If they don’t shave and it is visible to co-workers, it should look unobtrusive – trimmed and groomed appropriately, clean, not smelly. That’s not a call for any particular beard style, or a specific hair length on women’s legs, but hopefully a general appeal for professionalism.

          I never shave my legs. I also only wear full-length pants. If I were, for some terrible reason, forced to wear something that showed my legs, I’d probably trim the hair short, if not outright shave them, because my leg hair is very unruly. I’m sure other women (certainly, the majority of men’s leg hair) look nicer than mine natively and they’d require less effort to appear professional with leg hair.

          1. Kelly L.

            If I decided to stop shaving my legs, I’m not really sure how I’d trim it. It doesn’t really get long–it gets to a certain point and then stops. I guess I could get a trimmer and cut the 1/3 inch hairs down to 1/4 inch, but then I’d have itchy stubbly hairs instead of soft tapered hairs, and at that point it’s enough work that I might as well just shave anyway.

    10. Lissa

      It’s not just about different beauty standards for men and women, though (and that point was debated by a lot of people above anyway). It’s part of an entire regime that women are expected to perform just to be considered moderately acceptable! Of course that’s sexist. I realize lots of people don’t realize they are being sexist because it is very much subconscious. We are so used to seeing women who put a lot of effort into their looks in ways that are then supposed to read as “invisible” that when we see women who don’t do these things, it looks less polished to us. Even though on a guy it would just be “normal”, on a woman many people will see it as sloppy.

      It’s not a coincidence that most of the people portrayed on those “people of wal-mart” mock sites tend to be women.

  24. Kelly L.

    My first instinct is “ugh, yeah, probably, but I think that’s hella wrong and should change.” Does that make any sense?

  25. Jessie

    This sort of thing is so hard. On one hand, I totally think whether or not someone shaves their legs is totally their business and I would never have a problem with it.

    But I do think there’s a lot of people who would have a problem with it, unfortunately, and it really depends on the environment and other factors.

    Consider the letter-writer from the other day who had a rude, unkempt, unhygienic intern. The list of complaints about that person included the fact that it looked like he never combed his hair. If that had been the only complaint (my intern’s hair is always a mess) it would have been ridiculous gripe. Some people have hard-to-manage hair. But because it was combined with other factors that showed he didn’t care about his overall appearance/behavior, it was a legitimate part of the complaint. So I would caution that, if you don’t shave your legs, some people could hold you to a higher standard in other areas of personal grooming (again, not my personal opinion, just what I’ve seen.) For example, they’re more likely to care about your legs if they also see your hair as being messy.

    1. Megs

      As someone who hasn’t shaved in ages (first because I couldn’t keep razors in the house, then because I was used to it and didn’t find it worth the hassle), I think you summed up my thoughts on this very nicely. I have not found that I get any negative consequences from not shaving, BUT I also have almost unnoticeable pale and sparse leg hair and have tended to work in somewhat relaxed settings (though not super relaxed – I am a lawyer after all). I do absolutely wear nylons for job interviews and when I’m in court (pants would be fine too, but I don’t wear pants), and if I worked in biglaw I’d probably grin and bear it. It is important to push back on gendered norms, and I’m happy to do my tiny, moderately-laziness-motivated part . . . to a point.

  26. matcha123

    Quite honestly, if your hair is significantly darker than your skin color and it’s thick, it will stand out. I know because I am in that position. I had a neighbor who decided not to shave her legs and it was very noticeable because of the reasons above.
    On the other hand, I have some friends who don’t shave but have very light body hair. In their case, you wouldn’t notice unless you put your face right up to their arms and legs.
    I might venture a guess that the OP is in the latter group, light-ish leg hair? If you’ve gone without shaving for a while, you are probably used to the types of reactions people have. If your clothing is professional, along with your demeanor, I don’t think it should be a huge problem.

  27. BananaPants

    One issue that I could think of is if our OP also doesn’t shave underarms, she’d probably want to avoid wearing a sleeveless blouse/top to work, even if it falls within the dress code. In my workplace most of the higher-ups (all men, naturally) won’t look at a woman’s legs closely enough to notice that she’s unshaven but sleeveless tops + unshaven armpits are closer to eye level and very likely to be noticed and commented on negatively behind closed doors. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

    I’ve only ever worn skirts or dresses to work when heavily pregnant in the summer heat; usually I wear pants, and shorts and capris are not allowed under our dress code. At this point, I only shave my legs when I know I’m going swimming – so I hit the company fitness center alongside managers and executives 2-4 times a week in shorts or capris with unshaven legs and I highly doubt anyone has noticed or cared.

  28. The Bimmer Guy

    “And you know, some people also think other people would look more professional if they wore lipstick, or had more polished hair, or stopped wearing flats all the time…”

    It’s amazing to me that people can be so fixated on women’s appearances, under the guise of “looking professional.” These “standards” need to go away, like, yesterday.

    1. addlady

      Not to contradict you–of course you’re absolutely right–but I’ve noticed that I’ve had a habit of looking sideways at any guy who even THINKS of wearing shorts–as if part of me is going “How dare those men try thinking they can expose their legs!!” But yes, these standards are definitely a bit silly.

  29. Allison

    As long as you dress professionally* and groom your hair and face well, people may not even notice if your legs are a little fuzzy, especially if you’re good at your job! Whether people think it’s professional or not, it’s probably less professional of them to comment on it.

    *both in accordance with the dress code and similar to how other women in your office dress.

  30. OlympiasEpiriot

    The state of leg hair is really irrelevant. Professional appearances to me mean unfussy clothing that is appropriate to the job be you presenting male or female, old or young, of a senior level or quite junior. In an office, it generally means suits or skirt/trousers/dress and suit jacket or a good trouser/skirt/dress and blazer combo. It doesn’t necessarily mean high heels (and, actually, to me, very high heels, like 3″ and higher, are not appropriate for an office, but, ymmv), it means appropriate shoes.

    But, even in an office, that all might be inappropriate depending on one’s job duties. A few years ago, someone got a bee in their bonnet about making employees in the “mail room” (including physically outside the mail room) all wear ties, creased dressier clothing, and dress shoes. Considering the amount of time spent dealing with printers malfunctioning and lifting and shifting boxes, rolls of paper and various pieces of furniture, I was among those scoffing at this directive and who muttered about the stupidity of it to TPTB because having a tie flopping around is a hazard and could get caught in things and dress shoes are more likely not to have the greatest traction. No one employed in that role was turning up in ripped tee-shirts or things with giant logos, but I (and, fortunately, many others who also muttered to various PTB) thought that their dress code should be allowed to be quite different than someone who sat in a windowed office, ya know? Sneakers, khakis, etc should be Just Fine, tyvm.

  31. Roscoe

    People will definitely notice, good chance they won’t say anything, but it may shape some opinions. We had a woman at my current job who didn’t shave her armpits, but would often wear sleeveless shirts or dresses, so it was VERY noticeable. I got along fine with her, but some people definitely commented about it behind her back.

  32. Rafe

    The internship under a Women’s Studies professor won’t matter. But if you go to an interview with unshaven legs just about anywhere else, you simply won’t get a job offer. It’s basic professional grooming (or lack of grooming).

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      But that’s demonstrably false. Loads of people who don’t shave their legs are employed.

      I do think you’re right that it will harm your chances with some managers and in some offices. But it’s not universal.

    2. Mustache Cat

      I don’t shave my legs ever, and I accepted a job offer this week. Yes, I went to the job interview in a shin-baring dress.

      Honestly, many people don’t even notice. If seeing hairy legs annoys you, avert your eyes from women’s legs.

      1. Turtle Candle

        Yes, I honestly couldn’t tell you which of my female coworkers (many of whom wear skirts) shave their legs. I just don’t notice; I don’t look.

        “Well, you’re a woman,” comes the frequent response. Well, yes! I am also bisexual, so if the argument is that women don’t notice other women’s legs because there’s no sexual attraction at play, that’s not true. But also… if the answer is that men look, notice, and care because they’re more hot for women with hairless legs, why on earth should that play a role in hiring decisions? Okay, yes, in the real world, sometimes it does–and if you’re in an industry where that’s the case, then you may need to play the game. But that doesn’t make it right or appropriate or anything of that nature.

    3. Not Karen

      You say that like someone who doesn’t shave their legs would want a job offer from a place that discriminates against them for doing so. Interviewing is a two-way street.

      1. AMT

        Yep. I interviewed and received offers from four organizations in the last few months with a blue streak in my hair. Part of me wanted to dye/cut it before I started my job search, but I ended up deciding that I wanted to work at an organization that aimed to hire good employees regardless of minor appearance stuff.

        Early in my career, I worked for a supervisor that was strict about appearance, even to the point of making employees cover up small, inoffensive tattoos with band-aids and scolding one of my coworkers who dyed her hair a different (natural) color. It turned out that the appearance sniping was just the tip of the iceberg — the supervisor was a severe micromanager and made everyone’s work life hell. In retrospect, I should have picked up on the warning signs. I’m never making that mistake again.

      2. Alton

        Right. Someone who is uncomfortable shaving is probably going to feel like they’re making a sacrifice if they work for a company that expects this of them. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices to survive, but it’s fine to prefer jobs where you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing your values.

        I stopped shaving as a feminist statement, because I found feminine beauty expectations too restrictive and sexist. Now, I identify as transgender, but people still see me as a woman. I’ve considered what I would be willing to do in desperate circumstances, but fortunately, I haven’t found myself in a position where I had to choose between taking a horrible job and starving or ending up on the street. So why would I want to work somewhere where I wouldn’t fit into the company culture? The longer I’ve been in the working world, the more I’ve realized how important that is to me.

    4. Chriama

      That’s not true and I don’t think it’s doing a service to the OP to state your opinion as fact. It’s definitely interesting how perspectives differ here though.

    5. Erin M

      That’s just not true. I work in a fairly conservative industry (insurance). I went to my interview in a dress with unshaven legs. I got the job. I’ve been promoted since. My manager doesn’t seem to think that my leg hair and my ability to do my job are connected. Go figure.

      1. zora.dee

        My manager doesn’t seem to think that my leg hair and my ability to do my job are connected. Go figure.

        gah, so many commenters here are full on poets. There are so many amazing soundbytes here, I’m going to steal them all. Love you people!

    6. afiendishthingy

      That’s why I always keep my leg hair shampooed and styled neatly into a no-nonsense do. French braids and chignons are both classic choices that look professional and never go out of style!

  33. Hannah

    Hm. Personally, I don’t see an issue with not shaving, I’m not big into elaborate grooming, but there are societal expectations around all kinds of grooming. I don’t agree with those saying it probably wouldn’t be noticeable. There is a difference between shaving irregularly and not shaving at all. The fully grown in hair would probably be visible, and I think showing it at work would be perceived as “making a statement”.

    I guess I do think it would be perceived as unprofessional. The question is whether anyone cares and would it have any negative consequences that the OP couldn’t live with. Just like unusual hair styles, tattoos and piercings, some people cover it up at work and some do not. I think that’s OPs choice, it is a personal decision.

  34. Brett

    While it is far easier to shave your face than your legs, I find this interesting how this parallels to the facial hair question for men. In that situation, it is clearly an issue of workplace norms and many workplaces spell out in precise detail what those norms are.

    I have seen workplaces that specify exactly what facial hair is allowed down to maximum beard length, allowable styles, mustache grooming requirements, and minimum days growth. At last job, which had very strict rules about allowable facial hair, some employees were even required to shave before shift rather than just once a day because their five o’clock shadow was too heavy.

    1. Katie the Fed

      OK but – with faces you have to look at them all the time. With legs – you’re only looking if you’re making an effort to look. You don’t have to look at a woman’s legs to have a conversation with her (and thank god – because that would be super weird.)

      1. Liz

        You’re still telling someone how to manage their body hair. This is a subjective double standard for men.

      2. Brett

        Yes, my point was that with men’s facial hair, we have come to accept that workplace standards vary widely on norms. Some workplaces do not care at all, some micromanage to a huge degree. And that is for something you have to look at all the time.
        So, I think that should make it even more obvious that legs also should have widely varying norms depending on the workplace, and not just be a set, “unshaven legs are unprofessional” standard.

    2. Aurora Leigh

      My father worked at a plant with restrictions for men’s facial hair — it was considered a safety issue. Something to do with venilators fitting properly if needed in an emergency.

  35. Dawn88

    The good news is that after menopause, you won’t need to shave your legs (or forearms). I shave my legs once a year now, and my forearm hair basically vanished. It was sandy blonde, and showed.

    The hair concern shifts to your facial hair….the newly growing chin hair and upper lip.

    1. fposte

      Weirdly, menopause took care of the armpit hair but the leg hair is still growing along merrily. (It *is* TMI day, right?)

        1. Oryx

          I have a scar on the bottom of my chin from a bicycle accident twenty-five years ago. It has a tendency to randomly grow a single piece of hair and if I don’t pay attention it grows FAST and will be at least an inch or two before someone delicately points it out to me.

          1. KR

            I get random long hairs on my chin too! They’re so long and thick I can usually pull them out just with my finngers when I notice them.

        2. Anna

          I hate that fairy so much. How do you pull down that job? “Odwin, you’ll be covering facial hair on women because you so poorly handled Tooth Fairy duty.”

        3. Ashloo

          Same. Of any hair, this is what I’m most self conscious about. At least it’s blonde.

  36. Birdie

    I’m glad someone asked this. Though my legs are shaven I always wondered if it would be professional to not.

  37. Heaven's Thunder Hammer

    Put me in the “hairy legs are gross” camp. It’s part of the expectation in the office that women will shave their legs. You will stand out, and not in a good way. Being a dude, I’d never say anything, but it would be weird.

    1. KR

      Do you shave your legs? How do you deal with having such gross legs if not? Do you just pretend they aren’t there or do you never take your pants off? Do you wear panty hose so you don’t have to deal with your leg hair?

    2. Leatherwings

      “being a dude”

      I don’t mean this unkindly, but I hope that you take a look at the norms and expectations you’re putting on women with this kind of thinking.

      You have the privilege not to have to shave your legs because it’s not expected of you. Of course there are beauty standards for men too, but it’s disingenuous to deny that standards for women are far more rigorous. This kind of thinking is harmful to women and reinforces unfair and sexist standards.

      These standards exist only because people enforce them.

      1. Leatherwings

        I meant to add: Even if you aren’t expressing these views out loud, they often come across loud and clear to the working women around you. Do them a favor and judge them based on the things you judge men for, the quality of their work.

    3. Katniss

      You do realize how privileged this statement is, don’t you? Why should your norms about what’s “gross” rule how someone dresses in the workplace? If I find beards gross (I don’t, but what if I did), I suppose men should just conform to what I want?

      1. Sadsack

        Yeah, and I find it strange that anyone would have “expectations” for my legs at work. Body hair is not mentioned anywhere in my business casual dress code.

      2. MayravB

        Yeah. Why does someone have to look not-gross? They have to clean and that’s it! And I DO find anything longer than a very tidy, short beard gross. Oh, Steve’s got the lumbersexual look? I don’t ever want to touch Steve’s face. But here’s the key: my work doesn’t involve touching Steve’s face, because I’m not a professional face-toucher. I can work with Steve and respect him even if I wouldn’t date the guy. I don’t have to approve of his beard because it’s not relevant to our interaction.

          1. afiendishthingy

            I’m maintaining my amateur face-toucher status so I can touch faces in the Olympics!

    4. burnout

      I agree with you and I am a woman. Is it sexist? Maybe. Maybe I’m just a traditionalist. Women shave their legs. Men don’t.

      If it is really noticeable, people probably won’t say anything, but they’ll be thinking its gross. Or you’re a hippie.

      That’s just the way it is.

      1. Katniss

        “That’s just the way it is” has, historically, been used to justify all kinds of awful things. I’d say the vast majority of people who use it are on the wrong side of history.

        1. Sadsack

          Agreed. Traditions evolve and even disappear over time for all kinds of reasons. Refusing to accept that does not stop it.

      2. CMT

        I find the “that’s just the way it is” rational for these kinds of ridiculous expectations so bewildering. It’s not like it’s some immutable law of the universe that women should shave their legs and men shouldn’t. Human beings built these expectations; human beings are just as capable of breaking them down. Maybe you don’t like seeing women with hairy legs and don’t like seeing men with shaved legs, but that’s because of societal expectations you’ve internalized, not some biological instinct.

        1. Reba

          Well said, CMT.

          Yes, culture is very powerful, but it is also *things people do* and we can do other things. Of course, not everyone can exercise that kind of freedom of choice in all situations… to me the shaving issue is a fairly low-stakes opportunity to demonstrate my bodily autonomy, and perhaps prompt others to reflect a little.

        2. Turtle Candle

          Yeah.

          I mean, “Men wear trousers. Women wear dresses or skirts. That’s just the way it is,” was true at one point in time. It isn’t now. How did that change? By women wearing pants, and at first it was seen as scandalous and outre, and then it was accepted but seen as a sign that you were One Of Those Kind of Women, and now… it’s unremarkable in (most) (American) workplaces.

          I’m curious, actually, what the discourse around this topic looked like as that shift was going on. Were there claims that it was unhygenic, unfeminine, “gross” (or whatever slang word was used)? Was there a lot of concern trolling about ‘well I am enlightened but most people aren’t so you’d better play it safe and wear the skirt?’ Were there guys being all, “I can’t help it, I’m just not attracted to women in bifurcated lower garments”? It would be fascinating to see how that transition happened.

          1. Kelly L.

            I know that for a while, women were getting kicked out of restaurants for wearing pants, but it happened that really short miniskirts were in vogue at the same time, so there are multiple legends of this woman or that woman showing up somewhere in a tunic and pants, getting kicked out for wearing pants, taking off the pants, and then rocking back up in just the tunic and passing the dress code. I think it helped illustrate the silliness of it!

      3. Chriama

        I think you’re conflating ‘me and people who think like me’ with ‘people’ in general. This thread has certainly pointed out that there are different opinions about that. “That’s just the way it is” is true for you, but I don’t think you can speak for the OP’s entire office.

      4. Anna

        The shaving “tradition” isn’t that old, so if you were really a traditionalist, you’d not shave your legs. Hundreds of years of tradition wiped out by advertising in less than 100 years. Weird.

        1. Lissa

          Yeah, I don’t get the “traditional” argument when it comes to stuff like this — there’s no one historical tradition spanning cultures and centuries of women shaving their legs. Besides, even the most “traditional” people pick and choose which ones they like — which is great, so long as those expectations aren’t then put on other people! That assumes your own traditions are superior to others, which isn’t cool.

    5. Leatherwings

      I seriously don’t mean to pile on and this will be my last comment here, but I came back because I am truly bothered by you calling another person’s body gross.

      That’s a short jump to fat shaming, calling butch women “ugly” and all sorts of really offensive things. Particularly calling women’s bodies gross can have all sorts of really negative side effects. Please consider your language more carefully.

      1. AFT123

        I’ve read a good point brought up on this site more than once – when you find yourself judging someone else, pause for a moment and really consider the “why” behind why you feel that way. Challenge yourself to get to the bottom of it. Maybe you think “because it looks dirty.” Challenge – why would I think a woman’s leg hair is dirty but not a men’s leg hair? Also why do I even care if someone seems dirty? Does it even impact me?” Or maybe your response to yourself would be “I think it’s gross when women have leg hair because is makes them look manly.” Challenge yourself – what led you to think that a naturally occurring feature on most all women is manly? If all women didn’t and had never shaved their legs, could you perhaps feel differently? Why do you think it is important that women look a certain way? Is there harm in judging people in general by how they look?

        It’s important to question society, but equally as important to question our own thoughts and opinions. Sometimes we may find that we’ve been influenced by social construct more than we realized, or that a firmly held belief is harmful to others while serving no real purpose.

        1. Katniss

          This is fantastic. And also makes me want to respond to people who say things like that with “why?” until they have to admit that they really have no good reason.

        2. PollyQ

          What leatherwings said.

          I’m suprised by how many people are using the word “gross” rather than perhaps “unprofessional” or “unkempt”. To me, “gross” has connotations of uncleanliness or smelliness which just isn’t a practical issue with leg hair.

          1. Kelly L.

            Right! Like…can’t a person wash their legs with hair still on? How do men wash their legs? I imagine it’s much the same.

    6. Anon for this

      Why would anyone care, though?

      I have a birthmark and a bunch of scars on my legs. And I do shave. Is anyone thinking that I’m inappropriate for not having spotless skin? No. Nobody cares. I can’t imagine the sensitivity it takes to care about other people’s skin that much. It’s just hair.

    7. Rabiosa

      It’s very funny to think you believe I should care about what you think of my legs. [With no aggressive intention] Don’t you have anything better to look at? [\]

  38. Michelenyc

    Allison is definitely right this could an issue in the fashion industry. It would be highly dependent on what kind of company work for. I do know from experience working in luxury goods (Gucci, Prada, Chanel) that you need to present yourself in a certain waay. Heels everyday, full make-up, and either something from the current line (thank god for clothing allowance) or from one of the other brands owned by that company. Right or wrong that’s the way it is.

    1. Patrick

      At the same time, there are many companies in the fashion industry that absolutely do not care – the same is true for tattoos, piercings, unnatural hair colors, etc. It’s really like any other industry except the norms can swing to real extremes on either side.

  39. Chriama

    It’s interesting to read these comments. I remember being about 13 and talking to someone about shaving legs and she was like “you don’t shave your legs? That’s so gross!” And I pointed out that we don’t shave arms, so why the legs. And for a couple years I would shave my legs every so often. But then one time I guess the razor slipped… and now I don’t have to worry about shaving anything below my left knee. Just kidding! I had a big wound for a couple weeks and I’m still kind of hesitant these days about shaving my legs, but I’m also just too lazy to bother. I shave my armpits because I think it helps with BO, but I just don’t care about my legs anymore. And my mom was pretty against me shaving my legs in the first place because she says in [African country where I’m from] hairy legs are sign of beauty for women. But she also thinks the current gap in my 2 front teeth caused by my braces is very beautiful, so maybe I shouldn’t take advice from her anymore.

    Bottom line is, I think you have to decide for yourself how comfortable you are. I don’t think hairy legs will hamper you in your career if you’re an otherwise good employee. However, it’s possible that there will be a few people noticing and silently judging you. Do you feel comfortable with that? At this point in my life I do, but if I was interviewing for a new job or something I might wear tights to the interview – but I wouldn’t wear them on the job because I am so over tights, so it might be kind of a bait-and-switch to my new employer!

    1. Not Karen

      Or one could just wear a pant suit to the interview. I do because I don’t have any professional-looking footwear that goes with a dress/skirt.

      1. Chriama

        I don’t feel attractive in pants so I don’t wear them very often. That probably makes my hatred of shaving my legs and wearing tights extra ironic. But basically I do what makes me happy. Sometimes that means trying to impress other people but most often it means being lazy. And I do feel pretty in skirts and dresses, even with my bare, hairy legs.

    2. fposte

      Though it occurs me me that there’s probably always somebody silently judging us for something. Might be refreshing to at least have an idea of why.

      1. Chriama

        Haha, like a lightning rod. Do *one* specific thing that doesn’t conform to societal norms and then you can direct people’s disapproval in that direction. If only it worked that way.

            1. Kelly L.

              Yup. I think it’s that when people want to be an ass to a woman, sometimes they’ll latch onto her Official Obvious Flaw and make fun of it, and I got a more obvious Official Obvious Flaw so they didn’t need the smaller one anymore, ha.

        1. Student

          I did that for years and years up though the end of high school. It actually works very well – people focus laser-like hatred on the one thing that obviously is “wrong” and thus ignore a lot of lesser issues. It was especially effective on my own parents, but also surprisingly effective on other typical authority figures who ought to recognize the tactic better.

    3. KR

      If it counts for anything, I’m sure you’re very beautiful, leg hair, tooth gap and all.

  40. KT

    This is a related tangent–but you can’t win if you’re a woman.

    I have alopecia, so am missing most of the hair on my bed, completely don’t have eyebrows and I have no eyelashes.

    And I get comments ALL THE TIME on how I look unprofessional if I decide NOT to spend forever applying false lashes, eyebrow wigs and hair fillers/full wigs. I have good wigs, but it’s Florida, it’s 90+ degrees and 100% humidity, and natural wigs frizz to death here and synthetic wigs are hot. Sometimes I just want to pile my scraggly tufts up on top of my head and just go to work, but that’s “unprofessional”.

    If I don’t carefully apply my eyebrow wig, then fill them with brow powder, then apply three layers of false lashes, I’m unprofessional and ungroomed.

    Too much hair, not enough hair, too thin, not thin enough…we can’t win

    1. Christopher Tracy

      That’s awful, KT, and I’m sorry you have to deal with it. People are so ridiculous sometimes.

    2. Katie the Fed

      Uh, what? People at work are giving you grief because of the visible effects of a medical condition?

      I’d have a talk with HR, to be honest.

      1. K.

        Me too! Would they say that to a colleague going through chemo? That’s crazy.

        And when I read that I started thinking about a high school classmate I have who has had alopecia since childhood – he is completely hairless and has been for as long as I’ve known him. He works in a very conservative field. I’m sure he doesn’t get told to draw on his eyebrows.

        1. Anna

          Dogs can be assholes.

          You make an excellent point, though. Too often women are never “good enough” or doing it correctly. Someone always feel the need to say something. I remember a friend telling me she was watching the Tonight Show and within a span of ten minutes Jay Leno made fun of one actor for being too fat, another actor for being too thin, Monica Lewinsky for being too sexual, and Hilary Clinton for being too cold. There is apparently a tiny point of balance that makes us all right, but don’t move off that point or else!

          1. Kelly L.

            Or the tabloids and all those stories of how (insert actress here) is HUGE OMG IS SHE PREGNANT IS THIS A BUMP and then HOW I GOT MY BODY BACK and then TOO THIN OMG IS IT ANOREXIA and meanwhile the poor woman has only gained and lost about ten pounds.

    3. Former Retail Manager

      I agree with Katie the Fed. A medical condition doesn’t warrant criticism. Have you ever considered those head wrap thingies (sorry…I don’t know what they’re really called) that cancer patients will wear sometimes when enduring chemo. They come in many different colors or patterns and can be coordinated with your outfits. I’ve also seen ladies of African descent wear them periodically. I always thought they looked cool and it was just another accessory to coordinate with your outfit while also enjoying the awesomeness of “no maintenance hair.” There used to be a lady in our office that wore them, just because, and they always looked good and no one said a word. Just a thought.

    4. JennyFair

      This may or may not be helpful and certainly doesn’t counter the ridiculous cultural standards, but my stepmom caught the chicken pox from my brothers, and due to her age one of the side effects was losing her eyebrow hair. Eventually she opted for eyebrow tattoos, and that simplifies the process quite a lot :)

    5. KR

      So sorry you deal with this. I agree with Katie the Fed that if people are requiring you to wear a wig/false eyelashes/ect to look professional you should stop into HR. I also second the suggestion for tattooed eyebrows and head wraps.

      1. KT

        That’s the thing…it’s not that no one says “you look unprofessional” but I do get side-eye and comments like “Ooof, rough night” or “You look so tired” or “having a bad day”? It’s assumed if I don’t arrive with lbs of fake hair that something is rough.

        It’s not overt, but it’s there!

    6. BadPlanning

      Wow, people think lack of eyelashes and eyebrows is somehow ungroomed? That’s really odd to me for some reason. I’m sorry your coworkers (and others) are jerks.

      1. KT

        I’m a freelancer now, so I can be as ungroomed as I want (and have scared the hell out of the mailman when I greet him like a hairless alien beast)

        1. JennyFair

          My grandmother also has alopecia. It’s terrible, because she was a hairdresser by training, and combining that with her age she seemed to think it was a personal failing. Anyway, when my oldest was about 2.5 he was trying to figure out why I kept saying I had to ‘fix my hair’, because it didn’t seem broken to him. Then he walked in while my grandmother was holding her wig in her hand and said, ‘Gwamma! Your hair bwoke!!’ It was awesome. Pretty sure he was hoping to catch me with my hair broken off, too, for a while :)

          I’m glad you’re comfortable with your state of hair!

  41. Emmy

    Discussion question, as I don’t really have a dog in the fight since I don’t work in an office: (I volunteer from home. No one cares whether I shave or not.) I do shave my legs when they’ll be showing in public and don’t like hairy legs but I try not to impose my preferences on other people. When I happen to notice hairy legs on women I think “Oh, that’s odd” and then my brain says, “And so none of your business, Nosy McNosiness. It’s just odd to you.”
    The question:
    Is this different than workplaces not allowing men to have facial hair? Or even expecting them to be shaved every day, period? If it is different, why is it?

    1. Chriama

      I think it’s different but similar. To be honest I’m not sure how the line is drawn. I think it has something to do with the historical social context around gender roles and stereotypes. And different cultural backgrounds definitely play into it, with some women shaving arms and the rest of their body and some not shaving at all, even armpits. And when you look at it through the lens of social commentary, the expectation of shaved legs for women kind of plays into the general expectation that women should be attractive enough to look at, but not attractive to the point of distraction. Be pretty, not ugly, sexy, not whorish, etc. And there just isn’t that same baggage for men.

      Also, just as an aside, I don’t think I’ve heard of an office environment that expects men to be totally clean-shaven. Well groomed (which might mean no facial hair past a certain length or of a certain style), but not clean-shaven. I think a better parallel might be long hair on men not being considered professional, which is another dynamic that is slowly changing.

      Bottom line, there can be unfair standards for both sexes. Acknowledging something as sexist for women doesn’t negate any of the sexist expectations placed on men. There’s more than enough unfairness to go around for everyone ;)

      1. Allison

        Not to mention, facial hair and body hair are two different issues. A person’s face is a big deal, it’s the part you look at most! A person’s legs, not so much. Not that you’re a perv for looking at their pants or skirt, or for noticing something glaringly obvious like a scar or tattoo, but an absence or presence of hair on a person’s legs generally isn’t obvious unless you look closely.

        1. Chriama

          I think being *visible* and being *noticeable* are 2 different things though. Men don’t typically wear shorts at work so we don’t notice their legs. But a woman in a skirt or capris with hairy legs is going to have visible hair. Does that mean it’s noticeable? Some people are more sensitive to it than others.

          1. Allison

            I was trying to touch on that. For many women, no, it probably won’t be noticeable unless it’s very course or dark in contrast with her skin.

    2. writelhd

      As a societal acceptance question rather than a workplace question, I do think it *is* different. But as a workplace rule in particular, I’m less sure. I think workplaces with strict rules on men’s facial hair are less common than workplaces that don’t have those rules, but I have heard of specific rules for this from friends who worked in hospitality or in banking where dress and appearance are seen as important. I would wonder though, if those same places spell out women’s leg hair in particular in their policies (or maybe just require hose), or if that is just still so integrated into our culture that it is assumed? While facial hair for men does need a clarifying policy (at those workplaces) because what is seen as acceptable personal style does vary more widely? There are probably certainly workplaces where the length of men’s hair and/or the style and quantity of their facial hair also has unwritten, unspoken rules that incur differing opinions on professionalism and appropriateness and that can be distressing for someone new to the culture to suss out.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      My husband and I have talked about this. He is a pale person with thick, fast-growing, dark facial hair. He wears a trimmed beard, but if he doesn’t shave (his cheeks, his neck, etc.) daily it’s very noticeable – and I’m sure it would be considered (slightly) unprofessional.

      He DOES make that choice sometimes – because he decides the tradeoff of sleeping a little later or avoiding irritating his skin or whatever is worth it.

    4. Lily Evans

      I’ve done the same thing, in regards to noticing other women’s body hair. It’s awful how ingrained it is in my brain that body hair= unattractive, but in my case it’s a message I’ve been given since I was about 10. That kind of thought conditioning is so hard to rewire!

    5. Reba

      It is in a way the same — office regulating how one’s body should look — but also really different, because in general, men’s bodies are not sexualized and politicized the way that women’s and non-binary-gendered people’s are. (Not saying men are subject to no social pressures regarding appearance, but different and less hazardous ones.) As another example, moving away from hair, when you see a man in shorts, do you register the length of the shorts and do they have any impact on what you think about the man’s character? What about a woman in shorts–do you notice if they are “too short”? How did you learn what’s too short, too dowdy or just right?

      1. Jaguar

        Men are judged on their sexual orientation based on what they wear. To use your example, the more leg a guy shows, the more likely he is to be labelled as “gay” (which you can substitute with as derogative a word for gay men as you want and it will still happen). It’s awful to do such a thing, of course, and I know women have judgements made of their sexual orientation as well, but the idea that men are not sexualized is entirely false. This is much more an issue of women being seen as sexual objects (which men are, but I agree to a vastly lesser extent) than it is women being sexualized.

        But the idea that men aren’t judged based on what they choose to wear is laughably absurd.

        1. Reba

          Fortunately I didn’t say that.

          Thanks for pointing out the sexual orientation stereotyping angle, which you’re right, I was not considering.

          By “sexualized” I *do* simply mean “being seen as sexual objects”… the term does not have do with classifying someone’s sexual orientation (at least as I have heard it used). Hope that clears up what I meant.

  42. Chriama

    I have to say that armpit hair is a different story. I find it gross on everyone, men or women. I remember noticing it when I was watching high school musical and one of the basketball players lifted his arms and had a ‘fro growing under there. I don’t it all. But I also think that the hair catches sweat and pheromones and whatever else is excreted by your armpit glands, so part of that revulsion is due to general ideas about cleanliness.

  43. Former Retail Manager

    Maybe I missed it, but I really think how this will be perceived depends on both the culture of your office, as Alison mentioned, and how coarse or fine your leg hair is. If it’s fine hair that lays over gently, I doubt that it would noticeable enough to comment on (not to say that people may not murmur behind your back or otherwise form opinions about you if they noticed). However, if it’s really coarse and of a similar consistency to the hair on many men’s legs that’s a whole different story. I’m sure many here will argue that it shouldn’t be a different story, but I believe it would be. If your legs look like a man’s legs, you can rest assured that it will get looks. I’ve only known a few ladies whose hair grew like this, but it is possible. Overall, do what you want to do, but I do believe that it this has the ability to potentially impact your career depending upon who you work for and the type of environment you work in. Hopefully, that won’t be the case and you can provide an update in the future.

  44. Girasol

    To Alison’s comment about conservative environments: Back in 70’s, part of nearly any corporate woman’s job responsibility was to be decorative, to improve morale and impress customers. So office norms included dresses, nylon stockings, heels of a certain height, makeup, hourglass figure, and so on. (No, really: I’ve seen “36-24-36” and “blonde or redhead, no brunettes” among administrative job requirements.) There are still places where the 70s live on, where unshaven legs would violate the norm. Consider what that says about the culture!

  45. writelhd

    Another female here who does not shave legs and does wear mid-thigh or slightly past knee length skirts or capris to work, though not every day. In my experience the range of reactions in the workplace is similar to the range of reactions it gets in most other settings, except that you could be less likely to hear from somebody if they do think it is a problem, because it’s not as easy to talk about these kinds of things in a professional setting and some people may have the feeling that a professional should know better and it’s not their place to tell you what you should know. The trouble with those people is, because they won’t tell you, they may be somebody you least expect, and it could come as a hurtful surprise to hear somebody’s snide comment when they think you aren’t in earshot, etc. At least that’s my experience. You’d think a manager might say something if there is a problem, but I honestly think it’s a rare manager, especially perhaps if the manager is male, who is comfortable with bringing this up. A female manager may be more likely to. So perhaps you could talk to a trusted female mentor about her perception of the office culture?

    Thankfully it’s also been my experience that *more* people either don’t notice or else notice but genuinely don’t care, because most people aren’t staring at each others’ legs at work anyway. But the ones who do care are there and may stay hidden, and my experience comes from an office with relatively laid back culture in a town with a reputation as being a haven for “hippies” and a clientele who tend to lean kind of “hippie” too. I chose the strategy of going in cautiously, starting off with strictly long pants or full length skirts at first, until I got a feel for the culture and in particular how my boss and a few other key decision makers would probably feel about it. When I felt comfortable enough that most of them probably would not care, I went for it. I was wrong about a couple of people, but not everybody (and thankfully not my boss), and that’s a trade-off I am comfortable–and now have enough standing–to live with.

  46. Former freelancer

    Oh, this is so timely for me! I would say, go for it, OP. I recently started my first full-time job in a rather conservative office, and as the weather has gotten hotter, my go-to-outfit of slacks, shirt and blazer/cardigan has become uncomfortable. I don’t shave my legs, and I have light skin and dark hair, as well as some scars and discolorations on my legs. So I was really hesitant about wearing dresses or skirts, even though the other women in the office do (don’t know about their leg hair, since I’m never at eye-level with their calves – I mean, how often does that happen in an office environment, anyway?). I finally took the plunge last week and wore a (conservative, just over knee-length) dress to work – and all I got were lots of compliments about how nice I looked! But then, my co-workers are really kind, friendly, professional people who appreciate me and my work :-)

  47. asteramella

    I don’t shave my legs ever. In my personal life I wear shorts and skirts without considering what others may think; I have been on the receiving end of comments and the occasional pointed stink eye but that doesn’t bother me.

    However, I never ever show my legs at the office. I work in a fairly conservative area in a fairly conservative industry with a casual dress code. I have coworkers who wear miniskirts and rompers and shorts to work–some in mid- to upper-management. But me wearing the same without shaving my legs would be noticed, in a bad way.

    It might be different if I conformed to beauty standards more perfectly otherwise, but I dress somewhat androgynously (not “always wears pants with her nice blouse” androgynous but “usually wears men’s clothing head to toe” androgynous, which is somewhat more noticeable) and I don’t “do” my hair. The fact is that masculine (or perceived-masculine) women are often perceived negatively in U.S. society, and not shaving your legs is “masculine.” As I am “masculine” in other ways, I already deal with stereotypes and disadvantages, so I strive not to be … too unusual, shall we say.

    I freely showed my legs (and forewent makeup etc) at my internship at an LGBTQ org, but unless I work at another LGBTQ org later on, I will probably never show my bare legs in my professional life ever again.

    None of this is meant to say that you should or shouldn’t show your legs! You should explore your options and do what makes you comfortable. But know that there may be an opportunity cost if you are a professional woman who is perceived as unacceptably unfeminine. To me, a certain amount of that cost is worth it. It may or may not be worth it to you.

      1. asteramella

        Thanks! I do wonder how many commenters who have never experienced backlash for showing hairy legs have an overall presentation that leans more feminine than masculine. One’s overall look probably comes into play quite a bit.

        1. Hairy G

          Very interesting. I’ve been wondering about this lately. I’m also androgynous, masculine-of-center, but I am generally perceived as straight because of my spouse. Now I also flip-flop because I like to wear long skirts when it’s hot but I wear women’s clothes that have a “masculine” cut since men’s clothes are too big for me. I dress this way because it’s comfortable, I like it, and it is appropriate for my work environment. I’m not trying to make a statement and I really wouldn’t want to take attention away from important acknowledgement of LBGQT issues because of what I happen to wear. However, I am definitely going more “masculine” the older I get and I am wondering: when is it ok to be androgynous at work?

        2. zora.dee

          I think you’re right. I recognize that being able to not shave my legs and not feel any push back for it is definitely a reflection of privilege. Both from my presentation, and from the fact that my hair is lighter and thinner, and from the fact that I live in lefty cities and work in more casual places.

          But I am happy to take advantage of those privileges to do what makes me comfortable, and hopefully push the envelope on these expectations for everyone. But I would never judge another woman for making a different choice, or take for granted that I can get away with it. And, I’m really glad we are all able to have the discussion of this issue!

          Thanks for sharing and joining the conversation!

  48. Jen RO

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen an unshaven woman under 60 on the street. It’s probably a cultural thing (Eastern Europe), but I definitely was not expecting virtually everyone in the comments section to say it’s fine and they wouldn’t notice. Unless you have blond hair (or dark skin), it would be A Thing with most people I know. They wouldn’t say anything, but you would be She Who Does Not Shave. You might decide not to care, of course.

    As for myself, I have dark hair and light skin, I shave my legs, armpits and forearms, and I would never in a million years go out in public with unshaven legs. I sometimes don’t shave my arm hair, but I feel very self-conscious about it. To give you an idea, my hair is similar to these pictures: http://howtowritebetter.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/HTWB-hairy-legs.jpg and http://southcoastmedspa.com/images/bna/laser-hair-removal-female-arm-lg.jpg and this is what I am assuming OP is talking about.

    I recently invested in a home IPL system and it’s starting to work and it’s the best thing ever. Maybe by next summer I will be able to show legs without having to shave (and irritate my skin) every morning!

    I know that most people won’t agree with my views, but oh well.

    1. Mel

      I was going to say that as well. Europeans in my experience seem to be much more concerned with appearance. It was kind of nice to see everyone more dressed up than what im used to in the US

      1. Turtle Candle

        I spent several months at my company’s office in China, and people were certainly much more… hm, perhaps the phrase is “put-together,” there. Where the developers in our US office tended to wear the bare minimum of business casual (nondescript khakis and button-downs, probably off the rack at JC Penney or Macy’s–these were people who lived in geeky t-shirts on the weekend), the clothes of the people in similar positions in the Shanghai office were snappy, tailored, and often designer-brand. It was clear that both men and women were spending a lot more time at the salon; no guys had the ‘chop it short and forget about it’ hairstyle and no women did ‘slap it in a ponytail and forget about it’ either (although some of them wore what were clearly very carefully-considered ponytails). And while I don’t remember anything about arm hair (I didn’t think to look), it was clear that brow maintenance and full and careful (but not too obvious or dramatic–there’s a fine line there) makeup was a big deal for the women.

        In some ways it was kind of delightful to be around people who were so carefully grooming themselves every day, but in other ways it was very pressuring. While body hair never came up (I only ever wore slacks to that office), I definitely was aware of my relative lack of fancying myself up. I didn’t wear makeup and my hairstyling was focused on making sure my hair was clean and out of the way, not on fashion. And my clothes were, yeah, button-down shirts off the rack at Macy’s, not designer brands tailored to me. I got a pass, I think, because everyone sort of expected me to be a clunky American, but it was interesting indeed. It’s clear that, had I lived there, I would have probably had to start getting my hair did, spending more money on ‘better’ clothes, and doing my makeup every day. While it was nice to see people looking so good, I’m not sure that’s a tradeoff that I would have been thrilled with.

        1. Jen RO

          Actually, clothing here seems to be more casual than in the US (or at least it seems this way to me based on the comments on AAM. Spaghetti straps on women and shorts (knee length) on men are OK for example. I would still notice a woman with unshaved legs of she had light skin and dark hair. Especially if she was otherwise put together.

    2. Laura

      > I definitely was not expecting virtually everyone in the comments section to say it’s fine and they wouldn’t notice

      Obviously this is a statement that you didn’t intend to be taken literally, *but* regardless, I’d say most commenters are advising OP to err on the side of caution and read the temperature of the office (figuratively, and I suppose literally) before unleashing her unshaven gams.

      Personally, I notice when women don’t shave, and respect them as people who are braver than I. I have coworkers who would notice a woman who doesn’t shave, and feel very negatively. Either way, OP is getting labeled as She Who Does Not Shave, and that sucks. But I still think OP should rock on with her bad self (as long as she doesn’t get the sense that it will hold her back professionally — or maybe even then, if she deems it worth it), because she seems very self-assured and confident in her own decisions.

      1. Jen RO

        I totally agree that OP should de whatever she wants (and she has already decided not to shave), I was just surprised that virtually no one who commented felt like it would be an issue. In my experience, it would hinder her professional life, even if not immediately noticeable. I would not take that risk, but I am definitely not the kind of person to rock the boat (and that part IS cultural, I’m pretty sure).

  49. Recruiter

    I agree with Alison in that OP should gauge the office culture and proceed from there. But…what if the dress code states something along the lines of “…all employees must present a groomed, professional appearance”. Who in the workplace determines what’s groomed and professional? HR? The department managers?

    I’m asking because my company has a pretty similar dress code. We’ve hired people with long hair and told them that in order to follow the dress code, they would need to cut their hair (or cut it down so it’s not so unruly). Facial hair has to be very groomed and neat. Our employees are incredibly customer-facing, so professional appearance is HUGE. I can imagine our managers having issues with a female not shaving her legs, unfortunate as that it.

    1. Allison

      For a vague dress code like that, my guess is it is up to the department heads or team managers how their employees need to dress and groom for work. But I’d imagine a vague dress code is only appropriate when a company has a mix of public facing employees and employees who are hidden from the world most of the day, so a specific, company-wide dress code wouldn’t make sense. If a company’s employees are almost all public-facing, the dress code should be more specific and I would consider advocating for that.

  50. cjb1

    Mood lightener (not making fun of OP, I swear!)… For some reason I just got the short scene in the Austin Powers movie where Austin Powers is talking to the Mole with the giant mole and just keeps fixating on that. Putting it into this context of having someone fixate on any body part, styling choice or hygiene preference kind of makes me chuckle. Like someone is going to be staring at your legs constantly and just accidentally saying the worst, most uncomfortable things: “What we have hair is… I mean, here is…” or “We are going about this fur all the wrong reasons…I mean FOR, FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS!” or “I’m just going to fuzz with these numbers a bit… no, no, no, I mean fuss with! FUSS!!!!”

  51. zora.dee

    I haven’t shaved my legs, or any body hair, since college, and I’m in my late 30s. Granted, I have lived/worked in pretty progressive West Coast cities mostly. But I haven’t had anyone say anything in any of my jobs, and even if they did, as Alison said: i just decided this was important to me and I don’t care.

    FTR, I have pale skin, but my hair is on the light side, but not blond. It’s not super noticeable unless you are actually looking. So,that might have played a part in my decision to not care about it. If my hair was really dark, it might have been harder to make that decision.

    When I have worked in more fancy offices, or when I had more conservative things to do (meetings on Capitol Hill in DC, big foundation meetings or events) I wear tights. Mostly-opaque black tights or opaque black tights are my go-to. That way I can wear skirts without worrying about it. And maybe if you looked really closely when I’m wearing less-opaque tights, you could tell there is hair in there, but if someone is looking that closely at my legs when I’m in a work meeting, that is a Whole Other Problem.

    And most of the day-to-day at places I’ve worked, i just go bare-legged and don’t worry about it.

    Also, slightly related, i don’t shave my underarms either, and I don’t ever wear sleeveless at the office. I have found plenty of work blouses with at least a short sleeve that are great for even the hottest days in the summer. But when I’m off work I often wear sleeveless.

    I am still super happy with my decision after all of these years, I have had less than 5 people ever comment or ask me about not shaving, and most of those have been just curiosity. If someone has a problem with it, that’s their problem. I did get a little nervous sometimes in the first few years, but then I got confident enough that I really don’t even think about it most of the time. OP, good for you for making your own decision and I think you’ll be fine! High Five!

  52. nutella fitzgerald

    “some people also think other people would look more professional if they wore lipstick, or had more polished hair, or stopped wearing flats all the time”

    I got my hair blown out and while it looked super professional and office-appropriate, sometimes without realizing it I just WANT IT OFF MY FACE SO I CAN THINK and scrape it into a knot :( And then there are the meetings I schedule back to back and can’t run between in heels.

    But I don’t really have an excuse for my bare lips. I wonder if doing something about them would make me look more competent or if my daily tasks would find a way to get in the way of that, too.

    1. motherofdragons

      Lipstick doesn’t last long if you’re drinking coffee/tea/water throughout the day. That’s the main reason why I don’t wear lipstick (except for Fridays, when I wear a bright red lipstain because, Friday!).

  53. Mel

    I doubt anyone will admit it but I have a hard time believing all the folks who think it’s sexist to expect women to shave their legs wouldn’t have a problem with a guy coming to work with say an old guy with really long nose/ear/eyebrow hair or back/neck/chest hair coming out of his shirt.

    I’m not saying women should shave their legs I just find the argument hypocritical.

    1. zora.dee

      I disagree.

      I might think it was gross if a guy had long nose hair, but I would never say anything to him and I wouldn’t expect him to do anything about it. His body, his choice.

      Whereas some people seem to think it’s okay to expect that women should do something about their leg hair and that they have the right to say something about it.

      Not hypocritical at all.

    2. Mookie

      Are you honestly saying you’ve witnessed people haranguing older male co-workers for having unkempt eyebrows? I have literally never encountered this and I don’t believe it happens.

      1. afiendishthingy

        Little known fact, Einstein’s coworkers at the patent office complained constantly about Al’s unprofessional eyebrows.

    3. Bobcat

      I had a coworker who wore polo shirts everyday and his curly, gray back and chest hair could not be contained. It’s not my favorite look, but I never thought he was unprofessional because of it. He was awesome at his job, and that’s all I really noticed.

  54. Markethill

    I’m a lady-person in a conservative field (law) who doesn’t shave and wears knee-length skirts and dresses to court. How? Opaque hose. It is my BFF.

  55. Another Unshorn Woman

    I don’t shave either. I have light skin and dark hair, so it’s very noticeable. My personal rule-of-thumb for navigating professional dress code is to take my cue from the men in the office. My current workplace is a casual workplace where men expose leg hair (i.e. they can wear shorts), so I don’t worry about it. In places where it would be expected for men to wear long pants, I either wear pants or opaque tights.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with leg hair, but I realize that in some office cultures, it’s considered unprofessional to expose it. For better to worse, what is considered “professional” is cultural, and I think that as long as those norms are not applied in a biased manner (different rules for men/women, or unattainable goals for people with curly hair, etc), then the office norms should be respected.

    1. 39281

      +1 – I don’t shave my legs or wears skirts/dresses, but only wear shorts when it’s appropriate, ie when other hairy-legged creatures are wearing shorts. So definitely not at my office!

    2. Rebecca

      I love this! So much work/appearance advice for women is to take cues from the other women in the office. I, too, take my fashion cues from the men around. I’m not a feminine woman, and should have the same appearance-based freedoms as the men around. If shaving, dresses, makeup, jewelry, and heels are your thing, by all means. But I’d rather not present that way, and I don’t feel I should have to conform to the standards set by people just because we happen to be women.

      (I don’t shave my legs or underarms. I’ll wear skirts/cropped pants at work, but I avoid sleeveless tops. It’s my own double standard, because I’m not made of steel, and worry people will find unshaved underarms to be “gross” at work.)

  56. Recruit-o-Rama

    I find this entire thread of comments fascinating; both the actual discussion and the general trend of opinion considering the discussion about women at the office and whether or not they must wear bras a few months ago.

      1. Recruit-o-rama

        It’s linked right under this article, in the “you might also like” section.

  57. Plaster (OP)

    Thanks so much to everyone for chiming in! Yes, even the people who think my bod is gross–thicken my skin a little more, why don’t you ;)

    Answers to some questions or implied questions… I have quite pale skin and quite dark hair. However, I live in a very liberal area and I’ve never gotten comments on it (except a hairdresser who complimented me!) I’m trying to be very attuned to professional norms and I’m hoping the rest of my comportment will be as professional as possible…and I don’t plan to wear sleeveless shirts :)

    Thanks all so much for your thoughts. I’ll definitely tune in to the office norms in my first few weeks and see how it goes!

    1. Liza

      Good luck! I’m always happy when someone else eschews the body hair norms for women — the more of us with hairy legs, the fewer comments we’ll get on them. :)

  58. DMC

    I always get to these threads way late, unfortunately. 500+ comments later… LOL. My two cents. Having unshaved legs CAN be unprofessional, depending on the workplace, etc. and just how your legs look in general with hair (hey, we all have different hair colors, skin colors, and hair textures, and all that does kind of matter). I went to a women’s college where unshaved legs and unshaved armpits were pretty standard, so they don’t really phase me much. However, I’ve only worked one place where unshaved naked legs would’ve been okay. All other places I’ve worked have been a bit more conservative. Men aren’t showing their legs at all (suit pants or dockers), for example, and women either wear long dress pants or skirts/dresses — and no one has unshaven legs being shown off. So, it’s all about the culture of the office.

  59. Kat M

    I don’t shave either. If I’m starting at a new position where skirts are a thing, I’ll wear hose until I get the lay of the land. My leg hair is quite light, so the pantyhose just smooths things out and makes it un-noticeable unless somebody goes looking.

    But after a while if things seem chill I’ll go barelegged. If it seems more conservative I’ll keep wearing tights or pantyhose or (more often) just wear pants.

  60. misspiggy

    All this discussion about appearance norms is very interesting. I work in a few Muslim places in Asia and Africa. When I started, I was a bit apprehensive about headscarf-wearing. But I did notice the relative ease of women’s professional clothing. Colleagues wear comfortable, non-constricting clothes and shoes, bras are pretty rare, and body hair is not something you have to think about in the office. Covering your hair is really quite minor compared to some of the lengths one can be expected to go to in a Western office.

  61. Steve

    Whatever you decide to do regarding body hair is up to you. I want you to consider that as a man, I have to keep my arms and legs covered regardless of the weather because of the norms of working in an office. I have to shave my stubble every morning to look professional. Skirts and dresses are one of the hot weather perks of being a female. On those 90 degree days I would kill to have shorts on. However, I can’t. Consider wearing pants to work. Those of us without shaved legs, especially men have to do it year round.

    1. Mookie

      And women pay more for clothes, cosmetics, and hygiene products on less wages. Feel free to consider that.

    2. Laura

      Gendor norms really suck for everyone, but neither gender can get away with wearing shorts in (most) office(s). Men aren’t discouraged from wearing shorts *because* they don’t shave their legs, but because shorts on both genders are seen as unprofessional, and unfortunately there is no widely accepted male equivalent to skirts and dresses. After all, women weren’t even “allowed” to wear pants for a very long time, and that had nothing to do with whether their legs were shaven or not. Implying that the two issues (differences in dress codes at work vs. women shaving their legs) are related is really conflating two different things.

    3. A Bug!

      Am I misunderstanding your intended message? It sounds like you’re saying that OP should consider not challenging the gender norm of no visible leg hair on women, because of how you’re affected by a gender norm that prevents you from wearing skirts to work. How would that help either of you?

      I sympathize with your desire to wear skirts and dresses to work without it being viewed as cross-dressing (although skirts are not as nice in hot weather as you might think – without fabric between them, sweaty thighs stick). Skirts and dresses will remain female-coded clothing until enough men challenge that perception by wearing skirts and dresses as regular clothes despite public opinion.

      I understand if you’re not prepared to be a trailblazer, if you’re not willing to make that sacrifice for the sake of all the men like you who wish they could wear skirts. But you should be cheering OP on, not asking her to back down and accept her place so you can both be victims together.

  62. E, F and G

    The comments remind me greatly of all the posts AAM has had on tattoos. Yes, they shouldn’t offend us, to most people they aren’t offensive, to most people it doesn’t even matter but if you get the wrong office showing the tattoo off would be unthinkable.

    OP if you are willing to go in showing leg hair good for you, this is a standard that I would love to see change it it takes people doing that for that to happen. And if you are willing to show of your legs from the first day all the more power to you.

    The other option is to treat it like a tattoo. Cover it up for the first little while and try and get an idea of your office culture. Then just show up in a skirt or dress and act like it is nothing. People will follow the cues you give them.

  63. snuggery

    Hi OP! In case you’re still reading the comments, just wanted to throw in that out of all the times I’ve worn a dress with hairy legs, I have never seen anyone look at me funny, let alone comment on it. Also, I do keep my legs shaven maybe half the time – so if anyone paid attention to my legs they’d know keeping ’em hairy is not a statement for me, and could easily assume it’s laziness on my part! Still, I haven’t been judged for it yet.

    If I were you, I’d take a few weeks to gauge whether the company enjoys hating on women’s body hair and take that into consideration when you make up your mind. If they look like they wouldn’t be cool with it and you still decide to rock that dress (which I heartily recommend!) having built up a few weeks’ worth of excellent track record will go a long way against you getting branded “unprofessional” or “lazy”.

  64. Kira

    I would probably notice, and my first reaction would be to be uncomfortable. But how that fits into my overall perception of you would depend so much more on who you are and how you act. Unless you fit into some extreme stereotype (such as a slob, or an Activist) I’d move on and stop noticing it.

  65. Nicole Michelle

    I know there’s already a million opinions about this, but for me, I’m not a huge fan of shaving my legs either because 1) my skin is really sensitive for razors and I hate the whole itchy red bump thing 2) too broke for a professional waxing 3) too impatient for nair or wax at home. So for me, on occasion I will shave my legs below the knee (don’t really have to above the knee) and then beyond that, I tend to like tights anyways and wear them unless it’s 87 and above.

  66. FormerCoworker

    A bit late to the party, but thought I should share my experience with this.

    I used to work in an office where our admin did not shave. Her legs weren’t super noticeable, but her underarms were. I have honestly never seen that much underarm hair on anyone before (male or female). She frequently wore sleeveless shirts/dresses so it was very, very distracting. She didn’t have good hygiene practices in general (i.e. coming to work with clearly unwashed hair or wearing the same clothes as the day before) so she had a very distinct body odor. Normally I wouldn’t really care about what people did to their bodies, but she seemed totally oblivious to common office norms about personal space and would frequently lean over coworkers to reach for something (thus placing her underarms directly in the face of other people).

    As many people have stated, adhering to shaving norms really depends on what type of role you hold within your company and the culture. We worked for a company that has a wealthy clientele base and everyone is expected to come to work well-groomed. Our admins rotate shifts to cover the front desk and sit in on meetings with consultants, so everyone had a good amount of face time with clients. Eventually we had clients express disgust at her grooming habits and refused to meet with us if she was present. At that point we moved her to a less high profile project that limited her face time with clients. I think this severely hindered her development and movement within the company, because no one wanted to work with her.

    Ultimately I think this is a personal choice, but the reality of workplace is that this is something that could potentially detract from your professional achievements. This admin was kind of hit/miss with her work, but no one could remember that after she was transferred.

    BTW – a few people did speak to her about her hygiene, but I think she either disregarded it or they weren’t very blunt with the message.

    1. Hot Pink Squirrel

      Lean across me with that much pit hair in my face and you might just suddenly find a binder clip in it…just sayin’

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