can I show armpit hair at work?

A reader writes:

I have a strange question for you and your readers: how appropriate is body hair in professional offices?

I’m a woman in my 20s who prefers to keep my underarms unshaved, though they’re tidy and unobtrusive. (I have light hair, which makes it less noticeable.) In general, I think sleeveless blouses can be fine at many offices, but I’ve found myself balking at airing out my underarms in professional contexts and am not sure whether to avoid sleeveless tops forever or just get over it.

This isn’t an issue that often — I’m a freelance writer and work at home/in casual-dress environments 95% of the time. But every now and then I need to dress more professionally, and I’m wondering if I need to make it policy to keep my pits to myself?

(For the record, I wouldn’t spare it a second thought if a female coworker happened to have underarm hair that showed — but if a man at a nearby desk wore a shirt that showed his armpits, I’d find it unpleasant. Not sure what to do with that distinction. Surely there’s a difference between tidy office pits that are normally fine to wear to work — unlike sleeveless men’s shirts — and “dude at beach” hair??? Or am I doomed to cardigans anytime I’m in a business casual workspace?)

I have to confess that I’m squicked out by armpits in general — men’s and women’s — and if it were up to me, no armpits would ever be on display anywhere and sleeveless tops would be abolished. I am strongly pro-sleeve for all, and so I’m not a reliable source for an answer to this.

But I will try to put my bias aside and answer this.

We do have different standards for men and women’s armpits at work. Men generally can’t wear sleeveless tops to work in most office environments at all, so their armpit hair never really comes up as a question. But in many/most offices, it’s fine for women to wear sleeveless tops, and you could argue that if sleeveless tops are okay, then any resulting visible armpit hair is no one’s business.

On the other hand, while there are big regional and cultural differences on this, there are certainly office environments where wearing a skirt that exposed obviously hairy legs would be Not Done. It’s not necessarily that it would result in a formal talking-to, but in some places it would be a thing that was noticed and made people think you were less than professionally groomed. Which is stupid and unfair, but would definitely be a thing in some — not all — offices. (I think this is changing though!)

My guess is that armpit hair falls along the same lines: fine in some offices, not fine in others. And so you’d have to know the culture you’re working in, and how much you care about complying with that culture’s norms and expectations.

{ 608 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Falling Diphthong

    I think Alison’s last paragraph is key. To answer this question, you need to get someone else to run the experiment while you observe whether no one cares or people keep giving her sidelong looks.

    Reply
  2. Captain S

    I definitely wear sleeveless tops in the office during the summer time and work in a very informal office, but I do always throw on a cardigan if I go to a meeting.

    Reply
    1. lulu

      This. Sleeveless is ok if I’m sitting at my desk and it’s really hot, but it’s not the most professional look. Add a blazer or a cardigan if you are already dressing more professionally. Or just a top with short sleeves, if the office is not freezing with AC

      Reply
    2. JokeyJules

      Agreed, if you need to dress it up a bit, you can always throw on a cardigan or just wear something cap-sleeved.

      As I think about it more, though, seeing armpit hair that should have been shaved during your last shower weirds me out a bit more than seeing armpit hair intentionally grown out…
      I can’t tell why…

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        I think a theme of the thread is that “While irrational, I find I have very strong emotions about armpit hair.”

        Probably it reflects a collective unconscious sense that the armpit hair is up to something.

        Reply
        1. Tardigrade

          Probably it reflects a collective unconscious sense that the armpit hair is up to something.

          Hahaha! I love this imagery. It’s perfect.

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        2. Thlayli

          I think body hair in general grosses out many people – and that’s probably part of why men’s dress codes are so much more restrictive than women’s. Women can show legs, cleavage, armpits etc, and it doesn’t tend to gross people out unless they are unshaven. Men simply can’t show those things at all in most offices. I think this is partly because in the majority of men those areas are covered in body hair. I actually would be grossed out by a male coworker showing off his hairy legs in work, but if he shaved them I wouldn’t be grossed out at all. If a female colleague showed shaved legs at work I would not be grossed out, but if her legs were unshaven I would prefer she kept them under wraps. Many many people, myself included, just don’t like seeing other people’s body hair, regardless of gender.

          No idea why that is, but it seems to be a common thing.

          Reply
              1. MK

                I think that’s down to practicality, though; generally hands need to be uncovered for someone to work efficiently.

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            1. Kelly L.

              I think originally the cause and effect were the other way around, FWIW–that women’s fashions got skimpier, and then women started (whether on their own or because of advertising) feeling self-conscious about the newly exposed hair.

              Reply
          1. Kittymommy

            This a great distinction/explanation, I never thought about it before but i probably would feel this way too.

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          2. Turtlewings

            I would never have thought of it this way, but I think you make excellent points. I’ve always felt strongly that it’s dumb that women are expected to shave their legs, but I’d never thought about the fact that men simply cannot acceptably show their legs at all (in a professional context).

            (For what it’s worth, despite my pro-leg-hair leanings, I feel very differently about armpit hair. One’s armpits get sweaty and smelly and deodorant-caked in a way legs do not!)

            Reply
            1. Wren

              I don’t ever go sleeveless at work, since with AC, it’s too cold. For me, going sleeveless is mainly for very hot summer outdoors, and I will attest that if you are sleeveless, it’s dryer (and thus less smelly) with armpit hair. Skin to skin contact between the two sides of the armpit doesn’t evaporate moisture well, and some hair keeps me a lot dryer.

              As for caked deodorant: less is more!

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              1. Koko

                I get the grossest pit stains when I shave my armpit hair because there’s nothing to absorb the sweat except my shirt.

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            2. sam

              On the same note, women (in my office) are allowed to wear open-toed shoes (not sandals or flip flops), but I’m not showing up with my digits exposed without a pedicure. It’s certainly not in the dress code or anything, but I’d just… feel weird if I didn’t do something to make my feet somewhat presentable before…presenting them…to the public.

              (I’m someone who haaaates shaving my legs, and will often forego the process for the entire winter. It’s only when I want to wear a skirt without tights in the spring/summer that I depillerate (?) myself. and even then, I’ll usually go the wax route so that it’s only a once a month process.)

              Reply
              1. Falling Diphthong

                I encountered some Vermonters who were inclined to let leg hair grow half the year, but found it really uncomfortable under long underwear and so shaved their legs only in winter.

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                1. whingedrinking

                  I used to have a highly fashionable male roommate, and he shaved his legs to make wearing skinny jeans more comfortable. The annoying/amusing thing was that I had to explain that even if he swore blind he would only use it on his legs, I would *not* lend him my body hair razor.

                2. Specialk9

                  Whinged, your roommate wanted to borrow your razor?! And asked more than once, even?! That’s a violation of a rule I didn’t know I had but it feels monumental and universal.

                3. whingedrinking

                  He did only ask the once; it was along the lines of “hey, my razor is dull and we use basically the same kind, can I borrow yours?” And yes, I was primally horrified at the thought of sharing a personal grooming tool with someone who could be described, at best, as a mid-level friend (and at worst as “someone I randomly wound up living with because my landlord judged that a five-foot-five fashion student probably wasn’t an axe murderer”).

                4. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

                  Whinge, it makes sense! My husband has always worn tight jeans (even before “skinny jeans” were a “thing”) and once he stopped shaving, they started rubbing the hair off in places and leaving blank spots.

          3. sap

            I came here to say approximately this–if LW wants to take advantage of this gender bias (in favor of) women (they can wear less clothes), she has to suck it up and accept the gendered grooming expectations that come with it.

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            1. Veronica

              I’m struggling to put into words why, but I don’t think “because x gender norm works in your favour in one aspect, you shall grin and bear the consequences” is advice I love. It feels a bit… punitive.

              The OP has decided that shaving her pits isn’t for her. If arm hair is the worst of her sins, she’s probably doing OK, and if she’s willing to get a few surprised looks, then I don’t see why she should ‘suck it up’.

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              1. sap

                The gendered allowance to expose those areas exists because women shave those areas typically. I don’t think it’s punitive to say “if you’re going to do [thing you’re only allowed to do because x], you have to do [x],” and the gendered element is kind of a red herring.

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                1. Veronica

                  I see what you mean, I just broadly think… a bit of blonde fine armpit hair isn’t so big a deal to me that the right to sleeveless tops must be withdrawn and that this must be the only logical consequence and sacrifice is required.

                  Then again, until I read the comments above I’d never necessarily connected the dress code to body hair before, so I can see where you’re coming from with that.

                  It doesn’t help that I’m generally very sceptical of the gender norm where women must be hairless wonders, except for their heads, where their hair must be fabulous…

                2. sap

                  I don’t think it’s a *logical* consequence…. But I also expect all the men I date to shave their armpits, and don’t date the ones who won’t.

                3. sap

                  (in other words, I don’t think any social expectations about grooming are about “logic,” beyond “be bathed enough that you don’t have an odor.”)

                4. Veronica

                  Haha, agreed, the whole thing, frankly, makes no sense. Different standards for work and private lives. Men must cover up because of their hairy legs, but once they’re outside the office, their hairy legs are fine, but women’s would be a travesty.

                  I guess what I was saying is… if the OP is comfortable pushing boundaries a little in terms of not shaving her pits in the first place, I reckon she can probably handle a few surprised looks and that may just mean that in time, with enough people like her, we can stop letting armpit hair be a limiting factor, so people can do whatever they like.

                5. sap

                  Yeah, LW would probably be fine in many offices, provided she’s got well-kept pit hair (I think if she’s one of those girls who gets like 6 inches without shaving that’s not appropriate and needs a trim). But I’d definitely privately be thinking “armpit hair is icky, I wish everyone shaved.”

                6. Rachel

                  That’s getting into a bit of a gray area, Veronica. You say a little bit of blonde hair isn’t a big deal, but what if it was the same amount of hair, but dark? What if it was textured? Now, we’re setting up a sliding scale of what’s acceptable based on *color*.

                  I agree with sap. Sleeveless shirts are a privilege we as women have, so we can either shave the armpits and exercise the privilege, or forgo it by covering up.

                7. Falling Diphthong

                  I don’t think logic is going to enter into any aspect of this. (Minus my Vermonters shaving to go under long underwear–when no one will ever know via visual inspection of their coworkers.)

                8. Eleanora

                  Rachel – I was using the OP’s description. She seemed to be comfortable in her case because she felt it was fairly unobtrusive, and I was agreeing that I can see why she would. That’s her call to make for her pits, just as it is any other person’s to decide on theirs. Mine isn’t fair or fine and I’ve decided that I personally don’t feel comfortable not shaving mine, but what people do with their pits is their business. She doesn’t need my permission, but surely I can agree that it sounds like she is blessed with some reasonably stealthy pit hair that may make it an easier ride for her to challenge the social standard and do what she wants with her hair and her sleeveless tops.

                  I fundamentally disagree that we somehow have to pay for or earn the right to wear a certain kind of clothing, and that’s a much murkier assertion for me.

                9. Veronica

                  That was me, by the way. The perils of not being able to remember your obscure screen name at work and coming up with another one…

                10. Rachel

                  Veronica – Well, yes, each person can choose for him or herself how to present themselves in terms of body hair, clothing, piercings/tattoos, or whatever. But the right to freedom of expression has a mirror image in the right of others to react to that expression, including the deeming of a person unprofessional because of how they choose to present themselves.

                  That’s what I meant by the privilege – it’s within the societal norm for women to wear sleeveless blouses to work, but that is not the case for men. However, that societal privilege for women does not extend to having hairy pits. Of course, any person, man or woman, can choose to violate the societal norms if they so desire.

                11. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

                  Sap and Rachel- I haven’t shaved for over 3 decades and heartily disagree with you.
                  Armpit hair is a natural occurrence for both men and women. Therefore the standards on whether it’s ok to have/show it must logically and reasonably apply equally to BOTH.
                  Anything else is ABSURD, no matter what BS our society tries to foist on us.
                  And nobody has ever given me a good reason why I should do a totally illogical thing that I absolutely *hate* doing (and that would not also be a reason for MEN to do it.)
                  As someone who was bullied & ostracized for YEARS as a child for “not fitting in”, and learned to be secure in myself before I got out of grade school (I had no ‘teen angst’ at all), arguments such as “it’s expected”, “fitting in”, “everyone does it” and the like are illogical & ludicrous to me, and hold zero weight. I want reasons that MAKE SENSE. “Because we live in a culture with sexist double standards” not only makes no sense, to me it’s a damn good reason for people NOT to keep perpetuating those standards!

                  So do whatever works for you, but how about not trying to shame or enforce this BS on anyone else, eh?

            2. nep

              I disagree that a woman who doesn’t choose to shave her armpits should do so to live up to grooming expectations. Armpit hair on a woman doesn’t equal lack of grooming; it’s not her problem if someone thinks otherwise.

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            3. Kind of a slippery slope.

              I find it a little icky to say “if you’re a woman, existing in the world, you have to put up with all of its unfair judgement when you don’t subscribe to every last beauty standard.”

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            4. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

              No, she actually doesn’t. It’s perfectly fine for unshaven women to show visible body hair, we just have sexist double standards that try to make us believe it isn’t.

              Signed, the woman who hasn’t shaved in 33+ years

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              1. Round and realistic

                How on earth is it a sexist double standard when the same rules applies to both genders? Hairy arms, hairy pits etc are a no go for any gender to be shown in a professional setting. Both genders are expected to groom themselves in certain manners, or hide their lack of grooming in a fitting way.

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            5. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

              And the more I think of this the angrier I get. NOBODY -of any sex or gender- has to “suck up” to BS cultural gender essentialist tropes/stereotypes/double standards. *NO*BO*DY*

              The “suck it up” mentality does an incredible disservice to LGBTIA people, non-gender conforming straight people, people from non-white cultures, and anyone else who does not fit into incredibly narrowly defined parameters of what is “normal.”

              And it’s you ‘normal’ people that need to push back the hardest, because the people it truly affects are the ones who get the least attention paid to them.

              If nothing else, stop telling people to “suck up” to these incredibly harmful stereotypes.

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              1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

                If sleeveless tops are appropriate in your office, then armpit hair is appropriate as well- FULL STOP.

                If people don’t like it, THEY are the ones who need to suck it up- not the person with the hair.

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          4. Jules the 3rd

            Interesting – body hair only grosses me out on backs, and that’s because the texture of all back hair I have contacted is a specific texture that bugs me in any context. I could care less about it on legs / armpits, either gender.

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          5. pleaset

            I’m a guy.

            We had a female intern in our office who had quite hairy legs showing below a skirt a few years ago. I noticed it and didn’t like it on a vicseral level, but also thought: “Dang, that kind of rocks.” It’s assertive and/or nonchalant. So I’m judgey…I know. And probably most people don’t want to be noticed for something like that.

            I have felt the same about a few women on staff who didn’t shave under their arms and it would show sometimes.

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          6. Lara

            Yes, it’s called marketing. That sounds flippant but in modern history people didn’t really get obsessed with body hair until 1900.

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          7. Anonymous5

            I am really curious how this shakes out for men and women with noticeable arm hair (like…forearm hair). I wear short sleeved shirts or roll my long sleeves up (as do men in the office) and forearm hair has never been something I was cognizant of. I don’t think men or women find forearm hair “political” or “icky” – at least in American offices. Why does leg and armpit hair take on a different meaning?

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            1. Wren

              I don’t know about men, but for women, consciousness of their own forearm hair is highly dependent on their level of hair (which can vary widely) and culture (some cultures have an expectation that women with more than wispy forearm hair bleach or wax it.)

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              1. Chinook

                As a very pale women with dark forearm hair, I became very self conscious of it as a teen and even shaved it at times which led to even darker stubble. It seems thinner now (maybe from being rubbed on sleeves ( but when I had a home permanent removal kit, I will admit to using it on my arms to thin it out.

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                1. Anonymous5

                  Mine is fairly dark as well. It never occurred to me to shave it until asked about it by a friend from a region where forearm hair shaving is common. I never did so but I still do wear short sleeves and whatnot to work.

                  Everyone’s level of comfort with skin and hair that shows in public or private is up to them. I suppose I was just musing that in my particular experience, my arm hair has been given very few second glances whereas my leg hair has garnered much more negative attention and why that might be.

            2. Falling Diphthong

              I have emotions about it. Not rational emotions, and the societal norm is that no one’s forearm hair matters, so I just tell myself that.

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              1. Anonymous5

                I’ve only had a few people over the course of many years comment on mine or look at it in a lingering way (despite my feeling that it’s pretty dark and noticeable). I just wonder why showing that hair is fairly acceptable in the US in a range of office environments yet other body hair is a no-no. I know it’s societal norms and all, like you said, but it’s still odd to me that one matters and the other doesn’t. I’d almost understand it more if all body hair was a problem rather than certain areas.

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                1. Specialk9

                  I had assumed it was related to the male gaze. Men (assuming heteronormativity) care about running a hand up legs, but not arms? That doesn’t hold up to armpits though.

                2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

                  It’s because the sexist double standards that these things operate under are totally illogical and make zero sense when you unpack them the way you are doing right now.

                  Which is why I ignore them and do whatever the hell I feel like.

            3. Alienor

              I don’t know about leg hair, but armpit hair is a secondary sex characteristic like pubic hair, so that’s probably why it feels viscerally inappropriate to a lot of people. (Men’s facial hair is as well, but it’s more public by nature, so we’re used to it.) I don’t want to see anyone’s armpit hair, male or female, unless I have a pretty intimate relationship with them.

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              1. Anonymous5

                Oh, that is a good point to consider. I think leg hair tends to appear or at least darken, typically, around puberty as well (again, going off my experience only).

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              2. Thlayli

                I think you might be onto something there. Body hair really only becomes visible at puberty, so that’s possibly part of why it’s considered “private” – its part of reaching sexual maturity so it might be linked with sex in our minds in some way.

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            4. Specialk9

              I once lived in a Central American Native American town, and nobody from that tribe had arm or leg hair. I have nearly invisible fine blonde hair on my arm, and kids would delight in grossing themselves out with how incredibly hairy my arms were. It was so outside the norm there and they hadn’t known it was possible to be so hairy. I was basically Sasquatch to them.

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          8. anon4now

            I’m not sure a man’s professional dress code is more restrictive. IMO Suits exist because they make all men’s bodies look approximately the same (which is good for old/middle aged out of shape guys- which eventually tend to be the majority wearing suits ever). These means you can get a muscular guy and a fat guy both wearing suits and the difference in body size will be less noticeable then 2 women of different body sizes, wearing a pencil skirt and sleeveless blouse.
            Also for women, the tinier thinner cloths used for women’s clothes can make it appear very unflattering if you’re not very thin. IMO, it socially acceptable for women to show more parts of their body in professional clothes because a woman’s body pleases men (which is why women’s t-shirts can have cleavage and men’s tend not to- what other reason would a long v-neck exist in women’s shirts?).
            And I think you dislike body hair because USA society has conditioned you to (or western society-whatever). In Europe, women not shaving their mustaches, armpits, and legs is common and the men have no complaints.

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            1. Thlayli

              I’ve lived in Europe all my life and been to loads of European countries. I think this whole “European women don’t shave” thing is a myth. I’ve certainly never noticed women walking around with visible body hair. I think Ive seen woman with armpit hair in Germany once or twice but that’s about it.

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              1. Drago Cucina

                I think not shaving used to be more common. When I went to the schwimmbad during the 70s and 80s (living in two different areas of Germany) I could immediately spot the Americans because of lack of arm pit hair. The same was true in Italy during the 80s. On my recent trips I’ve noted that shaving is much more common in Europe.

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                1. Julia

                  My mother got shamed for body hair in the 70s. (This was in Germany.) She still doesn’t shave (not even her chin), whereas I shave pretty much everywhere, even my arms – but I also live in Japan, where grooming standards for women (and men, come to think of it) are pretty strict. Plus I am super pale with darkish hair.

              2. Zoe Karvounopsina

                I was once at a party where two women started discussing weaving using armpit hair.

                I have never been so glad to have moved away from that small town.

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                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

                  I’m unsure how this is different than weaving done with any other kind of animal hair.

            2. nay

              Naw, that’s not true. I am from Germany, probably the epitome for “European women don’t shave” and most do. I would estimate like 50% of women over 50 don’t shave but nearly everyone younger than that does. I hardly ever see hairy legs or armpits… and I use public transport daily!! ;)

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              1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

                That really makes me sad that US sexist double standards are filtering over to Europe too.

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            3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

              You are 100% correct!

              At their core, these things make no actual sense, but are completely based on sexist stereotypes and double standards.

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          9. Stranger than fiction

            I may be wrong, but I think it’s because body hair is associated with body odor. It’s somewhere for the sweat or what have you to cling to. Most of us were conditioned to think this way. I’m glad the tides are changing in this regard. This letter reminded me of my late sister, who did not shave her armpits or legs or anything. However, she lived in the bay area and was in the arts, so easier to get away with.
            Myself I’ve found I’m shaving less and less these days. I laughed last weekend and told my boyfriend “hey look my armpits are resembling madonnas old playboy shoot”. (He found it less amusing but oh well). My legs, though, barely grow hair anymore from shaving less frequently, so that’s a plus.
            I don’t go sleeveless in the office, though. I hate my arms in general and it’s way too cold in here, but could probably get away with it.

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            1. Anion

              I have my daughters shave their underarms for that reason: bacteria lingers in armpit hair, and that bacteria is what makes sweaty armpits smell (at least in part). Shaved armpits + deodorant/antiperspirant means non-smelly pits. My husband shaves his in summer because he can get really sweaty, and his normal anti/deod isn’t strong enough to make hairy pits not smell, but it is strong enough to make shaved pits not smell.

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              1. Cherries in the Snow

                I think it’s a bit troublesome that you force your kids to shave and have taught them it’s because their bodies are dirty. Hair exists to protect the sensitive areas of our bodies. It’s not gross or unhygienic. All you need to do is wear deodorant.

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              2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

                As a women who has not shaved for over 30 years, let me tell you- you are wrong.

                And I am not only a very sweaty person naturally, but I take medication that has a tendency to make me sweat BUCKETS. Like swaet noticeably dripping off my forehead sweaty.

                Not only is having hair far more comfortable (wicks sweat away, which keeps me cooler & dryer, rather than having rank slimy puddles under my arms all day), all I ever used for years was a nice smelling deodorant, no antiperspirant at all. And I DID NOT SMELL EVER.
                The only reason I started using antiperspirant at all was because I hit perimenopause and the changes in my hormones caused changes in my sweat, but it wasn’t even remotely “normal”- I’d shower, and have BO within 5 minutes, no exaggeration. I bought the strongest drugstore antiperspirant I could find (Secret) and the problem stopped immediately, and has not recurred since. And no, it’s not gross and cakey because I choose an appropriate formula and don’t over apply.

                And if you bathe regularly, bacteria doesn’t linger in armpit hair any longer than it does on any other part of your body.

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          10. pandop

            Whereas in the more casual environment of the University where I work, male colleagues do wear shorts in the summer, without comment.

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          11. Jonno

            That is interesting! I don’t find body hair gross on women or men. I know some people do, and I don’t know why, but there does seem to be a split. Maybe if you weren’t used to it growing up?

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            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

              I wasn’t taught that bodies or body hair are “dirty”, so it was never an issue for me.

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          12. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            Women are allowed to show more of their bodies because we live in a sexist society that still views us primarily as sexual objects above any other quality.

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        3. Gingerblue

          I think my reaction comes down to deodorant. How do you apply it to unshaved armpits? (I know most guys must do this habitually, but how does that work…?) My knee-jerk reaction to armpit hair is to associate it with sweat and clumped deodorant.

          This is stupid, but I think it’s why I have a much stronger negative reaction to armpit hair than leg hair.

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          1. Anonymousaurus Rex

            I use dry spray deodorant. It does not clump or show up in hair at all, and it is easy to apply and distribute.

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          2. Veronica

            I reckon this is why the spray was invented. I think it’s not noticeable (in the same way you don’t get white armpits with many modern deodorants) unless you proper go to town on it.

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          3. Maude Lebowski

            Unshaved lady pits here and am a long-time user of the deodorant crystal. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but it is a much better product than e.g. Lady Speed Stick Plus: no gross cakey clumpy bits, no slimy feeling, doesn’t leave a mess on your clothes, lasts ages (I think in ~15yrs I have bought two of them). And I think my sweat is a bit less smelly using it. Takes about 2 weeks for your body to adjust, by which time you will know if it is working for you or not, but ya, much better.

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          4. Wren

            As I said in a comment up thread, especially when sleeveless, I find having armpit hair drier than bare. I do use plain old white stick antiperspirant (even though I am black haired,) just because it’s what has worked best for me. It does reach the skin through the hair. As for clumping, (1) restrain myself to one swipe; it’s easy to forget I don’t need more, and (2) if the anti-perspirant had been working really hard and clumping, I’ll brush away the clumps with TP the next time I’m in the bathroom.

            I’m also not walking around with my arms raised. Virtually nobody notices that I don’t shave, so I think I can safely conclude most aren’t noticing my antiperspirant.

            Reply
          5. Thegs

            I’ve never had a problem with deodorant clumping, just rub the stick in one direction along the lay of the hair. Maybe there’s a difference between men’s and women’s deodorant because I’m having a hard time picturing how the hard stick it come in could clump in the first place.

            Plot twist: What if my deodorant has been clumping this whole time but I never thought to check?

            Reply
          6. SarahTheEntwife

            You put it on the armpit hair. I don’t have particularly lush armpit hair so maybe I’m not correctly visualizing the problem, but it works just the same way as it does when I do shave my armpits.

            Reply
          7. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            You just…rub it on? I haven’t shaved for decades and have never had an issue with antiperspirant or deodorant caking or looking gross.

            If it’s caking, try a different brand/formulation, or apply less?

            Reply
        4. Bea W

          LOL! I don’t mind body hair in general, but for some inexplicable reason armpit hair unnerves me on both men and women, and that includes myself. I will go weeks without shaving in the winter except for the armpit hair. I just can’t. I don’t even care if other people shave it or not, and I think they should be able to grow it out as long as they please without criticism, and at the same time I find armpit hair in general just gross.

          Reply
      2. Karo

        Agreed. The former feels like something that the person would be embarrassed about, and therefore I’m embarrassed, while the latter feels like something they know and embrace and therefore I embrace it as well.

        Reply
      3. bb-great

        I would also say there’s a difference, say, between a man with stubble and a man with a full beard. I think the issue is looking groomed. Stubble is kind of saying “I skipped this grooming step,” not “I’m intentionally wearing this hair this way.”

        Reply
      4. Flash Bristow

        I wouldn’t say it “needs to have been shaved” – do people’s eyebrows “need to have been plucked”, and so on?

        But I personally find with no hair there’s nowhere for the stinky bacteria to live. If you stay as nature gave you, be aware to not only wash often but deodorise too. I know some people who don’t shave but stay very clean, and a few who believe that not shaving is natural and will sort itself out, a bit like how not washing (head) hair will make it go greasy but ultimately self cleaning.

        Hairy armpits generally smell; if you keep yours wild just make sure you have excessively excellent hygiene, and I can’t see a problem.

        It’s not about appearance to me!

        Reply
    3. Anonymousaurus Rex

      Yep, this. I often wear sleeveless tops and I am a woman who does not shave her armpits. (I have well-groomed, ash blonde hair under my arms; it’s not super noticeable). I always have at least a cardigan, but usually a blazer around. If I’m sitting at my desk and it’s hot, I’ll take off the blazer, but I always put it on for meetings. That has much more to do with the sleeves and overall polished look in general than the armpit hair specifically.

      I do have a general rule (in life, not just work) that my armpit hair shouldn’t be so long that you can see it when my arms are down, which they are 90+% of the time in an office environment. Honestly, I think the only people (strangers) who might know I have armpit hair (other than all of you now) are the people I take my workout classes with.

      Reply
      1. AnotherAlison

        Serious question – do you trim your armpit hair? Is this what you mean by well groomed? I guess you wouldn’t have to do that as often as shaving, but I guess I would fall in the all-or-nothing camp. Then again, while I am a very fair skinned blonde person, my body hair is dark and highly visible.

        Reply
        1. Anonymousaurus Rex

          Yes! I definitely trim it! Probably about every two to three weeks. I keep it about 1/2 inch long. This is far far preferable to shaving for me, which results in red, bumpy, itchy underarms and increased sweatiness and smelliness.

          Reply
        2. Wren

          I’m a black haired (medium fair complected) woman who started keeping my armpit hair last year, and like A. Rex, I trim it. I like mine a slightly longer than A. Rex likes hers, and I came to that length by what feels most comfortably dry when sleeveless (though I haven’t trimmed or gone sleeveless since the end of last summer, so I can’t totally remember what my preferred length is right now.) I also get the impression that hardly anyone notices that I’m unshaven, based on never experiencing any unprompted reactions, and people being surprised when I mention it.

          Reply
      2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        Mine has thinned some as I entered middle age, but I couldn’t be bothered to trim it when it stuck out. It’s not my problem if someone doesn’t like looking at it.

        Reply
  3. Onward and Upward

    Don’t do it! I hate that that’s my response, because I think people’s body hair is their own business, and women’s body hair is so political. But I think that in an office environment (most, anyway) that’s what you will become known for, rather than the quality of your work. No one wants to think about your body hair at all, nor anyone else’s!

    Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        Especially when its fairly easily resolved by throwing on a light blouse-y cardigan over your sleeveless top. I’m concerned it would read that you are deliberately Making A Statement and that may overshadow your other contributions. But nobody is saying you have to shave!

        Reply
        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          When I stopped shaving over 30 years ago, it was (and still is) because of personal preference. I absolutely hate doing it, and no one has ever been able to give me a single good, logical reason to do it, that would not also be applicable to enforcing shaving for men…which we don’t. (Social acceptance or fitting in are not good or logical reasons, and if you can’t understand why, then think about why we teach kids not to succumb to peer pressure.)

          It’s become a STATEMENT because of the dozens of people I’ve met who couldn’t mind their own GD business, and acted like it was the equivalent of eating live babies, or that I was a genetic FREAK because no women naturally grow hair under their armpits EVER. And that’s not MY problem, it’s THEIR’S. And it made me very, VERY angry that so many TOTALLY RANDOM people in society felt they had a right to police my appearance AT ALL, let alone to such a personal extent, simply because I was a woman.

          I don’t care if other women (or men) choose to shave or not because it’s NONE of my business what people do with their own bodies, but I’d really like it if those who choose to shave would stop try to enforce it on others merely because our sexist double standards insist it should be so. If you can’t/won’t stand up for their right to have whatever kind of body hair they want, then at least STFU and stop perpetuating toxic gender norms.

          Reply
    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      I think this is where I fall too. It sucks, but I don’t think we’re enlightened enough as a society for this to be okay in a professional setting yet.

      Reply
    2. Ex-Humanities student

      Yes, I think Onward and Upward is right there.

      If you are not ultra militant on this issue (and therefore your principles would be very relevant), I would just put on a jacket. The risks are disproportionately high if you don’t really care that much about it.

      Reply
      1. Starbuck

        Wait, what are the actual risks here? Other than mild embarrassment or being asked to cover up, I’m having a hard time figuring out what is so dire.

        Reply
        1. Indoor Cat

          As a contractor, risks like a project manager feeling uncomfortable and squicked out, but doesn’t want to say anything to the writer. But, next time they need to hire a writer on contract, they just go with someone else who makes everyone feel at ease around the office.

          Sadly, I noticed this with a friend who is a freelance designer who also had a serious injury, so he only has one arm and has some visible scarring on that side. He looks, well, unusual. Sometimes people sort of instinctively flinch when they see him. And people *know* that they feel uncomfortable because of how he looks and that it’s not his fault, there’s nothing he can do about it, and it’d be rude to bring it up. But then, despite his talent as a designer, for next year’s marketing campaign they just hire an equally talented designer who is comfortable to look at.

          That’s an extreme case, of course. Many people find armpit hair fine or don’t even notice. And, not all bosses have the prejudice to not re-hire a contractor based on their looks. But it happens enough that you want to be careful if you can.

          Reply
          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            Yeah, no. I see that as being entirely a “them” problem that has nothing to do with me. And I would prefer not to work with people who won’t even bother trying to examine their unconscious biases. What other harmful ideas will they hold that could negatively affect me?

            I’m an extremely unconventional female, just because that’s how I am*, and quite honestly, if they have prejudice against my pit hair, that’s not the only non-traditionally feminine thing they are going to be holding against me.

            *I have disabilities that make it literally impossible for me to conform to the standards of feminity as enforced by our culture even if I *wanted* to. It’s not a choice.

            Reply
    3. CaliCali

      I agree. It’s just not mainstream enough. I’d even argue hairy legs are more normalized on women than hairy armpits. This may change, but in society at large we still haven’t made that shift, and changes in workplace norms tend to happen even more slowly than in the greater society.

      Reply
      1. lost academic

        The original reason for women to shave arms and legs is to essentially look prepubescently young/virginal – and of course so that we could be encouraged to buy the short dresses popularized starting in the 1920s. I’m an adult woman. If you need me to look under 12 to seem attractive, you maybe need to take a look at why you think that. All of that is a bit beside the point of office standards, but I wanted to throw it out there.

        Reply
        1. Jess

          How does that thesis work for leg hair though? Most prepubescent girls have leg hair until they’re old enough to shave it; it isn’t newly acquired at puberty. When I was young I thought of shaving as something women, not girls, did. When I was old enough that my mom finally let me shave my legs, it felt like a step toward growing up and becoming a woman.

          Reply
          1. Jules the 3rd

            Leg hair (and all other body hair) gets thicker and darker during puberty because of estrogen. Generally, an 8yo girl’s leg hair is a visibly different thing than a 15 yo’s.

            Reply
          2. Book Badger

            I think lost academic is thinking specifically of pubic hair; alternatively, it’s possible they were thinking of how hair at puberty becomes thicker and coarser, and therefore more noticeable.

            The custom of shaving armpit hair in particular (and leg hair, though less so) was invented solely to sell razors. It was unheard of prior to the invention of the safety razor: no woman would have been able or willing to use a straight razor on her underarms or legs.

            Reply
            1. Stranger than fiction

              According to an episode of Outlander, in the 1700’s, some french women were already shaving their pubic hair, so that must’ve been a straight razor. Scary.

              Reply
              1. A Nonny Mouse

                I was reading an ancient Greek tragic play years ago and one of the footnotes was about how adult women in ancient Greece removed their pubic hair in order to remain looking like pre-adolescent girls, i.e. more desirable.

                They didn’t shave but *plucked* or *burned* their pubic hair off. Which: NOPE.

                Reply
                1. Popcorn Lover

                  Yup. Effie Gray’s first marriage to Victorian art critic John Ruskin was annulled because having spent his entire adult life around Greco-Roman statues and paintings, he was appalled that she had pubic hair and refused to consummate.

                  She then married his protege John Everett Millais and had 8 kids. Meanwhile, Ruskin proposed to a 14-year-old girl, so dude clearly had issues.

        2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          I collect vintage and antique photos (including erotica) and visible armpit hair is FAR more common than what people of today would ever guess.

          Reply
    4. SJPxo

      Yup i’m agreeing here.. I think all armpits and hair both men and women’s is enough of a widespread No No in professional environments that I’d go with sleeves, even just short ones, or a light cardigan over a sleeveless top.
      Society is so conditioned to hate body hair I think it would be professional remarked upon either subconsciously or out loud..

      Reply
    5. kb

      Yeah, I think there could be a really interesting discussion about why women’s professional wear is allowed to be more revealing than men’s (sleeveless tops and skirts that show calves). Does the expectation that women will have no body hair in those regions play into why they’re allowed to be shown? But ultimately, at this moment in time, showing armpit hair at work would probably distract some people from the quality of your work. Wearing a cardigan to important meetings is probably for the best and you can still take it off the minute you walk out.

      Reply
      1. lost academic

        It’s both allowed and encouraged because a woman’s body is something that is supposed to appear attractive in a business environment, as opposed to the way a man’s body is supposed to appear in the same place.

        Reply
        1. Kate 2

          In that case wouldn’t conforming to men’s standards, inconvenient and unfair though it is, help women in the office a lot more? Rather than trying to convince men to see a woman in a sleeveless knee length dress as professional as a man or woman in a suit or skirt suit, armpits and legs covered?

          I don’t know, I just feel like a lot of women want to have it both ways, to get to wear less and dress more casually (and comfortably!) and less expensively than men in the office have to, but still be seen as just as professional. I see tons of women advocating for their right to go sleeveless, etc, but I haven’t see any advocating for the right of men to wear shorts or go sleeveless in the office. And I know women have enough work to do advocating for themselves, but not even mentioning it strikes me as odd. Not having the same standards for everyone in something like this seems unfair to me.

          Reply
          1. kb

            I do think dress codes ideally would be the same for all people regardless of gender. If pits are cool, they should be cool for everyone; if skirts are allowed, all employees should be allowed to wear them.
            Even though the differences in standards sometimes lead to exceptions that some women really like, such as getting to go sleeveless in hot months, it ultimately makes dressing even more complex for women and opens them up to all sorts of judgments unrelated to the quality of their work.

            Reply
            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

              100% agree.

              But I go even farther with that. Except for matters of health or safety, or if an employer wishes to supply uniforms (that the employer pays for), and clothing does not interfere with a person’s ability to do their job, dress codes should be abolished. There’s no need for them, and people need to learn that a person’s appearance has exactly ZERO to do with whether they are skilled, honest, trustworthy, have work ethic, etc. The politicians in Washington destroying the US are all clean cut people in suits. Bernie Madoff, Enron execs- clean cut people in suits. The Wall Street bankers that caused a financial crash that negatively affected the ENTIRE WORLD? Well they weren’t bikers with green Mohawks now, we’re they? No, it’s people in suits that *I* don’t trust.

              Reply
          2. Jules the 3rd

            Actually, there’s a lot of pressure to allow men to dress more casually. It’s generally due to the tech / startup revolution, and is put forward as a perk. My office (fortune 100 tech co, >8K employees on our US South East site) allows managers to decide if they want to give their team a ‘summer standard’ for dress. Knee-length khaki shorts are one option under that standard. Sleeveless is not. I *think* open-toed shoes are not. Iirc, it’s a gender neutral standard.

            If a guy wants to show up in a kilt, that’s ok as long as it’s not a mini-kilt.

            Reply
            1. Stitch

              SO wears a kilt! He’s in tech, his office thought it would be funny to buy him one. Jokes on them, I guess.

              Reply
              1. Stitch

                Oh, to the point: his boss was concerned about the professionalism of a kilt, but ultimately allowed him to wear it. I think the fact that other folks in the office bought it for him contributes to the acceptance, but his boss also only has one method: passive aggression, so anything beyond a “Well, *I* wouldn’t do it, it’s too unprofessional” would be out of character.

                Reply
            2. Erin

              Open toe shoes are a safety thing in a lot of jobs. Like restaurants, or constructions and most of retail, security jobs, anything to do with medical field.
              I’ve only had 4 jobs that allowed open toe shoes, two office jobs and 2 jobs in shoe sales, but they had to be the brand I was selling.
              In my job we can’t wear open toe shoes.

              Reply
                1. Nerd Writer

                  Some of us ladies have hairy enough toes that toe shaving is necessary, at least if we want to conform to Western beauty/professionalism standards. I’m a human, too. No hobbit DNA afaik.

          3. Lara

            Except, Katie2, that a woman in a full suit / shirt and tailored trousers still gets judged, just in a different way. This isn’t a situation where women have it easier, or ‘want it both ways’. Women are expected to show their legs and arms, and wear bright colours. We have to wear a certain kind of shoe, fabric, colour, hairstyle, jewellery, a specific type of handbag and the exact right amount of makeup. It’d be a lot easier to cut my hair short, go makeup free and throw on loafers, pants and a tailored shirt. And if I did, i’d be negatively judged as sloppy, lazy and unprofessional.

            Reply
            1. Cat Supervisor

              Oh, and god forbid you go overboard and where a too short skirt or a bold make up choice. Then you’re inappropriate and attention seeking.

              Reply
            2. Alton

              I think this can be field-dependant to a large extent (I’m perceived as female, and I don’t wear makeup, have a masculine haircut, wear loafers, etc. I’ve never been openly judged for this). But I agree that this is an issue, and that the flexibility of women’s wardrobes can be constricting in its own regard. And just because I theoretically can wear things like skirts and sleeveless tops doesn’t mean that I actually feel like I can, because there are expectations associated with that, and if I’m unwilling to abide by those, it’s easier to stay more androgynous and butch.

              Reply
              1. Lara

                Yeah, it’s definitely field dependent and as I referenced below it can be class / seniority dependent. I’ve gone from working class to middle class through education and I was held to much higher grooming / fashion standards as a min wage admin clerk than I am now as a mid level techie. But even in a fairly lenient office I’m expected to wear professional clothing and perform feminity to a certain extent. And it varies from department to department. As I say there is a real class / industry intersection. And in some ways, I’d argue that the long skirted, body hair sporting social workers are still conforming to an ‘accepted’ standard within their own professional context.

                Reply
          4. Cat Supervisor

            “In that case wouldn’t conforming to men’s standards, inconvenient and unfair though it is, help women in the office a lot more?”
            You would think that, but no. In my experience, women who don’t perform femininity properly at work (makeup, feminine clothing, feminine styled hair) are usually punished on the sly. Think about how many times women were asked if they were tired or sick if they went without their usual makeup for the day. Think about how women are talked about if they display non-gender conforming body hair (usually with derision). It’s kind of a no-win situation: dress too girly and no one takes you seriously at work, don’t dress girly enough and you’re perceived as sloppy and unprofessional.

            Reply
            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

              I have always preferred very short hair as a woman (flat tops and the like, not feminine or pixie cuts.) I look MUCH better with short hair, and have no interest in spending lots of time or money on hair care.
              It’s probably the one thing non-traditionally feminine thing that people don’t really comment on that much.

              Reply
          5. Heina

            Are you sure “less expensively” is true? A man can invest in a set of basic businesswear and wear it for the rest of his career unless his body changes very significantly. Men’s haircuts cost less.

            Meanwhile, women have to deal with more expensive haircuts as well as hair color (men are judged less for grays), makeup, mani/pedi, jewelry/accessories, constantly changing fashion and styles, and clothing that isn’t forgiving of even the slightest body changes.

            I think the stats bear this out — women pay more over their lifetimes for clothing than men, and it’s not solely frivolity or personal choice that affects this.

            Reply
            1. Lara

              Absolutely. My partner has 14 shirts and 7 pairs of pants. He gets a haircut every 3 months that costs him £10. He can buy really good quality stuff from charity shops and his shoes last an age. No one gives a toss that he’s going grey.

              I’d love to have a similar ‘work uniform’ but the only way I can get a shirt that doesn’t ‘gap’ is to buy a man’s shirt and hand tailor it. I wear makeup every day and if I don’t it’s mentioned. My haircuts cost £35 a time, and that’s average. I get manicures once a month and I know a great manicurist so I get it at £20. I am still considered at the ‘low maintenance’ end of my industry and people sort of ignore it because I’m good at what I do.

              Reply
          6. Indoor Cat

            Right?

            My brother is, like, the mildest level of gender-non-conforming. He still uses he, he has a male name, he only occasionally wears makeup to parties and fun hang-out times. He very rarely wear skirts or leggings, never to work, and never wears shoes with heels.

            But, he wears “women’s” shirts. Like, he has a lot of tops with lace, or sleeveless tops with braided straps, or bohemian-style tops. He also has Regulation Business Man clothes, but he noticed that others in the crew where he works dress more casually. So, one day, heading to work as a cameraman at a news studio, he wears a top like this: https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Summer-New-Korean-Latest-Shirt-Designs_60711788845.html

            Not exactly like that, but you get the drift. There were definitely women on the crew or interns who wore pretty friggin’ similar tops.

            And he got fired.

            I know for a *fact* that there have been women who violated the dress code who were simply sent home to change. Which, yeah, that’s embarrassing. And, I dunno, it’s plausible, knowing my brother, that he argued that there was a double standard, or that nothing in the dress code forbade a short sleeve top with a lace floral design for anybody, so maybe he was fired for arguing rather than dress code violation.

            But, honestly? Gender roles are so entrenched and so deep that a friggin’ sleeveless shirt with a flower is grounds for dismissal and it’s total bs. Destroying the patriarchy and gender roles will obviously help women, but seriously it will also help dudes.

            Reply
            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

              I am SO down with men being able to wear whatever the hell they want, including skirts, makeup, heels or whatever if that’s their preference.

              I realized quite recently that absolutely the *only* reason that I (straight ciswoman) “present” as ‘female’ is because the kinds of bright, bold, colorful, and flamboyant clothing & makeup I prefer is currently, in our culture, almost entirely coded “female” (though I do wear men’s clothes as well.) If our culture did not gender clothing along such a sharp divide, it would not matter to me at all if I was identifiable as male or female by my dress. I mean, people ALREADY misgender me, no matter how femininely I may be dressed/made up, and other than being quite tall, there is absolutely *nothing* about my face or body that is the least bit masculine at all…not even enough to successfully pull off androgynous Bowie type looks!

              Reply
          7. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            I advocate for men to not only have the right to wear shorts, sleeveless, or whatever, but skirts, dresses, and makeup too.

            Gendering clothing is ridiculous. Living creatures have genders, inanimate items do not. Period.

            Reply
        2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          Yup! Women have been sexualized for so long that most people don’t even question why women are expected to look stunningly attractive (and specifically, to cishet men) all the damn time.

          Reply
      2. Gingerblue

        Agreed; there’s interesting discussion to be had here. Even positioning women’s skirts and sleeveless blouses as “allowed” is loaded; it’s only been recently that women’s professional clothing was “allowed” rather than “required” to be more revealing. Pants and similar options were just not coded as professional officewear until relatively recently, and for many people, skirts still read as more polished. There’s a whole freighted history behind women’s dress choices, which is generally assigned more political and social significance than men’s dress choices; and women’s professional fashions have changed more substantially, with more meaning assigned to whether a woman is following current fashions or not, than in the world of men’s fashion. A man’s suit which is appropriate office wear now will almost certainly still be appropriate in ten years; a woman’s office dress may or may not come to be considered horribly out of fashion in the same time period, leaving the owner with the choice to still wear it and be judged as frumpy and out of touch or to buy something new and be considered frivolous.

        Women simply have more of a minefield to navigate around clothing than men do. The fashion choices which have remained the most consistently coded as professional for women tend to be those on the more classically feminine end of the spectrum–pencil skirts, sheath dresses, simple blouses, moderate heels, etc. Women’s fashion which is closer to men’s styles–pants, suit jackets, etc.–tends to be read as out of style faster. Think about women’s suits from the 70’s or 80’s versus office-appropriate skirts from the same era. For women, the clothing choices which people are describing as “more revealing” tend to be the cautious, conservative choice if you’re concerned about how you’ll be perceived at work or whether your clothing choices will last well.

        This is why the claim elsewhere in this thread that women are somehow “getting away with” something by wearing conservative officewear irritates me. This is not women sneakily claiming the privilege of bare-legged freedom denied to poor sweltering men, it’s women making choices about how to be perceived at work in the shadow of decades of deeply-ingrained stereotypes about what women’s clothing, hair, and makeup choices say about them. There’s nothing in the realm of men’s work clothing that can say the equivalent of “frumpy, man-hating spinster”, “conservative and feminine”, “sexually liberated modern businesswoman”, “working mother”, etc., all of which are meanings assigned to particular women’s fashions in the last half-century without leaving the realm of what was considered office-appropriate.

        Reply
        1. kb

          Yes! There’s so much history and baggage involved in women’s professional dress. I understand why to some people it looks like women have more freedom because they do technically have a wider array of apparel that’s considered acceptable, but it turns every outfit into a personal statement. When a woman wears what is typically described as menswear, it’s a statement. If she wears skirts, it’s a statement. Heels? Statement. Oxfords? Statement. While people can still judge men by their dress, most menswear is so similar that there’s not much you can discern. Some men are sharper dressers than others or may gravitate towards different colors, but for the most part, it’s pretty neutral (although I’ve been seeing a larger variety of colors and silhouettes in menswear recently too). The wider variety of dress options for women also makes it easier to mess up ( I’m thinking about the post about cold-shoulder tops).

          Reply
        2. Mad Baggins

          All of this! +1

          That said, the way I see it is that one of the side effects of this minefield is that women can sometimes “get away with” wearing things that are less formal, more comfortable, etc. whereas men don’t get to express themselves through their clothing choices. All the offices I’ve worked at (in a conservative country), men wear suit jacket-and-tie every day, whereas I can wear cotton blouses, sweaters instead of suit jacket, etc. Yes it’s because the dress code didn’t account for working women, yes my clothes are still a statement and I am still judged for it accordingly, but the choice I make results in my greater comfort (sometimes it doesn’t, like having to wear nude tights in winter!).

          I see it as one of the ways the patriarchy hurts men too–I want to fight for women to not have to shave, and also for men to wear cotton (or lace/floral tops as one commenter above mentioned)!

          Reply
            1. Mad Baggins

              Maybe I described it wrong, but I’m imagining a typical white button-down shirt with starched collar. Maybe it is also made of cotton but it’s certainly not as breathable and comfortable as a soft polo shirt or uncollared shirt that doesn’t have to be dry cleaned and ironed.

              I wish men could also wear polo shirts/more comfortable clothing and still look work appropriate!

              Reply
          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            UGH, nude tights!
            I never wear anything but black, or bright colors (when I wear them at all.)

            I’ve never worked anyplace (by both choice & necessity) that had a conservative or business dress code, so I’m curious- would opaque black tights be considered “office appropriate”, and if not, why?

            Reply
        3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          When there are *still* work environments where pants for women are not considered “appropriate”, I don’t know how people can assume women in skirts are “getting away with something” rather than the women in pants being the ones pushing past outdated sexist double standards in dress. Even in the 80s and 90s pants on women were not acceptable in many office environments! (I didn’t work office jobs, but many of my friends did, and they complained a LOT.)

          Reply
    6. The Person from the Resume

      I agree; it’s noticeably unusual. It makes you stand out in the office in a bad way because the small subset of American women who don’t shave under their arms is stereotyped unprofessionally – hippie, free spirit, militant feminist, etc. This is not necessarily true, but it’s a stereotype with the potential to influences people’s perception of you to less than professional. Luckily this isn’t a hill you need to die on because you can just not expose your armpits in the office without changing your grooming.

      Also I would never go sleeveless in the office. I’ve mostly lived in the south and I’ve always found the air conditioning cold enough in offices that sleeveless is just too chilly. I often end up wearing sweaters over sleeved shirts. Unless the A/C isn’t working or your job involves a lot of movement, you should be able to sit as comfortably in the office in short sleeves and sleeveless.

      Reply
      1. happy with my hairy pitz

        OP here! It’s so funny to me that you describe the stereotype as “unprofessional,” when there is in fact a whole other category of professions that fully welcome hippies, artsy people, etc. (And yes, I might be a bit defensive, since I’ve spent most of my career so far in those fields, and plan to spend most of the rest there too, and I’d consider my work fully professional, not some fringe hobby.)

        But I see what you (and many in today’s comments) are saying (and it squares with how I’ve handled this question so far). Just makes me relieved I’ve picked a profession where 90% of the time I get to be judged by my work and not my underarms.

        Reply
        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          Personally, I would not (and never have) work at a place that allowed sleeveless tops but told me my armpit hair was “unprofessional”. It’s sexist and shows they respect outdated cultural norms or “fitting in” more than actual human beings.

          And Resume Person, I’ve gotten to be pretty militant about this subject for one reason and one reason only- the number of people who couldn’t mind their own damn business but went into conniption fits because OH MY GOD A HAIRY FEMALE ARMPIT YOU UNNATURAL FREAK I BET YOU EAT BABIES TOO WHY WOULD YOU CHOOSE PERSONAL COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE OVER DOING WHAT EVERYONE ELSE DOES EVEN IF YOU HATE IT!!!”
          And after enough of that I started getting really, REALLY pissed off that ANYONE felt they had the right to police my appearance like that.

          Reply
    7. Gene Parmesan

      I agree with this, though my feminist self doesn’t feel good about it. I am a woman and I don’t shave my legs. If I’m going to be in a meeting or making a presentation or anything sort of “on display” at work, I make sure to wear pants or tights. (This is also partly because of my ankle tattoo.) I do occasionally wear dresses and have bare legs, but only if I’m going to be at my desk all day and more or less out of view of my co-workers.

      Reply
    8. Rae

      This is going to sound awful but I worked with a woman 10 years ago who did not shave her underarms. For the life of me I can’t remember her name or her face, but I do remember that.

      Reply
      1. Discordia Angel Jones

        And I think, really, that that is just an unfortunate illustration of what going underarm-unshaven in most offices results in.

        “Oh, Discordia? She’s the one who didn’t shave her underarms right?”

        On a personal level, I don’t care much about various body hair on display on women, but back hair on men squicks me out (maybe because I have to help DH with that particular issue LOL).

        Reply
    9. Julianne

      Agreed. I used to work with a woman who chose not to shave her legs or armpits, which was fine until she shifted from being “Joyce who works in accounting and doesn’t shave” to “Joyce, whose primary job function is apparently initiating uncomfortable conversations with coworkers about her personal grooming habits? Oh, she still does AR?”

      Reply
      1. Julianne

        Clarification: Joyce was very pro-active about linking herself with not shaving in her coworkers’ minds, which is presumably not an approach that every person who doesn’t shave would take. But the fact that it was a grooming choice that was outside the norm was noticeable even when she was better known as an accountant, and it was something people associated with her from Day 1.

        Reply
        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          But did she have those conversations because people kept giving her shit about her hairy armpits when it’s really none of their damn business?
          Because that’s why I got militant over it. People couldn’t keep their damn mouths shut or understand why I’d rather choose my own comfort and convenience over doing something I hated doing just so I could “fit in”. After awhile, it gets really old.

          See also: meat eaters who would of their own volition starts discussions about vegetarianism with me (which I never brought up myself unless it was to say “no thank you, I don’t eat meat” and NOTHING MORE), have an interesting, thoughtful, and peaceful two way exchange, only to hear later how I went around “lecturing” people or “shoving it in their face”.

          Reply
    10. designbot

      I agree, though I don’t feel the same conflict about it. It’s fine if you choose to remain unshaven—it’s what men do, and we should be treated equally. BUT, to me that comes with the adjustment in the dress code that sleeveless tops are not fine for men. I think presence of armpit hair is a big part of that distinction, so if you choose to go with the armpit hair, the dress code of no sleeveless tops comes along with it.

      Reply
      1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

        I think this is about what I expected the consensus to be… though I think neatly groomed hair looks so much nicer than bald (or stubbly) armpits!! That always feels like way too much personal skin for me to see.

        Reply
    11. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      Nah.

      If sleeveless tops are acceptable according to dress code, then armpit hair is ok too- full stop.

      Anything else is a sexist double standard. You cannot force one gender to do something that you do not make the other gender also do without it being so. If this was about grooming or cleanliness, then men would do it to.

      You don’t like looking at it? Tough shit. Suck it up and mind your own GD business. You don’t have the right to police anybody’s appearance but your own and I’m SICK TO DEATH of people who think they have any say in how women choose to look.

      Reply
  4. Amber T

    I also think it’s one of those things that’s becoming more and more accepted, similar to piercings and non-natural hair colors. So you’ll get the “Oh! Is this really professional?” reactions, followed by “Eh, do I really care?”

    Probably wouldn’t fly in conservative finance, for example, but in more casual places, it will.

    Reply
    1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      That’s part of it — I also have a nose ring, a visible tattoo on my forearm, and curly hair (which likely lots of offices might consider “unprofessional” even though it has nothing to do with my profession).

      Reply
  5. Loopy

    This is hard. It shouldn’t matter but ultimately, in my office it would be Noticed. I hate that it would be judged, but, well, it would be.

    It shouldn’t overshadow more important things but I know people would care more than is reasonable, though they wouldn’t say anything directly.

    I hate to give this input but I know that’s an unfortunate reality where I work.

    Reply
    1. Hera Syndulla

      The sad reality. No one should tell someone else to remove (armpit) hair, but sadly you will be judged by it if you show it, instead of your work or other professional achievements.

      Reply
  6. Clare

    OP, I think your instincts to keep your armpits covered are correct. Even though I went to a college where it was quite common to see women with armpit hair, so it is not unfamiliar territory to me, I still always found it gross and would view it as unprofessional in a work setting. Seems like cardigans are the way to go here.

    Reply
    1. Idea

      This.
      Also, I think it’s like when you go to the symphony, and you never want to be the first to clap, because you might clap at the wrong time in the music, like at a quiet part and it’s not the end of the piece.

      So, never be the first to show armpit hair at an office. But, once you do see it, from a senior female, then you go right ahead.

      I think. Said the cardigan-covered mid-level hairy-legged female…

      Reply
  7. k.k

    I might be an outlier here, but I didn’t think sleeveless tops are appropriate in most offices (if they’re business casual or more formal). I don’t have an aversion to armpits in other settings and where tank tops all the time on the weekends. But I’ve worked in multiple business causal settings and the only time I’ve seen sleeveless tops is on super hot days when someone has temporarily removed a layer.

    Reply
    1. Roz

      This has been my experience too. No armpits unless it’s temporary due to heat and you’re by your desk, and never in a meeting.

      Reply
    2. Inspector Spacetime

      +1

      I feel like sleeveless tops are a little too revealing for work, and always make sure I have a cardigan or blazer covering my shoulders. Also, how don’t people get cold?! I’m always freezing at work, even in the summer.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        I tend to run hot and always keep a fan on my desk. At my old job, there were people who kept blankets at their desks.

        Reply
      2. Who the eff is Hank?

        Not all offices have A/C– mine doesn’t! And I sit right next to a window so I am baking all summer long.

        Reply
      3. Bea

        Bodies run at different comfort levels. I’m always running the fan in colder months because I like artic blasts unless I’m laying around. Then I want 27 blankets…and a fan. This is why we all have personal space heaters and fans to choose our comfort levels.

        Reply
      1. Murphy

        Here too! The hotter it is outside, the colder my office gets. But when it’s 95% outside and 95% humidity, you better believe I’m wearing a sleeveless top under a cardigan most of the time!

        Reply
    3. Llama Wrangler

      Yes, I am in the same boat as this. Even when I did shave my armpits, I would have felt unprofessional in a sleeveless top (and I work in pretty business casual environments). Generally, the places I work are highly air conditioned, so I wear sleeveless tops outside (when anyone who doesn’t like my armpit hair can mind their own business) and carry a lightweight cardigan to wear in the office. I often wear slightly sheer or loose weave cardigans and I do not worry about whether my armpit hair can be seen through.

      Reply
    4. ANONerlin

      I’m with you on this.

      My office is fairly casual, but still no one would wear anything completely sleeveless. The occasional t-shirt on a Friday? Sure. But something with less sleeves than that would feel uncomfortably revealing for the workplace.

      OP, I think you should consider wearing a cardigan – not because of your armpit hair, but because if you need to dress professionally, it’s safer to not be sleeveless.

      Reply
    5. SLR

      I worked for a company that had a ‘no cleavage’ policy for women that went from toe cleavage to arm pit cleavage. Meaning no shoes that were ‘low cut’, the entire top of your foot must be covered; no low cut tops showing chest cleavage and no sleeveless shirts showing arm-pit cleavage. We did wear sleeveless shirts in the summer but we wore sweaters in the office, regardless of temperature. We did not take off our sweaters until we were off property because someone in leadership would say something if they saw women’s arms exposed.

      Reply
      1. Bea

        I’m anti-sleeveless but that’s excessive! Did they make sure the men were policed as strongly? I hate that managers waste their time cracking down on picky things that requires them to not just notice egregious things that pop out like a sore thumb.

        Reply
        1. SLR

          Bea, no of course not! Dress codes are inherently sexist & the banking/finance industry even more so. We worked in a call center that had zero face to face customer interaction. Employees of the bank’s branches had more lenient dress code standards than we did at the call center. It was ridiculous!

          Reply
      2. Lunch Meat

        What about elbow cleavage? Did you have to keep your arms straight? Did you have to keep from tilting your head so that you never had two folds of skin pressing against each other?

        Reply
    6. Another Lawyer

      I don’t think they are appropriate either, but I have always worked in extremely formal offices (even within law), so my perception is probably skewed

      Reply
    7. AnotherAlison

      Sleeveless tops have always been accepted in the offices I work in. I’ve worked for a couple big engineering firms. Seems like a lot of dresses and fancy blouses are sleeveless. I always wear a cami underneath to make sure I am fully covered, sans armpits. Now I would not wear sleeveless on jeans day or unless I am in an other wise very dressy outfit. I have a one-casual-element policy I guess.

      Reply
    8. turtlegirl76

      I agree. Most places I’ve worked have it written in their dress code policy that shoulders should not be bared. A cardigan or blazer is the office solution to this. First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re following dress code policy (if there is one – my current company does not have this).

      Reply
    9. cncx

      yes, in my very business casual office (i wear jeans and sneakers to work), sleeveless tops or cold shoulder tops are still a no go. on hot summer days HR sends out dress code exceptions where shorts are allowed and specifically state that sleeveless is ok but for client meetings and front facing stuff, people need to throw sleeves on.

      So for me and what i think is going on in my office, it is the sleeveless that would be the problem, not the armpit hair.

      Reply
  8. anyone out there but me

    I may be a bit old fashioned, but to me “professional” dress never includes anything sleeveless. I would throw on a jacket, blazer, cardigan or something of the like.

    I, too, work from home the majority of the time. But when I have to go in to the office, or meet with clients, etc. my “go-to” outfit always includes some sort of jacket or cardigan.

    Reply
    1. LouiseM

      I think that is old-fashioned. Most people would consider a nice sleeveless sheath dress (perhaps with a blazer that can be removed) perfectly professional.

      Reply
      1. Penny Lane

        Assuming it’s cut high enough that it doesn’t reveal your bra and/or side-boob. That’s a problem with many otherwise nice sleeveless sheath dresses – you can see inside!

        Reply
        1. BottleBlonde

          This is my issue with sleeveless dresses. I blame it on being pear-shaped and needing a bigger size on bottom than I need on top, and on being too cheap to shell out the cash for tailoring.

          Reply
          1. AnotherAlison

            I am not even pear-shaped and have this issue, even in a “small” dress. I guess the clothes designers anticipate more to fill out the front than what I have.

            Reply
            1. Gingerblue

              Same here. Mildly revealing tops become more revealing on me because of how they fall; moderately revealing tops become risque.

              Reply
        2. Pinky

          And also assuming you’re not fat! In my experience as a fat woman, my thin coworkers could get away with sleeveless tops, but if I wore one, people would think I was dressed sloppily because my flabby arms were showing.

          Reply
      2. Samata

        I wear sleeveless sheath dresses with blazers all the time. But keep the blazer on while walking around the office or during a presentation. I will remove it at my desk (if it’s not frigid). I, too, feel covering your arms, even with a short sleeve is the professional way to go.

        Reply
      1. Kate 2

        Eh, it’s not any worse that what Allison said, the commenter isn’t going on and on about it, and if OP wants to know people’s real reactions, well this is it.

        Reply
        1. Liz2

          There is a galaxy of difference between “I have weird unfounded squick issues about this” and “That is gross.”

          Reply
            1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

              I find it VERY different to say “It’s gross” vs “I find this gross”.

              “It’s gross” implies some sense of objectivity or universal agreement, whereas “I find it gross” acknowledges that the statement is a personal/subjective thing.

              Reply
              1. Lissa

                Strong agree. “It’s gross” states a thing that is objectively true… the other is a personal reaction. But I also try not to say “that band sucks” if I know someone else likes it. But rather that they aren’t my thing. Nobody wants to hear that something they like is gross and really it is NOT a universal thing.

                Reply
                1. Yorick

                  But “gross” is inherently subjective, so the “I think” part of the sentence is really always there, just implied rather than typed out.

    1. Justme, The OG

      Why is hair on one part of the body gross when on another part of the body it is completely acceptable? Also, why is it gross on women but not men? Letting my feminist flag fly today, apparently.

      Reply
      1. Kate 2

        Well for the latter part, it is gross IMHO. For the former, which parts do you mean? Head? Arms? Legs? Pubic? Generally people don’t sweat like crazy and get really smelly on their arms, legs and head. And a lot of people shave or cut short their pubic hair.

        Reply
      2. The Original K.

        I actually do find armpit hair gross on both women and men. I would love it if it were socially acceptable for men to shave under their arms.

        Reply
        1. grace

          Yeah I don’t dig it on men or women. Which is why I think a sleeveless top is okay if it’s shaved (for both genders); if it isn’t, that’s why you generally don’t see men sans sleeves anywhere in a professional environment. At the root (ha) I think it’s just that no one really wants to see or deal with it.

          Reply
          1. Scott

            We don’t? If I don’t trim, it keeps getting longer and longer like any other hair, and eventually sneaks out of short sleeves. Not a nice visual? I think more men than you realize trim or shave.

            Reply
          2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            I wish NOBODY had social pressure to shave ANYTHING. Whether or not to remove body hair is a personal decision that should be ENTIRELY left up the the person who’s body has the hair and NO ONE ELSE.

            I’m 51 and *to*this*day* cannot fathom why anyone gives a flickin’ fluck about the personal appearance choices of ANY human being other than themselves. It is absolutely NOBODY else’s business (no, not even their partner’s.) You (general ‘you’) just don’t get to control other people’s lives that way!

            Reply
        2. Thlayli

          YES. armpit hair gets stinky very quickly. It is gross unless you shower twice a day or live in a very cold area and never sweat

          Reply
            1. Thursday Next

              This is where I fall on the issue also. Armpit hair isn’t inherently “grosser” than leg hair, but it has the potential to contribute to unpleasant odor. Exposed underarm hair, regardless of gender, isn’t professional.

              Reply
          1. Anonymousaurus Rex

            I definitely disagree with this. I’m sure this may be true for some people, but (I realize this may be TMI) I had to stop shaving under my arms because I was much sweatier and stinkier with no hair. (Also itchy and bumpy). With trimmed underarm hair (cleaned daily and with use of deodorant) I don’t have body odor issues. I definitely did before.

            Reply
            1. Emily

              Yeah, I feel like this must vary person to person! I notice (as a person who usually has armpit hair but occasionally shaves it) that when I have no hair, my armpits are often irritated and quicker to sweat/smell.

              Reply
            2. Heina

              Same. When I used to shave, I’d smell awful and get horrible pit stains. Abstaining has meant I smell better with nary a pit stain in sight.

              Reply
            3. Elizabeth H.

              I currently shave (although this thread has made me really interested in growing my pits out to see what it’s like) but to add to the hair vs no hair effect on odor and sweating, I don’t sweat very much and it doesn’t smell much since I switched to all natural deodorant 6 years ago – BUT I think covering your pits is much more conducive to sweating and smelling than leaving them bare. If you sweat right through a shirt, the shirt isn’t going to magically hide the smell – it’s going to stick in the material and stay damp longer and the odor will stick around. If your pits are bare, even if you sweat a bit, the sweat will evaporate more effectively off your skin, the air will disperse odor, and the increased airflow around the fabric near your armpits will dry the material more quickly. I have way more issues with sweating in the winter and always look so forward to summer for this reason.

              Reply
            4. only acting normal

              Me too – I shave once every week or two (get rashes if I do more regularly). Less sweat and less smell with hair than without.
              IIRC it’s because the smell is generated by skin bacteria, so wicking the sweat away with hair removes it from the skin quicker – or something!?

              Also adding to the recs for crystal salt deodorant – lasts for *years* and way better than the anti-perspirants roll-ons I use to use.

              Reply
          2. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

            This is the opposite of my experience! I always had super sweaty underarms when I shaved (and used antiperspirant, ironically). Now, with some hair and “natural” (effective) deodorant, it’s not noticeable at all.

            Reply
          3. Birch

            Not true at all. You just have to find a deodorant that works for you. They’re not all made the same and they don’t all work the same on people’s body chemistry. I have pit hair, shower every 2-3 days, live in a temperate climate, and I don’t smell at all (I’ve actually asked people).

            Reply
          4. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            No, it actually doesn’t.

            I (female) haven’t shaved my pits for over 30 years, and have never had a problem with odor, even though I am *exceptionally* sweaty…because I bathe and use deodorant. It’s no different than when you have shaved pits (and much more comfortable.)

            Reply
        3. essEss

          I agree. I think that armpit hair should not be displayed on EITHER men or women in the office. Completely non-gendered. It’s an unpleasant look for both. I normally don’t shave mine either so I’m not coming from an “omg you need to be shaved” camp, but I would never wear a sleeveless top in public unless I have shaved, and I find men who go around sleeveless with unshaved armpit hair very unappealing.
          If I do wear a sleeveless top in the office, I always have a light jacket or cardigan over it.

          Reply
          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            Huh. I haven’t shaved for over 30 years, and have no problem wearing sleeveless tops ever. (Or fancy dresses or bathing suits or whatever.) Armpit hair is 100% natural and normal, and if my natural and normal body freaks other people out, that’s not MY problem, it’s theirs.
            I don’t see it as being any different than the argument that women should be able to wear their normal, natural, un-made up faces to work without condemnation or censure; or that people with non-white textured hair should be allowed to wear their natural, normal hairstyles & textures to work without condemnation or censure.

            Reply
      3. kb

        I feel you and agree that the stigma is silly, but to be fair, men definitely aren’t allowed to show their armpit hair at work in professional dress.

        Reply
      4. Kelly L.

        Yep. There’s an argument that it’s not professional for either men or women at the present time, but I don’t understand how it’s dirtier on women. I’ve heard the same argument about leg hair and I really really don’t get it.

        Reply
      5. Thlayli

        Justme, do you realise the original commenter just said it was gross, and you are the one who assumed she means it was gross on women and not on men?

        Most people think it’s gross for people of any gender to display armpit hair.

        Reply
      6. Marillenbaum

        I really dislike armpit hair on dudes, too. It’s just….unpleasant, and bits of fluff can get stuck in it without noticing because who grooms their grown-out pit hair? My late grandmother felt the same way, and raised all four of her sons to shave their armpits. It wasn’t until my dad got to college that he found out other dudes didn’t do this, but he was too used to it to change, bless him.

        Reply
        1. smoke tree

          Somehow I love the image of someone raising her sons to shave their armpits. I think it was just society as a whole that raised me to do it.

          Reply
      7. Sylvan

        I find it gross on men and women.

        Although I’d call myself a feminist, I was raised in a pretty conservative culture and I guess I still lean in that direction when it comes to professional dress codes that, ideally, aren’t gender-based. This isn’t to say that everyone around me should guess my preferences and COVER YOUR ARMPITS, SHIELD OUR EYES OMG, just that… I don’t really like it.

        Reply
      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        Thank you! If we are going to argue that women should be able to show their natural un-made up faces & still be considered professional, or that POC/people with non-white hair should be able to wear their natural hair textures and styles & be considered professional as well, we also need to be arguing that other natural features of the human body are able to be seen as professional too.
        “Being taken seriously as a professional” shouldn’t have to equal “pretending you are a phony and unnatural human while trying to pretend that you are”.

        Reply
    2. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      That’s… not the question. I think goatees are gross, but that doesn’t mean every dude with one needs to deal with my preferences, especially when they’re far from universal.

      Reply
  9. Zip Silver

    I think, as a man, if I showed up with visible armpit hair to work, my higher ups would sit me down and have a talking to with me. (or even if

    It depends on your employer, but if you’re in an industry with a conservative dress code, I’d treat it as if you had a quarter-sleeve tattoo and cover it.

    Reply
    1. MicroManagered

      Women’s standards of dress are different than a men’s though. You probably can’t show up with a shirt untucked, no socks, etc.

      Reply
      1. Alton

        I think even aside from standards being different, the cut of women’s clothing can be different. For example, women’s t-shirts often have shorter sleeves than men’s. If I lift my arms over my head while wearing a women’s short-sleeved shirt, my hair often shows. With a men’s shirt, it usually doesn’t.

        Reply
  10. Fiennes

    It’s unfair that women are regularly expected to shave their armpits while men aren’t—but honestly, I mostly wish men would shave theirs too. My (minority) opinion is probably shaped by the fact that I live in a very warm climate, where it seems like the war against summer sweatiness should be fought with every available weapon.

    Reply
    1. Zip Silver

      I’m a hairy dude, and I also live in humid Florida. I’ve found a happy medium between being a sweaty gorilla, and looking like a 12 year old, by buzzing my body & leg hair to a 1/4″ every other month. Gotta stay beach-ready all year long when you live on the beach, lol.

      Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      Yeah, back in college I was in a circle where people didn’t shave, and there were … olfactory implications in the summer.

      Reply
      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        I used to live in a city that has a liberal arts college with a crunchy-granola vibe, and that problem existed there…because people didn’t use deodorant or antiperspirant, or bathe often.

        On the other hand, I stopped shaving in 1985, and have never had a problem with odor. I am an abnormally sweaty person AND alive in Southern California. And I generally don’t bathe daily (honestly not good for my skin or hair), but do use antiperspirant everyday. Until I hit perimenopause, all I needed was deodorant.

        Reply
    3. Roz

      Yes! I would totally be down for men to get on the grooming band-wagon. That long armpit hair that can be braided should be a point of shame for them. Trim it at the very least!

      Reply
    4. NW Mossy

      Years ago my husband shaved his armpits on a whim and liked the outcome so much that he’s kept it up ever since. He too appreciates the sweat/funk management aspect.

      Reply
    5. Justme, The OG

      I find my deodorant works better on shaved underarms, so I keep mine fairly well shaved even in winter. But that doesn’t mean that I think the expectations on women are fair at all.

      Reply
    6. LDN Layabout

      I’d say underarm hair would be unprofessional for both men and women to show in the office, but I also can’t think of a professional outfit for men that doesn’t include sleeves and I can think of a lot for women.

      e.g. London’s having a mini heatwave and tomorrow I get to be smug in a dress (with short/barely there sleeves), while my male coworkers can’t get away with wearing shorts and a tshirt.

      Reply
      1. Tardigrade

        Yes, I think a big reason why men aren’t allowed to wear sleeveless tops to work (and why they aren’t available for men) is because men don’t usually shave their armpit hair.

        Reply
      2. Discordia Angel Jones

        Yeah I am definitely showing up to work tomorrow in a sleeveless top and cropped trousers and (gasp) open toed shoes, whereas the men will have to be shirted and trousered and fully shoe-d.

        (I do appreciate that my offices so far in my working life have been more unusual to allow open toed shoes, however)

        Reply
        1. GreyjoyGardens

          A lot of offices mandate closed-toed shoes not because feet are gross (alas, in many cases they are!) but for safety reasons. That’s the reason I’ve been given at my workplaces – but it probably doesn’t help that many people will throw on a pair of sandals without so much as bothering to wash their feet or clip their toenails.

          Reply
        2. LDN Layabout

          I spent tonight on a rooftop and tomorrow I will be cool and comfortable and all the good things.

          It’s one of the few good things about more formal dress codes for women. I attend sports events somewhere where the dress code for both men and women are strict but women have so much more leeway in terms of what’s suitable. The other side of it is that it’s easier for men because…trousers and shirt, done.

          Reply
    7. Thlayli

      Maybe this is a regional thing but I’d say the VAST majority of men I’ve seen topless trim their armpit hair and often other body hair too. I don’t really get the “why do women have to groom and men don’t” comments – most men I know do groom, but they trim rather than fully shave.

      Regardless, showing armpit hair at work is unprofessional regardless of gender.

      Reply
  11. Roz

    I’m going to say that since it’s so rare that you need to dress this way, I’d opt to wear blouses with short sleeves that remove the risk of flashing armpit hair. Even though sleeveless is often acceptable, the type of sleeveless matters, and so if you wouldn’t show too much shoulder in your workplace it’s safe to bet that armpit hair is a no-go.

    In my office I only wear sleeveless dresses/shirts if my shoulder is totally covered and it’s hot out. If it’s fall, winter or a chilly spring day, I cover my armpits with a t-shirt, long sleeve blouse or cardigan regardless of if I’m hot. It feels weird to show lots of arm when it’s cold out.

    I sometimes leave my armpit hair, and this removes any risk of it showing if I’ve forgotten to shave. Honestly, there are so many options for women’s clothes that it’s a minor thing that I think you can navigate without too much inconvenience for you.

    Reply
    1. bookish

      Yeah, I agree with you – especially since the LW isn’t usually in an office it would be easy to just wear short sleeves at minimum, or a cardigan or blazer. (The not being in an office much part also means LW doesn’t have as much time there to be getting the nuances of the office culture there and how they’d perceive armpit hair, but I think that unless it’s very obviously a place that would be chill about it, it’s best not to show it.)

      Reply
    2. Starbucks Girl

      I’m on the same page as you. Although this letter sparks good discussion about workplace norms, ultimately LW is rarely in an office environment and she’s better off keeping it simple by restricting her office clothes to sleeves and short-sleeves only. I’m guessing that business attire is only a small part of her wardrobe due to how little time she spends in an office, and like you said, she will still have a ton of options even with this restriction. If she were in an office every day and business attire made up 50% or more of her wardrobe, then the question of sleeveless would come more into play.

      Reply
    3. CheeryO

      Yeah, agreed. Unless you really love dresses and it’s too hot to wear a thin cardigan, I don’t think opting for short sleeves over sleeveless is that problematic. I don’t wear sleeveless anything to work, unless it’s on a quick lunch walk, and I don’t feel particularly limited. (I also don’t like exposed toes in the office, so I think I’m just a fuddy-duddy.)

      I’d love to live in a world where women could show unshaven armpits and not be judged for it, but I just don’t know that we’re there yet, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to be the office pioneer.

      Reply
      1. zora

        To be fair, it is way more difficult to find office appropriate tops that have short sleeves than it is to find sleeveless ones. Women’s clothing brands like not giving us sleeves because it’s so much cheaper.

        I have had to put energy into this every single year, where I try to find at least one short-sleeved top that actually covers my armpits to add to my work wardrobe. So that over the years I have amassed a few different options.

        But it is fair to acknowledge that that isn’t as easy as it sounds to “Just wear short-sleeves”

        Reply
        1. AnotherAlison

          +1

          It seems you can find sleeveless or long sleeves. When I do find a short sleeve work blouse, I feel like my grandma. I am not sure if that is because shortsleeve blouses are universally old lady fashion or because that’s all my grandma wore.

          Reply
        2. Samata

          OMG – the lack of sleeves makes me bonkers! I hate sleeveless in the office but wear them often. Especially summer dresses, even sheaths. I have quite an impressive collection of blazers as a result. I just am not a cardigan gal. I’ll take them off if I get warm at my desk or to just run down the hall to the restroom but stay covered up the rest of the time.

          Reply
        3. Inspector Spacetime

          SO true. I’ve basically resigned myself to always wearing sleeveless blouses and cardigans. And most sleeveless blouses have a v-neck so I have to wear a cami underneath! That’s three layers of clothing when I should only need one!

          Reply
    4. dr_silverware

      Yeah–I tend to not shave my armpits, and I also wear sleeveless dresses. While in the office I wear a pashmina, light jacket, or cardigan over my dress. IMO it’s a pretty reasonable concession to my casual office, and I certainly don’t feel like I’m being stifled.

      Reply
  12. Hannah

    I think I agree here. If you are going for a polished, professional look, only the most polished and professional sleeveless tops are going to cut it even if you didn’t have armpit hair. That you do means you should probably stick with tops with sleeves. That doesn’t mean you have to roast in winter clothing on a summer’s day–short sleeves should be able to cover up a little armpit fuzz.

    Reply
  13. Radio Girl

    For what it’s worth, I saw a Facebook post showing an unshaven female armpit the other day. It had tons of negative responses.

    Very few people like the look of underarm hair. They think it’s dirty.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      On the other hand, Most People will have all sorts of comments and opinions about any facet of a woman’s body and general appearance, so I wouldn’t use public opinion generally as my deciding factor.

      Reply
      1. LouiseM

        Yeah, I wouldn’t use the comments on a facebook post as any sort of metric. Of course they were negative. Have you ever seen the comments on any photo posted by any fashion/beauty blog for fat women (or, frankly, just any public picture of a fat woman)? People are vile.

        Reply
    2. Captain S

      People often have similarly negative reactions about bigger women though. Women who don’t conform to “typical” beauty standards often get such comments. I just don’t think facebook is a great baseline with which to assess social acceptability of anything.

      Reply
      1. LouiseM

        +1–I just said the same thing above. Anyone who has seen what internet tr*lls say about fat people (not to mention a WHOLE host of other marginalized people, that’s just the first demo that comes to mind) does not put stock in their opinions on armpit hair.

        Reply
    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Then again, I think there’s not much you could post on Facebook that wouldn’t garner a ton of negative responses, presuming it was widely visible.

      Reply
    4. GreyjoyGardens

      I’m trying to remember where I read this, but it was an interview with the late Gilda Radner, alumna of Saturday Night Live. There was a Patti Smith album where Smith posed for the cover flashing her unshaven pits, Radner parodied it on SNL, and, according to Radner, when she showed armpit hair, this upset audiences more than anything else she ever did or said. So I can believe this attracted a lot of negative comments.

      Reply
    5. Gingerblue

      That’s certainly my knee-jerk reaction, even though intellectually I think that’s terrible. This stuff is really ingrained.

      Reply
    6. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      Man, that is so much their problem and not mine. Wondering whether anyone dislikes armpit hair was not at all the reason for my question — I know some people don’t like it, just like my grandma hates my tattoos and my dad hates my nose ring and whoever else doesn’t like whatever other choices I make. Other people’s preferences are not a reason for me to change my appearance. I was curious about the professional norms — and that question was definitely thoroughly answered in other threads.

      Reply
      1. Radio Girl

        Agree with you, Happy with Hairy Pitz.

        I had no idea people reacted so violently to unshaven underarms. My first and favorite college roommate was European, and never shaved there. I don’t either, except for mammograms.

        My earlier post was meant to be an observation only. I guess I didn’t frame it right.

        Reply
  14. Future Homesteader

    Definitely culture and position-dependent. Back at the University in Big East Coast City, no one would have batted an eye at a prof, admin, or student with body hair. There were plenty of very well-groomed women with unshaven legs and pits, and it was NBD. Here in University in the Midwest, some people can get away with it, but mostly those who aren’t looking for advancement/aren’t very public-facing.

    There also might be a difference between leg hair and armpit hair – somehow I feel like leg hair might be less of an issue, because a) it’s harder to see (not at eye-level) and b) doesn’t have the same association with odor/uncleanliness. I also personally find that I smell more when I don’t shave my pits (even with daily showers and deodorant), but then, I’m quite prone to sweating and noticeable/thick hair in general.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      One of the problems is in the type of readily available clothing manufactured for the women’s section of retailers is that anything less than 3-quarter sleeve is cut from the armpit out, rather than with an actual sleeve that surrounds the full upper arm. It’s unfair to suggest that it’s not appropriate for women to show a part of their bodies that is always exposed by the clothing made to fit those bodies.

      Reply
        1. Gingerblue

          Yeah. I prefer sleeves, but it’s hard to find anything vaguely fashionable with sleeves between full and none. Sleeveless, yes. Full-sleeved, yes. Short sleeves? How much do you like polyester and giant prints of clocks or scottie dogs?

          Reply
      1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

        YES! This is a big part of why I asked — I’ve got a handful of otherwise professional tops/dresses that have that dang armpit cutout. So frustrating.

        Reply
    2. GreyjoyGardens

      You raised a good point about armpit hair and hygiene. If LW wants to not shave, that’s fine – but she needs to pay scrupulous attention to hygiene and grooming. Deodorant, clean hair, clean nails, smelling washed and clean (not like BO or perfume covering up BO!), no sweat stains on clothing.

      I worked with a woman at a very laid-back workplace, and she not only didn’t shave (whatever, it’s her body) but also didn’t wear deodorant and was lax about showers and hair washing. Her clothes had BIG sweat stains and she stank and this absolutely affected how she was perceived. I think she could have gotten away with the pit and leg hair on their own – as I said, laid-back workplace in a laid-back area of the country – but the hygiene issues were a deal-breaker.

      Reply
      1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

        Yeah, this is a whole other kettle of fish. I guess I get why the stereotype exists, but it’s pretty annoying to deal with that assumption when there’s really nothing to suggest uncleanliness. (Happens with curly hair, too.)

        Reply
  15. Roscoe

    Guy here, so take my comment as you will. But I do think armpit hair in general should be kept out of the office. I’ve worked at some pretty casual offices (think shorts and flip flops in the summer), and I’d still never wear a tank top. Now I get that women wearing sleeveless is (for whatever reason) acceptable whereas for men it isn’t. However, if you are going to do that, I do think that there shouldn’t be hair showing. It holds odor more, and its frankly just a bit gross. If I’m standing in the kitchen and a person is reaching up, and their armpit is in my face, its a lot more gross if its a hairy armpit.

    Reply
    1. Murphy

      It holds odor more

      Just to chime in that every body is different, and I’ve actually heard several women say that they feel like they have less odor when they don’t shave. To each their own!

      Reply
      1. T3k

        This. I’m the type that doesn’t shave if I can help it, but when I do my armpits they smell worse to me than when it was unshaved.

        Reply
    2. Kate 2

      Honestly I think sleeveless for men and women should be kept out of the office too. It’s just not professional. We aren’t at the beach, you aren’t my pal, we aren’t playing sports, let’s cover up.

      On a side note, how many people would hire a male lawyer wearing a sleeveless collared shirt and suit shorts? That’s the male equivalent of what many women wear, a sleeveless knee length dress.

      I think it’s really unfair to hold men to a different standard in this way. We should hold women and men to the same standards, either more formality or less.

      Reply
      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        I don’t think you can really consider shorts and a knee-length skirt equivalent. There’s a significant formality difference there. Not everything is based solely on how much skin is covered!

        Reply
      2. pleaset

        I’m a guy and frankly thing the best analogue to female underarm hair in this discussion for men is a wild wooly beard. I think those are unprofessional too, and think most people would agree. BUT a man who does it won’t get so much judgments about it as women do for underarm hair. So this topic is very gendered.

        Reply
      3. Yorick

        Nobody is holding men to a higher formality standard. Men and women’s clothing are different, so the same level of formality looks different for men than women. One of the equivalents of a men’s suit is a sheath dress (often sleeveless) with a blazer, and taking off the blazer is on is the equivalent of a man taking off his suit jacket.

        If women wore the same kind of clothes as men at work, they would likely be judged as unprofessional and sloppy. Imagine what people would say about a woman going to work every day in khakis and polos.

        Reply
    3. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      Why would anybody’s armpit be in anybody’s face at work?! I’m not sticking my underarms anywhere even when they’re fully covered (and am not sticking my face in anybody else’s, either).

      Reply
  16. LouiseM

    Unfortunately, women with visible armpit hair are still uncommon enough that I don’t think looking around the office and trying to gauge the vibe will really work. You will almost definitely stand out and possibly not in a good way. Personally, I like the look of an unshaved woman’s armpit and haven’t shaved in years myself, but I would certainly be taken aback to see armpit hair in the office anyway.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that even if it’s not noticeable now, the harsh fluorescent lighting could be like a spotlight for your armpits. That nosy coworker who always asks when you’re going to have a baby or why you’re eating that for lunch? Oh, she *will* have something to say about the furry pits, mark my words.

    Reply
    1. Hills to Die on

      I agree. I may be old fashioned but my mind will always go back to ‘Jane—the one with the hairy pits’ and not ‘Jane with the awesome skill set’. Best case scenario is ‘Jane did such a great job and seems to great but good lord why would she think it’s okay to have hairy underarms displayed at the office?’

      I’m trying to be open but that’s where I land. Sorry.

      Reply
      1. Cousin Itt

        I think this isn’t just limited to Jane with the hairy pits but anyone whose appearance falls outside the mainstream of the office culture, like Arya with the bright green hair or Fergus with the five facial piercings or even Bob who always wears a suit when everyone else wears jeans and a t shirt.

        Reply
  17. Stephanie

    Ooooh, I think it depends on how casual your office and the climate. When I had an office job in Phoenix, sleeveless tops were pretty common in the dead of summer. But I think in a cooler climate or more conservative office, a sleeveless top would be a bit weird.

    It shouldn’t be this way, but I think visible armpit hair can come across as looking ungroomed/too casual in some people’s minds. Shouldn’t be that way, but I’d shy away from visible armpit hair at the office.

    Reply
    1. Rebeck

      All the negativity throughout the comments about sleeveless tops was confusing me, so I did a quick google: the Big 4 banks in Australia all include sleeveless tops and dresses in their uniforms for women.

      There’s still very much an assumption that armpits will be shaved, and I know I personally feel self-conscious on days when I’m wearing sleeveless tops or dresses with unshaven underarms, but it doesn’t stop me wearing them, or lead to wearing an unnecessary cardigan!!

      Reply
  18. Tony

    As a man, who works with women in a professional setting in the financial industry, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed what was going on under a woman’s arm when she wears sleeveless tops. My guess is that if it’s groomed short and not hanging out there, no one would probably even notice unless you like, went around with your arms up in the air at all times.

    Reply
    1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      Bless you. This is pretty much my belief, though the many comments are clearly telling me that there are as many opinions out there as, uh, armpits.

      Reply
  19. Local Woman

    I don’t shave my pits either. I wear pretty much only sleeveless tops and cardigans (or blazers), and I never ever take the top layer off. Even when I did shave my pits, I still took care to never show them at work–I think they’re private and I don’t want anyone else seeing them.

    Reply
    1. Local Woman

      I also work in a relatively conservative environment right now (estate law firm) and in the hotter months I regularly wear dresses that show my unshaven legs. So, different strokes, different folks.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        I may be fooling myself, but as a person with light, thin hair I feel like somebody would really have to be staring at my legs to notice a little stubble. If someone is leaning in that close to inspect my grooming, we’ve already got a problem.

        Reply
        1. KayEss

          Same, I’m blessed(?) with fine, sparse, and light-colored hair… I haven’t shaved in years, and I can’t see the hair on my legs myself unless I pick them up and actively look. If someone at work has their eyes within three feet of my naked calves, they are Too Close.

          Reply
    2. zora

      I am also a woman who doesn’t shave anything, but I have cultivated a work wardrobe of shirts that cover my armpits. Just because I am more comfortable not showing my pits in the workplace. Even though I do wish that as a society we could get over the women’s body hair thing because it is so dumb and arbitrary.

      It took time to find them, but I have a good selection of shirts with either long, 3/4 or short sleeves that cover enough that I don’t have to worry about my armpits. I have found some great options at Nordstrom and at Old Navy, and sometimes at Target. I also like light, 3/4 sleeve cardigans for office wear in the summer.

      I also don’t shave my legs, but I usually either wear pants or tights in the office. I have to say, it helps that I live in San Francisco, so I’m usually too chilly to have bare legs all day anyway. But, I have had jobs where I didn’t worry about covering my legs in the summer, I definitely think it depends on your office.

      In my off-work time, however, I am perfectly happy to show my legs and don’t even think twice about it, because I think this is such a dumb double standard, I’m happy to do my part to make it more common to see women with hairy legs!

      Reply
    3. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      The private thing is why I stopped shaving! I felt like they were too exposed when shaved and needed a layer of protection, haha.

      Reply
      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        Isn’t that funny how our minds work? When I still had my nipples pierced, I never felt topless or “undressed” even if I had no clothes on from the waist up, but not without them.

        (Though I’m 100% on the side of women being able to bare their chests in public like men can…I recognized that as a BS sexist double standard when I was 5 years old, lol!)

        Reply
  20. Deltaship

    Nope nope noppity nope. This is a big deal and would not be OK at my office. People don’t wear sleeveless tops in general. Though when they do, there are no hairy armpits visible.

    Reply
  21. NW Mossy

    My workspace is basically always icy-cold so I can only go sleeveless on days where the sun’s radiant heat is enough to overcome the worst of the A/C. My solution is a shawl I keep at my desk, and something like that might be a good option for the OP, too – easy on/off and reasonably obscuring, especially on short notice.

    Reply
    1. Future Homesteader

      Shawls are always a good option, for all kinds of reasons (not that I *regularly* spill oatmeal all over myself, but when I do, they’re a life-saver).

      Reply
      1. H

        Ugh it posted too soon! I was going to say a Constantlu Freezing person like me! I generally wear long sleeves year round because I turn into ice in the AC. I even bring a hoodie to the grocery store in the warmer months.

        Reply
  22. Juli G.

    For me, it would be a little icky but I’m icky about all pit hair personally.

    But I’ll say this –

    -Would I gossip about you? No
    -Would I think you were unprofessional? No
    -Would I not promote you? No

    I equate it to a cologne or perfume I don’t like. It’s not my thing but that’s my hang up, not yours.

    Reply
    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Would that more people were able to draw such a clear line of understanding around what is their hangup and what is someone else’s problem!

      Reply
      1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

        indeed! love the response above – so self-aware and conscious of not inflicting their own preferences on others. this would actually make me more likely to cover up (which I do tend to do anyway in offices), to show them the same consideration.

        Reply
    2. Willis

      I agree with this. I could see it being more of an issue in fields that required very professional dress, but in those cases I don’t really think a sleeveless top would be appropriate anyway.

      As a freelancer who’s rarely in an office, it would be super easy for the OP to err on the side of caution and wear a sweater or short sleeves. But, I also don’t think it would be a big deal if she didn’t.

      Reply
    3. A Hen

      Thank you! As I read through many of the replies to this post, I wonder, is it more “unprofessional” to fail to conform to a depilatory fad or to think of your coworkers primarily in terms of their body hair rather than their skills or contributions to the organization? And rather than assuming that having hair = dirty and smelly, we could assume that people are reasonably conscientious about actual hygiene. Realistically, armpit hair is unlikely to interfere with your job, unless your job is naked lathe operation, and your armpit hair is two feet long.

      Reply
  23. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    I think the sleevelessness thing is really regional. I work somewhere with a long, hot, humid summer, and sleeveless-but-shoulders-covered tops are specifically mentioned as permitted in our dress code. Probably a climate where a notable number of employees didn’t have to go stand on a train platform in 100°F heat and 99% humidity would find it less important to permit this.

    As for the armpit hair, how often are you reaching your arms over your head? Personally, I don’t worry about it much because I’m at a desk typing, and so I’m not exactly flashing my pits around on your normal workday. I make sure to at least have a light cardigan or shrug handy in case I do need to go wave my arms around, because discretion is nice.

    Reply
    1. Boo Bradley

      Yeah, if you can only see the hair if you’re reaching up over your head, I would say not to worry about it too much, but to have a light cardigan available if you’re feeling self-conscious or a head honcho is coming through.

      If the hair sticks out of your armpit when your arms are down by your side, then trimming the hair or wearing short sleeves/sweater is probably the best option for the office.

      Reply
      1. GreyjoyGardens

        I think that’s a good gauge. I have super-light and sparse hair, so even if I didn’t shave, somebody would have to be inches away from my pits to tell. But if you have lots of coarse hair that sticks out when your arms are at your sides – and this goes for men, too, in fact it goes DOUBLE for men – time to at least trim things down.

        Reply
    2. Anonymousaurus Rex

      Yeah this is how I see it. I have armpit hair and sometimes wear sleeveless tops at my desk–but I’m at a desk! I’m not doing the wave. When I’m seated at a computer you can’t see my armpit hair.

      Reply
  24. Lisa Babs

    Am I missing something. The op makes it sounds like the ONLY two options is a sleeveless blouse or put a cardigan on top. What about buying a couple short sleeve tops. There are many short-sleeve button-up shirts and blouses that are economical. This way OP has an alternative for the offices that she isn’t sure if it would be acceptable to show armpit hair but doesn’t want to overheat.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      I don’t have any work-appropriate short sleeve shirts or dresses that fully hide my armpit hair, and I am constantly shopping to see if I could find some that might.

      Reply
      1. But you don't have an accent...

        Try something like the Express Portofino shirts – I own probably 15 in different colors. They’re a very light, breezy material, and you can roll the sleeves up so that they stop just above your elbow. I’m usually cold though, and wear a cami underneath (but they don’t need it).

        Reply
    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Button-up shirts and blouses have their own modesty problems for lots of women. I think I’d take flashing my pits over button-gaping (or worse, button-launching!)

      It’s also been discussed upthread how many short-sleeve shirts for women don’t really have a properly enclosed sleeve.

      Reply
      1. Lisa Babs

        Oh I totally understand. I hate button down shirts too because of gapping and button popping.
        I do have some short sleeve shirts that to cover armpits, but it’s only a few. So they are out there! But I will admit it might be find a needle in a hay stack as most shirts are sleeveless, cap sleeves (which are basically sleeveless), or button down.

        Reply
        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Button-downs are a big thing for me. I love the look of a well-tailored button-down shirt, and it’s a pretty constant chafe to me that it’s an unending struggle to try to find ones that fit me to any degree. Wearing one open over a camisole is a bit dressed-down for my workplace, and that’s often the only way I can make them work at all.

          Reply
      2. Salty Sea

        Yeah. I don’t shave my armpits or legs and my cap sleeve blouse I’m currently wearing does nothing to hide my armpits if I raise my arms a bit. At my current workplace, I am not the only unshaven woman, so I don’t feel it’s holding me back. This thread is making me reconsider shaving or purchasing all new tops if I were to leave here though.

        Reply
  25. Cardigan wear-er

    Just a datapoint:

    I own many sleeveless dresses (It seems to be the style, and the fit seems to be easier to match). I wear a cardigan, or some other sleeve add-er, maybe just a shrug that goes 3 inches down from my shoulders. If it’s too warm I will take this off if I’m at lunch or alone at my desk, but if I’m away from my desk, it’s on.

    This is less about armpit showing than it is just that in my own opinion, I feel less professionally dressed if I do not have at least some suggestion of a sleeve.

    I own several different sleeve-adder options, from cotton or lighter fabric to full cable knit, so I can wear something year-round. It’s possible to find articles which are not straight out cardigans if that’s not your thing.

    Reply
    1. Iris Eyes

      Definitely a know your work culture issue. I wouldn’t even chance it in a place where long sleeve was the norm for men and/or they had facial hair standards in the employee handbook. A prohibition on non-natural hair colors or visible tattoos would also be good indications that unshaven armpits probably aren’t welcome.

      Add me to the list of people who think in a “business casual” or more environment no sleeves are a no go if not paired most of the time with a layer that covers the majority of the upper arm.

      Reply
    2. StockPocket

      I guess I disagree. In summer, I wear sleeveless dresses almost exclusively to work. Think the Calvin Klein kind, with the wide band on the shoulders and a high neckline. In my opinion, spaghetti straps are unprofessional, but a wide sleeveless isn’t. Its a classic cut. Our office has a business casual policy, and I’ve never gotten any raised eyebrows for my dresses – but I agree for a business professional setting I’d find a blazer to cover my arms.

      Reply
  26. Cheeky

    It’s not fair, but a woman displaying armpit hair in the office is likely to find that she becomes fodder for water cooler talk. You risk becoming The Lady With Armpit Hair. I think a big reason you don’t see men in sleeveless shirts in the office is because they have pit hair, and it’s not considered socially acceptable to display. But if you want to blaze that trail, I’m with you in spirit!

    Reply
  27. Not Tom, just Petty

    Yes, you can do it.
    Just like you can make politically charged statements, or bluntly honest comments to your coworkers.
    And you will have to deal with the consequences.
    Somebody is going to freak out. Somebody is going to wonder what the fuss is about. Most people are going to get on with their days.
    But also, someone is going to freak out that you are wearing sleeveless tops in the office. And conversely, someone is going to think your cardigan is frumpy.
    Ultimately, I don’t think this is the hill to die on, “let your freak flag fly” style. But I think you can and should make it a non-issue by wearing a short sleeved top.

    Reply
    1. zora

      I think the “Freak out” part really depends on your office. In some offices there might not be anyone who would actually freak out. I get what you are getting at, and I agree with your sentiment, but it also really depends on your office.

      Reply
      1. Not Tom, just Petty

        As in many things, size matters. I’m looking at my own office of 200.
        There is someone to freak out for every situation. The sleeveless top itself would rate a diatribe from a couple people who shall remain nameless here. I usually hear about it a month later, but that’s because I’m too busy reading AAM.
        But in another office, this could be off the radar.

        Reply
  28. LawBee

    If men can have underarm hair that is so long it shows when their arms are raised AND they’re wearing short sleeves, then OP, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

    Honestly, no one will probably notice. Unless your job involves you hanging by your arms or continually reaching up, they’ll never see your underarms anyway. You’re hardly ever there, right? As long as sleeveless is ok in the office, then just go to work. You be you, and power to you.

    Reply
    1. Penny Lane

      Traditionally, men aren’t supposed to wear short-sleeved button-down shirts – it’s considered tacky. Long-sleeved button-down shirts with the sleeves rolled up. Just the messenger here, so don’t shoot me.

      Reply
      1. pugsnbourbon

        I’m wondering about polo shirts, which are fairly common for men (but also may have looser/longer sleeves).

        I’m also thinking about a man I used to work with whose polo shirt was always mostly unbutton, displaying a lavish furring of chest hair.

        And now I’m thinking about how weird we are, culturally and socially, about body hair. Hair on arms is okay, hair in armpits not okay.

        Reply
  29. Doodle

    I sort of see shaving as the cost of getting to have exposed legs/armpits at work. Like, it’s ridiculous that women are expected to shave in general/socially. But, at least at the moment, men wearing shorts/sleeveless tops are also generally verboten in the office setting.

    So, maybe the standard should be: in an office setting, shave if you are exposing armpits/legs?

    Not sure.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous5

      I have the same instinct to cover my legs and armpits as a fellow lady non-shaver but then I think about all the years I’ve let my forearms show. They are also hairy, and I’ve never shaved those. I don’t know any colleagues that do (though I know some women in my personal life that choose to shave there as well).

      The argument that the dress code allows for shaved female body parts to show but covers hairy male body parts doesn’t really hold up anymore. Especially when a man shaving his legs and then wearing suit shorts would most likely be seen as completely unacceptable at most business casual or formal dress offices.

      Reply
    2. kimonawhim

      I agree with this. I can wear a sleeveless sheath dress to work and still be professional, but the trade-off is I have to groom the additional skin that is exposed. Seems a small price to pay, especially in the summer, I always feel bad for men that have to wear sleeves and long pants all year round.

      Reply
    3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      Women started shaving around the turn of the previous century when more revealing clothing came into fashion. It was seen as an opportunity for the companies that manufactured razors to make more money by advertising them to women as well. Up until then it was not yet a social convention for women to be hairless, and even at least into the 30s and 40s, unshaven women were still quite common.
      In other words, women today are expected to shave, and considered ‘gross’ if they do not, all because of a ~100 year old marketing ploy.

      Men’s fashions have evolved on a completely different continuum as women’s*, and men’s professional dress is more restrained because men are not expected to be decorative sexual objects 24/7 by our society. Covering body hair is not a part of it.

      *For example, pants came about because in ye olden dayes, men’s fashionable tunics became so short, that they needed an extra piece of fabric in between their separate leggings/stockings to cover their crotch/butt. There were also many periods of time where ordinary men wore things like makeup, wigs, knee breeches, buckle shoes, long fancy hair, etc on the reg.

      Reply
  30. KayEss

    OP, it kind of sounds like your question is less “I really want to wear sleeveless tops, but will my underarm hair hurt my professional standing?” and more “I feel uncomfortable wearing sleeveless tops in a professional context because of my underarm hair, but does that make me a Bad Feminist(tm)?”

    Sadly, showing underarm hair in all but the most casual and liberal professional situations still risks negative reactions. It’s okay to not want to deal with that! You aren’t failing the last fifty years of feminism by throwing on a cardigan if it makes you feel more comfortable! Definitely rock your natural body and appearance unapologetically if you want to, but you can also decide that you don’t want to face the specter of Politics of Women and Their Bodies 101 every time you meet with a client.

    Reply
    1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      My question is actually neither of these — I don’t think I’m a Bad Feminist for fitting into office cultures, and actually I don’t even want to wear sleeveless tops that much (AC, etc). I think it’s more that I’m rarely in those situations, and virtually never as an employee (maybe as a consultant/visitor/freelancer), so a lot of office norms that others take for granted are kind of novel to me. (And based on lots of these comments, it seems like I made the right career choice to mostly avoid avoid them :)

      Reply
      1. LAF

        “And based on lots of these comments, it seems like I made the right career choice to mostly avoid avoid them :)”

        Yeeeeeees!!! I work in a non-traditional setting (think: research, lots of immigrants from different cultures with different grooming norms). It’s amazing! I never worry about my hairy pits or legs (just have to worry about dressing to safety codes).

        Reply
  31. Wannabe Disney Princess

    Personally, I don’t care what anyone does with their body hair. You do you.

    However as a few have noted, in an office setting, that would be the Thing You Are Known For instead of your work. I’d stick with the cardigans so that your reputation is based on your work instead of your armpits. (Which is not a reputation anyone wants, I would imagine.)

    Reply
    1. Princess Loopy

      I think this is the most likely risk: armpit hair becomes your brand, and you are described by it/remembered for it.

      It’s definitely possible that there would be Real and Immediate Repercussions, but probably not. It might, however, make the folks who promote think twice (consciously or not) about whether your appearance is professional enough for promotion, so depending on your career track, there’s that to think of.

      I’m sorry. It shouldn’t matter. If sleeveless is okay, it should be okay for everyone, men and women, shaven and un-. For what it’s worth, I agree with everyone saying sleeveless is much harder to do professionally than sleeved anyway, which I think probably adds a layer to the issue and which is already knotted up with sexism and regional norms and office culture and and and…

      Reply
  32. HRM

    I really really dislike people wearing sleeveless tops in general at work. People can wear whatever they want and feel comfortable with, inside of the dress code, and it’s not their job to make me feel comfortable but something about women wearing sleeveless tops always seems very… informal to me, too informal for the places I’ve worked. It’s just a personal preference I guess.

    Reply
    1. Princess Loopy

      I’ve definitely seen people do it well, but I’ve never been one who could pull off sleeveless at work. I don’t know if it’s the type of clothing I wear, my body type, or what, but I need sleeves.

      Also, it’s freezing everywhere here during AC season, which runs approximately March to mid-December. I need sleeves.

      Reply
  33. Rebecca

    Want to chime in to say that *most* short sleeve women’s blouses & dresses are cut in such a way that they do not hide armpit hair.

    Reply
      1. Kelly L.

        It’s so annoying! I’ll be like “meh, I’ll skip shaving today, I’m wearing sleeves” and then the damn thing shows my stubble anyway.

        Reply
    1. LizB

      I’m currently on a quest to stock my summer wardrobe with short sleeve tops that I can wear to work that don’t show my armpit hair. It’s not going super well. *shakes fist at women’s fashion*

      Reply
      1. zora

        I’ve been on this quest for years. If I’m lucky, I find one per year that has a good neckline and actual short sleeves (as in not fake ‘cap sleeves’). So, over the years I have collected a handful of good options, but it’s really an ongoing search.

        That said, I have found good options at Nordstrom/Nordstrom Rack and Old Navy. And every once in a while something at Target, but that’s rare.

        Reply
    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Yeah, agreed. If I want to wear anything shorter than elbow-length, I’m going to have to deal with either a horrid, constrictive fit or a sort of shrugging motion in the general direction of what could technically be considered a sleeve.

      Reply
  34. ArtsNerd

    So as someone who has to make similar choices in a very casual office, I’ve settled on getting a few super-light, short sleeved cardigan-things so I can wear sleeveless tops under them and cover my body hair without adding much, if any warmth. (Think pointelle and other open and light knits). There are definitely days where it gets hot enough at my desk that I do peel off the cardigan layer, but I keep it those to the ones where everyone is kind of sweaty and sticky anyway.

    Since shorts aren’t professional attire for men, presumably in part because of hairy legs, I figure I should keep my legs mostly covered, too. I don’t wear dresses or skirts to the office (though I’ve been eyeing a long one with pockets) but I do wear cropped pants and don’t worry about that.

    Few, if any, of my coworkers would be grossed out or put off, but I think about what I would find distracting or unprofessional here and adjust my clothing accordingly.

    Reply
    1. Susan Sto Helit

      I have a similar strategy – several nice, light, loose-fitting kimono-style jackets and/or short sleeved shirts that can be worn over a sleeveless top/camisole. In desperate circumstances, or when out of the office, it can be removed. My office is relaxed and doesn’t care really about how much skin is showing, which is nice.

      I do LOVE my epilator though. My skin is sensitive and easily irritated by razors, but my underarms have no problem with an epilator. Lasts longer than shaving, and I don’t even find it painful now. (Tip: it’s best to use talcum powder to make sure your skin is totally dry beforehand though).

      Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      Even on arms? I’m not challenging you, honestly (I think most of us have hang-ups about body-based things), just curious. I say this as someone who kind of dislikes seeing people’s knees.

      Reply
      1. MoFlo

        Um… I never really thought about arms, but… yeah! To a lesser degree, and only if they are *really* hairy.

        Reply
  35. NewHerePleaseBeNice

    I think as a general rule, armpits (whether male, female, hairy or otherwise) would be Not Done in any of the offices I’ve ever worked in. And I’m sorry to say that a female hairy pit, if spotted, would result in gossip and the assumption of ewww. (I’m in the UK)

    Reply
  36. Ex-Humanities student

    The thing is, just a minority of people are now used to see armpit hair on a woman without judging. This sucks, but this is the norm.

    I would say that unless you run in particularly feminist circles, you have a significant risk of being (silently or not) judged.
    As far as I am concerned, I am completely aware – theoretically – that armpit hair is natural, not dirty, etc… but I am still unlearning to see it in a critical eye. I wouldn’t judge you, but I would definitely notice it.

    Reply
    1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      Maybe you’re right (though I’ve never had a single person complain or treat me differently), but I wonder if this is one of those myths that people just assume to be true, like the 400 other things women assume others (often men) will judge them for. I think a lot of people just really could not care less about our idiosyncrasies.

      Reply
  37. Environmental Navy Wife

    I did at one point work in a gov’t office who allowed nearly anything for field staff – and as a field staff member, I was still a little perplexed we were allowed to walk into the office in our swimsuits (lake research, ya’ll). I personally didn’t, I threw a t-shirt & shorts on over, but people did. It did take me probably 2 months to even notice my coworker didn’t shave her pits, but she also didn’t run around with her arms in the air like she just don’t care, and she just never brought it up. It was also the least strange thing at that office. So I’d say it’s really, really, really office-dependent on if anyone’s going to care or even notice.

    FWIW – the people I’ve know to do it have all been relatively light/fine haired. As a dark & coarse haired woman with a ton of hair….I don’t think it’s something *I* can get away with. Thanks, genetics!

    Reply
    1. Lynca

      Same. I have dark hair and even shaved it looks like I have stubble already.

      I work in a gov’t office but sadly we have dress code against shorts/sleeveless shirts. The sleeveless shirts aren’t rigorously enforced in the office for professional wear. It’s meant more for ‘don’t go out in a tank top or in a cutoff shirt.’

      Reply
      1. Environmental Navy Wife

        I have the sexiest 5 o’clock shadow ever ….on my legs, 15 minutes after a shave. Or a wax. Whereas my very fair and thin haired friend could not shave for months and you’d barely notice.

        Reply
    2. Roscoe

      I do think that makes a differences as well. A bit of thin, fair stubble isn’t notieable. I’m a guy, with dark, thick hair, so you can definitely see it

      Reply
    3. Clarice Fitzpatrick

      I agree, definitely contextual based on the workplace and definitely on a spectrum when it comes to hair type. I’ve never shaved my legs and never gotten comments about it (unless I specifically mention it) because even tho my leg hair is dark, it’s very, very fine and short.

      Reply
      1. Environmental Navy Wife

        I look like I’ve been lost in a jungle for months if I don’t shave for a couple days. Great during the winter months, tbh, but real crappy in the summer. Even my pores are pretty big, so you can still see that I have the capability of producing *gasp* leg hairs right after a shave. I’ve given up on having the smooth airbrushed skin look.

        Reply
  38. LDN Layabout

    I’d say underarm hair would be unprofessional for both men and women to show in the office, but I also can’t think of a professional outfit for men that doesn’t include sleeves and I can think of a lot for women.

    e.g. London’s having a mini heatwave and tomorrow I get to be smug in a dress (with short/barely there sleeves), while my male coworkers can’t get away with wearing shorts and a tshirt.

    Reply
  39. Seal

    My first job out of college in the late 80s/early 90s was in a library that wasn’t air conditioned and got very, very hot in the summer. Walking shorts (which were in style then), sandals and sleeveless tops were the norm for just about everyone, if for no other reason than it was too hot to wear pants and too many fans blowing for people working in the stacks to wear skirts. One woman who was about my age didn’t shave her armpits, which was definitely not the norm for our office, but no one really cared because the working conditions were otherwise miserable. Except that at least a couple of times while walking past her cube I saw her COMBING HER ARMPIT HAIR. I was so flabbergasted that at first I thought it was my imagination. But a few days later when I was walking by her cube I saw her doing it AGAIN. That was just too much for me and pretty much set my personal “I don’t want to see your armpit hair in my office” policy.

    She also bragged about using a rock of some sort for deodorant; apparently it was considered a natural alternative to the regular kind. Did not work as advertised, so during the summer she was hairy and smelly. Not a pleasant combination.

    Reply
      1. Tardigrade

        No it doesn’t. It works for no stress conditions and temperatures <75 degrees Fahrenheit, maybe even lower.

        Reply
    1. GreyjoyGardens

      Eek! No no no! That’s way too far. COMBING pit hair? Why why why?

      And, as I’ve said above, if you’re not going to shave, you do have to be METICULOUS about hygiene. As in, use drugstore deodorant, not the hippie stuff. Bathe, wash your hair, brush your teeth, keep your clothes clean and free of sweat and other stains.

      Reply
      1. Close Bracket

        Doesn’t combing it count as meticulous a grooming? Seems a little bit odd that there are a number of comments saying armpit hair is OK as long as it’s groomed, and then there is such negative response to someone combing their armpit hair. I see a set of conflicting standards.

        Reply
        1. Anonymousaurus Rex

          I don’t think that grooming itself should be done in public. Well-groomed, yes. The act of grooming, no thank you please do that at home. (I say as someone who has trouble even brushing my [head] hair in a public bathroom outside of the stall…so maybe I’m extreme on this.)

          Reply
        2. GreyjoyGardens

          Maybe it’s because I don’t have lots of hair, but I don’t see why pit hair needs combing. What’s next – conditioning? Pit-hairbands? Whatever, anything other than a cursory brush through the hair (head or other) should be done in the bathroom or other private place – not at one’s desk.

          Reply
      2. Alton

        I wonder if your second paragraph is partly why some people have a perception that hairy armpits are “dirtier” or “smellier” than shaved ones. There can be a stereotype of not shaving being associated with “crunchy granola” type people, which is also a demographic that may be more likely to be into natural deodorants. Also, while not shaving =/= lack of hygiene, there probably are people who don’t shave simply because they’re very lazy or aren’t very hygiene-focused in general. If someone has poor hygiene in general or isn’t using a very effective deodorant, they’re going to smell regardless of whether they shave (not shaving may or may not have an effect, depending on the individual). And it’s an unusual enough choice for women that it’s easy to have some bias.

        Reply
    2. LizB

      Hoo boy. I’ve seen some divisive conversations on here about the professionalism of putting on makeup at the office, doing your hair at your desk, brushing your teeth in the work bathroom, wearing or not wearing pantyhose… but I think this may be the issue that all of us with our myriad opinions can come together on and say THAT IS NOT AN OKAY THING TO DO AT YOUR DESK.

      Reply
      1. Boo Bradley

        I worked with a woman who was pregnant and one day I rounded the corner by her desk and she had her shirt pulled up under her breasts and was rubbing cocoa butter on her stomach while making eye contact with me.

        Reply
  40. JamieS

    I’d very strongly argue the reason it’s generally considered more acceptable for women to be sleeveless is because the common convention is for women to shave armpit hair. Therefore women who don’t shave should be held to the same standard as men.

    Reply
    1. Roscoe

      I think you are completely right in that regard. The hair wasn’t going to be an issue, so no sleeves was fine.

      Reply
  41. Strawmeatloaf

    I don’t like armpit hair on anyone. Men, Women, etc. But that’s mostly because I just think it’s gross and can only imagine the sweat there (even if I’m wrong). And if the hair is like, 2 inches long.

    But if possible, I would just avoid showing them at work. Sucks though. I wouldn’t tell anyone they needed to shave even though I personally don’t like it.

    Reply
  42. Colorado

    I am in the camp of no sleeveless shirts in the office. If you’re wearing a cardigan or little shoulder sweater over a sleeveless dress or shirt, that’s fine. If you’re sitting in your own space and take off your sweater and happen to stretch and show your armpit hair as I walk by, no big deal. I personally would never wear sleeveless shirts to my office, but I also have a large upper arm/shoulder tattoo that I like to keep for my personal life. Maybe I’m old fashioned and I’ve always worked in a cleanroom type manufacturing setting but cover up while in the office. Oh, and I definitely don’t want to see toes during the workday, no matter how nice the pedicure.

    Reply
  43. Bike Shorts

    I remember once at a history museum seeing a mannequin dressed in a colonial men’s formal outfit and wearing “enough silk stockings that the leg hair is no longer visible.” That stuck with me. I started to notice that visible body hair is covered up in the most formal settings for both genders. Men are buttoned up from neck to wrist and ankle whereas all the hairless lady limbs are on display. Translating this from the red carpet to the office is trickier but I think this is a good way of quantifying the unconscious bias we seem to be wrestling with. The more body hair you show, the more casual your outfit will read (even if you’re wearing the same thing as a less hairy coworker). Writing this as a razor-free woman who doesn’t work in an office. But I have grappled with whether to shave for weddings. (I haven’t yet, but I might change my mind)

    Reply
    1. zora

      ooo, interesting tidbit!! I never knew that part.

      I am also a razor-free woman who thinks a lot about the weird conflicting biases of body hair. And have a wedding to go to this month that is definitely requiring a lot of outfit strategizing. I’ve gone to San Francisco weddings with lots of weirdos where I have left my legs on display and haven’t been the only woman doing that, either. But this is my boyfriend’s family’s wedding in the midwest, and I’m thinking that would be really weird to most of the people at the wedding. I’m still trying to figure out what tights I can wear with what dresses.

      Reply
    2. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      I actually did feel weird at the first wedding I went to after I stopped shaving, and did shave for it — and totally regretted it because shaved underarms are the worst!!

      Reply
  44. Incognito

    I am a nonbinary person but one who is female-bodied, dresses fairly femme, and is frequently (always) misgendered as a woman. I do not shave my armpits (or legs). I also work from home but am desperate to find an office job (job market is not good were I live right now, but hopefully I’ll be moving this summer).

    My view is: If women / femme people can wear sleeveless tops at work, then their armpit hair can be visible. I don’t have any issue with visible armpits at work, on people of any gender, so long as they’re neat and not smelly. It’s your body, and honestly I just want to see more women/femme people with unadulterated body hair. Shaved pits look odd to me.

    Reply
    1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      THANK YOU. I wouldn’t even have this question in mostly queer offices (I’m queer too), but it seems like Corporate America (ugh) is… not there yet.

      Reply
  45. Hairball

    Are men in your office allowed to have exposed hairy pits? If the answer is no than I would keep mine covered. If they are, I think you’re in the clear if you’re willing to risk the judgement that comes with being seen as an insufficiently feminine woman.

    FWIW I have thick dark hair and while I don’t wear sleeveless shirts I do sometimes wear short sleeves that allow for visible pit hair. I’ve never been reprimanded for it in the more business casual environments I’ve worked in.

    Reply
    1. Morning Glory

      While I agree with this, I think the LW acknowledged the gender issue was complex – there is a double-standard for women and armpits in general, so it’s a question of how body hair would be applied that double-standard. That makes it more difficult than just asking whether it would be acceptable for men to do it (like with Alison’s leg example).

      Reply
      1. JamieS

        Agreed there’s a double standard in general of women being expected to shave. However it doesn’t apply in this scenario. The standard in this scenario is ‘is continuously visible body hair acceptable in offices?’ and generally speaking the answer is no regardless of gender. That’s not a double standard but having the same standard for everyone.

        The double standard you’re alluding to is more applicable in situations where it’s considered acceptable for men to show body hair but women would be side-eyed such as at the beach.

        Reply
        1. Morning Glory

          I meant the double standard is that women are allowed to show armpits/legs at work (women benefit from this standard) not the double-standard on body hair (men benefit from this standard).

          Reply
          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            It becomes even more complex when you add in the facts that skirts & dresses are traditionally considered female/feminine clothing, that pants in the workplace have really only been acceptable for women for about 30-35 yrs max, and that society expects women to be sexually decorative objects that are on display 24-7.
            Those things may result in a somewhat more relaxed professional dress code, but it doesn’t make those things any less oppressive or sexist in themselves.

            Reply
  46. Goya de la Mancha

    I run in streaks of shaving/not shaving. In public, seeing non-shaved body items does not bother me, you do you. In the work place, it just comes across as unprofessional to me. The only way I can liken it is to say a top that occasionally gives a peak at the midriff. There is nothing wrong/gross/immoral with a person’s midriff, it’s just not something that needs to be on display in the office. Any time I’ve worn a sleeveless top to work, I’ve ALWAYS worn a cardigan over it – which comes off during my lunch walks.

    Reply
    1. AnotherLibrarian

      Yes, I tend to agree. I don’t think sleeveless tops are really appropriate for the office at all and I never wear them. I also work in a fairly conservative place in the deep South. I think this would be noticed and not be noticed favorably in my work environment.

      Your mileage may vary.

      Reply
    2. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      I like this comparison! I feel similarly about midriffs and like that analogy much better than speculating about how gross armpits are. (It also gets closer to the root of my question, which was about professional norms, not really about armpits.)

      Reply
  47. Anon ex-educator

    This question reminds me of the summer I taught at my old high school. Between my matriculation and that summer, they had loosened the dress code considerably (shorts were now allowed! In south Texas! The light, someone has seen it!) but with that loosening had, apparently, come new questions of appropriate attire. The result was that the first line of the posted dress code read: HAIRY ARMPITS SHALL NOT BE EXPOSED.

    I entertained myself greatly imagining the faculty meeting that led to that precise wording. I’m pretty sure it started as “Boys must wear sleeves” and went from there.

    Reply
  48. Tuckerman

    I’m curious, why do people think exposing armpits is unprofessional? What is it about the armpit? I’ve always gotten compliments on my sleeveless shirts at work. I wouldn’t do overly causual sleeveless or thin strap tank tops, but more like the business casual stuff you’d see at Ann Taylor, paired with a dress pant.
    I actually think short sleeves are more gross. A small area of fabric becomes a sponge for your sweaty pits (even with anti-perspirant). When my armpits are exposed to air, they stay dry, and I don’t get the dreaded wet pit stain look.

    Reply
    1. Scubacat

      For me, it’s the moisture factor. I feel grossed out by the look of sweaty arm pits. Thinking Generally, my brain thinks that wet clothes are unprofessional. If I was wearing a sweat stained shirt, I’d want to change it. Same thing if I had spilled coffee on my pants. Though exposed sweaty hairy armpits feels the most icky of all.

      Reply
    2. AnotherLibrarian

      Professional dress has its roots, as someone remarked above, in men’s dress, largely 19th century. In general, historically, the wealthier the person than the more covered up they could be and still work. For example, you can’t work outside in Mississippi in the summer in a suit. You can do it in an office. So, the sorts of clothing you would wear to work outside (shorts, thank top. baseball hat) are now associated with more casual dress. The sorts of clothing you would wear for inside work (suit) is associated with formal dress.

      When women entered the workforce in the late 19th century, they generally dressed in masculine influenced styles- shirtwaists and wool skirts, for example. Any style exposing the back of the neck or the shoulders was exclusively ballgown territory.

      So, I think this idea of “covered up” = “professional” has roots in the historical roles different sorts of clothing suggested you preformed. I suppose that what I am saying is, it’s unprofessional to expose your armpits at work, because culturally sleeveless clothing has historically been associated with non-white collar work activities. In a white collar environment, it is therefore seen by many (myself included) as outside the norms of professional dress.

      Reply
  49. Higher ed

    No, no you cannot. I’m on the younger side, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to wear sleeveless tops at the office unless you’re wearing a cardigan or blazer on top, so take that for what it’s worth.

    Reply
    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      Just out of curiosity (I’m honestly not trying to call you out or anything!) what kind of a climate do you live in?

      Reply
    2. AnotherLibrarian

      I agree entirely and to answer Countess Boochie Flagrante below, I work in the deep South where in the summer you could fry an egg on the sidewalk and I still don’t think it’s appropriate.

      Reply
    3. Elizabeth H.

      “At the office” is incredibly general! I work in an office environment but at an art school. People wear sleeveless tops and dresses.

      Reply
  50. Goldensummer

    I’m a woman who shaves her underarms maybe 4 times a year. I’m not blonde and it does show. I’m not much for sleeveless tops but I do wear cap sleeves on dresses often so there’s some exposure. I work mid to high end retail in an environment that physical appearance matters. I’ve been talked to about my style (professional vintage goth), my natural curls, my unwillingness to wear heels, my lack of makeup, the fact that I won’t shave my forearms to better conform to women’s body hair standards as being unprofessional but never my semi-exposed unshaven armpits. (Ps I had a bad boss who brought all of that up, higher ups were fine with my quirkiness, he wasn’t fine with any woman over 115lbs and/or older than 23(he’s no longer with the company)) I think when it’s brought to people’s attention they’re squicked by it but in real life it just isn’t that exposed. Frankly, even as a no shave person if I see someone else’s underarm hair I’m taken aback but it just doesn’t come up that often. If you go sleeveless bring a cardigan with you and if you need to lift things from a high shelf or give a presentation throw it on. If you don’t make a big deal out of it likely no one else will either.

    Reply
    1. Media Monkey

      this is totally OT but i am curious! how do you do vintage goth without make up? all of the goths i have ever seen/ known have relied heavily on makeup to achieve the look.

      Reply
      1. Goldensummer

        I lean more vintage than goth honestly and I mostly just don’t like makeup so I don’t wear it. I wear dresses 99% of the time with wide aline skirts, boat necks and mad cap patterns with funky shoes. I keep my hair down and in curls. I’ve never been into the makeup portion of fashion so only keep it around for events at which I’ll be in photographs (weddings, funerals, fancy night’s out etc). I’ve never considered it essential to my wardrobe. If I’m feeling too pale I pinch my cheeks and purse my lips a few times to bring out color. So I mostly pull off that look without makeup by not valuing that portion of the look for myself.

        Reply
  51. Goose and gander

    As a woman who is living in the current world where women are still fighting for equality and abolishing double-standards, I am bothered when women perpetuate double-standards of their own. As in, “For the record, I wouldn’t spare it a second thought if a female coworker happened to have underarm hair that showed — but if a man at a nearby desk wore a shirt that showed his armpits, I’d find it unpleasant.”
    I’m sure I will be disagreed with by some, but I feel that if we want to abolish double-standards, then we need to do that from every angle and side; what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and vice versa. As someone said above, it seems that men have more stringent codes on their dress because they have more body hair than do women and their codes cover that hair. If a woman chooses to maintain her body hair, then I think it’s right to apply the same code. Because, to speak frankly, I don’t want anyone’s armpit hair in my face.
    That said, the LW spends 5 % of her time in environments where she needs to dress more professionally. That’s very little time at all and so throwing on a cardigan for, say, 1 meeting a month is not a big deal. There are going to be those who have no problem with seeing her well-maintained armpit hair, but there are those who not only will be squicked out by it but will judge her as less professional. Life is a trade-off, we can’t have it all ways, and every choice in life has a repercussion. Choosing to not shave your armpit hair (which I have zero issue with) results in needing to cover up more than you might otherwise.

    Reply
    1. paul

      I couldn’t tell if that line was self-awareness of their own internalized double standard or just a plain old double standard.

      If it’s the first, well and good. We all have them; realizing they’re their is important. If it’s the second…come on, give the courtesy you want to get ya know?

      Reply
      1. Goose and gander

        You’re right – it’s hard to tell if it was self-awareness of an internalized double standard or just outright double standard. If it’s the first, I hope that the LW and others see how we can’t continue perpetuating them on one gender side and insist they not exist on the other. If it’s the latter, I hope that LW and others see that we can’t continue perpetuating and complain when the other side has them. If we want equality, it is very important that we act accordingly and show the world what true equality looks like. And without any of this “but they did it so…” crap we get in politics from both sides.

        Reply
        1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

          That was what the sentence right after that was meant to convey — I totally get the double standard. Just acknowledging my own reaction. That said — I think I’d feel that way because of seeing a dude’s underarms at all when I’ve never seen them in a professional context, whereas I’ve seen plenty of women’s underarms. And I think that’s less about maintaining a double standard than it is about acknowledging current norms. (And my question was about trying to understand where in those current norms groomed underarms fit!)

          Reply
    2. Cookie Monster

      I don’t necessarily think the differences in what men and women can wear into the office are rooted in body hair, I just think it’s a lack of formal options for men that are stylish. Men are more than welcome to wear short-sleeved button-downs, and I think a lot of them, especially newer printed ones, can be cute. I’ve yet to see a sleeveless shirt for men that’s not clearly designed for the gym or hyper casual wear, which wouldn’t be appropriate for anyone.
      In regards to shorts, I’ve seen longer shorts and blazers/button-downs utilized as formal wear in the South on many occasions. I’d have no problem with that being in an office, and don’t see how it’s less formal. But that’s not an issue to take up with women, that’s an issue to take up with office culture in general and your workplace.

      Reply
  52. High Score

    Please do NOT allow hairy pits or legs to be displayed or exposed in the office, doesn’t matter what gender you are. Office attire should cover pits and legs for both genders. Yuck. Let us have a place to go where we don’t have to look at pits or legs. Covering a tiny bit more of your arms won’t make you any hotter.

    Reply
    1. Heina

      I would love to have a single place where I wasn’t judged for not conforming to mainstream beauty standards, but alas, no such place exists. Why should others’ personal preferences dictate my life but not the other way around?

      Reply
  53. Preppy6917

    Ah, the cognitive dissonance of wanting to show one’s own pit hair at work, but being grossed out if others (men) show theirs.

    Reply
      1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

        Neither of the above was something I said. The bit about male underarms refers to a man wearing a revealing shirt at the office, something I’ve never seen be considered acceptable, unlike women wearing sleeveless tops.

        Reply
  54. Clarice Fitzpatrick

    I’m someone who feels similarly about armpit hair on others. Even if someone is particularly hairy, I might notice it but…I just wouldn’t have a specific Feeling about it. In the workplace environment, I’d probably be surprised, but unless their attire and appearance was unusually inappropriate or unkempt, I wouldn’t still wouldn’t think about it too much.

    Still, I’d recommend covering up your armpits in the appearance-important professional contexts, especially since you have so few times to warrant it. It’s too risky to guess whether someone’s gonna be fine with it or really judge you for it. There’s a lot of weird social baggage with women and body hair too especially. While I’d like for our culture to move towards being kinder about people’s choices with their bodies and appearances in general, it’s not a battle I feel is worth fighting in this way.

    Reply
  55. Media Monkey

    We are in a totally casual office here in the UK – jeans, trainers, visible tattoos, shorts on men, non-natural hair colours. and i think visible armpit hair (on either gender) would be unacceptable and noted. you probably wouldn’t be pulled up for it by bosses but you would be “the one who doesn’t shave her armpits” forever more. it’s not usual to see visible armpit hair on women in the UK as some commenters seem to have mentioned about where they live in the US so maybe we are just generally more prudish about it!

    Reply
  56. Glomarization, Esq.

    Michelle Obama wore sleeveless and cap-sleeved tops/dresses quite a bit, and she kept her pits bare. Her husband’s unfortunate choice of a tan suit that one time notwithstanding, I think the previous First Family’s sartorial choices tend to be a good guide for professional dress.

    TL;DR: What would Michelle Obama do?

    Reply
  57. theletter

    You know, if the need to be business dressy only comes up every once in while, you could probably find a few nice, light, sleeved blouses to wear just for those occasionals. Stuff like that pops up in thrift stores and Mom’s closet all the time. Maybe it’s just my midwestern background, but I’m of the opinion that pits, shaven or unshaven, don’t belong in a business dressy environment. It’s part of the de-stimulation effort we’re trying to do accomplish in the cubicle farm.

    Outside the cubicle farm, you do you.

    Reply
  58. Delphine

    Culturally, I don’t think we’re at a place where women are allowed to have body hair, let alone display it, even in casual settings. In professional settings, I would say it seems reasonable to either shave or not wear sleeveless tops, since armpit hair tends to fall (for many people) into the same category as pubic hair.

    I’m not sure what my thoughts are about leg hair and skirts, though. If we demand that women shave their legs to wear skirts, are we also going to demand that women shave their arms? Would the rule be: shave your arms and legs if you’re especially hairy or have dark hair? Would women also be required to shave any bits of dark facial hair they have? Some of that would probably end up targeting women of color far more than white women or men.

    There’s a lot of misogynistic and racist undertones (and overtones) to discussions about body hair and whose body hair is particularly “gross”. I think it’s understandable to have discussions about whether displaying body hair is acceptable in a professional setting, but at the end of the day, it’s body hair, it’s natural, people have no choice over whether or not it grows. Even if you, personally, find it unsightly, I think everyone should be considerate in how they talk about it.

    Reply
    1. Veronica

      This is such a great comment, and agreed that it sets yet another level of different standards.

      Very naively, growing up naturally blonde, I never understood why women bothered to shave their legs. I never have, and sure, there’s some hair on there, but you’d have to get very close to be able to see. It doesn’t bother me, and there’s an element of Ef the Patriarchy that makes me even more determined not to shave my legs. Then I realised I have it very, very easy.

      I had *no idea* that that works slightly differently for women with a different hair colour – after all, I’d never seen unshaved legs before, cause we’re all conditioned never to put them on display unless careful shaving has occurred. It wasn’t until a friend said, “Ehm, it’s currently winter and this is what *my* legs look like when I don’t shave,” that the penny dropped and I realised my legs were in no way a universal experience.

      Reply
      1. Adele

        Ha! Several decades ago I lived and worked in northern China. The building in which I lived was sparingly heated and didn’t have running hot water. Fuel was rationed so I didn’t want to use it for heating bath water and buckets of hot water had to be carried from the communal water house for some distance and then up five flights of stairs. In winter, I figured the hair helped keep me warm so there was no need to shave. My leg and armpit hair is light brown but there is a lot of it.

        At Chinese New Year, I took a backpacker-style trip to the area near the Burmese border. It was hot and humid. As soon as I got there, I ditched my five million layers for a breezy skirt and sleeveless top. I was soon surrounded by throngs of curious and horrified Chinese pointing to and wanting to touch my very hairy legs. Of course, there wasn’t a safety razor, disposable or otherwise, to be found anywhere. In that place, at that time, it seems, Chinese men were shaved by barbers using straight razors. It was a long, discomfiting week before I was able to find a razor to shave.

        Reply
    2. Anonymous5

      Thank you! I have dark body hair and was teased for having leg hair as a teen. And yet, the hair on my forearms was never mentioned. The distinction between what hair is “gross” to show is completely arbitrary.

      Reply
      1. Argh!

        I got picked on for my arm hair as a kid, and I shave my arms as an adult. I don’t want people looking at my arms when they’re supposed to be listening to me and engaging in my work.

        Reply
    3. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      An excellent comment, especially pointing out the racist overtones. (I regretted pointing out that my hair is light right away — it was meant as an innocuous detail, but I strongly disagree with the unintentional implications that lighter hair color would/should be a mitigating factor.)

      Reply
  59. Bea

    I’m Pacific NW and from the belly of crunchy granola land, so it’s so not a thing to notice what body hair you have or don’t have.

    Granted if you leave the valley/bay/sound areas, you find the people who will notice and get upset over it. You have to always be aware of area and what your clients may care about.

    There are people 20 minutes outside of Eugene who refuse to go downtown because of “all those damn hippies.” Bless their hearts.

    Reply
    1. Veronica

      Agreed. It would have to catch my eye and even then I’d probably go “Huh, well good for her,” and move on with my life. Unless the OP’s job consists of a lot of pointing at the ceiling, I imagine most people won’t even realise.

      Reply
  60. Kallisti

    I have hairy legs and hairy armpits and work in a very formal office in DC, and nobody’s ever said anything to me about it. (I also have waist-length hair on my head, so clearly I just cannot be bothered to maintain trims anywhere.)

    I used to work as a tour guide, though, and people commented on my hairy legs there ALL THE TIME (my uniform was such that you couldn’t see my hairy armpits). Maybe it was because of different cultural backgrounds, or because people on vacation are more willing to make rude comments about someone’s personal grooming than people who are at work themselves, or because service workers aren’t real people, or I don’t even know what.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      I think when you’re the public face of an organization, anything about your appearance should be scaled up to where it’s non-controversial. If you’re a distraction, that takes away from whatever you’re showing people.

      Reply
      1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

        this is a good point — that perhaps nothing about you should distract from what you’re trying to do. (different in different contexts, but it’s a good place to start — asking “will this direct the conversation to something irrelevant/distracting”)

        Reply
  61. Tangled

    I grew up with some hippy friends in high school who didn’t shave. The only thing that ever bothered me when we went to the beach in the summer. One of them didn’t landscape down under and the hair would peek out from the bottom of her swimsuit. I can handle some hairy pits, legs or even a treasure trail. That was a bit much for me though.

    Reply
    1. Environmental Navy Wife

      I giggled probably a bit too much with the immediate visual of a down-below jungle plus your user name.

      Reply
    2. SarahTheEntwife

      I hate that there are so few choices for women’s bathing suits that don’t show pubic hair, especially one-piece models. I don’t want to shave it, but neither do I want to share it with the world and the only option seems to be awkwardly wearing board shorts.

      Reply
      1. The New Wanderer

        There are a much wider range of suit bottoms these days. I just got “shorties” from Target the other day, out of like a dozen styles. The coverage is great! I also love board and dolphin shorts too, so YMMV.

        Reply
  62. CurrentlyLooking

    I personally don’t think sleeveless tops (or dresses) are professional in the workplace – unless you are working outside.

    Reply
  63. Oxford Coma

    I freaking hate how so many business blouses have cap sleeves. Nobody has ever said “Golly, I want my shoulders fully covered at work, but I’d love if my armpits and bra strap were flapping in the breeze!”

    Most of the thin layering tops seem to be cap-sleeved too, which defeats their purpose since I wear them to keep antiperspirant off my sweaters and silk blouses.

    TL,DR: This would be less difficult if women’s business clothing made sense.

    Reply
    1. EmKay

      Oh, seriously. And, speaking from experience, cap sleeves are rarely flattering for ladies with larger and/or flabbier arms. Ugh.

      Reply
      1. Argh!

        I love those because my shoulders are a bit narrow. I may be wrong, but I think they also draw the eye away from my breasts, too.

        That style comes & goes and I can’t wait for it to be a thing again!

        Reply
  64. Veronica

    My two cents – if it caught my eye, some armpit hair would draw my active attention, but my next thought would be “I like that she’s doing what works for her in the armpit hair department.” I wouldn’t think of you as any less professional. And then I would get on with my life.

    Mind you, this is coming from someone who has similar fine, blonde hair and has never shaved her legs as a consequence, so this may subconsciously influence how I feel about the topic.

    Reply
      1. Environmental Navy Wife

        I used to shave my forearms! I was teaching at the time, and a student came up to me and commented rather out of nowhere how she wished she had the courage to go about her life with her hairy arms too, but she just doesn’t. I immediately couldn’t unsee the hairiness of my forearms, and shaved it all off. Kept it up for probably a couple years before I decided I needed to let that statement go.

        Reply
        1. Veronica

          From the mouth of babes… years after getting a bit more comfortable with my muscly legs I babysat a neighbour’s kids, wearing a skirt. One of them suddenly said, “huh, I never realised you have such big legs…” in the style of honesty that kids below the age of ten disconcertingly display occasionally. I wanted lightning to strike at that moment, and it’s been over ten years and I still remember…

          Reply
          1. Environmental Navy Wife

            The best part was that I was a brand new teaching assistant at a college, and she was a sophomore. I was only about 4 years older than her.

            Reply
      2. Veronica

        Isn’t it strange how much these things vary?! I have almost invisible leg hair but my pits are darker, thicker and more plentiful, and will not go on display without shaving.

        I have got more relaxed about it, though, so I’m not about to desperately hunt down a razor before yoga class if I realise I should have shaved my pits two days ago 15 minutes before class anymore, but my preference is for clean shaven pits for sure.

        Reply
      3. SarahTheEntwife

        I have very dark brown hair and pale skin and nobody has ever commented on my arm hair. Or my leg hair, though I work in a pretty casual and liberal environment.

        Reply
  65. Lou

    A bit off-topic but Meghan Markle just did a formal event in a dress with thick straps and no sleeves (big deal for royals!) This is definitely one of those things where it varies per person – add on the issue of body hair and it’s even more subjective!

    Reply
  66. SubwayFan

    I feel your pain, OP. About two years ago, I got sick of shaving, and just stopped. I stopped in the winter, and nobody noticed because I wore only pants and sweaters. I’m pale, and have dark hair, and I tested out going in a skirt at a theatre performance in the evening. People actually *pointed and stared* at my legs during the intermission, and that was humiliating. Now I wear dark nylons if I’m going out like that.

    I keep all my hair tidy, and in my immediately crunchy neighborhood, no one cares. I go swimming twice a week, and no one ever says anything about my legs/armpits at the pool, or gawks at me in shorts. Pretty much, if I’m wearing casual clothes, no one says boo. But in dress up/professional world, I will suck it up and shave, just because I can’t stand people gawking and not paying attention to what I’m actually doing.

    Reply
  67. Anon right now, please and thank you

    So I’m going to be honest just because I didn’t see this addressed but…

    This sounds like a white women problem to me. The people who keep insisting their armpit hair barely counts are those with “thinner, blonde” hair, which absolutely goes with what I’ve observed as woman of color in professional settings–that the closer women adhere to the “white (and preferably blonde)” ideal, the more professional they are assumed to look. A woman of color’s armpit hair would be automatically assumed to be more gross just because it’s darker and assumedly more noticeable, and she would definitely not be able to take the possible hit to her “professional” image since she already has unavoidable points against her because of racist assumptions. I have enough trouble getting away with having my natural wave in my hair even with it being clean and neat, there’s no way I could then add on all the things I see discussed here like no makeup, armpit hair, playing fast and loose with professional dress, etc.

    Just something to think about honestly, if this is something that is automatically more okay for women with a certain kind of hair to do, then is it really okay?

    Reply
    1. MicroManagered

      +1

      I didn’t even pick up on the “thinner, blonde” part. But when you say it like that, it’s so true.

      Reply
    2. Curious Cat

      A good point on this being a non-issue for (many) white women. My Middle Eastern armpits are very loud and very proud, no matter how often I shave.

      Reply
    3. EvanMax

      I was just coming to the comments to say this and more.

      I’m an Ashkenazi Jew. We are a hairy people. Hairy enough that I trim the top of my chest hair so that it doesn’t curl up over the neck of my undershirt when I’m not wearing a tie at work. If I were a woman, my body hair definitely would not be “fine” and/or “blonde”.

      My feelings on sleeveless shirts are in line with Alison, though, anyway. “Business Attire” isn’t just anything dressier than t-shirt and jeans.

      Reply
    4. RottenRedRod

      Ding ding, this right here. People don’t realize how much effort non-white women have to go to to adhere to beauty norms (aka white beauty norms), especially when it comes to hair.

      Reply
    5. Onward and Upward

      I am really glad you made this point! I think you are right on in this. Those of us outside of that narrow (white, Nordic) ideal have to work harder to be read as professional- too “sexy”, too “ethnic”, too “casual”, too too too and also not enough.

      Reply
    6. Justin

      100%. Definitely for the fair-skinned/haired, and, anecdotally, only a few white friends would consider challenging the visible body hair standard (some friends of color choose not to shave, but it’s not something that is visible in professional settings).

      I know that’s anecdata, though.

      Reply
    7. dr_silverware

      I think you’re right. I’m white but have very dark and visible armpit hair. People look at it all the time. And that’s why I know I really have to keep it covered up in the office :) The reason I don’t shave is partly cause I don’t want to, and partly because armpit hair on women is still a really big deal. It doesn’t help to say “eugh it’s gross” but it also doesn’t help to minimize it.

      Reply
    8. Elena

      It is deeply unfair that young blonde women can get away with wearing sleeves and not shaving their legs while the rest of us have to shave or are doomed to covering it up!

      Now, if it’s a universal norm where NOBODY is allowed to show ANY hair, that I could get behind. As long as it doesn’t benefit white blond disproportionately.

      Reply
      1. RottenRedRod

        Haha then you’d get all the super-hairy white guys (myself) up in arms. If I were held to the same beauty standards we hold women to, I’d be shaving for an hour a day, every day.

        Reply
    9. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      Yes, thank you for bringing this up. I’m definitely aware of this, and I certainly know what the assumptions and norms would be if I didn’t have pale skin and hair. I think it’s also part of the reason I let my unshaven armpits fly outside — if I have the opportunity to loosen people’s expectations so that one day hairy underarms aren’t assumed to be dirty just for existing, that seems like a good use of them.

      Reply
    10. Birch

      Can’t those of us with fine, blonde hair pave the way for everyone else though? Can’t we use that privilege to convince society that it was never a scary thing to begin with, for everyone’s benefit? Same for pushing other boundaries of dress code–e.g. if blue hair is OK, surely natural hair is too!

      Reply
      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        I’m one of those people who has been pushing the boundaries of dress code, with unshaved pits, blue hair, tattoos, piercings, funky hairdos, etc etc for 30+ years. And I’ve seen things change enormously in that time.
        I see tons of regular, normal, average, everyday people walking around all the time in fashion looks that, in 1982, had people screaming obscenities at me, throwing things, spitting on me, and attempting physical assault, as well as being targeted for harassment by law enforcement. And sometimes it just blows my mind how different things are now.
        Because people got used to it, and learned that it’s NOT scary. And it’s still an ongoing process.
        And for people like me, who understand that dress codes are inherently racist, sexist, classist, and heteronormative, that means pushing til *everyone* is acceptable as they are, and not only after they have squeezed themselves into a tiny narrow little slot called “acceptable cultural beauty standards”.

        Reply
  68. Bookworm

    I’ve never worked in a place where it was okay to show armpit hair (for anyone) so it may depend on your clientele and in what setting, etc. I’m personally not for the body hair (men or women) but it’s not my body so it’s not my business.

    I would personally lean towards going a little more conservative (ie, making sure it’s covered) since you never know. I’ve learned it can very much vary (business casual at at a San Francisco office of a multi-country law firm was okay with partners wearing Hawaiian shirts and shorts when coming to the office vs. being told I had to wear a jacket on a 80+ day in Washington, DC that was also horribly humid!)

    But at the same time I’ve found that organizations that are REALLY fussy about the dress code have not been good fits for me, personally. So long as your work backs you up your clients may not care if you wear a paper bag. :P

    Reply
  69. STG

    Coming from a hairy guy, I’d have zero issue with it. It’s a natural spot to have hair so I don’t understand the general weirdness about it. However, I’m probably the exception and I can easily see some folks focusing more on that than your work.

    Reply
  70. Lyn

    Here’s where I show my age, I guess. I don’t think sleeveless tops are acceptable in a professional office. If you have a private office, and you’re hot, I guess I can see slipping off your blazer/cardigan and working in a sleeveless blouse, but I don’t see the problem with wearing a short-sleeved blouse. I also don’t like the bare leg trend. When I worked in an office (Merrill Lynch stockbrokers) we wore skirts and suits (and pants) – but we had to wear hose. Men have to wear long-sleeved shirts and ties – women can wear short sleeved shirts and hose.

    Reply
    1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I keep seeing people saying this, but if sleeveless is acceptable to that particular industry/office/place of business, and allowed per dress code, why does it matter what another completely different industry/company/business does/n’t allow, or what someone’s personal opinion about it is? I’m not trying to be snarky, I really don’t understand how it is helpful to OP or anyone else (unless it is phrased as “In the past/in my particular industry/office the dress code used to be/is bla bla, but I understand that now/in other industries/offices things are different.”)

      As for age, you might find this funny. My late father (who would have been 92 this year) worked for decades at a white collar job at a top company in the aerospace industry, had a good position with lots of people under him, worked on extremely high profile projects etc and dress code required (at least) nice dress shoes, button up shirt, and tie (and obviously not a suit or business-y jacket of ANY kind because he *never* wore one, lol.) My dad would wear nice slacks, and good shoes (which he always bought on sale), but always with a *short sleeved* button up shirt (he may have owned one or two long sleeve) and CLIP ON ties, ROFLMAO! When my brother wanted a real tie for his first job interview, he had to buy one at the thrift store. Yes my dad could tie it, and taught him how, he just didn’t want to bother with all that himself.
      My dad retired in ‘91, and had been wearing those clip ons forever by that point.

      Reply
  71. Adele

    No visible armpit hair is the standard in US professional offices. You are rarely in an office. Just buy a couple of short-sleeve blouses for those occasions.

    In more conservative offices, sleeveless tops in general seem out of place. A few years ago I bought a gorgeous sleeveless dress that seemed office appropriate–until I got to the office. The exposed shoulders and armpits seemed wrong and I felt too exposed. I didn’t have sweater on hand so spent the day hiding out in my office.

    Reply
  72. Curious Cat

    I don’t think this is necessarily about the armpit hair, but more about the idea of sleeveless tops. And for that, it all depends on the dress codes of the office you’re in. Anyone should be allowed to have whatever hair they want on their body because it is their own body. Besides, how often are you really lifting up your arms throughout the day?

    Reply
  73. 29-year-old

    For the record, I’m a female that runs warm most days in an office that is never cold enough (my coworkers are usually freezing). I shave my underarms and usually wear sleeveless tops and dresses during the weekends because I like the way my arms look, but I would never wear sleeveless tops at work without a blazer or cardigan.

    I know many do, and of course it depends on the field and the office culture. I’ve worked at a lot of different offices from casual to conservative to government to startup and so on. If it were an ultra-conservative environment, it would strike me as unprofessional, simply because business formal-level grooming extends far beyond underarms. That being said, if I were in a creative field at my age now and saw someone existing in an unshaved manner, I wouldn’t think twice about it.

    Since I’m frequently hot, I’ll usually wear a thin blouse that is super breezy with a cami underneath, and that regulates my temperature just fine. I don’t think it restricts my freedom in any way because I like my personal style, but if you feel restricted not being able to wear a sleeveless top once in a while, that’s a different story

    Reply
  74. Kms1025

    There is something strangely off-putting and weird about sleevelessness in office settings…even casual ones. I don’t know why I feel this way? Also, I think a man’s hairy chest is sexy, but too much hair on his back and definitely too much hair in his armpits…YUCK!!! Weird, I know ;)

    Reply
    1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I used to date a guy that hate so much hair from the waist down (even on his butt), plus chest, arms, and pits, that he resembled a satyr. And it was *ENORMOUSLY* sexy!

      I wasn’t into hairy guys until I had great sexytimes with one, then I was ALL about the man fur, lol!

      Reply
  75. Ladylike

    Years ago, a coworker who was wearing a sleeveless top leaned across my desk to pick something up, and little white balls of deodorant fell onto my desk. Because of this, and generally because I think they look unprofessional, I don’t think bare underarms have any place in an office, hairy or not. Likewise for anyone who is preparing food. It just seems icky and unsanitary to me.

    Reply
  76. soon to be former fed

    No problem with sleevelessness in general. Anybody dropping deodorant balls needs to slow their roll, literally.

    Reply
  77. Comms Girl

    I think the judgey tone of the letter writer is a shame. She’s pro women having hairy armpits, as long as its unobtrusive and/or light in color? I am an incredibly hairy women with dark armpit hair that I don’t shave. I don’t show it at work, not ever, but it sucks that if I did, even my fellow no-shave sisters would judge me for being hairier than them.

    We have so far to go. sigh.

    Reply
    1. Veronica

      I read it like she recognised she has it easier than some because she’s lucky enough that hers is fairly unobtrusive, so it might affect everyone’s responses on whether she could get away with it the few times she visits an office. I didn’t read it as her thinking she has more of a right to get her pits out, but like she almost recognised the unfair advantage/judgement you highlight.

      On a related note, go you, and I hate that this is still so biased.

      Reply
    2. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      Not what I meant at all — just meant to point out that it’s not super noticeable, not that it SHOULDN’T be. I am all about all people’s armpits being just as they like them! No negative judgment at all coming from over here — I always silently rah-rah when I see other women rocking hairy pits.

      Reply
  78. Addison

    I live in Los Angeles AKA Actual Hell Most Of The Year, so we do allow sleeveless tops and shorts even on non-casual days (tank tops have to be a certain width and shorts a certain length I believe, but it essentially boils down to “wide enough to not show your bra straps/awkward shoulder tattoo” and “long enough not to show thigh”). Camisole/spaghetti strap type stuff do need to have a cardigan or something and you have to wear leggings with anything shorter than more-or-less knee length stuff, but I feel like we’re pretty forgiving in this regard, especially in the summertime. Usually. The dress code does say something about being groomed and hygienic but it doesn’t specifically refer to body hair, so I’d say yeah, if someone wanted to wear shorts or a tank top with hairy legs/pits then it’s not “against the rules” or anything, and I’d even argue that since it’s such a liberal(??) area that it’s probably not all that socially unacceptable, either. So maybe it’s in the dress code? Or you could ask HR if you’re worried about how it might come off professionally… I guess? As long as you don’t reek and haven’t put your pit hair in dreadlocks or something I really don’t see why it would matter.

    On that note, though… it’s LA. I work with some judgy judgy JUDGY people. Mostly the gals, they get very… Hollywoodish around here. Like when I say something like “I finally shaved so I could wear this (garment), I haven’t shaved in (x amount of time, typically in the winter, that I just didn’t feel like shaving and instead wore shirts with sleeves/pants/leggings/skirts long enough to hide it – not because I am Ashamed of my body hair and feel I Have to remove it, but I don’t personally like to look down at my pitch black leg hair on my pasty white ashy leg and go mm-hmm, yep, check it out y’all. Would never judge if someone else did, though. Rock your body/hair/etc)”, pretty much anyone I say that to will respond “OMG, I can’t believe you!! I shave every single day, I can’t stand it, I would die, I had all my body hair surgically removed and donated to Birds Without Nests Inc” etc etc etc. So I just… Don’t. Personal preference and also don’t want to hear the rude commentary if someone does happen to notice. So I guess maybe it depends on the culture of where you live and work? It’s so dumb that this stuff matters for women OR men, but… yeah.

    Reply
    1. Addison

      Actually, now that I think about it, this kind of reminds me of the “do you have to wear makeup to be professional” question. Why can’t the working world just let us live!! :cry:

      Reply
    2. KayEss

      “I had all my body hair surgically removed and donated to Birds Without Nests Inc”

      You owe me a new drink.

      Reply
  79. Lara

    I’m very conflicted on this issue. I’m a feminist, and I don’t think body hair is gross – but I do shave my underarms. From the abstract perspective, removal of body hair became common due to marketing. Plus I think body hair can be very class specific and industry specific.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      I thought removal of body hair was due to lice?

      As for the class argument, anybody can pay for a disposable razor. I don’t buy that argument.

      I’m a feminist and I don’t want to see armpit hair at work. I don’t care what people do outside of work but at work… blech!

      Reply
      1. Lara

        I didn’t say it was a wealth issue. The opposite.

        It’s a class issue because a middle class woman with a graduate degree, who works in say, social work or for a non profit, can present with unshaved armpits more easily than a woman who works in a regular private sector office. She gets more leeway.

        As for lice, certainly in the medieval era. And it became a fashion in Elizabethan times because many women lost their hair due to using lead infused makeup.

        Reply
      2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        It’s true though…at the turn of the last century, the manufacturers of safety razors saw an opportunity for a whole new customer base by marketing them to women, at a time when more revealing clothes were becoming acceptable. So basically, greed, in one fell swoop, created a whole new set of unrealistic beauty standards almost overnight (though really, it still took a few decades to become firmly established.)

        Reply
  80. Folly

    Personal bias but as a manager it will influence how I perceive people in the workplace …. Never, ever, sleeveless, did I say ever? I don’t want to see anyone’s armpits, ever, but I guess I must tolerate them at the beach. No bare shoulders at work, man or woman. OP’s concern need not be about underarm hair … I don’t want to see a man’s underarms, shaved or hairy – same true for a woman’s. {Note: my work environment is extremely casual … developers in flip flops, CEO in a jeans and black t-shirt, executive leadership team in jeans}

    Reply
  81. Chriama

    I am personally squicked out by armpit hair on men & women equally. I am also a woman who does not shave her legs and basically only wears dresses. My justification is that armpit hair holds on to sweat and other armpit secretions, so it’s unhygienic. I’m sure someone will have a link to a study or something proving me wrong, or showing that armpit hair has very important biological connotations in the evolution of homo sapiens. Whatever, I still shave my armpits at least once/week and make a special point of scrubbing them in the shower.

    Personal tangent aside — I feel like armpit hair is worse than leg hair because it grows so *long* and *curly*. Is that just my hair? I would be imagining BO even if you didn’t have any. I don’t think it would make me think less of you professionally, but we all know that unconscious bias is unconscious.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth H.

      The biological reason for armpit hair that I find the most persuasive is that it disperses sex pheromones better! I know this squicks out some people but when I am dating or attracted to someone I find it super attractive when they don’t wear deodorant or haven’t showered in a while. So, I think armpit hair can help us attract mates, at least traditionally.
      This is a bit ironic, as I think a lot of people nowadays prefer to try to attract a mate via grooming rituals (such as . . . shaving) rather than by wafting their pheromones around :)

      Reply
      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        Oh I much prefer those wafting pheromones. I really detest the smell of soaps/shampoo/cologne/perfume etc that are meant to cover up or replace natural, not stinky human smells instead of working with them and enhancing them. I don’t want to wash away my entire body chemistry that affects how people (unconsciously) relate to me!

        But then again, I once dated someone who had such a hang up with natural body stuff that once my toothpaste had faded and I just smelled like normal “mouth”, he’d get grossed out that my “breath stank.” It made me really self conscious until I had checked in with a few people (that I knew would tell me THE TRUTH, good or bad) and they were all completely mystified why I had even asked (and were angry and said he was unreasonable when I told them.) I’m sure he had his reasons, but it was very much something we were completely incompatible on.

        Reply
    2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I used to know someone who was shaved clean, bathed daily, used antiperspirant, and still swore up and down that one- just one- of their armpits stank almost all the time. And it absolutely did NOT -we were close enough that if they asked me for a sniff test, it wasn’t weird- and they never, ever had the slightest bit of BO.
      It was entirely some odd bias she had that colored her perception, that nobody else could shake her of no matter how often she was reassured. I guess brains are weird like that.
      On the other hand, while she thought my hairy pits were *unattractive*, she never complained that I had BO (I didn’t, ever), and which she would not have hesitated to do had she felt there was, real or imagined.
      I found that having hair actually wicks the sweat away, keeping me much cooler, more comfortable, and less likely to have odor…and of course I bathe and have always used deodorant or antiperspirant (with no weird pilling or anything.)

      I’m totally “each to their own” about shaving, whatever works for each individual. I just really wish people in general could stop caring so much about what people who are not them do/don’t do to their own bodies.

      Reply
  82. AW

    You’re a freelance writer, so you have to know your client. I used to freelance for an alt. weekly, and it would have been just fine.

    Reply
  83. Emmeline CinderKlaus

    My office gets really hot in the summer and sleeveless tops are a pretty much a must for anything approaching functional comfort. I do not like shaving my armpits either, but it’s more because of skin sensitivity (also a woman). Every couple weeks when it starts to feel too long I buzz it down with an old beard trimmer my partner abandoned ages ago. Doesn’t take it all off but it makes it more…presentable? I really do prefer not removing everything, it’s part of me and I’m very comfortable with it. Plus, my bathing routine is so much more low maintenance. Do not miss leg shaving even a little bit (sometimes the beard trimmer comes into play here too during summer LOL).

    No one’s ever made a comment to me about it but I’m red head, so everything’s super light already, I’m certain that’s part of why I’m able to “get away with it.” I do make a point of checking to make sure I don’t smell at all during the day though, it’s my only real concern since it can easily have an area of effect that extends beyond me. It all seems rather silly sometimes though, body hair amount is such a personal thing to try police with other people! Such a weird body shaming thing for ladies especially, people can get super weird about body hair in general. That kinda stuff never bothered me though.

    If you’re clean, do not smell bad and make a point to of not shoving your armpits directly into people’s faces it should really just be up to that person’s personal preference…but not everyone or every office feels that way. I’d probably just do what I normally do, and if it’s an issue for whatever reason hope my manager would appropriately pull me aside to let me know.

    Reply
    1. Kelly Bennett

      I use a trimmer too! It’s awesome.

      I have really dark pit hair, but no one has ever commented on it the times I’ve worn short sleeves.

      Women’s body hair is politicized, I don’t think this conversation can occur without taking that into account, I agree!

      Reply
  84. Aaaaaaanon.

    Pit hair or not, wearing sleeveless tops isn’t as practical if your office and personal style is towards the end of the formality spectrum where you’re more likely to wear dry-clean-only jackets and blazers rather than easy-care cardigans as your top layer. A dry-clean-only suit jacket is going to need more frequent cleaning if it’s coming into contact with uncovered armpits. Not only that, but suit jacket lining is often polyester and hangs onto BO. It’s just easier to maintain your professional wardrobe when your base layers have sleeves, which is another way of making the case for keeping sleeveless stuff out of your work wardrobe.

    Reply
  85. JS

    Pit hair shouldn’t be showing at all. It’s one thing if you lift up your arms but I would consider it unprofessional or poor grooming if it was dangling or peaking out visibly, male or female. While their is a stigma of female unshaven pits, I dont think anyone is causally looking that closely as long as it is kept trimmed. Besides meetings and external events should were sleeves anyway would would alleviate this problem.

    Reply
  86. What's with today, today?

    This is what I don’t get. When I go a few days without shaving my armpits, they smell worse. Even with deodorant. How do people get around that? Are you just used to it?

    Reply
    1. Heina

      Opposite for me. I used to get smelly fast and get horrifying pit stains when I shaved my pits. No amount of deodorant, washing, whatever would help. Not even clinical strength and reapplication. I was clumpy and damp and miserable under my arms.

      I stopped shaving them for unrelated reasons and the problem disappeared. I smell neutral and I don’t get pit stains even on the hottest days.

      Reply
      1. JS

        This is likely due to body chemistry, its not the hair that is making you sweaty its the shaving. Shaving strips the skin of its oils and layers so the skin is dry. The body works overtime to replenish and can over replenish which causes more oil production and more sweat as a result (especially if you apply deodorant right after which also dries you out). If you are happy with the hair great, but if not laser hair removal or threading might be kinder to your skin.

        Reply
    2. Bea

      But are you also cleaning your pits as well when you don’t shave? I’ve only seen this issue when you skip the washing stage. The hair doesn’t cling to odor!

      Reply
  87. Kelly Bennett

    I’d actually make this comparison to beard hair. Does your office have a policy that men have to have groomed and trimmed beards? Same should apply to your pits. Nothing less, nothing more.

    For the record, I work for the government, and I don’t shave my legs or pits. I rarely wear sleeveless, but I do wear dresses and shorts, and I’ve learned that pretty much no one cares and it doesn’t seem to change my professional life.

    Reply
    1. Anonymousaurus Rex

      I like this comparison. Unruly beard is just as office inappropriate as unruly armpit hair. But either one neat and trimmed should be fine. (But I’m a non-shaver so maybe I’m biased)

      Reply
    2. Fuzzy Lady

      I work for government too–I can’t imagine anyone saying anything to me about my armpits! It has such potential to be a violation of gender non-discrimination policy. I wonder what the union would say.

      Reply
    3. Roscoe

      I get what you are saying, but its a little different. For most people, your face doesn’t sweat like your underarms

      Reply
  88. Close Bracket

    I think that buried underneath the double standard for women’s sleeve length/armpits and men’s is that women’s armpits are typically shaven. If we go back in time to when shaving became a thing for women, it was about the time that fashion started revealing previously-covered, hairy parts, I E, legs and armpits. If men’s fashion started to include cap sleeves , I bet we would start seeing shaven pits for men (I don’t expect to ever see this fashion trend).

    Reply
  89. someone who likes to challenge people

    OP- what if you have a colleague who is trans m to f and shows armpit hair? endearing or gross?

    Reply
  90. Fuzzy Lady

    I don’t shave my armpits and wear sleeveless tops and dresses to work all the time, and I’ve never even thought to even wonder about this! My office isn’t super formal, but we do have a written dress code (no jeans/t-shirts/athleisure/sneakers). So typical biz casual? For what it’s worth, NYC law says that you can’t have different dress codes for men and women, so we had to drop the “men must wear ties” rule a couple years ago.

    Reply
    1. wtc gal

      Really? That’s interesting. I was briefly working for an Australian serviced office provider in NYC and besides all the other creepshow-conditions all staff, which miraculously consisted of all pretty 24-29 yo females, were forced to wear heels and a full face of make up, in addition to business formal wear (fine). Bonus: The VP of Global Sales once pulled me into a meeting proclaiming “Please wear more make up. Our clients, especially the male once, also like their egos stroked so smile more. You know, Sex sells! Not literally but you get the idea.” I got the idea really quick and put in my notice a week later. Bonus 2: The company was and still is at 1 WTC.

      Reply
      1. Fuzzy Lady

        The rule is pretty recent, but yeah, if women have to wear heels, then men do too! (Same with vests, ties, makeup, suits, etc.). It’s not perfect because, for instance, there are work appropriate fancy sandals for women but not for men, but generally it’s a good rule! Look up the NYC gender non-discrimination guidelines, the section on clothing is actually some lovely writing about gender and presentation.

        And sorry about that crummy job! Glad you got out!

        Reply
  91. Heina

    I find it bizarre that everyone here in the comments seems to think it’s super easy for women to find outfits that don’t show their armpits. When I used to dress all femme all the time, it was difficult for me to find work-appropriate shirts and dresses, even with short sleeves, that weren’t cut up to my armpit. Plus, I live and work in a very hot area, so the idea of wearing three-quarter or super-long sleeves just to cover my pits was unappealing.

    Reply
    1. Mavketl

      I know right?! I never wear sleeveless to work, but most women’s tops have super short “sleeves” and even if they do cover the armpit, sometimes very long armpit hear can peek out anyway. It’s the reason I shave it off every ~3 months or so rather than never.

      Reply
    2. CC

      Yes! I feel like people are conflating “sleeveless” with “strapless” or “with straps”. The basic woman’s formal work dress that seems most prevalent is the sleeveless shift dress. It comes to the knee, is made of a formal fabric like wool, and comes to the edge of the shoulder and hides the bra strap, but is most definitely sleeveless. Meant to be topped with a blazer or cardigan, perhaps, but sleeveless by design.

      Reply
  92. A fly on the wall

    This one’s a bit odd for me.

    I’m … not a particularly visual person. I’m more likely to remember and place a voice or a particular writing style than I am a face. I honestly don’t think I could tell you what my coworkers are wearing on a given day if my life depended on it. I doubt I’d notice body hair at all unless you were going pretty far down the old English sheepdog route. *

    On the other hand, I’m hugely self conscious about my own body and facial hair, and it took me a long time (or more accurately a few AC failures) to be comfortable with short sleeves once I’d moved to an office job, so I know there’s certainly a cultural issue at play.

    In our office, I doubt it would be looked at particularly askance, or even remarked upon, but I get the feeling that in the more public facing areas it might be.

    One thing I would caution though, based on my own experiences, any perceived rapid change in wardrobe or grooming choices WILL be noticed and commented on.

    Reply
  93. Laura H

    I have one sleeveless top that I’ll wear solo often. I don’t know how it exposes or conceals my pits offhand and am not wearing it today.

    However, I also somehow have no underarm hair/ it’s really fine- I don’t know which is more accurate. I’m also in a job where i reach down more often than I reach up.

    It’s definitely a circumstantial thing.

    Reply
    1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      And thanks everyone for delving into this, uh, hairy subject. Clearly lots of underlying assumptions/biases/racism/misogyny lurking in it. In the meantime it indeed does not seem like a hill to die on, and I’ve learned something very valuable about why I’m a freelancer, apparently.

      Reply
  94. Triple Anon

    Definitely a “know your office culture” sort of thing. I would just ask. If there’s a co-worker you feel comfortable talking to about this, go for lunch and ask for their take on it. “I don’t shave my armpits. Do you think it would be weird for me to wear a sleeveless shirt at work?” If someone said that to me, I would find it interesting and want to help them out even if I didn’t have a good answer. I mean, the idea isn’t offensive. It’s just a question about office norms.

    However, I tend to err on the side of caution and dress conservatively at work. A lot of people have biases that aren’t obvious. I don’t want to have to worry about it.That said, it can go the other way – someone might think the unshaved armpits are great and could want to befriend you and mentor you because of it. You just never know.

    Reply
    1. Triple Anon

      Sorry. I commented before reading the other comments. I didn’t see that LW had responded. Hope this might be helpful anyway.

      Reply
  95. Cornflower Blue

    Are you in America? I’m in a South Asia country where sleeveless tops for women are super common/the only way that I can survive.

    The dress code actually explicitly recommends against them but absolutely nobody follows the dress code (it also outlines the five shades of hair from blown to black we’re allowed to have, limits piercings to 3 per ear, says no visible ankles for men, no visible tattoos for anyone, etc) out of sheer practicality and self-defense.

    That said, everyone here does shave under their arms. I don’t shave my legs often but I think the other women do – I don’t really go around staring at their legs, but it’s easier to notice their arms because that’s close to eye level when we’re sitting down.

    Basically what Allison said, I guess! Regional norms dictate your behavior but as a personal note, congrats on your decision to flout social norms re: body hair. I 100% approve and hope that the social pressure vanishes so women can do what they want with their own bodies.

    Reply
  96. A.J.

    Is she for real? She’s asking if it’s OK to show armpit hair at work? Honey, it’s not OK to show armpit hair at work. Or at home. Or at the grocery store. Or at the gym. Or at the movies. Or in the backyard. Or in a church. Or in a cemetery. Or in a dog grooming shop. Or if you’re the last person remaining on Earth. Don’t freakin’ show your freakin’ armpit hair!!!!

    Reply
    1. Mad Baggins

      Or while in a coma! Or while trapped on the roof of a building during a flood! Or while marooned on a deserted island with no razors or wax strips! Or while stranded on Mars eating potatoes to survive! At all times the state of the hair that naturally grows from your armpit should be your highest priority!!!

      Reply
      1. hapgoodness

        Cracking up at this. Especially as it’s wildly hot in London today so me and my hairy armpits are rocking out in a scrappy sundress sans bra. No one cares cos we’ve got work to do. And ice cream breaks to take.

        Reply
      2. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

        Just as it is on every stranded-on-an-island TV show AND as all the gods intended!!!

        Reply
  97. Mad Baggins

    These comments really got me thinking! I guess I fall in the category of, “No sleeveless tops in the office, unless your office is OK with that in which case shaving is your reward for this privilege, unless you have a good reason not to like irritation or Political Statement in which case OK you do you but people may notice this and be weird with you about it”

    I remember seeing a woman on the train with unshaven leg hair, but nude tights on. It actually felt weirder than when I saw someone unshaven with no tights, because I felt like, why bother putting on tights then? They’re not going to make your legs look smooth and nude if you don’t shave, and your leg hair looks all tangled and pushed up weird… like why conform to one beauty standard but not the other standard that reinforces it? It’s like putting on a full face of makeup and having ungroomed caterpillar eyebrows.

    Reply
      1. Mad Baggins

        If it was black tights I’d understand (and I’d be right there with her) but I don’t think sheer tights are particularly warm :/

        Reply
    1. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

      Oh I disagree! first — I love caterpillar eyebrows, and Frida shows us how it’s done, lipstick & fancy hair & eyebrows & all. But also — there are so many reasons not to shave, and so many reasons to wear tights, so it’s not like they are both just for someone else’s standards.

      But yes, these comments got me thinking too. Seems like the point is to be unobtrusive with dress/armpit grooming — and if covering up is the way to do that in most offices, it’s not really a hardship.

      Reply
      1. Mad Baggins

        That’s true. I suppose it’s like one commenter said, does it look intentional, or does it look like you forgot a grooming step? Frida Kahlo looks intentional. I look like I just forgot to pluck my eyebrows…

        Godspeed to you and your armpits!

        Reply
  98. happy with my hairy pitz (LW)

    In case anyone’s still hanging around here and wants to chime in some more, I have follow-up questions about outfits at conferences/outings where colleagues might see you in hallways or gym or pool… Is there a different standard of dress for non-professional settings in an otherwise professional context, like after all the evening sessions when you might want to run to the hotel lobby but don’t want to change back into professional dress? Having just returned from a conference, I’m all ears.

    Reply
  99. MissDisplaced

    Wow! 545 people have an opinion about armpit hair.
    That being said, I had an intern last summer who had pit hair. I admit it kind of weirded me out. If you’re planning to wear sleeveless tops, I say shave. And I see nothing wrong with sleeveless tops at work as long as they pass the no-bra show rule.
    But I admit I shave and keep everything trimmed myself, just ’cause I can’t stand too much body hair. My hubby also shaves due to stink and sometimes also shaves his legs because of biking.

    Reply
  100. SechsKatzen

    I can’t say I would go so far as to say it’s “unprofessional” in and of itself, but if I noticed it, I would definitely have a mental association of “the one who doesn’t shave,” and I can’t guarantee that I wouldn’t think of that first before the quality of work. It’s not fair and is quite judgmental on my part, but I think that reaction would be fairly common.

    Reply
  101. WillowSunstar

    I wouldn’t show it, but I’m also a middle-aged, nerdy-looking woman, so there is kind of a double-standard. Besides that, I live in a state where we’re lucky if we get reasonable weather for 5 months out of the year. It would only be hot enough during a couple of months out of those 5 to actually wear sleeveless tops without something over them, which are technically against our dress code to be worn alone anyway. However, quite a few people choose to ignore it until the annual memo is issued by HR about what you can and cannot wear during the summer.

    Reply
  102. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

    Hi LW!

    I’m a 51 yr old woman who hasn’t shaved (legs or pits) since the age of 18. This was a personal preference, because I found shaving to be a huge PITA and I HAAAAATED doing it. Not because I’m super hairy or anything (I barely have leg hair at all) but because I had severe, undiagnosed ADHD & did not have the PATIENCE for it, lol. Or I’d forget until I was already out of the shower and halfway dressed, and have to get back in, cursing the whole time, to finish.
    Then one day I saw a biker lady with hairy armpits and thought “Why, that doesn’t look bad at all!” and put down the razor for good.
    They way some people reacted you’d have thought I’d taken up drinking the blood of newborns as a hobby. Or that I was the only woman in the history of ever who had sprouted armpit hair and was some kind of legitimate genetic freak.
    Being the stubborn, nearly lifelong feminist I was, this just made me MAD. Pit hair is just as natural for females as for males and there’s no earthly (or LOGICAL) reason why shaving should be enforced on one sex and not the other*. It’s an artifact of our culture and nothing more. Moreover, I am a STRONG proponent of the idea that “my body, my choice” applies to ALL individuals, and to all aspects of our bodies including appearance. To have it demonstrated to me over and over and OVER again just how many people think they have the right to a say in a woman’s life & appearance was eye-opening, and frankly, astonishing.
    Which is why I will ALWAYS jump into any conversation regarding armpit hair (or any other discussion of “feminine” standards that women feel like they can’t go against the grain of.)

    I’ll say this first- I’ve never worked an office job other than a few telemarketing types, my particular set of neurodevelopmental disabilities (not just ADHD) makes me completely unsuitable for it- for one thing, impairments in fine & gross motor skills mean I cannot type with any degree of speed or accuracy, and a dress code that required heels & hose would be impossible- I can barely walk in heels (and they HURT), and am lucky if I can wear even thick black tights more than once without getting a run or tear (luckily, ripped tights fit right in with my personal style), and my clothes all tend to be battered, torn, and stained because I am so ridiculously clumsy. I’ve stuck to jobs with casual dress codes, and have never had any issues at any of the with having visible armpit hair. Not once, ever, and many of these jobs were customer facing.

    But if I had? I would have pushed back and pushed back HARD. This WOULD be my hill to die on, because it’s a matter of my personal autonomy vs. sexist double standards. I would be willing to lose my job or quit over it, because NO ONE has the right to force that on me (or anyone else), and ESPECIALLY when they are not enforcing it across the board, but on one gender only. And this would have been true had I worked a corporate or office job as well, because it is a total overreach on what they are allowed to ask of anyone (whether it is legal or not.)

    *I’ve heard it all- cleanliness, sweat, germs, odor, hygiene etc and its all BS, because 1. they would apply equally to men as reasons to enforce shaving on *them*, which nobody would ever dream of, and 2. none of them applied to me, specifically, especially since I had far LESS issues with sweat & such with hairy pits than with smooth. And it keeps me cooler too!

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  103. Gio

    I don’t shave my legs, and I wear skirts to work. I don’t always shave my armpits, and I sometimes wear sleeveless tops or dresses at work. Nobody says anything, but I’m sure people notice sometimes. I like to think that the more people do it, the less remarkable it will be, and therefore it will become socially acceptable. The ridiculous double standards around beauty and female grooming need to stop. I am not wasting my time with makeup, nail polish and shaving, and I shouldn’t have to.

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  104. Hairy Beary

    Here are some very lovely women, dressed fancy, with armpit hair. They look properly dressed and not out of place at all.

    https://www.thecut.com/2014/11/16-famous-women-with-armpit-hair.html

    Interspersed are some photos that have the hair out for shock value. That’s likely not a good look in the office, though it’s done for an important reason.

    Sorry about it being a slideshow. But particularly Barbra Streisand, Sophia Loren, Julia Roberts, Kelly Rowland, Helena Bonham Carter and Juliette Lewis all look beautiful and they are dressed up. Their hair (all kinds that are visible!) is groomed. I’d have to give a big thumb’s down to Beyonce’s half stubble with dots of shaving cream look, though.

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  105. Lynne D.

    Armpit hair is never acceptable to be seen in an office, man or woman. No matter how clean you are, most people would totally assume you are an unclean and not groomed. Most people would assume that if you use such poor judgement in this, that you would likewise use poor judgement and represent the company poorly in other situations. Most definitely, if you were not let go, it would certainly keep you from ever getting promoted.

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