Plucked: A History of Hair Removal (Biopolitics)

From the clamshell razors and homemade lye depilatories used in colonial America to the diode lasers and prescription pharmaceuticals available today, Americans have used a staggering array of tools to remove hair deemed unsightly, unnatural, or excessive. This is true especially for women and girls; conservative estimates indicate that 99% of American women have tried hair removal, and at least 85% regularly remove hair from their faces, armpits, legs, and bikini lines. How and when does hair become a problem—what makes some growth “excessive”? Who or what separates the necessary from the superfluous?  In Plucked, historian Rebecca Herzig addresses these questions about hair removal. She shows how, over time, dominant American beliefs about visible hair changed: where once elective hair removal was considered a “mutilation” practiced primarily by “savage” men, by the turn of the twentieth century, hair-free faces and limbs were expected for women. Visible hair growth—particularly on young, white women—came to be perceived as a sign of political extremism, sexual deviance, or mental illness. By the turn of the twenty-first century, more and more Americans were waxing, threading, shaving, or lasering themselves smooth. Herzig’s extraordinary account also reveals some of the collateral damages of the intensifying pursuit of hair-free skin. Moving beyond the experiences of particular patients or clients, Herzig describes the surprising histories of race, science, industry, and medicine behind today's hair-removing tools. Plucked is an unsettling, gripping, and original tale of the lengths to which Americans will go to remove hair.

Reviews from Goodreads.com

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By Leah (16805-009) · ★★★★☆ · January 15, 2015
The majority of this book is what you think it’s going to be: a delightful history of the crazy ways womenfolk shear themselves smooth.

Plucked is also, however, an in-depth look body’s interplay with both race and scientific advancement.

The book, surprisingly, starts out with a group judged for... ...more
By Mainon (Anchorage, AK) · ★★★★☆ · October 21, 2014
The history of hair removal is way more interesting than I'd expected.

Herzig starts with a poorly understood fact of early American history: the Native Americans were perceived as having less body hair than Europeans, and this (like everything back then) was used to trumpet the Christian/European... ...more
By Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~ (The United States) · ★★★☆☆ · December 20, 2014
*NetGalley book review*

Now, this book had me really curious. Hair removal. I've worked in the medical field for over 17 years and these kind of books just jump out and scream for me to read them. This was a interesting read. I'll give it to the author she did her research and knows a lot when it... ...more
By Lori L (Lawrence, KS) · ★★★★☆ · January 22, 2015
Plucked: A History of Hair Removal by Rebecca M. Herzig is a highly recommended, fascinating look at the history of hair removal in the United States.

I am so glad a Rebecca Herzig didn't listen to her detractors and that she pursued writing this compelling history of hair removal. Plucked covers... ...more
By Biblio (Las Vegas, NV) · ★★★★★ · October 31, 2014
Expecting a history of how the ancients removed their hair (you never see the Ancient Romans or Greeks with beards, do you?), I found that Plucked: A History of Hair Removal deals with that topic pretty neatly in the first few chapters. Historian Rebecca Herzig then moves on from the mundane of h... ...more
By Sally (Daytona Beach, FL) · ★★★★☆ · September 13, 2014
I would first like to say that I had never given much thought on hair removal and how it came to be. The many different ways and places to remove hair is something I always knew as fact. This book wasn't at all what I expected. It was not a light read. The seriousness of the information hit me ha... ...more
By Brigdh (New York, NY) · ★★★★☆ · March 05, 2015
Despite the general feel of the cover and summary, this isn't a pop science book, but an academic history of body hair with a fairly restricted focus: the US, from the late 1700s to now. All of which is fine, I just would have liked that to be clearer when I was deciding to read it. Nonetheless,... ...more
By Rowan (Catskill, NY) · ★★★☆☆ · February 06, 2015
I received PLUCKED: A HISTORY OF HAIR REMOVAL as an ARC through NetGalley.com.


Plucked is an interesting and informative history of hair removal in the United States. The first chapters talk about how Native Americans were viewed as savages partially because they were relatively hairless compared... ...more
By Mandy (Cheltenham, H9, The United Kingdom) · ★★★★☆ · April 19, 2015
Who’d have thought the removal of body hair could be such a fascinating subject! It appears that unwanted body hair has always been a problem for the human race and the ways of getting rid of it have ranged from the bizarre to the frankly dangerous. This book is very much an academic study and qu... ...more
By Don (Columbus, OH) · ★☆☆☆☆ · December 01, 2014
This book reads like a thesis that someone (probably an aggressive editor) thought could be converted into a mainstream book. It doesn't really work. There is a lot of information here and a lot of history as well, but you really have to work hard to get through it. I guess if you are deeply into... ...more