is the full forest really back?

Maison Margiela Artisan 2024 (Maison Margiela Artisan 2024)

Nipples may not have made it past the social media sensors, but the rather sweet merkin visible through the sheer tulle as John Galliano’s latest Maison Margiela Artisanal show went viral wasn’t missing. You can only stop and stroke your chin to wonder: is the bush back?

Galliano’s inspiration came through Hungarian-French photographer Henri Brassaï and his voyeuristic extrapolations of 1920s Parisian society. Galliano escaped that same underbelly of life, his show performed under the full moon, under Pont Alexandre III. Brassï’s dimly lit, overexposed photographs, taken at night with a Voigtlander 6.5, reflected the outer corners of the streets of his Montparnasse neighborhood, in brothels and bars – nudes full of naturally thick pubic hair.

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024 (Maison Margiela)Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024 (Maison Margiela)

Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024 (Maison Margiela)

Galliano’s merkins on his ‘three painted muses’ – for the sake of the models’ modesty – were made of real human hair, painstakingly embroidered on silk tulle stockings, a haute couture cooch if you will. But the natural look matched the exaggerated feminine proportions created by his corseted waists, padded hips and full bosoms on display, which felt like a celebration of the female form rather than fetishization or nudity for titillation.

In light of the proliferation of perfectly plucked porn stars that many find disturbingly blasé, the Edwardian-esque figures were rather strangely refreshing. The show was also notable for its embrace of a range of body shapes – see the compelling finale performance of the 6’3 Amazonian, busty Gwendoline Christie – something that has left the luxury fashion industry largely unspoken.

A brief history of pubic hair maintenance obviously takes us back to 2000 Sex and the city, featuring Carrie’s disgust for being too polite to ask her LA waxer to stop, and ending with a full Brazilian. “I feel like one of those damn hairless dogs,” she shouted at a surprised Samantha who joked. “It’s an aesthetic thing, everyone is naked here.”

Others old enough to remember the early ’00s might also remember a slightly more lo-fi reference to Big Brother’s Kate Lawler describing her runway as a David Beckham, reminiscent of then Mohican hairstyle of the football player. Oddly enough, not something that was addressed in his recent Netflix documentary.

From here we escalated into somewhat scary vajazzle territory – with the low point being American actress Jennifer Love Hewitt who begged fans in her dating book ‘The Day I Shot Cupid’ to ‘vajazzle their vajayjay’, describing it as ‘like having a sparkly secret in your pants. Then of course, disturbingly closer to home, there was the Only Way Is Essex, where Mark Wright launched his own Vajazzle kit and beautician Amy Childs touted her skills as the “Vajazzle Queen”.

'Decoration': Amy Childs vajazzles co-star Sam Faiers on ITV2's The Only Way is Essex'Decoration': Amy Childs vajazzles co-star Sam Faiers on ITV2's The Only Way is Essex

‘Decoration’: Amy Childs vajazzles co-star Sam Faiers on ITV2’s The Only Way is Essex

Outside Brentwood, such measures of courting cystitis have since seemingly been ‘reclaimed’, much like the modern reverse feminist, non-feminist way, and used as a means of vulvar self-love at women-only retreats. Community vajazzling is available for those tempted to prune and explore their inner lady garden in like-minded company with gemstone applications.

In 2012, an ‘about-bush’ was sparked when Cameron Diaz outed boyfriend Gwyneth Paltrow on the Graham Norton show for being obsessed with ‘having a 1970s bush’.

And yet the proliferation of dresses sans shorts on the red carpet (thanks, Kendall Jenner et al.) has fueled an agenda of shaved porn. Kim Kardashian’s tiny Skims bikini – a reimagined Borat mankini-for-girls for the filter-heavy age of Instagram, could only be worn by very bald people.

Kendall Jenner wears an uncompromising Rami Kadi couture dress at the Vanity Fair Oscar 2019 party (Getty Images)Kendall Jenner wears an uncompromising Rami Kadi couture dress at the Vanity Fair Oscar 2019 party (Getty Images)

Kendall Jenner wears an uncompromising Rami Kadi couture dress at the Vanity Fair Oscar 2019 party (Getty Images)

The market size of the UK hair removal wax market was estimated at $630 million in 2021, and is expected to reach $953 million by 2031, according to market research from Straits. That’s a lot of wax on wax off.

Monica Botros, brand manager at Strip Hair Removal Experts, one of London’s luxury waxing boutiques, says: “There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to intimate hair removal and we’re seeing an even more varied range of bikini styles among our guests in recent years, following the broader trends of body positivity and personal comfort.” But states that Strip de Hollywood (where all the hair is removed), followed by the Brazilian (where you are left with a neat runway) is still the most popular request; they also offer “intimate butt removal” for the dedicated hirsute disgusted. “Nudity is still extremely popular across the board, and that goes for both men and women,” she adds.

But for some, thanks to Goop, an alternative preference has gained momentum, with some in Gen Z at least not owning a truck with established, well-trimmed body standards.

When it comes to personal topiary, there is a growing (sorry) movement to embrace the natural look. Lucie Greene, trend forecaster and founder of Light Years Agency, says that “Gen Z is all about pubes,” citing makeup pioneer Isamaya Ffrench’s new wave of more “subversive beauty” — see her penis-shaped lipstick case, for example.

Gen Z is all about pubic hair

Lucie Greene, trend forecaster

But since we had to make everything happen during the pandemic, perhaps there has been more of a trend towards a laissez-faire attitude towards personal maintenance. Madeleine Spencer, beauty writer, says: “There is a revival of the shrub, provided it is pruned very well. None of this Victorian all-over-the-place stuff. We are talking about a chic, neat shrub from the seventies. Some waxing practitioners have confirmed that I get asked about them more often while I’m in the middle of a wax. That said, I have yet to meet a man who desires more bush. Maybe this will change, but in my experience, when questioned about this, men feverishly declare that they hate excess hair.”

How much you feel the need to prune one personal flower bed for the benefit of any man or woman is hopefully a personal decision. But if you take something off too much, there’s always a merkin.

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