Imagine... by As | UR

Written and photographed by Chris Pieneman
Clothing supplied and styled by Emma Barrette and Alex Backa: Purple Hippo Vintage
Makeup and hairstyling by Maureen Posadas

The 1960's were a time of great change in western society but also a time during which many standards formed that still endure today more than 50 years later. Of course I'm speaking of standards that have bearing on body image. 

During this time, media now had the opportunity to reach everyone and influence purchasing habits across vast areas through the growing audiences who would see advertisements. Photographs were starting to replace a predominantly drawing-oriented advertisement landscape in print media, and televisions also became more ubiquitous.

The producers at the time had no knowledge however of the long-lasting effects on body image that their casting choices would have. Little did they know that with each model they photographed and put into their advertisements they would be setting events in motion to continue a similar hiring trend for another half-century. I need not explain more than asking you what you might expect to see if you did a search for "1965 fashion ad". 

Imagine, what those 1960s ads might have looked like if the producers at the time knew that their photographs would be playing into, in a formative manner , the body image of women for generations to come.

I imagine the photographs might look a little different.  

... In fact I created my own. 

A New Take on Body Hair by As | UR

Written and photographed by Chris Pieneman
Clothing designed and hand-made by Natasha Sakhuja
Makeup and hairstyling by Brittney Kennedy and Alana Wagner

Growing up I always hated the hair on my arms and my legs. Having English ethnic heritage, its no surprise that like many, I am light-skinned and fair-haired. I hated my body hair not because it was there, but because as a male, I didn't think it was manly enough. Not long enough. Not dark enough. Not thick enough. 

I can remember as early as 10 years old, that felt I was "less than" my hairier classmates with French, Greek or Scottish blood, be they male or female.

Through my childhood and burgeoning awareness of and attraction to the opposite sex, I became aware of the female point of view on body hair which had a similar effect, yet with an opposing set of ideals; for women - or more accurately, for young women, body hair can be an issue with limbs being all sorts of things that don't equate with the social construct of "woman". Not smooth enough. Not silky enough. Not clean enough. Not pretty enough. 

Today, there is a growing number of people challenging that social construct, for both women and for men, and as they do, the ideals that were set long ago which create those "not enoughs" inside our minds are starting to fall apart. 

But it wasn't always that way.

As I developed the ability to succinctly discuss the subject with others by around 18 years of age, I began to find the female experience of being "less than" having body hair far more abundant among women than my experience was among men.  I even had a first date with a girl who "Naired" her arms just for me thinking I was a "certain type" of guy, fearing my disgust at the natural sight of her.

Knowing this feeling inside of myself had created in me the desire to act. 

The fact of the matter is that we have become disconnected from our natural selves, so much so that we berate ourselves for normal, natural things.  When you stop to look at it, the body produces hair in complex and symmetrically evolving patterns just like those observed elsewhere in nature that we might actually exclaim out loud as beautiful, such as clouds, ripples in sand, the crystalline structure of a snowflake or the stripes on a tiger. But utter the word "beautiful" in respect of hair on a woman and you'll be labelled weird, gross or a fetishist. 

Not this time.

In fact, not any more at all. 

#WWHA effects real change in the world on the subject of body hair. Through the#WWHA project, we can start to chip away at the social conditioning that has people look at their own healthy bodies in negative ways and give them the choice to actually love and respect themselves just as they are, in the spirit of As|UR.

The project continues every day and now involves several photographers active in Mexico, Brazil, the United States, and me in Toronto and wherever I happen to travel.  I am thankful I have the support of people from literally every corner of the earth, who have been involved in this journey for years through its development. 

I've published some photos from one of my most extravagant and impactful successes both on the #WWHA homepage and in As|UR's article base. In 2015, I was fortunate to work with a Toronto designer, Natasha Sakhuja, to create a high-fashion modelling experience for a group of women who each has had an experience similar but opposite to my own with respect to their forearm hair. The results of that shoot are shared below, and testimony from each of the models can be found on As|UR's YouTube channel

Thank you to the models, the designer and the supporters for being a part of this project, and here is to many more to come. 

Markana is wearing a two-piece sequin embroidered gown with fringe skirt detail. This gown is from Sakhuja’s  “The Three Thirsts” collection that explores the three cravings in Buddhism: For Existence, for Non-existence, and for Sense Pleasures.

Markana is wearing a two-piece sequin embroidered gown with fringe skirt detail. This gown is from Sakhuja’s  “The Three Thirsts” collection that explores the three cravings in Buddhism: For Existence, for Non-existence, and for Sense Pleasures.

Joa is wearing a white chiffon gown with black organza back and metal zipper detail. This gown is from Sakhuja's debut collection "... and it tasted like bitter almonds.

Joa is wearing a white chiffon gown with black organza back and metal zipper detail. This gown is from Sakhuja's debut collection "... and it tasted like bitter almonds.

Tiffani is wearing an embroidered white cotton silk and chiffon princess gown. This gown is from Sakhuja's  “The Three Thirsts” Collection.

Tiffani is wearing an embroidered white cotton silk and chiffon princess gown. This gown is from Sakhuja's  “The Three Thirsts” Collection.

Andrea is wearing a python bodice print gown with organza skirt. This piece is from Sakhuja's "The 5 stages of Grief" Collection.

Andrea is wearing a python bodice print gown with organza skirt. This piece is from Sakhuja's "The 5 stages of Grief" Collection.

Rose is wearing an embroidered white silk gown with cross back detail.  This gown is from Sakhuja's  “The Three Thirsts” Collection.

Rose is wearing an embroidered white silk gown with cross back detail.  This gown is from Sakhuja's  “The Three Thirsts” Collection.