Hairriot? A dyslectic spelling of Harriet? Not really. Rather, it’s a contraction of “hair riot”. So it has a lot to do with hair, but mostly in Sweden and not with all kinds of hair.

It all started on March 10, at the 2012 Swedish Eurovision Song Festival finals, which were won by a generously-haired singer, Loreen. Aside from having a nice voice, Loreen also has a highly elastic figure, which she displays in a wild dance, while softly singing. But her most visible asset is a thick mane of straight but voluminous, fluffy hair. Her hair is visible to such a degree that her facial features are mainly left in the dark. For the most part only a pretty nose protrudes from the tangle of dark tresses. 

However, singer Loreen’s remarkable hair is just an accidental backdrop to this report concerning human reactions to human hair. The moment when Loreen’s victory in the 2012 Swedish Eurovision Song contest was declared, the audience became ecstatic, as is the custom of audiences at such events. They raised their arms, waving, shouting and cheering.

 Provocatively immaculate

TV-cameras responded by taking the usual sweep around the Globen Arena in Stockholm to cover spectator reactions. For a few seconds the cameras zoomed in on Lina Ehrin (32), a pleasant-looking librarian. There was nothing special about Lina or her behaviour. She was raising her arms and waving just as excitedly as everybody else in the audience. But some males in a different audience, the TV-watching crowd back home, noticed that Lina had unshaven armpits: she was brazenly displaying her axillary strands of hair. She had evidently left these evolutionary adornments provocatively immaculate

So some TV-watching males took resolute action. Without delay they posted screen-dumps of Lina Ehrin’s armpits on the web, complete with sneering comments like “how disgusting”, “haa, nasty”, etc. It looked like a case of mobbing on the web and as such it was duly reported by the tabloids.

 Dyed armpits

But by now the opposition, mainly female, started to take angry action – what was wrong with displaying your natural hair in your natural armpits? Pictures of celebrity armpits (with hair) were posted as evidence, among them of mega-beauty Sophia Loren, complete with axillary hair. A multitude of girls started posting pictures of themselves, again displaying their hairy armpits. Some even showed how they had dyed their armpit hair so it would match their dyed head-hair – brown, black, orange, even green. 

Now this hairy thing exploded and became viral. A Facebook group “Recapture our hair!” (in Swedish) got over 10 000 members in the first day and the Twitter hashtag #hairriot had a similar number of followers. It seems that – at least in Northern Europe – young women are not in the least ashamed of showing their axillary hair. On the contrary, they are proud of it, disregarding any commands from the fashion industry or the cosmetic crowd.

 A religious litmus paper?

It seems that the (crazy?) idea of people shaving their armpits is not much older than a century in the US and in the UK. In the rest of Europe it didn’t start until well after WWII. However, Mohammed apparently recommended armpit shaving. So the next time you see a shaved armpit, you may (at your own risk) use the observation as a religious indicator, as a (rather inexact) litmus paper for religious affiliation. Could it be the reason why 50% of the Alabama/Missisippi populace believes that President Barack Obama is Muslim? Maybe Southerners have seen presidential pictures that we haven’t.

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