What Do A Celebrity and a 15th Century Prostitute Have In Common?
If there is one job out there that is too bizarre to even imagine, it would be that of the Merkin maker. They have to exist somewhere; merkins are pubic wigs and are used quite often to protect a celebrity’s bits during graphic scenes. Filming a movie set in the 1960’s but the lead actress just got the landing strip cleared? Merkin. The actor has a nude scene but is not contractually obligated to display the twig and berries? Merkin. Burning Man? Crazy Merkins.
Modern merkins are made very similarly to the incredibly expensive hand tied lace wigs of Real Housewives fame. Each hair is curled and attached by hand to lace mesh, cut and then styled. Rooney Mara used one in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Waiting, Harold and Kumar, and Boogie Nights have all used one. Outside of Hollywood, they have a place in performance art such as Burlesque, and at costume-themed events like Burning Man. American Apparel featured merkin-wearing mannequins in 2014 as a show of solidarity to the neighborhood that particular branch was in.
It wasn’t always about showing flair. The merkin can be traced back to the 15th century when prostitutes who showed signs of syphilis would glue hair over the tell-tale scars and continue working. According to the Oxford Companion to the Body, it was a common trait for lower classes to shave their public hair to combat body lice. Wearing a pubic wig might have given the impression that one was rich enough that lice were not an issue. In addition, when men portrayed women on stage, they used a merkin over their own genitals.
So shave it, don’t shave it, wax it, shape it, tweeze it, fucking vajazzle it. Who cares; if we really needed to, we know what to reach for.