Prostitutes wore them because they were involved in a strange sort of circle of circumstance. Since hygiene in, say, 1450 was basically non-existent, with very few people bathing and those people bathing very rarely, especially in Western Europe, so in order to combat things like lice, many women kept their swimsuit areas shaved of hair. I don't see how this was a problem, and it wasn't for the average woman, but for prostitutes it was a hindrance to business. They would wear merkins, or pubic wigs, in order to cover the signs of the various "social diseases" that they might have. So they would be shaven for hygiene, and covered for business.
For those in the theatre community it was a different sort of circumstance that caused merkins to become popular. At that time, it was mostly men treading the boards, as they would say, so there was considerable effort involved for them to play female parts. This was generally combated with female dress and lots of traditional wigs and makeup, but in some of the more risqué playhouses that showed some of the more sensational plays, there could be no nudity or flashing or whatever with male actors portraying the females. Yes, I can sense that some of you can see where this is going. To take care of this "issue" male actors would wear merkins to cover their twigs and berries so they could convincingly play females while undressed. I know that it seems unimpressive from today's standpoint, but back then the lighting was bad and most people were sitting a fair distance from the stage and so you could get away with stuff like that.
These days, however, we don't have quite the same problems that they did back then. We have made leaps in hygiene that were inconceivableat that time. And as for stage and screen women are all over as actresses, in just about every type of movie in just about every situation. So why then, is the merkin still around as a small but very disturbing part of our society? I don't get it. I just don't get it. I can't conceive a situation where one would feel the need to wear a merkin, ever. Even if you were part of a terrible industrial accident explosion that too all your short and curlies away from you, that is still not a reason to ever, ever wear a pubic wig.
It's not sexy. It can't be sexy. I shouldn't say that, I am sure there is a segment of the population out there who thinks that big mounds of pubic hair are a super turn-on, but I can't say that I am among that subset. Or that most people would be among that subset. Picture this: Woman comes home from a long day at the office. She comes through the front door and finds that the lights in the house are low, and there is the unmistakable, constant, soft flicker of candlelight filling the room and leading up the stairs. Also leading up the stairs is a carpet of rose petals, in red, pink, and white, ending at the closed door to the master bedroom. The woman walks in, removing her coat as she does, and she sees her male lover standing there, holding a bouquet of yet more roses and wearing a strawberry blonde merkin. If I am that girl, that's it. That's all. Night over. My juices stop flowing as soon as I see that. But that's just me. Maybe she digs it and they make passionate love, after which he removes his merkin and his toupee and goes to take a shower.
I guess that my point is that I am confused and a little disturbed by the whole concept and use of the merkin, no less so than I was when we stumbled upon it on The Big Dave and Company Podcast last week. If you are a dedicated merkin user and you are reading this, more power to you I suppose, I just don't see how that does anything for anyone. But that's just me. Sorry.