A merkin is a pubic wig for females that first made its appearance in 1450, as a device to conceal syphilitic pustules and gonorrhoeal warts in the genital area. Merkins were frequently associated with prostitutes, many of them single mothers who had no other source of income, and had to continue working while infected.
Pubic lice were also a significant public health problem, highly contagious and easily spread through sexual contact. The merkin was seen as a solution, as it could be removed and washed regularly to prevent the spread of lice.
In more recent times the merkin has become a fashion accessory to alter the appearance of the female pubic hair, “which is usually, when left to its own devices, unruly, coarse, and shapeless”.