The History of Shaving
The timeless activity of scraping ones hair from one's own face with a small razor is built into the very fabric of human existence. But exactly how long have humans been shaving? Can you imagine Alexander The Great with a Craig David style pencil beard? Or Julius Caesar with a Goatee? Perhaps not, but cave paintings as old at 30,000 years depict men with shaved faces.
It is even believed that Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs used beeswax, similar to that of modern beard wax, to sculpt their beard into a thick and dense shape.
In 300 B.C., young Roman men threw parties to celebrate their first shave. They found it to be symbolic of their journey into manhood. Alexander the great instructed his army to shave so the enemy couldn’t get a hold on them.
We will never truly be able to pin point where and why shaving started but one thing is for sure, we men love to shave. We do it for convenience, to express our personalities and beliefs. We do it because it gives us an individual identity.
But how has it changed over these millennia? In the last 100 years, technology has been accelerating past us in every facet of life. And male grooming is no exception. 30,000 years ago, it’s believed sharpened clam shells and flint stones would have been the best a man could get.
In 1500 B.C, those innovative Scandinavians created bronze razors with handles resembling that of a horses head.
During the middle ages, Kings and Noblemen would display perfectly shaved faces with any facial hair trimmed to perfection. If you didn’t shave during these times you were considered to be of lower class.
In 1770, a man called Jean-Jacques Perret was to change shaving forever, when he released a book titled The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself (La Pogonotomie). Due to the perilous history of shaving, along with the book, the Perret Razor was also released to provide a safer shave due to the addition of a wooden guard.
By the 19th century, straight razors had become the norm. For many of us today, this is still the razor of choice due to it’s beautifully close shave, once the technology was perfected. Around this time also saw the introduction of the double edge razor, which meant any simpleton could shave a moustache they could set their watch to. The double end razor also featured replaceable blades and was created by the godfather of razors, King C. Gillette.
This task was further simplified in 1847, when William S. Henson produced a razor with blades set at right angles in the handle. The term ‘Safety Razor’ was patented in 1880. The Safety Razor was able to glide over the skin while still offering the closest of shaves. It remains one of the best methods for a particularly close shave.
It wasn’t until the 1920’s that we saw the introduction of the electric razor. It took some time for this technology to catch on, mostly because they cost the same as a Transatlantic flight. Jacob Schick was the inventor, and the technology was aimed at the busy man with little time on his hands. But the electric razor has never been able to replicate the closeness of the straight stainless steel blades.
In the 1990’s, a paper on Social Behaviour and Personality by J. Ann Reed and Elizabeth Blunk found men with facial hair were consistently perceived to be more attractive, personable, competent and composed. Yet our world leaders appear to insist on that close shave.
Nowadays, like in many other areas, we are presented with more options than ever before. With hundreds of manufacturers, devices with fittings to remove every strand of hair from your body, a bounty of oils and waxes to achieve a myriad of shapes and textures it is easy to feel overwhelmed. In the case of shaving, like many other subjects, the original is always the best. The shave bowl, brush and cream……