The Origins of Shaving

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Shaving; some like it, some hate it. Still, it has become an essential part of every man’s life. But do you know how this longstanding tradition started out? Here’s a brief introduction to the origins of shaving and the modern razor.

Ancient origins

If you complain about how tedious your morning routine is, you’ll have nightmares with traditional shaving methods. Approximately 100,000 years ago, the lack of metalworking meant that facial hair had to be removed with any sharp object available, such as shark teeth or volcanic obsidian glass. If you think shaving now takes too long, try using shells to pluck hair – a common ancient method- much like using tweezers.

Moving from mere aesthetics, shaving became widespread in Ancient Greek’s Macedon thanks to one of its hidden functionalities. In the 4th BC century, Alexander the Great, king at the time, was known to demand daily shaving from his soldiers. Used as a battle tactic, the lack of facial hair prevented the enemy from grabbing the soldiers and as such, male shaving became widespread in the Middle East.

The first razors

It was in 3,000 BC, the Bronze age, that copper tools were first created, which lead to the development of the first razor. Found in regions such as India, it is believed that the knife-like copper utensils were sharpened using other stones and used to scrape off facial hair with the use of water. Talk about razor burn.

Fast-forward to around 2,000 BC and you’ll find Egyptian men, women and children shaving with copper razors as an illness prevention tool. They were fixated with cleanliness and personal hygiene and due to the spread of lice and the high temperatures of the region, total body shaving became the norm. Beards were still regarded as the epitome of manliness, though, so men resorted to fake wigs and beards.

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In 500 BC, iron razors started to grow in popularity thanks to the establishment of  the first barber shops throughout the Roman empire. At this point, shaving was regarded as an important trade; a luxury only the wealthy could benefit from. Men would line up for hours at their local barbers, who were regarded as key societal figures, similar to the likes of doctors or dignitaries. To convey the message of luxury, the utensils of the time would be decorated with jewels, gold and silver.

As shaving became a popular habit amongst men in civilised cultures, societies such as the Vikings who did not uphold the shaving tradition would go on to be known as ‘barbarians’ (unbarbered).

The disposable razor

What we now know as the modern razor, this little invention didn’t come into existence until the late 18th century. As sharpening razor blades was a craft yet to be mastered, the disposable safety razor was introduced to the market as an effective alternative to avoid dull and blunt blades. The modern razor became a staple in all houses removing the daily chore of visiting the local barber and becoming a morning routine.

Today’s razors

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that razors became a proper alternative to using an unprotected cartridge blade. J. Schick went a step further and first introduced electric shavers in the market in 1928 as an alternative to wet shaving.

The first completely disposable razor wasn’t introduced until the ’60s, around the same time as stainless steel blades became popular. As this material tends to last longer and doesn’t rust, it was an overnight success – forever changing men’s morning routines.

 

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That was a brief introduction to the origins of shaving. As you can see, shaving has come a long way from using scraps of shark teeth and similar sharp objects. Let us know your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Image credit: http://harveyjskincare.com/