The art of shaving embarked on a long and strange journey before it arrived at the Cornerstone razor in 2014. Prepare for a grizzly tale of stone blades, arsenic, and tweezers!
Historians have traced shaving all the way back to the Stone Age, at around 100,000 BC. Despite the stereotype, early Neanderthals were apparently quite concerned with hygiene. Cave paintings dated to this period depict beardless men pulling off their hairs with a pair of sea shells. It may sound painful, but humans still practise this today – we just use tweezers!
The Stone Age dwellers are also known to have used sharpened flint for cutting off body hair. Flint actually dulls quite quickly, so these were the world’s first disposable razors!
Fast forward a few thousand years, and the Ancient Egyptians had made hair removal a part of their daily routine. Most Ancient Egyptians – both men and women, would keep their entire bodies hair-free, as it kept them cooler, and less prone to lice and odor. This is perhaps where our modern day dedication to personal hygiene originates.
However, despite the similar approach to cleanliness, our ancient ancestors were perhaps a little more brutal when it came to hair removal methods. Instead of a smooth Cornerstone shave, they would use depilatory creams made from quicklime, starch and arsenic! Meanwhile, the Ancient Greeks were removing leg hair by singeing it off with a lamp – if only someone would invent the razor…
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Thankfully, the Egyptians saw the error of their ways, and by the time of the New Kingdom in 1569, they were using solid gold and copper razors to keep themselves hair-free. By the late 1680s, this design had been improved in Sheffield, where the steel industry began production of the classic cut-throat razor.
Unfortunately, the cut throat was hardly shaving perfection – the art of closely gliding sharpened over a man’s neck was a perilous task, so it was often necessary to get help from an expert. This was when the barber shop was born – the skill of a barber was seen as a very specialist service, which led to many barbers across 1500s europe sharing their premises with general surgeons!
This history is still reflected today in the red and white swirl of a barber’s pole. Although these are now seen as charming, nostalgic signs, they once represented the blood and bandages that were synonymous with a barbers surgical duties.
The modern razor
Thankfully, this gruesome practice was halted when English inventor William Henson dreamt up the ‘hoe’ style razor. By placing the blade perpendicular to the handle, users were afforded more control, and shaving became much easier to do at home. This design eventually led to the birth of the safety razor, and the modern day cartridge razor. Thanks William!