The Origins of Shaving

In today’s fast-paced world, it can be easy to lose sight of the past. After all, we’re no different to those who came before us; we’ve just improved our tools. Let’s take a look back at the origins of shaving to see where we’ve been and where we might be heading.

Let’s Take It Back, Way Back

Believe it or not, there’s evidence that people shaved back in the prehistoric era. Archaeologists have discovered tools that date back to 30,000 BC, and while they might not look like much, they got the job done!

Primitive men are believed to have used clamshells to tweeze hairs and sharpened flint stones for shaving. Like disposable razors, the flint would have become blunt quickly and needed replacing, but at least there was no waste!  

Find out why you should switch away from disposables here.

Ancient Egypt

Moving forward a few thousand years and the Ancient Egyptians placed a considerable emphasis on facial hair. Beards held important religious significance and were signs of divinity, with pharaohs sporting long beards that they sculpted and styled.

However, any well-respected man in Ancient Egypt was expected to be clean-shaven, as a hair-free face was a mark of sophistication. Confused? Well, while beards had a religious significance, the time and effort it took to achieve a flawless clean shave was something only the upper echelons could afford. So, Egypt’s pharaohs would be clean-shaven but wear a fake beard to show their religious status – even the women.

It was in Ancient Egypt that the first professional barbers were established, using a sharpened stone blade set into a wooden handle.

The Middle Ages

Following the lead of whoever was ruling the kingdom at the time, shaving in the middle ages was very much on-again, off-again. While some rulers imposed taxes on men with beards, others encouraged them, going on to influence fashion within high society.

While razors still were a far cry from what we use today, there were at least barbers on hand to offer their services. Although, with barbers of the middle ages also called on to pull teeth, perform minor surgeries and embalm the dead, we might give it a pass.

18th Century

In 1770, Jean-Jacques Perret invented the Perret razor and published a book teaching men how to shave their own face. Featuring a blade fixed into a wooden handle, it was of simple construction but paved the way for the modern safety razor and made shaving more accessible.

19th Century

The most significant period for advancements in shaving, the early 19th century saw straight “cut throat” razors at the height of their popularity. During this time, even the men who kept beards would be sure to maintain them to the highest standard they were able, not allowing them to grow unwieldy.

In 1847, William S. Henson produced a razor with the blade at a right angle to the handle, which was the precursor to what would soon become the double-edged safety razor we know today. Given a few modifications, including safety clips, the safety razor as we know it was patented in 1880 and would become the standard in men’s grooming.

20th Century

In 1928, Jacob Schick invented the first electric razor, making shaving even more convenient and accessible. While safety razors would remain the popular choice for most of the 20th century, disposable razors began to increase in use, with the 1980s seeing BIC and Gillette regularly releasing adaptations in a bid to become the buyers choice.

What Next?

Twenty-one years into the 21st century and the drive for sustainability and ethical shopping has seen the popularity of disposable razors replaced with the safety razors of yesteryear. While it’s too early to say what the future will bring, we’re all for returning to our roots (DE razors, not clamshells) and embracing traditional shaving.

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