Shaving – A history
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. From the crude sharp stones used by cavemen to the advanced razors of today, the history of shaving is a fascinating journey through time, fashion, and technology. 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.
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.
What have the Romans done for us!
During the Roman Empire, shaving became a symbol of civilisation and cleanliness. Roman soldiers were required to shave their faces to maintain a professional appearance, (This is still the case in many armies today) and the trend spread throughout Roman society. In addition, the Roman baths became popular places for men to shave, socialise, and groom themselves. This was the golden age of shaving, and it set the standard for male grooming that still exists today.
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.
The Renaissance: Shaving Returns
With the Renaissance came a renewed interest in grooming and fashion. Men and women alike were eager to shave their bodies and faces to achieve the sleek, polished look that was in vogue. Razors became more sophisticated, and barbershops became centres of fashion and style. The Renaissance saw the rise of the wet shave, where soap and water were used to prepare the skin for shaving.
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.
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.
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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.
Today, shaving continues to evolve, and new technologies are being developed to make the process even easier and more comfortable. From multi-blade razors to laser hair removal, there are now more options than ever for people to achieve the smooth, hair-free look they desire.
Check out our in-depth razor buyers guide HERE
In addition, shaving has become a fashion statement, and there are now many different styles and trends to choose from. From the classic clean-shaven look to stylish stubble, there is a shaving style for every person and every occasion.
When it comes to women’s shaving, the 21st century has seen a major shift in attitudes and expectations. Women are now encouraged to embrace their body hair, and many choose to keep it natural rather than removing it. However, for those who do choose to shave, there are now many products designed specifically for women’s skin, and the process is easier and more comfortable than ever before.
So, there you have it! From the crude sharp stones of the Stone Age to the advanced razors of today, the history of shaving is a fascinating journey through time, fashion, and technology. Whether you prefer to shave or embrace your body hair, there is no denying that shaving has played a significant role in shaping our grooming habits and fashion choices.
The next time you pick up your razor, take a moment to reflect on the rich history of shaving, and appreciate how far we’ve come in our quest for smooth, hair-free skin.
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