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The History of Shaving

The average beard contains over 25,000 hairs as tough as similar copper wire of the same thickness. That thickness is about 125 to 150mm, and the average man spends 3000 years of his life shaving them off.

Since before recorded history, man have plucked and scraped away unwanted facial hair. Roman encouraged its soldiers to keep their hair short and their faces smooth, so that enemies could not grab then in hand-to-hand combat. It is not recorded if King David’s son Absalom had long facial hair as well as long tresses, but he was left hanging when his long hair entangled in a tree branch, and jerked him off his mount. A beard would certainly have made things more entertaining for the enemy soldier who found him.

The History of ShavingEgyptians copied the Romans, but shaved their heads as well as their faces. A bald pate and baby-smooth face were excellent protection against lice infestations and disease. Nile heat made hair itchy and uncomfortable, too. Everyone shaved everywhere. As a matter of fact, it became a sign of wealth and social standing to be completely free of body hair. Only slaves, peasants and barbarians had beards. Incidentally, the word “barbarian” means “un-barbered.”

Wealthy Egyptians kept barbers on their household staffs. They bathed several times daily, and thought body hair was disgusting and shameful. In Mesopotamia, barbers were held in high esteem, on even keel with doctors and dignitaries. Still, the Egyptians took things to extremes, and men, women and children shaved their heads and wore elaborate wigs. The men donned fake beards which they could remove.

Cave paintings show early men plucking out facial hair using clamshells as tweezers. They also scraped away their beards with seashells. The earliest flint razors date from around 30,000 B.C. But those methods tended to be uncomfortable, and soon someone invented a depilatory cream mad of arsenic, quicklime and perfumed salves.
In 1066 A.D., shaving helped William of Normandy win a battle. His clean-shaven and barbered men resembled the priests of the area, and the enemy completely ignored the threat until it was too late. The razor these men used was straight, shaped like a knife, and required constant honing. It was nicknamed “the cutthroat” and certainly deserved the title.

Still, Beau Brummell, in the early part of the 19th century, used the tool to shave several times a day. He was obsessed with hygiene, and died in a mental institution. In 1847, the hoe razor was invented. It was shaped like the garden implement and allowed men to get closer to their faces with more control. By the end of that century, Gillette had invented the modern razor. That humble tool changed the “face” of history. For different shaving styles visit: Barber Cincinnati


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