Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The History of Shaving

The earliest shaving razors discovered were flint blades made possibly as far back as 30,000 B.C. Flint could provide an extremely sharp edge for shaving; these were, of course, the first disposable shavers because flint becomes dull rather quickly. Not only did early man cut or shave off body hair with flint, he also seemed to enjoy carving unusual artistic designs into his skin. If he added natural dyes and colors to these cuts, he ended up with a tattoo.


Flint Blade



In Greece, it was popular for men to crop hair very short and shave the face. Alexander the Great is pretty much the man responsible for this trend because he was obsessed with shaving. He even shaved during wartime, and would not allow himself to be seen going into battle with a five o’clock shadow. Greeks back then considered it an aesthetic approach to personal hygiene, like the Middle Eastern cultures.

Roman men had a skilled live-in servant to shave them; otherwise they started their day with a trip to the tonsor, or barber, who would shave a face with an iron novacila, or Roman razor. This type of shaver corroded quickly and became blunt; so most customers usually, or eventually, got cut. But don’t worry- the tonsor could fix this by applying to the face a soothing plaster made from special perfumed ointment and spider webs soaked in oil and vinegar. Despite the dangers of going to the barbershop, Roman men continued to flock in daily because they were also great centers for gossip and news.


Roman razor



7000 years ago, in Egypt, men of the upper classes shaved their faces and heads. Mastabas (tombs) dating from 4000 B.C. have yielded razors and tweezers and hieroglyphics explaining their use. The Mesopotamian of 3000 B.C. shaved with finely-chipped obsidian blades secured to slate handles, and the Sumerians in 2800 B.C. went clean-shaven as well.








Egyptian King Tutankhamun



As the practice of shaving grew popular, Straight Steel Razors were produced in Sheffield, England, and remained in demand until the mid 1800s. The bad news was these razors become dull quickly, so they had to be honed and stropped frequently in order to use over and over.




Straight Steel Razor and brush






In 1880, the Kampfe Brothers file a patent for the first Safety Razor, featuring a wire skin guard along one side of the razor’s edge. Only one side of the actual blade wass used which had to be removed often for sharpening. This was the best available shaving method on the market that wouldn’t cut a user like straight steel razors.

On November 15, 1904, patent #775,134 was granted to King C. Gillette for another safety razor. It was an entirely new concept — a razor with a safe, inexpensive, and disposable blade. Along with MIT graduate William Nickerson, the Gillette Safety Razor Company started operations in South Boston. During World War I, the U.S. Government issued Gillette safety razors to the entire armed forces. By the end of the war, some 3.5 million razors and 32 million blades were put into military hands, thereby converting an entire nation to the Gillette safety razor. The entire Industry had been revolutionized.


Gillete's razor





Today's trend for fuzz-free legs and armpits started with the May 1915 edition of the magazine, Harper's Bazaar, which featured a model wearing a sleeveless evening gown with hairless armpits.
The mode for smooth pits was aided by the Wilkinson Sword Company who had the bright idea of running an ad campaign in the 1920s to persuade women that underarm hair was unhygienic and unfeminine.
In two years, the sales of razor blades doubled as our grandmothers and great grandmothers made themselves conform to this socially constructed gender stereotype. This norm for North American women has been reinforced by several generations of daughters who role-modeled their mothers.





Today, of course, the types of shaving technologies are unlimited. From efficient electric shavers to the QuickShave razor. I don't feel the need to describe them here. I'll leave you with some photos, though.





15 comments:

HarryG said...

Nice and comprehensive. Enjoyed this one!

thelazygenius said...

thank you.

Anonymous said...

Excellent to find history on this subject. Helps to show shaving did not originate in Turkey.

James said...

The male grooming market has emerged energetically over the past 2 to 3 years in the United Kingdom - as elsewhere - and everyone appears to be jumping on the band wagon in a manner suggestive of a 'new concept' for men having been discovered. Not so. Few things are truly new, as is evidenced by this succinct site.

April said...

You should start looking around at other articles, I know I've read this one as I'm researching the history of shaving...so if I find it again, I'll totally let you know... plagiarism kills.

Anonymous said...

This "article" and the one athttp://www.quikshave.com/timeline.htm
are just a commercial for quickshave. Never trust the internet.

Norman said...

I have tertiary syphilis.

Anonymous said...

OMG! Shaving started that recently?! And yet women are treated like they are men if they don't shave?! "Eewww, look at that armpit hair, eeew, look at those hairy legs!" And now, it's the "in" thing to shave "other" parts of women?! Come on ladies, quit letting them tell us that our beautiful, natural bodies aren't perfect the way God made them!! Burn your razors!! (ok, well not burn because it will cause too much pollution, maybe just don't buy them, you know what I mean-lol) Go natural, embrace your perfection!

Anonymous said...

I shave my sphincter weekly, my pubes bi-weekly.

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Christopher R. Britt said...

Now a day every person want keep him fresh and smart.Smart person always clean his own look.So cleaning your face you need a shaving with a safety razor .

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Claudia Goffe said...

This is very interesting, it's strange how things develop over time. Many people nowadays even choose to grow their beards; to get a healthy looking beard I would recommend beyondbeards. Thanks for the post.

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Rickyponting said...

I just read your article and found it very informative. You have explained the history of shaving in the best possible way but the time has changed now. You can easily use an electric shaver to trim your beard or head and it will not take much time. If you are looking to buy the best electric shaver for your needs then it is recommended to take a look at this list of electric shavers. You will surely find the best one for your needs.