Shaving - A Short History
By Jack Hobson

Have you ever wandered who started the daily ritual of shaving?

Drawings in caves from the stone age, indicate that men of that era pulled the hair from their faces. They did not learn how to cut the hair until about 30,000 BC, when they used flint blades for that purpose. Early man also used the flint blades to cut the skin and then he placed colors to create designs.

From about 3,000 BC, copper blades were made for the cutting of hair in both India and Egypt. For the next few thousand years, many razors have been uncovered from archeological sites. In Denmark, razors with bronze blades and carved handles in leather cases have been found. Alexander the Great started the trend to have short hair and a shaved face. Roman women also started removing hair from their bodies through this period, using creams and drugs and the Roman men shaved every day, usually at the barbershop, if they did not have a servant. Indian men neatly trimmed their facial hair but removed their chest and pubic hairs by shaving. The Indian women removed the hair from their legs with tweezers. Some women removed the hair from their legs by singeing them with a lamp. Roman men were recognized as men after their first shave at age 21. Julius Caesar removes all his facial hairs with tweezers.

From about 100 AD, shaving becomes old-fashioned and the bearded look becomes the "in thing", probably to cover a bad complexion.

The middle ages brought about large volumes of clothing and head-dresses and women once again removed any sight of facial hair every day. Men wore their beards long. Schools opened that teach people about personal grooming (cosmetics, hair management etc,) first in Spain and then in other places. Towards the end of the crusades, men started to be clean shaven again.

Queen Elizabeth maintains a lily white complexion and removes all hair form the eyebrows and forehead areas. The ladies of this day followed suit, but wore hairpieces as well. Not long after the men also removed all hair from the forehead.

Finally in the late 1700’s French men realized that they can shave themselves and French women shaved their heads completely, but wore decorative wigs. The first “safety razors” became available. They were not very safe, but promised to reduce the depth of any wound received whilst shaving! In the early 1800s English men boasted about the need to shave three times a day to maintain a proper image. European women were still concocting hair removal potions – which did not work!

The next hundred or so years provided many inventions for grooming, including “safety razors” and disposable razors by none other then Gillette (who are still a major player in providing grooming needs) Then in 1901 the double edged razor blade is invented by a joint venture between Gillette and Nickerson – and this is still available today. New designs continually appear until the a wind up razor was invented, followed by the electric razor. Women did not shave their underarms until a marketing campaign in the United States in 1918, where the advertisement maintained the underarm hair was both unhygienic and unfeminine. Col Shick designed a new type of razor in competition with Gillette and so the race for new and better razors was well and truly on. Shick invented the first dry electric shaver and Phillips of the Netherlands invented the first wet electric shaver. Twin blade, then triple blade and now quad blade disposable shavers are available.

The modern shaving devices are much safer and quicker to use then the earlier one, but like all fashion, perhaps the trend for shaving will change sometime in the future.

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