When Did Shaving Become Customary?

By Charlie Harper | Guides

Apr 21
When Did Shaving Become Customary

For thousands of years, battle has ensued with bodily hair for both men and women. It’s hard to imagine that thousands of years ago, people would have even cared about hygiene, but not only did they care, there were certain eras that were obsessed with grooming and cleanliness, and shaving was a top priority for those who lived in those times. If you had to guess, when would you think shaving became customary for men, and for women? Most people would probably haven’t really invested much time thinking about the topic, but the answer is pretty interesting. Shaving became customary a lot earlier than we might have guessed and the reasons why it became a popular part of daily grooming was just as interesting.

Hair Growth Fact

Hair never stops growing. It grows on average between 125mm and 150mm each year which means that for men who are shavers and groomers, they will spend about 3,000 hours over a lifetime shaving to remove them. That’s a lot of hours, but for those who want a more groomed and manicured look, it’s worth it.

When did shaving become customary?

Shaving actually dates back to the Egyptians who began shaving for multiple reasons. The Greeks and Romans adopted this tradition of shaving heads and beards during Alexander the Great’s reign around 330BC. Shaving was encouraged due to these reasons:

1. A defense mechanism

During fights, hair was an easy target to grab onto during hand-to-hand combat and could mean the difference between life or death. The lack of hair meant less risk of being nabbed by your opponent.

2. Grooming obsession

Egyptians were obsessed with cleanliness. They bathed multiple times a day sometimes and shaving was part of the grooming process. Cleanliness was put above any other business. There was no “seeming to be clean” allowed. It was a must.

3. Shameful, undignified and unclean

Egyptian priests viewed hair as shameful though outsiders of the Egyptian nation thought to be hairless, was strange and a sign of weakness. The opposite was true for the Egyptians. They viewed hairy men as barbaric.

4. Hot and uncomfortable

They found that to be hairless was much more comfortable in the temperatures of the desert. It was common for men, women and children to shave their heads bald, then wear elaborate made wigs to cover them.

5. Lice and diseases prevention

Lice and diseases were a problem in those areas and in that era so to avoid the issue, shaving hair on face, body and head helped prevent lice infestations.

How did shaving take place before razors?

Most hair removal was performed with a pumice stones, tweezers made from seashells were used for hair plucking as well as razors made from flint stone are recognized as the earliest forms of razors. Flint is able to be shaped into sharp tools which is why it was chosen for shaving hair from faces and other areas of the body. If you were wealthy enough to do so, a barber was kept on staff to do the ritual hair removal processes. Barbers were considered very elite and paid well. If an occasion required the use of a beard, a fake one was worn on the face. Depilatory creams, which are still used today, were used by both men and women, but over the years as razors became the tool of choice for men, women continued to use these creams on their legs and underarms for easier control of removal and less risk of being injured.

Razors become elaborate and more accepted worldwide

By 1500-1200 BC, razors were even more elaborate than ever. It was common to see bronze blades and embossed handles, which were carved into horse heads, on razors that were found in expensive leather carrying cases.

Through the centuries, shaving evolved, different countries and different generations adopted different meanings for their era, on what hair removal or growth meant for them. Shaving went through many different phases and every generation, the people improved on the razor, and their methods of shaving. For instance, in the 1770’s, the Perret Razor was born with the L-Shaped wooden guard that was designed to hold the razor in place. It was considered to be the first safety razor.

In 1847, William Henson created the first razor that was shaped like a garden tool called the hoe razor, which we know as the razor we use today. The blade was placed on the handle perpendicular so that it could “rake” across the skin while maintaining an easy grip. It was an instant, huge success. By the end of the era, all kinds of skin care products began to emerge, lotions and aftershaves. Men really wanted products to take care of their skin aside just removing the hair from their face. They wanted a more comfortable and practical way of keeping a clean, neat and well-groomed face,

By 1895, the Gillette Company foresaw a future in disposable razors; ones you could use a few times and toss. These also hit the market and took off like crazy. Although razors have forever continued to be improved on to be the best at removing hair with little to risk of injury as well as comfort, affordable and convenient, the basic Gillette style razors are still the most popular.

Bottom line

Hair or no hair on the face is a personal preference today as opposed to our ancestors who had to remove hair for hygiene reasons as well as cultural and comfort, but you can thank them for working on ways to make it better and easier through the years. We can’t imagine using some of the old-style tools they had to, just to get the hair off their face and body.

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