Almost all guys have one thing in common: we all shave. Some guys shave their head, most guys shave their faces, but pretty much all guys shave something. As long as men have existed, they have had some way of getting hair off their face. However, that way has changed drastically overtime, and has definitely evolved for the better.
100,000 Years Ago: These early men had to “shave” in what sounds like the worst way possible, by literally pulling the hair off of their face. Judging by cave paintings, it appears that many of them used seashells as teasers as they plucked each individual hair off of their face. This extremely painful process was necessary for survival though, because wet facial hair could accelerate the onset of frostbite.
40,000-60,000 Years Ago: Luckily, men got a little more advanced by this time and elected to shave using makeshift razors made from sharpened clam shells or flakes of obsidian. Facial hair was still a big liability, so this advancement was quite literally a life saver. These “razors” still sound pretty painful, but at least it’s better than pulling the hair off of your face.
6,000 Years Ago: The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with cleanliness and as result maintained a strict shaving regimen to ensure that they were always clean shaven. Egypt is hot and muggy, so long hair and a beard were extremely uncomfortable and could also house pests such as lice. This, and simply their obsession with being completely hairless, meant that these Egyptians had to improve the shaving game. They elected to use creams to remove this hair and then repeatedly rub a pumice stone against their face in order to eliminate the stubble. There is evidence that later ancient Egyptians likely had basic metal razors that were used achieve their desired hairless state. Despite this perception, men and women still often wore breathable wigs and fake beards, perhaps to protect them from the sun.
2,500 Years Ago: While the Ancient Egyptians were simply infatuated with shaving, other civilizations chose to shave due to more practical reasons. During Alexander the Great’s conquest, he ordered his men to get rid of all facial hair. He viewed beards and long hair as a liability in battle, giving the enemy something easy to grab onto. This endorsement caught on amongst Greeks and Romans, and being clean shaven became a much more fashionable look. Romans shaved by first using an Egyptian-style razor and then rubbing a pumice stone against their face to remove any stubble. They then applied ointments and oils to soothe the skin after shaving. Through Alexander the Great’s influence, shaving became a huge part of Roman culture, with barbershops emerging as local meeting places (for those wealthy enough to afford it).
18th Century: The next significant development in shaving came with the emergence of the popularized straight razor.Before that, men largely went to barbers and professionals to remove their facial hair and rarely ever shaved their own faces. A French inventor, Jean-Jacques Perret, saw an opportunity and capitalized on it. He developed the first safety razor by installing a guard on a regular straight razor. This design evolved into the modern Sheffield straight razor, with a rotating guard that also served as a handle. Then in the 19th century, the Kampfe brothers patented and marketed a new safety razor that had a wire guard at the edge of the blade and a lather catching head.
1904: The shaving game was changed once again by a traveling salesman by the name of King C. Gillette. Kampfe’s razor blade had to be removed and sharpened regularly, but Gillette had the idea to replace the head every time rather than going through the trouble of sharpening it. However, he still had to figure out how to make a sharp, disposable blade that was cheap enough to make the idea feasible. This resulted in the first modern, double-edged safety razor with replaceable heads. This idea really took off and he began shipping out hundreds of thousands of razors per year. Soon every American WWI soldier was equipped with a standard Gillette safety razor.
1971: By this time, a Gillette product appeared in almost every household and the company bearing the inventor’s name had really taken off. In 1971, they changed the game once again. Gillette debuted the Trac II, the world’s first multi-blade razor, and the first cartridge razor. It had a removable, two-blade cartridge with a permanent handle. This two blade approach was also revolutionary because it reduced the amount of force that had to be applied on each stroke, thus reducing the amount of irritation the skin endured. This really caught on and since then we’ve expanded to 5 or even 7 blades on a cartridge.
Today: Shaving has continued to evolve and change with new developments coming in every year. The electric razor, which was invented by Jacob Schick long before Gillette’s Trac II, has become increasingly popular and has even combined with cartridge razors to form a kind of “fusion” razor. Now, we even have razors with little wheels to make it easier when we shave our heads!
Well there you have it! Shaving has really come a long way, and I for one am very glad that it has. So next time your shaving your face or your head, you should thank all the people who made the modern razor possible, and who made sure you’re not plucking out each hair one by one!