The cutting edge: the history of shaving
The history of shaving is almost as old as mankind. It appears that, from the start, people have wanted to remove their unwanted hair from their highly hairy bodies. It’s true – even the Flintstones wanted a clean shave from time to time. Just like any beauty ritual – shaving has evolved throughout the eras. In this series of articles, we’ll try to briefly (very briefly) tell you something about how our ancestors removed their hair. Sound boring? Wrong!
Table of Contents
The beginning of shaving
The stone age. That’s where it all (probably) started: around 100,000 years ago as mankind learned how to craft and use tools. Our ancestors from that period are always shown as hairy, mumbling creatures, more apes than men. This would have been handy during the Ice Age – you had a nice layer of fur to protect you from snow, wind, snow, water, snow and ice. Plus, it added a proper swagger. Yeah, that’s right – hair was always seen by the opposite sex as something sexy.
How to cut hair in the stone age?
To remove hair, our furry forefathers used different tools, but they were all rather primitive. It is even believed that BEFORE they invented tools, they were pulling out their hair with seashells. How? Use your imagination on that one. It is said it took them 40,000 years (lol, right?) to finally acquire more advanced techniques for hair removal. At this point, they started using more sophisticated tools, such as flakes of obsidian. Once they got the ‘razor’ part down, it took them another 35,000 years to come up with something that resembled shaving cream. And it was only women who used it first! Fortunately, this was around the time of another fairly significant milestone- the agricultural revolution. Now people had a chance to settle down, work on metal and so – create metal blades.
And from this point, it’s a short step towards modern blades, clippers and razors. But you will learn about that in the next part of this article, so look forward to it!
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It’s time for the second part of our History of Shaving series. This time we will travel to ancient Egypt and focus entirely on that.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘Egypt’? Pyramids, the Sphinx, pharaohs, ancient civilizations… Okay, sand might not be first, but it is somewhere there, right? Egypt is hot and you don’t want to be hairy when it’s hot. That’s one of the reasons why ancient Egyptians shaved their bodies – women, men and children. They were also famous for being clean and bathing a few times a day – and in that time it was something to brag about even more than it is now!
Of course, Egyptian fashion had eras filled with beards and mustaches. Men used to braid their beards and decorate them with gold. But at some point they decided that hairlessness separated man from beasts, so they started to clean shave their entire bodies in order to become more civilized. Sometimes they even shave their eyebrows and pull out their eyelashes. Yes, PULL OUT THEIR EYELASHES. Pretty brutal, huh? It was sometimes a part of ritual cleansing, so that’s fun.
Since they were so focused on hygiene, being completely bald seemed like a logical solution for keeping clean. What started as a health procedure resulted in ancient Egyptians distinguishing themselves as an entire civilization of baldies.
In order to become very sexy and completely bald Egyptians would use depilatory creams, pumice stones and bronze razors. But the wealthiest would hire a barber to live with them and clean-shave them every day. Pharaohs’ barbers would even use sanctified razors with jewels. Position of barber was pretty high, since removing hair was so important for the Egyptians.
But wait a second. The Egyptians are always portrayed as ones with big black bobs on their heads, decorated with gold ornaments. Yes. Those were wigs. Going completely bald in public was not common and was not seen as something polite. Also those wigs were protecting them from the sun. Remember? Egypt is hot!
Facial hair were also seen as a negligence. And yes, pharaohs are pictured with long, slim beards, even female pharaohs. They were also fake. Yeah, we know: it’s confusing.
Beards worn by pharaohs were called osirids and they were made out of gold or silver. They were usually worn during celebrations and fancy parties. It was straight when the pharaoh was alive, but after his (or her!) death it was changed to curly one. It was a symbol of pharaoh becoming a god (or a goddess!). And probably nothing shows how important hair was for ancient Egyptians.