A Short History of Shaving
Luckily for us, humanity has made some pretty major advancements over the course of history, and there is no doubt that technology has made our lives way easier than nature intended.
While nowadays we can see evidence of these technological breakthroughs in virtually every aspect of our modern lives, we often tend to focus mostly on computers and other electronic devices as being the most important advancements people have made.
However, when we begin to look at the history of shaving, we can see that this is another area where humans have made a great deal of progress—with the most important developments coming in the last 100 years or so.
While you may not think of your best safety razor or multiple blade cartridge as being that technologically advanced, just imagine how much more painful your daily routine would be if you were still forced to pluck out your facial hair or scrape it away with a sharpened shell or pumice stone?
Doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it?
While our modern shaving tools, including the best straight razors, best shaving soap or shaving cream, and shaving brushes may definitely still not be perfect, the following infographic covering the history of shaving should show you just how lucky we are compared to our historical counterparts.
Why Do Men Have Facial Hair?
Men’s facial hair is due to hormones known as androgens – present in both men and women alike.
While this is so, testosterone and other androgens make hair growth in hidden areas of the body like the armpits and pubic areas possible for men and women after puberty.
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While many men tend to grow long beards (big beards) or goatees, the length and thickness of a man’s beard or the ability for men to grow great beards is entirely genetic.
Here is an infographic showing a brief history of shaving.
From Stones to Steel: The Evolution of Shaving
Although Homo sapiens are thought to have evolved more than 2 million years ago, it wasn’t until the last Ice Age around 100,000 years ago that men first began removing their facial hair.
This means that in the history of shaving you could not find a man with shaved hair because there were no tools for men to be shaven.
During this extremely cold period of human history, hair suddenly became a huge liability as having wet hair could quickly lead to frostbite and potentially death if our ancient ancestors weren’t careful.
Unfortunately for these distant relatives, the man had not yet entered the Stone Age in the history of shaving.
Having not yet developed the technological ability and know-how to create even the most rudimentary stone razors, these early humans were left to resort to other measures to take care of their potentially dangerous facial hair problem.
Without any tools to help them with the task, they resorted to simply plucking out their facial hairs one painful hair at a time.
It is thought that this practice continued for well over 60,000 years, and in fact, it wasn’t until around 40,000 years ago that humans first began actually shaving—generally using flakes of rock or sharpened seashells to scrape away their facial hair.
There’s no doubt that this was still an incredibly unpleasant experience in the history of shaving, which is something to remember the next time you complain about the pain and irritation you experience with our fancy modern shavers.
Nowadays hair removal creams are generally thought of as belonging to the realm of female hair removal products.
Well, that wasn’t always the case, as amazingly the ancient Egyptians are thought to have invented the first hair removal creams over 6,000 years ago.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians were quite famous for removing all of their hair from head to toe—usually first with creams and then by rubbing rough pumice stones to eliminate the remaining stubble.
Eventually, the stones were replaced by the first metal razors, which were still incredibly basic and obviously incapable of providing nowhere near the quality of shave as we expect today.
Nonetheless, that didn’t stop the Egyptians from continuing with their hair removal practice.
Strangely though, despite their insistence on all hair be removed, no one ever went out in public without wearing a wig.
In the history of shaving, many men, as well as women, also wore beard wigs, and in fact, all hieroglyphic depictions of Egyptian pharaohs—both male and female—depict them with a fake beard.
The Romans and Greeks both picked up this habit of shaving from Alexander the Great, who forced all soldiers to shave both their faces and heads.
Alexander saw long hair or beards as a huge liability, as they could be used by the enemy to pull the soldier off balance.
Alexander the Great became one of the first men in history to be clean-shaven.
From this point onward, shaving tools really didn’t undergo that much improvement.
The only major changes were in the quality of steel, as we slowly began developing more refined methods for producing better quality steel—although the general design of razors remained the same.
In fact, up until at least the 18th century, the history of shaving reveals that there were rudimentary shavers available that were quite difficult and dangerous to use.
For this reason, most men visited a professional barber every time they needed a shave.
These original barber shaves were really the beginning of what we would today label as wet shaving, which as you can now see, is the ultimate way to go.
How to Shave a Beard
How to shave your beard? This article can’t simply do justice to this question.
There are various tools for shaving beards that we have discussed in this history of shaving up to this point.
From the ancient days when you need to hand pluck hairs from the face in other to shave beards through to the days of the clean-cut beard with electric razors.
Today, to have a clean beard, you must get shaved with a disposable or safety razor.
While beards on men are seen as a sign of maturity, every man must learn how to shave with a razor.
Older men with beards may sometimes look unkept if they do not know exactly how to shave a goatee and look more presentable.
Unlike in the history of shaving, today, men can shave shaved heard with beards using an electric razor.
Who Invented Electric Razor?
Jacob Schick 1928 built the first electric razor.
Men shaving beards and facial hair is not a new thing, in fact, it is an age-long affair that was found in the history of shaving.
But with the invention of the electric razor and wet shaving (safety razors), men shaved heads and beards more conveniently and safely.
Also, check out this infographic on the difference between safety razors vs straight razors.
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1 thought on “History of Shaving Infographic! (Best 10 Point Summary)”
I was amazed that 100,000 years ago people did actually shave, as most of the population was from South Africa. Bookmarked.
As an archaeologist I must say the above history of shaving that goes back 40,000 or 100,000 years is complete nonsense. There are absolutely no data on this, how should we know this? The most likely scenario may be that people simply didn’t shave, and if they would have shaved, then probably with chipped stone and shell tools from the beginnings onwards.
Anyway, nice to put shaving in a long-term context!