Shaving has become so normal in today’s world that it’s something most people don’t even think about: they just do it. But, where how did this even happen? How did shaving start and how was the shaving razor invented? We did some research, and found some very interesting information on how the shaving razor of today came to be.
Timeline of Shaving and the Shaving Razor
Stone Age, Egypt, Rome
- 30,000 BC: It’s believed that people shaved and removed hair using clamshells as shaving razors. These were used like tweezers, and there’s actually archaeological evidence of it! Flint was also used to make the first disposable razors — it was sharp enough to shave with, but became dull pretty quickly.
- 2900-500 BC: Mesopotamian elites kept their beards, which were seen as a sign of masculinity.
- 400-300 BC: Alexander the Great ordered his troops to shave off their hair. Because of his endorsement, shaving was made socially acceptable and even became fashionable.
- 3000-332 BC: Living in Egypt is incredibly hot, so it would have been extremely annoying for Egyptians to walk around with hair all over their bodies. There was also a lack of medicine, and going bald was safe and more hygienic. This led to going hairless being considered an act of superiority. Egyptian nobles shaved their heads and bodies. They also began to wear “false beards” — as can be seen in ancient hieroglyphics, even on females.
- 300 BC: The richer you were in Rome, the less hair you had. The richest elites would even have in-house barbers.
- 800 BC-600 AD: Ancient Greeks only cut their beards during times of mourning. They were seen as very important. Young men could not cut their hair until they grew a beard. They then sacrificed their first beard to the god Apollo.
Modern History: England and the United States
- Middle Ages: Royalty determined whether or not beards were in. King Henry VII was beardless, while Henry VIII sported one.
- 1500s: Protestants began to grow beards to demonstrate against Catholicism, as many priests were clean-shaven.
- 1770: A French barber, Jean-Jacques Perret, published The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself (La Pogonotomie). The Perret Razor was a shaving razor that was invented as a safety measure with a wooden guard to hold the razor blade in place and prevent deep cuts.
- 1789-1861: The first 15 U.S. Presidents were clean-shaven. They must have loved using a shaving razor!
- 1800: Straight steel shaving razors became hugely popular. These shaving blades had to be honed from time to time, which was a sharpening process done by a barber.
- 1861-1913: From Abraham Lincoln to William Taft, every president had some sort of facial hair (except Andrew Johnson and William McKinley). Lincoln was actually advised to grow one by a little girl!
- 1895: Gillette invented and sold disposable razor shaving blades. Sharpening methods were no longer needed.
- 1928: The electric shaving razor was invented by Jacob Schick.
- 1930: Beards were prohibited by the U.S. Military because of gas masks.
History of Women Shaving
So, how did women start shaving? It seems that they aren’t mentioned much in timelines on the history of shaving. Thanks to healthyway.com, we were able to find out a little more about how women began shaving.
Greece is where different expectations arose for men’s vs women’s body hair.
Basically, ancient Greeks thought a woman was “uncivilized” if she had body hair. However, there is debate on whether or not the average woman went hairless, or if it was just the elites.
Women going hairless has it’s roots in… Darwinism?
It’s said that Darwin’s 1871 book Descent of Man is the reason why a woman going hairless became popular.
The true culprit of women’s shaving: fashion and advertising
Leg and underarm hair wasn’t much of a concern to women back in the day. Generally, women were wearing such modest clothing that those areas of their bodies couldn’t really be seen, anyway.
In 1915, Harper’s Bazaar started running ads for underarm hairlessness. These ads, among others, began to get inside people’s heads and make them believe that they, too, should go hairless.
However, it really isn’t clear why women began shaving their legs.
Apparently, women started literally dying from trying to remove their body hair. They began using pumice stones and sand paper to get rid of hair in the 1920s and 30s, and that caused irritation and scabbing. Koremlu started being used as a depilatory, but it was a cream made from the rat poison thallium acetate. It did remove hair, but also caused muscular atrophy, blindness, limb damage, and death.
1913-Present: Since Taft, all presidents have been clean-shaven.
Present: Amish men shave until they’re married — then they never do again. Observant Jewish men are forbidden from shaving “the corners of the beard,” per Leviticus 19:27. Most men nowadays choose to shave from personal preference, but even if a man chooses to keep a beard, some sort of grooming or manscaping is performed involving a shaving razor.
In 2016, Slate published an article titled “A New Survey Shows Most Women Groom Their Pubic Hair. Should We Be Concerned?.” It showed that 84% of women did some sort of ladyscaping: whether by scissors, a shaving razor, wax, tweezers, depilatory cream, laser, or electrolysis.
Long story short, a lot of changes have been made to shaving norms throughout history. It’s safe to say that these days, it’s truly a personal preference with whether or not you want to use a shaving razor on any part of your body.
If you’re looking for a shaving razor that will fit your needs during the present, check out these ones here.
These razors are high quality and affordable, with the option of having a subscription so you never have to worry about running out of shaving blades again — they’re delivered right to your door! The best part? $0.99 of every order is donated to START Rescue, an organization that re-homes rescue animals from high-kill shelters. What could be better than shaving to save?