Origin of shaving

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No one is sure when men began shaving, but the practice extends to pre-history, by all indications as many cave paintings depict men with no beards or short beards. How they managed to shave is still a matter of speculation. Some think that a pair of shells would have served as tweezers to pull the hair and others believe that knapped blades from obsidian and other igneous rocks such as obsidian were used to cut the hair cleanly.

We do know that shaving including partial shaving of the head was part of Chinese culture as far back as the Song Dynsty and possibly before that. We also know that Egyptian aristocrats favored clean shaven appearances, as well.[1]

The Greeks, however, are generally considered to have been the first to adopt shaving as a cultural standard, probably as a result of Alexander the Great's preference for shaving even before battle.

The Bronze age was probably when the first metal blades were widely used, as bronze was much more capable of taking a very sharp edge than copper and, of course, the iron age and the invention of steel advanced the razor significantly and to this day, steel is still the metal used for virtually all razor blades of any type.[2]

The replaceable blade razor, as we know it, is a recent development. King Camp Gillette invented the replaceable and disposable razor blade in 1895. This invention didn't gain widespread acceptance until World War I when GI's in the field were issued the disposable razor blade system of Gillette. It was convenient in the field; much more so than the straight razors issued by the military of our allies in Britain. After the war, the widespread use of the disposable blade razor changed the market in the US and then subsequently throughout the world. Today, the razor makers are in something of an arms race to put the greatest number of blades in a razor cartridge as possible and the quality and price leave something to be desired.

Perhaps because of that, the straight razor is making a strong comeback and the simple elegant design of the open razor is once again becoming popular for a number of reasons including nostalgia, simplicity, cost savings, and curiosity. Those who have migrated to the straight razor from the cartridge systems often make the straight razor their preference for daily shaving because it's more personal, it can yield a closer and more comfortable shave, and the shaver has more control over every aspect of the shave including the quality of the shaving edge.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. http://www.digitalegypt.ucl.ac.uk/cosmetic/razors.html Razors in Ancient Egypt
  2. http://razorland55.free.fr/bronze_razor.htm Razors in the Bronze Age (article in the French language)