Shaving through the ages
Shaving – a timeline
The battle between men and their facial hair has raged on for thousands of years. Men were hairless long before women started fighting leg hair and stubborn bikini lines. But the road to the perfect shave has not been a smooth one, from cut-throat beginnings, the razor evolved from rock to copper to iron and finally to the stainless steel high-tech machines of today.
Prehistoric times, B.C.
During the Stone Age, Neanderthal man began plucking hair from his body, by using two seashells as tweezers or flint stones to scrape away body hair.
With the advent of metalworking, crude copper razors came into use in India and Egypt.
Roman men start employing skilled live-in servants to shave them, or they paid a daily visit to the barber where they were shaved with an iron novacila. This Roman razor corrodes and blunts so quickly, that most customers leave with a few nicks and cuts.
Indian men start sporting neatly trimmed beards and shave off all chest and pubic hair.
Alexander the Great starts the clean-shaven trend that is followed religiously by the Greeks and Romans. A smooth face and head was essential in battle as it prevented the enemies from grasping hair in hand-to-hand combat. As this trend spread throughout the world, men in societies that didn’t shave became known as “barbarians,” meaning the “unbarbered.”
Sicilian barbers are imported to Rome, bringing with them a new shaving craze – thin-bladed iron razors that could be used without soap or oil.
4Shaving becomes a cultural practice in Rome as young men who turn twenty-one are required to have their first shave to symbolise their entrance into manhood. Only philosophers and soldiers are exempt from shaving.
Shaving remained high fashion until Emperor Hadrian revived the beard, in order to hide his bad facial complexion.
During the middle ages, it becomes the fashion for women to remove all facial hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes. The first beauty institute is opened in Spain, where students are taught the art of hair removal. Shaving remains en vogue for men.
Aztec Indians of North and Central America start using razors made from volcanic glass, obsidian.
Women are still removing all facial hair and men start shaving their eyebrows to wear stick-on mouseskin eyebrows.
Straight steel razors are produced in Sheffield, England, but they still become blunt quickly.
The first “hoe like” razor is developed by an English inventor, and the blade is placed perpendicular to the handle, shaping the way man will hold his razor in the future. The well-groomed Victorian man also starts using shaving soaps and after-shave.
Enter the first “safety razor,” the brainchild of the American Kampfe brothers. With a wire skin guard along one side of the blade’s edge, nicks and cuts become a thing of the past. Only problem is, the only side of the blade that is used, has to be removed often for sharpening.
King Camp Gillette, a Baltimore salesman, comes up with the idea of disposable razor blades.
Gillette and an MIT engineer and machinist William Nickerson (no pun intended) modify the safety razor by including a double-edged blade that is not only disposable, but replaceable too. The result is a T-shaped razor with an opening at the top where new blades can be inserted.
Gillette’s sales soar and his company becomes the leader in the shaving market.
US army Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Schick invents a new type of safety razor – the Magazine Repeating Razor, which was inspired by the military’s repeating rifle. This nifty gadget has replacement razor blades stored in its handle, so the user can change the old blade without touching the new blade’s surface.
Col. Schick is unstoppable, he now invents the world’s first electric dry shaver with oscillating blades.
Wilkinson Sword introduces the first stainless steel double edge blade. Up until now, razors had been made of carbon steel that corroded easily. The new material significantly increased the life of the blade.
Gillette introduces safety razors with long lasting stainless steel blades.
Schick becomes the first US company to manufacture Teflon-coated stainless steel blades. This non-stick material reduces friction.
Inexpensive disposable razors hit the market.
Wilkinson Sword manufactures the first bonded blade, that is, a blade that is “bonded” in a plastic housing. Twin blades and pivoting cartridges also emerge in this decade.
The Quick Shave Razor, a double headed wet shave razor, is launched. This razor is actually like two razors in one and cuts your shaving time in half.
Razors are getting as high tech as formula one racing cars. Comfort lubricating strips, wire wrapped blades and flexible shaving cartridges are standard issue on all good razors.