The History of Shaving

For thousands of years man has been fighting the unending battle with his stubborn facial hair. His face has about 25,000 whiskers, which are as hard and rough as a piece of copper wire of the same thickness, and grow at a rate of five to six inches (125 to 150 mm) per year. An average man will spend in excess of 3,000 hours of his life in the act of shaving.

The ancient Egyptians are known to have shaved their beards and heads, a custom later adopted by the Greeks and Romans around 330 B.C. during the reign of Alexander the Great.

This practice was encouraged as a defensive measure for soldiers, preventing the enemy from grasping their hair in hand-to-hand combat. As the practice of shaving spread through most of the world, men of unshaven societies became known as "barbarians", meaning the "unbarbered". The practice of women shaving legs and underarms, developed much later.

In early times man scraped the hair away with crude weapons such as stone, flint, clam shells and other sharpened materials. Later, he experimented with bronze, copper and iron razors. In more recent centuries he used the steel straight razor (aptly called the "cut-throat" for obvious reasons). For hundreds of years razors maintained a knife-like design and needed to be sharpened by the owner or a barber with the aid of a honing stone or leather strop. These "weapons" required considerable skill by the user to avoid cutting himself badly.

For more on the history of shaving, visit The History of Shaving Timeline and How people started shaving.

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