The Lowdown Hub

THE HISTORY OF BEARDS AND SHAVING, WHY DID MEN START SHAVING THEIR BEARDS?

In the 2900500 BC: Wearing beards, which were signs of masculinity and strength, from Mesopotamian rulers and elites at the time.


From Prehistoric Times to Modern Day


Take a look at Ancient Greek busts, and you’ll see that beards abound. Greeks were extremely proud of their beards and put a lot of importance on them. They would only cut their beards during mourning periods, and if you lost your beard, it was considered shameful. At a time Ancient Greece



For thousands of years, man has been fighting a battle with his facial hair – over 25,000 hairs as hard as copper wire of the same thickness. The hairs grow between 125mm and 150mm per year and a man will spend an average of more than 3,000 hours of his life shaving them.


Egyptians shaved their beards and heads which was a custom adopted by the Greeks and Romans about 330BC during the reign of Alexander the Great.

Can you imagine plucking facial hair? When (and why) did men start shaving their beards? Interestingly, shaving has been around since the caveman! Perceptions of facial hair like beards and mustaches have fallen in and out of fashion over the centuries, just as they do today.



400300 BC: Alexander the Great was clean-shaven and encouraged his soldiers to shave before the battle, as beards could be grabbed by enemies in “hand-to-beard combat.”

1500–1200 BC: In Scandinavian burial mounds contain elaborate bronze razors with handles shaped like the heads of horses.


800 BC–600 AD: The Ancient Greeks were proud of their beards. The ability to grow a full beard at that time was a sign of high status and wisdom. (Many Greek men wished to emulate the gods Zeus and Heracles, both of who were shown with huge beards.) Greeks only cut their beards during times of mourning.


400 BC: Ancient Romans reacted against the long, heavy beards of the Greeks, keeping their beards clipped and neat or shaving their beards completely. In the fourth century AD, Ammianus Marcellinus, a Roman soldier wrote, ‘Do you suppose that your beard creates brains … Take my advice and shave it off at once; for that beard is a creator of lice and not of brains.


The Original Hairless Elite

Prehistoric Times – shaving history takes us way back to the Stone Age, around 100,000BC, when Neanderthal Man started first pulling hair from his body. Filing down his teeth was also a popular pastime.


WHEN MEN STARTED SHAVING BEARDS

Beards have been regarded as unclean nuisances, signs of divinity, symbols of strength, and handsome characteristics of an elite man throughout the centuries. Beards go in and out of favor.

Whether or not a man grows facial hair has been determined culturally based on religion, convenience in war, and simple preference. In the present day, due to the safety and convenience of razors, more men have embraced the ease of a clean-shaven lifestyle.

Take a look at how cultures from the ancient Egyptians to the more recent French monarchies decided whether or not to grow a beard!

SHAVING AND FACIAL HAIR IN ANCIENT HISTORY


SHAVING AND FACIAL HAIR IN MODERN HISTORY

Middle-Ages: Beards went in and out of fashion depending on the habits of prominent men. English King Henry VII was beardless, and Henry VIII wore a beard. Many members of French royalty donned beards as well.



Modern Times


Modern style shaving didn’t really make truly significant headway until the 1700s and 1800s. In the late 1700s, Frenchman Jean-Jacques Perret invented the world’s first safety razor (in a sense) by attaching a wood guard to a straight shaving razor. This allowed men to shave at home, when before everyone had to go to a barber whenever they wanted to get rid of their whiskers.

In 1828, the modern concept of the safety razor came into the market in Sheffield, England. In 1895 a traveling salesman came up with the idea of a disposable safety razor, and in the early 1900s with the help of William Nickerson (perhaps the best name to have in the razor industry) developed the double-edged shaving razor. This obviously made the whole shaving process much easier and saved people from having to sharpen their razors every few uses.

400–300 BC: Alexander the Great was clean-shaven and encouraged his soldiers to shave before the battle, as beards could be grabbed by enemies in “hand-to-beard combat.”


c. 300 BC: Young Roman men celebrated their first shave in parties with gifts symbolizing the transition to adulthood. Roman men either went to the barber at the start of their days or had a live-in servant to help them shave. Romans let their beards grow when in mourning.


c. 50 BC: Julius Caesar plucked out his beard hairs, and many Roman men followed suit. (Ouch!)


c. 100 AD: Roman Emperor Hadrian revived the growth of beards throughout Rome, only because he wished to hide his blemished skin. However, the Romans’ attitudes toward beards would wax and wane through history. Though older men equated beards with wisdom, younger men thought the sight of a man with a full beard looked old and unkempt.


793 AD–1066 AD: With the Vikings invading Britain, they depicted the Vikings as unruly in the manner and looks with unkempt hair and beards. (This isn’t actually factual.) In reaction, the trend became beardless, once again.


1500: Many emerging Protestants grew beads as a demonstration against Catholicism (most priests were clean-shaven).


1769: French barber Jean-Jacques Perret published The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself (La Pogonotomie). The Perret razor 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 beardless.


1800: Straight steel razors were widely popular. Men had to rub the blade against a usually leather or canvas strap, called stropping, to realign the fine metal edge and remove any corrosion before each shave. The blades also needed to be honed periodically, a sharpening process that was often done by a barber.


1861–1913: Starting with Abraham Lincoln, who was famously advised to grow a beard by a little girl, every president up to William Howard Taft wore facial hair (except Andrew Johnson, who was impeached, and William McKinley, who was assassinated). Beards were required to be carefully maintained during the Victorian Era.


1895: King Gillette invented and began to sell disposable razor blades. With the disposable blade, stropping and honing were no longer needed.