Sunday Morning Trivia, .. Shaving.

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Question: At what point in history, ..time, ..or space, ..did Homo sapiens conclude that body hair was undesirable?

A Short History of Shaving…

The earliest shaving razors discovered are flint blades made as far back as 30,000 B.C. Flint could provide an extremely sharp edge for shaving; these were, of course, the first disposable shavers because flint becomes dull rather quickly. Not only did early man cut or shave off body hair with flint, he also seemed to enjoy carving unusual artistic designs into his skin. If he added natural dyes and colors to these cuts, he ended up with a tattoo.

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 Flint Blades…

In Greece, it was popular for men to crop hair very short and shave the face. Alexander the Great is pretty much the man responsible for this trend because he was obsessed with shaving. He even shaved during wartime, and would not allow himself to be seen going into battle with a five o’clock shadow. Greeks back then considered it an aesthetic approach to personal hygiene, like the Middle Eastern cultures.

Roman men had a skilled live-in servant to shave them; otherwise they started their day with a trip to the tonsor, or barber, who would shave a face with an iron novacila, or Roman razor. This type of shaver corroded quickly and became blunt; so most customers usually, or eventually, got cut. But don’t worry- the tonsor could fix this by applying to the face a soothing plaster made from special perfumed ointment and spider webs soaked in oil and vinegar. Despite the dangers of going to the barbershop, Roman men continued to flock in daily because they were also great centers for gossip and news.

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Roman razor 1a

 Roman razor

7000 years ago, in Egypt, men of the upper classes shaved their faces and heads. Mastabas (tombs) dating from 4000 B.C. have yielded razors and tweezers and hieroglyphics explaining their use. The Mesopotamian of 3000 B.C. shaved with finely-chipped obsidian blades secured to slate handles, and the Sumerians in 2800 B.C. went clean-shaven as well.

 Egyptian shaving implement 1a

Flint found in the tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamun.

As the practice of shaving grew popular, straight steel razors were produced in Sheffield, England, and remained in demand until the mid-1800s. The downside was that these razors became dull quickly so they had to be honed and stropped frequently in order to use over and over.

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 Straight Steel Razor and brush

In 1880, the Kampfe Brothers file a patent for the first Safety Razor, featuring a wire skin guard along one side of the razor’s edge. Only one side of the actual blade wass used which had to be removed often for sharpening. This was the best available shaving method on the market that wouldn’t cut a user like straight steel razors.

Gillete’s razor …

 King C Gillette 2a

 (King C. Gillette).

On November 15, 1904, patent #775,134 was granted to King C. Gillette for another safety razor. It was an entirely new concept… 

Gillette safety razor 1

..a razor with a safe, inexpensive, and disposable blade. Along with MIT graduate William Nickerson, the Gillette Safety Razor Company started operations in South Boston. During World War I, the U.S. Government issued Gillette safety razors to the entire armed forces. By the end of the war, some 3.5 million razors and 32 million blades were put into military hands, thereby converting an entire nation to the Gillette safety razor. The entire Industry had been revolutionized.

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legs and armpits 1a

Today’s trend for fuzz-free legs and armpits started with the May 1915 edition of the magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, which featured a model wearing a sleeveless evening gown with hairless armpits.

The mode for smooth pits was aided by the Wilkinson Sword Company who had the bright idea of running an ad campaign in the 1920s to persuade women that underarm hair was unhygienic and unfeminine.

In two years, the sales of razor blades doubled as our grandmothers and great grandmothers made themselves conform to this socially constructed gender stereotype.

This norm for North American women has been reinforced by several generations of daughters who role-modeled their mothers.

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Currently, the types of shaving technologies are unlimited. From efficient electric shavers to the QuickShave razor. 

razors and shavers 1b

 (Hygiene combats isolation).

Think about it, I’ll be back tomorrow


Crusader Rabbit…

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