Monday, August 1, 2011

The History of Razors

Prehistoric cave paintings and engravings suggest that as far back as 30,000 years ago, people were using razors made of sharp flint blades. These would have to be disposable, as the blade would blunt with use. Similar razors made of volcanic glass obsidian were still being used by the Aztecs as late as 1500 AD and in Africa as late as 1900 AD.

With the invention of metalworking, permanent razors were made out of copper as early as 3,000 BC in Egypt and India. Ancient Egyptians generally saw facial hair as a sign of personal neglect and men would shave – unless the trend at the time called for neatly groomed mustaches or goatees. Wealthy Egyptians would keep a barber on staff, but some barbers “sacrificed” themselves to serve the poor.

In Ancient Mesopotamia, barbers belonged to a guild and would line a particular street with their shops. Male clients were shaved with a razor and pumice stone, then their cheeks were rubbed with perfumed oils.

In Scandinavia, from 1500 BC onwards, razors took on elaborate shapes and designs. One such razor, found at a burial site, was made of bronze and was enclosed in a leather case. It had a horsehead-shaped handle and its blade was engraved with mythological scenes. It was buried with the dead, presumably, to meet his needs in the afterlife.

According to Julius Caesar, the Britons, who favored a large mustache, “shave[d] every part of their body except their head and upper lip.”

Source: James, Peter and Thorpe, Nick. Ancient Inventions. New York and London, 1995. P. 263-264.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article! I wish more people used old fashioned razors instead of the plastic disposable things that pollute our environment. I have a Lady Gillette that I use for wet shaving along with my handmade shaving soaps.