The History Of Shaving: From Caveman to Image Concious Gentleman - The Emporium Barber

The History Of Shaving: From Caveman to Image Concious Gentleman

what is the history of shaving

Man has always been battling the growth of hair on his face whether for aesthetic, practical, or hygienic reasons. Shaving has been a normal part of a man’s life for countless generations, and thousands of years despite numerous changes in style trends, social structures, and technology.

As we evolved, so too did the razor and the way we shave. Shaving has involved things like flint rock in the stone age, straight razors made of pure gold by ancient Egyptian royalty, the safety razors of WWI, and the invention of the disposable razor in the modern century. Throughout all these technological changes, the act of shaving lives on, and will likely continue for the rest of human existence.



Shaving Through The Ages


The Stone Age (8700 BCE)

There were many reasons that a man would want to shave his face, depending on the era, and the culture he lived in.

Dating back to the stone age, there are cave paintings on the wall depicting men with cleanly shaven faces. This is hard to imagine in a time where people lived in caves and nomadic dwellings and only hand-crafted tools made from sticks and rocks at their disposal. In these times, it’s likely that men desired a cleanly shaven face to prevent any dreadlocked hairs from crowding their nose and mouth. In these days, it was likely a functional way to live comfortably. The tools used are suggested to be sharpened flint, and even flames and embers used to singe off the hairs around their face.

shaving in the stoneage


The Ancient Egyptians (3000 BCE)

The ancient Egyptians are often credited with the invention and popularisation of shaving as we know it to the rest of the world. They were well known for taking things to extreme perfection, shaving was certainly no different.

In these times, facial hair was considered an indication of personal neglect, and it was fairly common to remove all hair from the body. Many of the affluent population had a barber as part of the house staff, shaving their faces, and sometimes heads, arms, and legs every morning before a bath. The look was considered attractive, and having no hair meant the body could be cleaned much more easily, helping to prevent the outbreak of plagues and illness. The soap used to help the blades glide may have also contributed to this antiseptic application of shaving.

The ancient Egyptians were well known to have a particular interest in gold, believing it to be a divine metal related to the sun, whom they believed to be a god ruling over them each day. Some Pharaohs were even buried with their razors, made out of solid gold so that they could continue to shave well into the afterlife.

egyptian razor

Alexander The Great (350 BCE)

Alexander The Great was the King of Macedon, his military dominance and diplomacy lead to his conquering of much of the known world. He was a true believer in the practice of shaving and recommended all of his 32 000 + troops to do the same. His reasoning was that by shaving the beard, you deprive your enemies from having the advantage of grabbing the beard during battle.

We aren’t saying that shaving is what allowed Alexander The Great to conquer nearly all of Europe and the middle east… but it was certainly a factor.


Early Europe And The Medieval Era (500-1500 AD)

For thousands of years, men evolved through the dark ages with primitive shaving practices. Thanks to the ancient Egyptians and Alexander The Great, the upper class had both access to razors and shaving practices and were almost required to do so by social practices. The practice reached far and wide and was practiced by most of Europe by 500 AD.

The kings, princes, lords and upper class were almost always depicted in portraits sporting a clean shave, moustache or trimmed facial hair. The presence of an unkempt facial hair was associated with the poor and considered barbaric.

The very term “barbarian” is even thought to originate in old French from the term “barbare” and eventually the Latin “barbarus” to mean “beard”.

In those times shaving was difficult, and the tools needed were more expensive than the average person could afford. This kept the practice to the elite, who generally left the art to the professionals… that is the barbers of the era.



The Introduction of the middle class (1700 AD)

Around the year 1700, the straight razor had fallen into the hands of a developing middle class. Once the dark ages had faded, production and human advancements allowed more room for a comfortable, though not rich, middle class to thrive in Europe and much of the middle east. This meant that more people had access to the practice of shaving, which by this time was well regarded as a practice showing elegance and wealth.

The straight razor became very popular during this time but remained in the hands of the barbers. Men would show up nearly every day to their local barbershops for a shave, starting the foundation of the barbershop culture as we know it.



World War One and The Invention of the Safety Razor (1914)

It wasn’t until world war one that the safety razor really made an appearance in popular culture. Prior to this, the straight razor was used, which needed to be sharpened daily. King C. Gillette, the founder of Gillette Safety Razor Corporation, saw the value in a product that could be used a few times and discarded. He produced the first mass-produced, disposable razor, made affordable by industrial production techniques, and made popular by intelligent marketing.

As America entered Europe for world war one after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the doughboys of the American army found themselves having significant issues keeping their faces clean during the hard times of war. The lack of barbers in the dirty and horrific environment of the trenches of world war one and lack of proper shaving equipment meant their facial and head hair grew unrestrained.

Gillette began sending his company's safety razors over to the soldiers for free, to help them maintain their shaved faces without the need of a barber. At the time, the practice of shaving offered more than aesthetic. Keeping the hair on the face and head short helped prevent disease, allowed gas masks and headgear to fit snugly on the face and head, and prevented any chances of them getting tangled up during battle. Additionally, in a similar manner to the ancient Egyptians, the shaving soap used to help the blade slide was an important factor in keeping the soldiers clean and better protected from disease.



Upon returning home after the war was over, there was a huge demand for safety razors in the American market and the company exploded with profit, prompting numerous other companies to pop up across the world producing their own innovations on the safety razor design.

Check out our collection of safety razors here.


Shaving creams also became a popular choice over shaving soaps for their ability to foam without the need for a brush.


The Modern Era

Now in the modern world, facial hair takes all forms. It is no longer necessary to shave the face for cleanliness reasons, and it is not generally considered a symptom of self-neglect to maintain a beard on the face. Nevertheless, shaving remains hugely popular, and there are numerous products available to keep that mane in check.

Straight razors are still used by many of the shaving purists of the 21st century and come in all forms including this elegant and classical rose gold straight razor by Muhle, or even this disposable blade straight razor by Bluebeards Revenge. Classically formulated shaving soaps such as Penhaligons blenheim bouquet shaving soap in wooden bowl, modern shave creams like this one by Bluebeards Revenge.



Safety razors remain popular by men across the world, which come in a variety of styles, and textures to suit the preferences of any man see our selection of safety razors here. The designs have been improved over time, and the price and quality of the blades improve every year. Now, the standard blade is made nearly paper thin, rigid, and designed with slip-proof coatings to help it glide across the face smoothly, and chromium tipped edges for ultimate sharpness.

Disposable razors are also a popular option, in which the entire razor is disposed of after a shave rather than just the blade. These are beginning to fall out of favor due to the cost of good quality razors of this type.


Shaving has, and always will be a part of every man's life, no matter what his facial hair preference is. The technologies involved with shaving will continue to improve, adding modern style, and reviving classic techniques to incorporate into our daily hygiene practices.

We have the benefits of being able to choose from any of these points in history for the style of shave we are after. Many men choose to use the traditional straight razors for the classic feel, and close shave they easily provide. Others prefer to use a safety razor for their morning wet shave routine.

No matter what you choose, it’s important to find a razor that has a good design, and will last through the years.

Visit our selection of shaving products and ramp up your morning shave!




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Trent Pridmore
Trent Pridmore


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