Having to shave every day makes some men seriously consider growing a beard and throwing away their razor forever. Before you do that, take a moment and think about just how far shaving has come. If you had to use the shaving methods of 100 years ago, you might think twice about complaining about how easy you have it today. Shaving has come a long way since its earliest history and, although we have it much easier, how might shaving change in the next 100 years? Will more blades be added or will the blades be replaced by lasers? We may not know what shaving will look like in the future, but we can take a look at shaving’s past and be more grateful for the methods we use now.
Our earliest ancestors would shave using clamshells, flint knives or shark’s teeth. It wasn’t until the 4th millennium BC that Egyptians were using solid gold or copper razors to shave with.
Ancient Roman soldiers would use sharpened iron blocks to shave their beards so their enemies couldn’t grab them and Julius Caesar actually preferred to have his beard plucked out with tweezers as opposed to rubbing his face with pumice stones which was the method of choice for many Romans back then.
It wasn’t until many centuries later, in 1828, that shaving became safer. Safety razors were invented in 1762 but they never really caught on until 1828 when they debuted in Sheffield, England. Then, in 1847, William Henson invented the hoe-shaped razor similar to what most of us use today. Later, in 1895, a traveling salesman named King Camp Gillette combined Henson’s shape with a disposable double-edged blade. The resulting safety razor eventually made Gillette a fortune and solved the hassle of having to remove the razor’s blade to sharpen it every few shaves.
While it was a good idea, it did have its shortfalls. The blades were very difficult to make and it took Gillette many years to find someone who could make a quality disposable blade. The idea was great, but there was a problem: the blades weren’t easy to make. It took another six years for Gillette to find someone who could actually make the disposable blades.
With safety razors taking off in the early 1900’s, progress was still to come in the way of an electric razor. In 1928, a retired Army colonel named Jacob Schick patented an electric razor which he had designed. By 1931, the Schick razor was selling millions of units. An odd fact about Jacob Schick is that he believed so strongly in the benefits of shaving that he actually thought that shaving on a daily basis could extend one’s life to 120 years.
With the introduction of the electric razor, Gillette’s company took quite a hit and it wasn’t until the 1960’s that he was able to climb back on top of the shaving market. It was in the early 60’s that he introduced the stainless steel blade which was much stronger than the stamped steel blades people had been using and they would last much longer. These stainless steel blades were also more hygienic as they would not rust. Another shaving innovation introduced in the 1960’s was the first totally disposable razor made by Bic. This made shaving even more convenient.
Gillette, of course, struck back in 1971 when it introduced the two-blade razor. This concept grew into the modern designed razors that we use today which have four or five blades.
What does the future of shaving hold for us? Will it be more blades, stronger materials or something even more innovative? Don’t grow that beard just yet as it seems the razor companies are always making this task easier and much more efficient.