Why men started shaving.

I've often wondered about this. When and how exactly did we evolve to this perception that clean-shaven equals well-groomed? After all, warriors and rulers of yore prided themselves on their flowing beards and twirling moustaches. So, I decided to some research on the subject and here, I present my findings.

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If you've seen or read about Ice Age, you know how excruciating that long winter was. It practically redefined the word 'long'. And to add to the woes of those poor Stone-Age men, the ice-cold water would get trapped in their abundant beards (they didn't have razors back then and perhaps, their women liked them that way) and make them all the more susceptible to frost-bite. That was one time the women were thanking their stars for their naturally beard-free faces. Back then, men used seashells like tweezers, as per cave paintings dating back a 100,000 years. Later, the blokes realised that they could use flakes of obsidian and clam shell shards like razors (only difference is, they weren't branded 'Gillette' back then).

Women in those pre-historic ages craved for buttery-smooth skin as much as the women of today. And boy, were they creative. Ingredients like arsenic, quicklime and starch served as the building blocks of the first depilatory creams. It was nothing short of shaving alchemy! The advent of agriculture brought with it, the knowledge of how to use metal, and thereby, metal blades.

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We saw how weather conditions forced men to go hair-free in the Stone Age. The Egyptians demonstrated once again, how weather can play spoilsport for beard lovers. The hot climate in the Egyptian empire forced them to bathe several times a day and shave using depilatory creams and pumice stones, so that the sweat trapped in hair wouldn't serve as a breeding ground for pests and diseases. Excavations have revealed the use of rotary blades and circular bronze razors (ah Gillette, you missed another branding opportunity). The Egyptians held cleanliness in high regard and began to see facial hair as a sign that you were either a barbarian, mercenary, criminal or slave (not exactly anyone's ideal image-building exercise). When you do see a pharaoh with a beard, remember that it was false. Yeah, they apparently felt false beards were better and fuller, not to mention disposable.

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The next culprit in this story is none other than Alexander the Great. This fabled conqueror was a major fan of hair-free faces. And if he liked shaving, all of Rome liked shaving. Very soon, barber shops became as esteemed as the CCDs of today and shaving began to be associated with wealth and status. 

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Yes, you guessed it right. The next entity to sign shaving's fan book was the Holy Church. In 1054, the Catholic Church parted ways with the Eastern Orthodox and the Western church leaders felt that shaving was a great way to stand out amidst the Jewish and Muslim clergymen. This became part of the canonical law in 1096 and beards were banned altogether by the Archbishop of Rouen. The women followed suit, inspired by Queen Elizabeth I's penchant for clean-shaven eyebrows (they thought long foreheads were beautiful).

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May we have drum rolls for the first sort-of, kind-of razors! French inventor Jean-Jacques Perret invented the world's first safety razor. Much to the chagrin of barbers, he managed this by attaching a wooden guard to a normal razor. Later, the modern Sheffield straight razor included a rotating guard that also served as a handle. Thereafter, many inventors tried to improve upon the design but they ran into various difficulties. Guess who came up with the first modern, double-edged safety razor? His name starts with G.

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King C Gillette took eight years to perfect the razor and by 1906, he was selling 300,000 razors a year. The brand's success story continues till date, and now we have everything from electric to multi-blade razors. Hell, women have a line of razors of their own! Think about all this the next time you shave. And you'll know it's not just an everyday act but one of great significance, whose secrets have been passed down through the ages...

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This post is a part of #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette