Saturday, 5 December 2015

The History of Shaving

Where I sourced the information in this post : 1 | 2 | 

As we enter the season during which the razors go into hibernation, what a better time to take one topic out of hibernation. Leg shaving ! I really don't think it's a 'taboo' or uncomfortable topic to discuss - I mean, so many of the beauty related ads marketed at women promote hair removal products !

Whether you like it or not, shaving is a thing, almost a presumed to be done thing, with the industry being worth several billion quid and women spending approximately 72 days of their lives shaving ! 

Prior to writing this post, I was planning to discuss our attitudes towards shaving. I do feel that many aspects of the expectation to constantly shave is so so ridiculous. We're naturally hairy human beings, not naturally hairless cats ! In my opinion, it's just another pressure that can contribute to some people's worries over their bodies not looking a certain ideal way. I used to be obsessed over having legs that did not wear a single hair and then about a year and a half ago, I just stopped caring and the razor has not returned to my legs since. 

In saying that, I must emphasise the point that I am not pro or anti shaving. At the end of the day, it all comes down to choice. And many people do shave their legs not because they feel as if they have to, but because they want to. But then again, many don't and I don't wish to criticise them either. Many women and men are also conscious of their body hair, especially if it's darker, and if they choose to get rid of that hair, that's their choice too. I was really interested to find out more about the history of shaving and our attitudes towards it and as I learned from reading article after article online, it turns out that the media did not come along mid-twentieth century and proclaim that thou must wear perfectly hairless legs ! In fact, shaving has almost always been an expected ritual of many past and present cultures around the globe. 

It all dates back to 3000BC when the first shaving creams came about, consisting of ingredients such as starch and arsenic. Skipping forward, the Ancient Egyptians were strict when it came to being cleanly shaven and were described by Greek historian, Herodotus, to "set cleanliness above seemliness". Women during these times used tweezers made from seashells, pumice stones and waxes to remove body hair. There are several main reasons why the Egyptians were so strict about shaving. One, the most noted, is that it was a sign of class. For men, facial hair was a sign of a lack of personal hygiene, therefore also being presumed to be of a poorer class, and anyone of a wealthier class could afford to employ a 'household barber'. In any case, false beards were worn and some historians says that facial hair in Egyptian times would have been like wearing the same outfit to work three days in a row today. The second reason was personal hygiene and a bit of common sense. Egypt, of couse, is situated in North Africa and so, it would have been both extremely uncomfortable and impractical to grow a beard in such high temperatures. And finally, the third reason is another example of personal hygiene and practicality - preventing disease. Obviously, there was no medicine back in ancient times so if you got lice caught in your beard, you were a dead man, hence the lack of facial hair !

From 470-1270AD, the hair removal trends followed by women involved removing their foreheads - eyebrows, lashes and removing the hair of their temples and neck ! Onto the Middle Ages, Queen Elizabeth the First famously did not shave anywhere below the neck but tweezed her eyebrows and prolonged her forehead, using ingredients such as walnut oil and vinegar, keeping shaving popular among women. 

Up until the Eighteenth Century, shaving was not something that could be done by oneself. Only the professionals obtained the correct tools so it could be compared to going to a computer shop to get your laptop fixed nowadays, to put it into context. This all changed in 1770 when Jean-Jacques Perret first suggested the idea of a safety razor, although the first examples consisted of no safety aspects ! 

In 1895, a salesmen King Camp Gilette proposed the first idea of a disposable razor. Gilette became a household name, although it's products were still only marketed towards men. The women of the Twentieth Century were beginning to expose more skin and ask for more than depilatory creams. The Milady Decolletée, the first razor designed for women, was then introduced in 1915. Finally in the 1960s, wax strips became the preferred method of hair removal and the first methods of hair removal came about, although these did not continue as a result of their skin damaging dangers. 

So that is a brief history of the culture around shaving. Reading about it really changed my whole outlook on shaving and the expectations to be cleanly shaving and I do see it now a little bit more of a positive light - but I still don't believe in the pressures ! 

On a final note, I'm seriously missing fashion blogging right now ! Last weekend it was too dark by the time I was going out and this weekend Storm Desmond is being a right oul' meanie so I guess that it will be midweek before this space sees any outfit related content.

Grace x

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