Alexander the Great strongly promoted shaving during his reign in the 4th century BCE to avoid “dangerous beard-grabbing in combat”, and because he believed it looked tidier
For thousands of years man has been fighting a battle with his facial hair – over 25,000 hairs as hard as copper wire of the same thickness.
The hairs grow between 125mm and 150mm per year and man will spend an average of more than 3,000 hours of his life shaving them.
Egyptians shaved their beards and heads which was a custom adopted by the Greeks and Romans about 330BC during the reign of Alexander the Great.
This was encouraged for soldiers as a defensive measure to stop enemies from grabbing their hair in hand-to-hand combat.
As shaving spread through the world, men of unshaven societies became known as “barbarians” meaning the “unbarbered”. The practice of women shaving legs and underarms developed much later.
Men scraped their hair away in early times man with crude items such as stone, flint, clam shells and other sharpened materials. He later experimented with bronze, copper and iron razors.
In more recent centuries he used the steel straight razor (aptly called the “cut-throat” for obvious reasons).
For hundreds of years razors maintained a knife-like design and needed to be sharpened by the owner or a barber with the aid of a honing stone or leather strop.
These “weapons” required considerable skill by the user to avoid cutting himself badly.
Shaving predates history but it was the early Egyptian men and women who really established shaving and hair removal as a regular part of daily grooming.
And the custom continues today for people all over the world.
The Egyptians had an almost unhealthy personal obsession with body hygiene – and curious customs to accompany it.
The Greek historian Herodotus (485-425BC) commented that the Egyptians bathed several times a day and “set cleanliness above seemliness”.
Being so clean all the time was associated with fanatical behaviour by outsiders. The ancient Romans thought that a lack of major body hair was some kind of terrible deformity.
But not in Egypt where priests believed that body hair was shameful and unclean.
Wild animals and barbarians had hair, not the sophisticated and advanced Egyptian civilisation. Being hairless was achieved by shaving, using depilatory creams and rubbing one’s hair off with a pumice stone.
Men, women, and even the children of ancient Egypt all shaved their heads bald and wore elaborate specially-made wigs, which were preferred over a natural head of hair for ultimate protection from the sun’s harmful solar rays.
These wigs were made of natural or artificial hair, and were strategically designed to keep the head cool.
It was rare to find a man or woman out in public totally bald-headed, not just for sun protection, but for making a fashion statement as well.
Another reason for removing all body hair, including that on the scalp was that being hairless gave people an excellent way to prevent various body infections and diseases.
Living in the Nile Valley wasn’t at all easy because it was so very hot and body hair and the heat could become an irritating combination.
Soap was not easily available to the masses and the Egyptians certainly didn’t have the hair care products available to us today.
Keeping shoulder length hair clean was very difficult and washing didn’t always clear up the lice problem that most people had. A bald head could be easily washed and dried.
A bald head didn’t feel itchy under a wig, or create a place for the lice to live. Everyone started shaving everything eventually, yes – everywhere. Being hairless kept people cooler, as well as bug and odour free.
The less hair one had the easier life was.