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Shaving has been an integral part of our society for many millennia. Few of us ever stop to think about where this ancient custom came from and how it became ingrained our daily lives. We also rarely think about the evolution of razors over time and appreciate how wonderfully easy it is now to scrape the hair from our chinny chin chins. Finally, for those you who may have friends who have been mistaken for the cookie monster (first off they should stop dyeing their hair blue); I would like to go over the basics of shaving.

Shaving, A History

If asked when and where shaving began, most people would tell you that it was somewhere in Europe or perhaps in Rome sometime after the second or first century B.C. Depilation, or the purposeful removal of body hair, actually began much earlier. There are records of shaving as far back as 30,000 B.C. These cavemen originally used seashells or sharpened flint to literally scrape the hair off their bodies. They also used these stones to cut artistic designs into their skin that, if filled with pigment, would become like a tattoo, but that's a different story. Scientists have found these flint and shell tools and used carbon-dating to determine how old they were. Scientists have also found a species of lice present on facial and body hair of cavemen pre-dating these tools. The carcasses of these lice began disappearing from the cavemens' bodies around the time that these Paleolithic shaving tools were being developed and used.

As civilization began to evolve, humans gave up their hunter-gatherer lifestyles and erected cities. With the dawn of civilized man came new technologies, such as the ability to form tools from metal. Around the 4th century B.C. the Egyptians made razors from such metals as copper and solid gold. Early razors were found in Egyptian tombs along with hieroglyphic paintings showing how they were used. Around the same time, the Sumerians were securing obsidian razors to slate handles to make shaving easier.

The Greeks were known for being clean-shaven and this tradition was passed onto the Romans, who used an iron novacila, deemed the "Roman Razor," to shave themselves. This tool looks much like a pair of "brass knuckles" but was thinner and ended in a long, sharp blade. Soldiers began shaving their heads and faces so that their enemies would have less to grab them by, in case of hand to hand combat. This led to the term "barbarians," because the "less-civilized" cultures during Roman times were not shaven and therefore "unbarbered." The tradition of shaving was originally spread by Alexander the Great during his reign the in 4th century B.C. He would not be seen going to battle with even a "five o'clock shadow".

Aesthetic shaving had become popular in most modern societies and was spreading rapidly. Its practice survived the Dark Ages and took off in the Renaissance once again. In the 1800s, the infamous Steel Straight Razor was created for the first time in Sheffield, England in the early 1800s and remained in demand until late 1800s. This razor was known for not only the closeness of its shave, but also the skill required in handling it. It is also called a "cut-throat" razor for obvious reasons.

On June 15, 1880 patent No. 228904 was granted, changing the technology of shaving forever. The Kampfe Bros. created the first ever "safety razor," which helped the user avoid accidents, such as cutting their throat. This new razor added a wire along one side of the blade, to protect the user from cutting into his skin. The only problem with the safety razor was that the blade had to be removed and sharpened often. This problem was solved on November 15, 1904 when patent No. 775134 was granted to King C. Gillette for the first DISPOSABLE safety razor. Gillette made a deal with the U.S. Military during World War I, to provide their razors to all of the armed forces, increasing their distribution and popularity. By the end of the war Gillette had distributed over 3.5 million razors and over 32 million razor blades, demolishing their competition.

In modern times, we have advanced the art of shaving and disposable razors to a point where the major companies have begun accessorizing their razors as a selling point. Some razors come with an extra "Precision Trimmer for tricky spots" (Gillette Fusion Ad). Others use microchips and batteries to increase the smoothness and closeness of the shave. And even others sport low battery indicator lights. It is simply laughable at the things companies try to use to draw the attention of the reader, but it is the cross we must bear.

Most of this history has been focused on shaving from the male aspect. I would like to take a moment here to talk about the history of shaving for women. The records of women shaving pre-20th century are few and far between, but it would appear that certain classes of women have been shaving themselves since the Roman Empire. In Rome, women removed their hair using a combination of chemicals, pumice, and even fire. It was reported that Queen Elizabeth would pluck her facial hair with tweezers. It is also suggested that women of lower class, such as prostitutes and courtesans, would shave their entire bodies as to conform to the male idea of female perfection, as portrayed in the sculptures of the Greeks and paintings of the Europeans. Shaving for women did not become popular until 1915 when the May edition of Harper's Bazaar was published with an ad showing a model in a sleeveless summer dress and bare armpits. This was supplemented by the Wilkson Sword Company, who ran an ad campaign in 1920, whose purpose was to convince the public that feminine body hair was both unladylike and unhygienic. This ad campaign was successful and in two years the sales of razors doubled. Now, this way of thinking has become so engrained in our society, through generations of daughters following their mothers, that most women never question the fact that they shave themselves.

So Many Razors and So Little Time

Single-Blade Razors

Although less commonly used, these razors can still be found and used by the shaving aficionado. These really fell out of demand with the invention of the safe and disposable razor, but some barber shops still offer single-blade shaves. The real problem is the amount of skill required to safely wield the blade and that fact that, if used improperly, can lead to serious accidents and possibly fatal wounds.

Disposable Safety Razors

As previously mentioned, the invention of the safety razor made the others all but obsolete. With the added effect that people stopped slitting their own throats, these made shaving easy, fast, and cheap for everyone. The first disposable razor, made by Gillette, was single bladed and was made completely out of steel. As time went on, however, companies added a few new innovations: more blades, cheaper design, smoothing strips, and even micro-pulse technology.

More blades increased the area over which the razor was removing hair, which decreased the amount of passes a person would have to make at their skin to rid themselves of all the hair. You can still find really cheap single-bladed disposable razors from companies such as Bic, but most of the blades today come with three or four blades. A highly advertised razor today is the Gillette Fusion (4-blader), but I can still remember as a kid when the Gillette Mach 3 was the top of the line in facial grooming.

Razors and their heads became made out of hard plastics, which decreased their cost. Plastics are also easier to mold than steel, which led to razors beginning to look "cool." They began to be molded to the hand for easier grip and were colored in fancy ways to catch the please the consumer's eye. As well as being made out of plastics, some new razors added a swivel head. This allowed the head of the razor to move about 15 degrees above or below the original position. This meant that the blades would follow the curves of the skin better and therefore miss less hair in hard to reach places, like around a man's Adam's Apple or around a woman's ankle.

Many razors now have a small strip at the top of the head which coats the skin in a soothing and smoothing gloss after the razor has passed over it. This cools the shaved skin and leaves it slightly lubricated allowing the user to go over the area with their razor again without chafing. Some of the razor heads for women have large lubricating strips on either side of the blades, which eliminates the woman's need for a moisturizer (shaving cream, soap, etc...) and saves them time.

Finally, micro-pulse technology is something that was invented recently that sends tiny vibrations through the skin. This is supposed to decrease friction between the blade and the skin, which makes the shave feel better. I'm not sure if this really works, I don't use one myself. Razor companies are constantly coming up with new selling points for their razors and by the end of next year I wouldn't be surprised if there was one that greeted you: "Good Morning, Dave."

Electric Razors

Electric razors were first introduced in the late 1920s and include mechanically powered, AC powered, and battery powered razors. The basic structure consists of a foil head which raises the hair up while a blade comes along the inside of foil and cuts the hair to the extracted length. The mechanically powered razors use hand power to either sweep the blade across the foil or to wind up a fly-wheel or spring, which would then run the blade. These have fallen from favor in recent times. Most modern electric razors both look the same, with the difference that the AC-powered razors require an outlet, while battery-powered razor users are free to move about the cabin. Originally patented by Jacob Schick (1928), the idea behind the electric razor was to create a razor that did not require a moisturizer and could therefore be used almost anywhere without making a mess. Later, the Remington Rand Company introduced its first razor in 1937, followed by Professor Alexandre Horowitz, who created the first successful revolving electric razor. Now battery-powered razors, from all different brands, are used by many men around the globe. Many a time have I seen and been seen racing down the highway, drinking a coffee and shaving the scruff, trying to get ready for work.

Shaving for Dummies

What Shall It Be Today Miss? The Legs or the Vagina?

Another interesting progression throughout history is the areas of the body that were popularly shaved. The past has helped define the traditions of the present and, as time has rolled on, the new generations have created new traditions of their own. These new traditions will, no doubt, define the traditions of later generations.

For men, as previously mentioned, it was custom for them to shave their face to separate themselves from the "barbarians." It was also a custom for the warriors to shave their heads as well, as a battle tactic. In modern times, someone with a purposefully shaved head is generally thought of as violent and rebellious, hence the term "skin-heads." For example look at most of the fighters on the UFC, all of them are of a very violent nature and most of them shave their heads completely. There's even a patented, custom, head shaver that sponsors UFC Fighters.

Moving on, it is still traditional of most American men to clean-shave themselves fairly often (everyday or every other day depending on growth speed and schedule). This is still an act to look prepared and put together. As technologies have allowed, however, some men have began to cultivate beards and trim them in specific patterns and shapes, which leaves the same effect on the viewer. Most men will not travel much further than their face when it comes to shaving; however there are specific occupations that call for more. Competitive swimmers and bikers will shave their entire bodies in order to reduce friction between them and their relative fluids. It has also become a trend for some younger men to "trim" their armpit hair as well, to reduce "fuzziness."

For women, the real shaving trend did not start until the 1920s. At that point, however, every woman in America began shaving any hair that would show with their newly hemmed-up skirt line and sleeveless dresses. For most women, this meant shaving their legs and armpits (and in some cases their faces every now and again). As I mentioned earlier, it was said that women, such as prostitutes, were said to have shaved themselves in order to appear as the epitome of the "perfect woman," though it would appear now that women of all classes in society do it. Nowadays, with swimsuits exposing more and more skin, American women who want to be "in fashion" have to shave basically everything.

The Vagina? Okay.

The final topic in this section is probably not only the most taboo, but also my favorite. It is, of course, the shaving of pubic hair. I decided that this subject deserved a heading to itself because it is so new and apart from the rest of the shaving world. Most shaving is to make something appear more neat to everyone, but pubic depilation is something that will seen by a very small percentage of the population and even the people that see will only see it for a brief period of time. This is completely backwards in my mind.

I blame it all on porn. Porn is a wonderful, exciting, and educational thing, but it has its definite downsides; primarily that it IS NOT REAL and the things depicted in it hardly ever happen, at least not to me! I can safely say that a small percentage of the population will experience an actual spread eagle (basically a standing 69 for those who don't know).

Something that you notice about all the famous porn stars, both men and women, is most of them have snipped and clipped their downstairs like a shrubbery into some curious shape or pattern. The men either take it all off or just trim it down to a manageable length (so that it's not getting into the eyes of the person giving them a blowjob). The women can take it all off, or sometime they trim it down and then carve patterns into it, creating a sort of welcome mat.

Back to my point, young men and women see this media and take from it a new idea of what "the perfect man/woman" looks like in the eyes of the opposite sex. Craving the acceptance of their counter-parts and generally being a bunch of horny little fucks, the youth then turn to shaving their privates in order to get a "leg up" on the competition. Now, I don't consider pubic depilation as "wrong" by any means, in fact it can be quite comfortable if done correctly, I just find the reasons people have for doing it interesting.

Tricks of the Trade

Now that you have been informed of the plethora of areas that can be shaved, it's time for the how-to guide to shaving. I'm not sure what exactly you want to trim or shave, but if it CAN be shaved then you'll find out how to do it here.

For most of the body (legs, chest, arms, face, and butt) there are two main methods for shaving: dry and wet. Wet shaving requires a razor, a moisturizer (shaving cream/gel, soap, or water in some cases), and water OR one of those nifty water-resistant electric razors. Dry shaving only requires a razor and a fierce determination to shave yourself.

To wet-shave with a razor, first, wet the Area To Be Shaved (ATBS) with some water, this will suffice as a moisturizer if the razor has large moisturizing strips on it. Otherwise, apply another moisturizer afterwards to the entire ATBS. Then run the razor over the ATBS with enough pressure that you can feel the blades scrape over your skin, but not so much that you dig into your skin (which, although is hard with a safety razor, is NOT impossible). Also, be sure to keep the blades perpendicular to the stroke, otherwise you could slice yourself. 

With the "wet" electric razor, simply wet the ATBS with warm water and rub the razor around the area that you want to shave. Note that electric razors are generally meant for areas that have fairly short hair, usually the stubble on the face or legs. When electric razors encounter large amounts of hair not only does the hair have a hard time making it into the foil, but also the hair that does get chopped off tends to jam the razor.

Now, dry shaving the same as wet shaving though it does not include the use of water, which discounts moisturizing strips and the use of soap. A dry shave can be accomplished by applying a shaving cream to the ATBS and then shaving like normal. Although a dry shave is generally quicker, it can result in razor burn, skin infections and a less-close shave. Using an electric razor, however, dry shaving can be quick, safe and as good as a wet shave. Thank you Mr. Schick!

Now, when using a manual razor, there are some useful techniques to getting that perfectly smooth skin. Some people shave against the flow the hair (which way the hair is laying in the skin), which would be up the face and down the neck and this is very effective, but I find that with delicate skin this can cause little red bumps to form that no one likes. The other option is to go at around 90 degrees to the growth of hair (ear to nose and along the jaw-line), which has basically the same effect as the other way, but is much softer on the skin.

When it comes to shaving or trimming the pubic area there are numerous ways to go about it, but the steps to safely doing it are as such: First, the hair in the area must be trimmed down to a level that will not clog up razors. Then, this hair must be cut down to stubble. Finally, the stubble has to be cut down to skin level, creating a smooth surface.

As mentioned before, the primary problem is the amount of hair in the region, assuming it has never been shaven before. The best way to shorten it is to use a pair of electric clippers with a very short attachment to take most of the hair off. If you lack that option, a small pair of scissors with DULL tips will do the trick too. Either way, take the hair down to anywhere under half a centimeter, but not to skin level.

To take the hair down to a stubble, I would suggest that you use an actually razor for this part so you can see exactly where the blades are in reference to your sensitive parts. First, wet the area and apply a small amount of shaving lotion. Then, in very small, slow strokes run the razor along the growth of hair (normally downward) and wash the blade off often. Repeat this process at least twice or until the hair is no more than a stubble or smooth.

Now, this is the tricky part, because this is when you could hurt yourself in ways that you'd feel with every step you took, literally. To get rid of the stubble there are three options: First, you can purchase an electric razor online specifically made to get rid of this stubble without cutting anything precious. Second, you can commandeer your significant other or best friend's electric face trimmer and carefully go over the skin, without pressing down too hard (and then be sure not to tell them, or at least offer to let them help depending on the situation). Finally, you can use the manual razor and apply another layer of shaving cream, but this time run the razor perpendicular to the growth of hair as described earlier. This will remove more of the stubble and be gentle on your skin.

The techniques described here are only if you want to return yourself to your prepubescent-self. I'm personally a major advocate of the "pubic trim," where you leave the hair at the half a centimeter it was after using the clippers. This establishes you as a grown-up while still taming the jungle, so to speak, and it means you avoid the time when the stubble begins to grow back and you feel like you're walking around with ants crawling all over your privates.

Now you know how to shave, well, everything. As one last word of advice, no matter what you shave, take your time to do it safely and enjoy it. Also, always put some sort of skin moisturizer on after it's all dried off and smooth. This will help the skin heal up.

Famous Barbers and Shaving Mis-Steps

Barbers of Razors Past and Fiction

The most famous historical barbers are those of the Middle Ages. They, on top of giving the closest shaves, acted as the doctors of the time. They were famous for "bleeding" people of their diseases, which lead to a lot of deaths. Stories of these blade-wielding stubble demons have worked their way into our society today, showing up in many movies and TV shows such as Monty Python and SNL. Fortunately, however, these menaces lost their wrist-splitting privileges soon after the Dark Ages ended and went back to shaving peoples' beards.

One barber that has recently become very famous around the world is the fictional character, Sweeney Todd. He has charmed the hearts and minds of many a young child with his gorgeous display of arterial sprays and crunching bones. His macabre lyrics and sinister plans have taken us by storm and have college students around the nation singing along like it was Winnie the Pooh. Mr. Todd shows to the public, that even though it may be the 1800s (in the movie), that single-blade razors can still kill people quite easily.

A famous barber lived on 79 Degraw Street in Brooklyn, NY many years ago. His name was Giovanni Gucciardi. He had been born in Palermo, Italy in 1843 and moved to New York with his family when he was still a child. He grew up integrated in the barber business and worked at such places as the Everett House and the St. Nicolas Hotel, where he shaved such men as Horace Greenly, Edwin Forrest, and A.T. Stewart, before buying his own shop underneath the International Hotel on Park Row. He had a wife and four children. His obituary can be found in the New York Times, issue February 5, 1893.

The final barber that I know of is famous to only a handful of women around the world. This man, who I know through a friend of mine, is the famous Pussy Shaver of Burning Man (Homey Joe to his friends)! Think I'm kidding? This man was lying around, toasted out of his mind at this past year's "Burning Man" event, and a woman came up to him and asked him "Could you shave my bush for me?" Looking around, to make sure it was he who was being address, he agreed. The woman, duly satisfied, then went back and began to tell all her friends about him and soon this man was surrounded by women asking for him to shave their pussies; Hence, his title.

Oops!...I Sliced Him Again

Discounting the innumerable people killed by medieval barbers during the Dark Ages, most of the accidents that occur from shaving consists of many counts of slight razor burn and some incidents of people receiving small cuts that take forever to stop bleeding. There are, however, two famous shaving accidents that I found after some Googling.

First, David Hasselhoff reportedly hit his head on a chandelier in the Sanderson Hotel in London, while shaving at the gym. The chandelier then broke and showered him with broken glass, severing a tendon in his right arm. He spent a night in the hospital, while the public immediately began to accuse him of trying to kill himself.

Second, Henry David Thoreau's brother, John, cut himself shaving and caught lockjaw, which killed him in the winter of 1841. After his brother's death, Henry began experiencing all the symptoms of lockjaw. Concerned about Henry's condition, Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested to Henry that he go spend some time on Walden Pond, to think things over and clear his head. This lead to his famous book, Walden, published in 1854.



Note 1: Please remember that the topics covered here are not universal truths. They are merely generalizations that I have found to be true among a large percentage of people. If you don't shave yourself, or if you aren't a horny little fuck, or if your hair simply doesn't grow in the direction that I said it does, please don't be offended. I respect every person's right as an individual to be different from everyone else and if you are, then good for you. This guide, however, WILL work for most people and I apologize if it doesn't work for you.

Note 2: Some of you may be asking why I didn't include waxing in this guide. The reason is that, although waxing is a particularly interesting and painful form of depilation, it has NOTHING to do with razors and therefore I felt it would be out of place in a how-to guide to shaving.

Well, it's been a long and arduous journey, but we're finally at the end. Good luck! And always remember, practice safe shaving!


Images of Roman Razors:
Images of Kampfe Safety Razors:
Info and Images of Mechanical, Non-Electric Razors:
Info and Images of the UFC "Headblade":


Edit 1: I've been getting a lot of comments on the etymology of the word "barbarian." I apologize, it appears that one of my sources was incorrect in saying that it was because the people were "unbarbered." Its actual etymology is from: the Latin root, barbaria, meaning "foreign country;" the Greek root, barbaros, meaing "foreign, strange, or ignorant;" and from the PIE base, barbar-, representing the unitelligible sound of foreign speech.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary

Edit 2: I recently received some information on the micro-pulse technology and about how it reduces the friction and causes a smoother shave:

"The working mechanism behind micro-pulse razors is the vibration makes the stroke literally a series of very short ones (vibration), reducing friction and adhesion to the face (or other body part) and making a better shave. Short strokes are best, and vibration makes every stroke a series of short ones."

-Quoted with permission from smartalix. Thanks again.

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