Before the advent of razors, hair was sometimes removed using two shells to pull the hair out or using water and a sharp tool. Can I hear a serious "Ouch!" In some Native American tribes, at the time of contact with British colonists, it was customary for men and women to remove all bodily hair using these methods.
In the 4th century BC, Alexander the Great encouraged his men to shave so enemies couldn't grab their beards during melees. Alexander's subjects were often shaved using a novacila, a block of iron with one edge sharpened, which sounds like a great way to turn yourself into a character in True Blood!
Julius Caesar supposedly preferred to have his beard plucked out with tweezers although other Roman men used razors or rubbed the beards from their faces using pumice stones. Early spas? Again, I say, "Ouch!"
Further research uncovered that the safety razor we know was designed in 1762, but it was not until the mid 1800s when they debuted in Sheffield, England. In 1847 William Henson invented the hoe-shaped razor that most of us know, and in 1895 a traveling salesman named King C. Gillette (yes, his first name was King) combined the idea of shaving
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.
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. MIT professor William Nickerson joined up with Gillette to figure out a way to stamp the blades out of sheets of high-carbon steel, and by 1903 they had their first batch of razors ready to take on America's beards. By 1906 Gillette's design was moving 300,000 units a year. Interestingly, Gillette sold the razors at a loss, but he more than made up for it by selling the blades at a huge profit.
Although Gillette's invention came from his notion that he should invent something people bought, threw away, and then repurchased, he wasn't your typical capitalist. He became a strong proponent of utopian socialism later in his life and planned a community in Arizona in which engineers would rationally orchestrate all activity.
In 1928 a retired Army colonel named Jacob Schick patented an electric razor he had designed, and the world finally had a winner. Schick razors took store shelves by storm in 1931, and they quickly sold millions of units. Badgers were probably the happiest when the electric razor was invented. Their hair was prized for wet shaving brushes because it retained water so well.
Jacob Schick went into the shaving business because he thought that if a man shaved often enough, he could lengthen his life to
Shaving soaps preceded shaving creams. They last much longer than an equivalent amount of cream, making them considerably more economical but are also a bit more difficult and definitely more time consuming to use as a lather must be built from them using a shaving brush and water. That said, a soap lather tends to be slightly slicker than one made from cream, helping the razor in its progress and in some opinions providing a slightly closer shave.
So, for the shaving enthusiast, we have imported from Italy...special brushes and shaving soap...also some shaving soap from a New Hampshire soap maker...
"Every time I go and shave, I assume there’s someone else on the planet shaving. So I say, ‘I’m gonna go shave, too." ~ Mitch Hedberg