Sunday, June 15, 2014

"I lost my father

this past year, and the word feels right because I keep looking for him. As if he were misplaced. As if he could just turn up, like a sock or a set of keys.”   ~Mark Slouka 

On this Father's Day, I think of my Dad whom I lost nearly 15 years ago, and I think that quote tells my tale all these years later.  I am my father's daughter, for sure.  He was originally from north Jersey, the Paterson-Lodi area where they are bolder, and I do believe my Dad was into women's lib with me long before it was in vogue even though he kept my mother in the true 50s housewife motif.

I don't have much "manly" stuff in my shop since I am a "girly shop" as my antique shop neighbors label me, but I do have a neat shaving set and some shaving items, and some male themed books and oddities like tie tacks and cuff links,  but, let's consider men and shaving.

Obviously, cave men could not shave, and then many religions also have prohibitions against shaving. For example, in Leviticus 19:27, the Bible contains a specific prohibition against shaving your beard and the hair on the sides of your head, and some orthodox religions still practice this today.  This is where the Bible becomes pick and choose for things to practice though.

Before the advent of razors, hair was sometimes removed using two shells to pull the hair out or using water and a sharp tool (ouch!). Around 3000 BC when copper tools were developed, copper razors were invented, and it appears that Egyptian priests were into personal hygiene. Alexander the Great strongly promoted shaving during his reign in the 4th century BC to avoid "dangerous beard-grabbing in combat" (the nuns should have practiced that theory with my pig tails). 

Anyway,  once knives and scissors were developed, the refinements lead to the development of the razor -- the sharpest knife possible. With a very sharp knife, it is possible to begin shaving.
According to my research, even with these developments, however, men preferred beards. This may be because shaving with a straight razor is a somewhat dangerous activity better left to a professional. Once again the wealthy had the benefit of being able to have shaving professionals and probably lived in urban areas where those barbers were accessible.

But during World War I in the United States, that all changed. And there were two reasons for that change:
  1. Gillette had released the "safety razor" in 1901, and it was steadily gaining popularity because of a massive ad campaign. The safety razor made it possible and inexpensive for men to shave daily.
  2. Soldiers in the United States army were required to shave. 
­­Certainly one reason for shaving during WWI is the fact that it was the first war to see chemical agents used on the battlefield. Soldiers had to use gas masks for the first time. In order for a gas mask to fit properly, you need to be clean-shaven. The army bought millions of Gillette razors and blades to make shaving possible.
When all of the soldiers returned from WWI with their clean-shaven faces, they were heroes. They appeared in their home towns, and they also appeared in newsreels in the new movie theaters that had sprung up everywhere. Combined with ad campaigns from companies like Gillette, it became the fashion to be clean shaven. Between 1920 and 1960, beards were definitely unfashionable. That taboo has eased somewhat since the 60s, but it is still far more common for men to shave than not. And as you can see, it is strictly a fashion statement, and largely the result of advertising by companies like Schick, Norelco and Gillette.

Or, to put it another way, no one makes any money if you have a beard...
 “Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating...too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.”
John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court    

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