Probably, most of you don’t tend to think about the origin and history of a mundane everyday task for many such as shaving, but it is actually quite intriguing to know that it hasn’t always been this easy or popular an activity.

Actually, shaving wasn’t as easy or as safe as it is today in the ages before the Gillette safety razor was first introduced to the world.

clam shellsThere are some archaeological finds which show that our prehistoric ancestors used clamshells, shark teeth or flint knives for shaving. Later on, in the 4th millennium BC, in ancient Egypt copper and even gold razors where used according to some historical records, while other ancient cultures used sharpened pieces of obsidian volcanic glass for this task.  According to some historians, the shaving razor was first introduced in the 6th century BC in the Roman Empire, but there is no definite answer as to exactly when and by whom the first razor was invented.


photo courtesy of

It is known that Alexander the Great and his army of men used sharpened blocks of iron called “iron novacilas”, apparently not only to maintain a better personal hygiene but also as a military tactic – namely that the enemy warriors could not be able to grab them by the beards and facial hair.

Another famous emperor Julius Caesar had his beard and facial hair plucked with tweezers, while the ordinary Roman men scrubbed of their beards with pumice stones.

All of these methods sound quite dangerous, painful, risky and not so effective.

King Camp Gillette

photo courtesy of Library of congress

This changed much later on in the 18th century, but didn’t actually become so popular until 1828 when the safety razor first debuted in Sheffield, England. Two decades later in 1847, William Henson first invented the hoe-shaped razor, which by the end of the 19th century was re-designed by King Camp Gillette, a travelling salesman who in 1895 combined the hoe-shaped shaver with the idea of it having a disposable double-edged razor blade. This was the turning point in the history of shaving. Not only did it turn Gillette into a rich man and a brand name recognized by all, but it turned shaving into a safer and less-tedious task.

No longer did men have to sharpen the razor after every few shaving sessions. Gillette teamed up with an US professor William Nickerson to find a way to easily and effectively produce the disposable blades. In 1903 they actually managed to produce the first batch of high carbon disposable razor blades, which were made by stamping steel sheets.

In 1906, Gillette was selling 300,000 of these blades a year, and then began making huge profits from them, even though he was selling the actual razors at a loss. Though he became a very wealthy and influential man, Gillette later in his life began believing in establishing a utopian socialism community of engineers in Arizona, and even offered US president Roosevelt 1 million dollars to become the president of this utopia, which Roosevelt declined.


Today, life is even easier, safer, less messy and wet for people who shave, with the introduction of and later on with the growing range of electric razors which are being offered on the market. The development of the first electric razors began as early as the 1900’s but it was a colonel from the army Jacob Schick who made and patented the electric razor which truly become popular and sold in millions. Jacob Schick so much believed in the benefits of shaving that he actually proclaimed that regular shaving will prolong a man’s life to up to 120 years of age. Another milestone in the history of shaving, and the battle for the leadership in the razor race was the introduction of longer-lasting and non-rusting stainless steel blades by Gillette in 1960. Again in the 1960’s Bic introduced the first disposable razors, and in the early 1970’s Gillette invented its two blade razor, and as we all know from experience and from the ads, the inventions and new developments in the area of razors is ongoing today, with the number of functions, blades and other innovations being introduced constantly.