The Evolution of Shaving: From Ancient Practices to Modern Safety Razors

When Did Man Start Shaving?

Shaving dates back to ancient times, long before the invention of razors. Early humans used two shells to pull out facial hair, a method that was both crude and extremely painful. Epilation, or the removal of hair by the root, was a luxury only the elite could afford, distinguishing them in society. Thankfully, we have evolved from these painful methods to more efficient and less painful techniques.

100,000 Years Ago: The Beginning of Shaving

Archaeological evidence suggests that shaving practices began about 100,000 years ago. By 60,000 years ago, early humans started using sharpened obsidian and shells to cut hair instead of plucking it.

Obsidian rock fracture which would have been used for wet shaving
Obsidian rock fracture, used for wet shaving

Brass, Copper, and Gold Age of Shaving

Around 3000 BC, brass, copper, and gold razors were discovered and used. Alexander the Great, recognizing the tactical disadvantage of beards in battle, encouraged his soldiers to shave. This period marked the birth of the single-blade razor, or straight razor, which is still in use today.

Alexander the great encouraged his men to shave - History of wet shavingAlexander the Great encouraged his men to shave - History of wet shaving

The Straight Razor

In 1680, Sheffield, England, became a key historical marker for the straight razor, with the first steel razors being made. Maintaining a sharp edge on the blade has always been crucial for a good shave. Over the next 200 years, the quality of steel improved dramatically, enhancing the design of the straight razor. These high-quality, carbon steel razors eventually made their way to the United States, becoming popular in barber shops.

Keeping a sharp edge on a blade has always been critical to a good shave, even today. These high quality, carbon steel straight razors would make their way to the Wild West being used predominantly by barber shops as a treat, for a special occasion or for the elite. This type of blade is what is known today as the “cut-throat razor”...although this term “cut-throat razor” truly belongs to Jean-Jacques.

History of wet shaving - the cut-throat straight edge razor

History of wet shaving - the cut-throat straight edge razor

The First Safety Razor

In 1762, Frenchman Jean-Jacques Perret developed an extremely sharp straight razor. A decade later, he published a book titled "Pogonotomy," or the "Art of Shaving," which proposed the first safety razor by attaching a wooden guard to the straight razor.

The first safety razor was a wood guard on a straight razor - History of wet shavingThe first safety razor was a wood guard on a straight razor - History of wet shaving

The Wet Shaving Era

William Henson invented the T-shaped safety razor, and the Kampfe brothers further improved the design. The evolution continued with the introduction of the disposable blade. King C. Gillette, a traveling salesman, standardized the double-edge safety razor. What is not as well known however is William Nickerson's innovation of mass-producing inexpensive, disposable razor blades which revolutionized the industry.


Gillette safety razor patent from 1904 a part of wet shaving history

 Gillette safety razor patent from 1904 - a part of wet shaving history

During World War I, Gillette gained a contract with the US Army, requiring each soldier to have a shaving kit. The reason for this requirement was that poison gas masks did not work with a beard or hair growth as a result soldiers were required to be clean shaven. This propelled the popularity of the disposable razor, which continued through World War II.

Well groomed military men during World War 2 - King C. Gillette introduced the disposable razorWell-groomed military men during World War II - King C. Gillette introduced the disposable razor

This is a critical time in history for men’s grooming, often times you see this evolution documented in vintage photography...generally in pre 1900  photographs men appear more “disheveled” in photos, often with long beards and facial hair but after this period you begin to see vintage photography showing well groomed, clean shaved men.

With King C Gillette’s double edge razor and Jean-Jacques Perret's Safety Razor, the possibility of shaving "at home". Fashion also drove this change, with men coming back from war, the clean shaven man became the accaptable look.

Together with the shaving brush, lather soaps, a sharp shaving blade the luxury experience that higher-end households would indulge in become a reality for the every day man (and woman).


Vintage photo showing well shave man
Early 1900's vintage photo. Safety razors made popular by King C. Gillette

Further Developments in Shaving

The introduction of stainless steel, with its corrosion resistance and hardness, significantly impacted the wet shaving world. While this material was specifically being designed for military applications it has impacted the wet shaving world. In 1928, retired US Army Colonel Jacob Schick applied for a patent for the first commercially manufactured electric razor, introduced in 1931. The 1960s saw the introduction of plastic disposable razors.

The First Plastic Disposable Razor

Invented in 1974 by the French company Bic, the first plastic disposable razor revolutionized the shaving industry by providing a convenient and inexpensive alternative to traditional safety razors and straight razors, which required sharpening or blade replacement. In 1975, Gillette introduced the Trac II, the first plastic disposable cartridge razor, featuring a cartridge system with replaceable blades.

The Gillette Trac II razor revolutionized the shaving industry and set the stage for the development of subsequent cartridge razor systems with multiple blades and additional features.

These introductions marked a significant shift in consumer behavior towards disposable products. It was at this time the plastic disposable razors replaced the traditional safety razor.

The wet shaving experience

Modern shaving offers numerous options, from plastic multi-blade razors to electric razors. However, traditional wet shaving with a safety razor provides the best experience. The ritual of the shaving routine, the aroma of the shaving soap, the downtime to reflect, and the nostalgia of shaving the way your father or grandfather shaved. Today you can opt for a synthetic shaving brush, a large selection of lather soaps, and get the hot water running all the while having the best shaving experience. Opting for a safety razor over disposable options promotes sustainability and reduces razor burn.

Wet shaving experience - 316L stainless steel shaving brish with 316L safety razor
Wet shaving experience - 316L stainless steel shaving brush with 316L safety razor. Photo credit @agravic1331 (Instagram)


We are no longer having to pick out our hair with sea shells for a close shave. Plastic disposable multi-blade razor are very popular, yet sometimes these feel like we are still plucking hairs. Avoid these disposables for a more sustainable approach and a good way to avoid the razor burn. A quality safety razor is a must-have experience, and its worth exploring the ritual, the meditation, the “me-time”.

Little has improved from the single edge sharp obsidian rock, ironically obsidian's edge is still sharper then a razor blade however you still only need one sharp blade for the best shave!
If you have questions and would like to know more about the Cx-316L/Web or our Cx-Ti/Web and how it can change your shaving experience - reach out to us at here.

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1 comment

  • Vary interesting article thanks.

    • Eric