column/bon magazine_08.08.06

The bearded man’s guide to beauty. Part 2: Shaving

In ancient times, Roman men slapped spider webs soaked in oil and vinegar on their faces to stanch the bleeding cuts left by the iron razors of the day. Things have improved a bit since then. Today, technology has opened up the doors to an incredibly close, safe shaving experience – man’s most important little luxury. But it wasn’t always this way.

A not exactly industrially sharpened piece of flint was prehistoric man’s first shaving tool. Egyptians shaved any hair they could find. Etruscans left behind fine razors of bronze. Greeks wore beards until the first hero of shaving, Alexander the Great, turned them on to his own fanatically clean-shaven, smooth-cheeked ideal. The Romans had Julius Caesar, who insisted on always keeping his cheeks free of the slightest hint of stubble.

Then very little happened before 1770, when the French cutler Jean-Jacques Perret introduced a primitive L-shaped safety razor. Englishman William Henson followed suit in 1847, coming up with the first razor featuring a blade set perpendicular to the handle.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the gloriously eccentric King Camp Gillette had designed the first disposable razor, changing the world of shaving forever. From the 1970s onwards, two- and three-blade razor cartridges ruled the shaving world. But in 2003 Schick introduced the four-blade Quattro. Gillette struck back immediately, and this year, they will introduce the Fusion – the first five-blade razor cartridge.

Give it another ten years, and that cartridge may have 25 tiny blades…or 500. The act of shaving may be the one recurring moment in a man’s life when he’s closest to the cutting edge of technology.

Magnus Larsson

Summer 2006: The Cutting Edge

Take a tip from Alexander the Great and strip off that antique facial hair this summer. We’re looking forward to testing the Gillette Fusion razor, the Philips Bodygroom electric shaver (we know, we know, but a razor is tough going for the rest of the body) and Body Tools’ Shave Cream and After Shave Repair and Protect.