Shaving with Clamshells

Men have been shaving for tens of thousands of years. The archaeological evidence is slender, but based on what explorers recorded about pre-industrial peoples, we can make some inferences. American Indian men commonly pulled out facial hair, using clam shells like tweezers. This would not have been just near the coasts, because fresh-water shellfish, known as mussels, were very widespread. Some cultures used sharpened clam and mussel shells to shave with. We can assume that thousands of years ago men shaved the same way. They may also have used sharp pieces of obsidian as razors. We do know that the ancient Egyptians advanced far beyond using clamshells, because bronze razors have been found in tombs. The Egyptians apparently shaved facial hair and shaved their heads, wearing wigs. The Romans had razors made of iron, sharpened but soft, and barbers must have nicked their clients rather often. The first straight razor was invented in France in the 1700s. King Gillette invented the replaceable razor blade and started marketing it in 1904. The following century saw the invention of electric shavers and toiletries such as shaving cream, but the overall technology hasn’t changed much since Gillette’s invention. Shavers still nick their chins, but it’s way better than using sharp clamshells.

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