How Did They Shave In The Middle Ages?

how did they shave in the middle ages

Shaving is a rather old practice. In fact, you’ll be surprised at just how far back shaving goes. It doesn’t matter whether you have a full beard, mustache, mutton chops, or a goatee. For every style of shave, there is some history that goes with it. From Ancient Rome to modern times, people had very different ways of shaving.  In this article, we will answer questions about the history of shaving, when did humans first start shaving, when it was invented and how did people shave in the middle ages. So let’s begin!

Also Read: Detailed List of Gillette Vintage Razors

The History of Shaving

When was shaving first invented, you might ask? Well, when you take a step back in history, you will see that we have always been fascinated by the removal of body hair.

The prehistoric cave drawings of 30,000 BC show that humans used clamshells and flints to remove body hair. However, the tools were more like tweezers than razors because typically back then the hair was simply pulled out.

Over time, the evolution of shaving resulted in the invention of sharpened objects that were used to scrape the hair off.

Andrew Holt
Source: Andrew Holt PhD

However, come to think of it, this could not have been that comfortable, and the earliest humans understood this. With the advent of the Bronze Age, materials like obsidian and copper allowed for more sophisticated shaving tools. With this, humans could shave their body hair instead of plucking them.

Shaving in ancient Egypt and Greece

Before we answer the question how did they shave in the middle ages, we should talk about how shaving was done in Ancient Egypt. Did you know that priests were required to shave off their whole body? Yes, that’s right. Ancient Egyptians placed more emphasis on shaving rather than keeping the body clean.

As a result, even common individuals shaved themselves to become more appealing to Gods. To achieve all this, the Egyptians concocted the world’s first Nair product. They applied the cream to their body and then scrubbed it off with a stone.

Alexander’s role

Next came Alexander the Great and his view contributed to the evolution of shaving. Before attacking the Persian army, which was 5 times larger than his own, he gave his army the instruction to shave.

Source: HistoryExtra

He believed that the opposite party would grasp the beard and defeat his men. Some historians claim he ordered people to shave because he wanted his army to look more like him. Whatever his reasons were, Alexander’s victory established a culture that did not encourage facial hair. People were more inclined to follow him, considering he had won such a huge battle.

Romans invented Barbershop

The history of shaving was altered because of this. In their attempt to look hairless, the Greeks and Romans made modifications to the circular razor that started with the Egyptians.

They came up with razors made of copper and iron, and even gold. They also straightened the curved blade and invented the straight razor—a design still used today. The Romans also invented the barbershop, and we still see this today.

Source: Hairclippers

The Middle Ages

Now that you know the answer to the question how did they shave in ancient times, and when did humans first shaving, it’s time we talk about the most important questions:  how did they shave in the middle ages and what were the believes behind it?

The Influence of Religion on Shaving

Well, for the most part, shaving was not constant throughout the middle ages. It was sometimes in, and other times, completely out of the picture.

1054 Split

Following the 1054 split between that took place between Western and Eastern Christianity, the western clergymen wanted a shaved beard to differentiate between themselves and the eastern counterparts. They also wanted to stand apart from the Jewish and Muslim infidels.

1096 – A compulsion

In 1096, the archbishop of Rouen stated that he would cut himself of from anyone who had a beard and long hair—not just clerics. Since people living at the time were inclined towards religion, this order made them more motivated to shave. This, in turn, resulted in the popularity of shaving and shaving accessories. This also helped to contribute to the evolution of shaving.

11th Century Accessories

The 11th century brought with it perfumes, applicators, deodorants, oils and other accessories that were going to become increasingly popular. Even to this day, we see how important these accessories are to shaving.

Peter’s Death

However, in some decades of the middle ages, shaving was pretty in. For instance, some Christians were ardent about keeping beards because they wanted to be more devoted to Christ. People were particularly inspired by the non-canonical story about Peter’s death.

Famous People
Source: Famous People

This story is not found in the Bible. Peter was one of the first Christians and was martyred for his faith. According to his story, his persecutors cut off his beard and then shaved his head as a sign of shame.

Becoming Monk

Some monasteries began to incorporate this in their initiation rituals. A young man had to shave off his beard when he became a monk. This was a symbolic share in Peter’s faith and suffering. Following the ceremony, they would have to shave regularly.

Tools Used for Shaving in the Middle Ages

So how did they shave in the middle ages? Well, they used razors. However, they were not at all as sophisticated as they are today. Towards the end of the middle ages, they looked like small axes. Can you imagine using that to trim your beard, and that too every day? It would be a nightmare. However, it was one of those things that had to be done.

However, as we mentioned earlier, shaving was in and out in the middle ages. Some kings wanted it, while some denounced it completely. So, there was no one size fits all approach in this.

Last thoughts

Hopefully, this blog has answered the most pressing concepts and gave you an insight into important questions such as when shaving was invented, how did they shave in ancient times and how did they shave in the middle ages. This should make you appreciate the ease of shaving even more as thanks to modern inventions such as razors, things have become easy and effortless. So, you should start shaving pronto!