The history of shaving, and of razor blade design itself, is a fascinating examination of both how unwanted hair was removed and how grooming trends have changed over the centuries. Even the earliest cave dwellers found themselves with the need to shave, since unwanted hair could become matted and frozen, infested with lice, or just too hot.
But what do you do when the safety razor, the electric razor, and the Mach 3 are millennia away from being invented? Use what you've got, of course! Whether we were using clam shells, shark teeth, pumice stones, or sharpened rocks, humans have always found ways to shear unwanted body hair.
Grooming standards, hygienic practices, and hair fashions have changed wildly throughout history, from the completely bald Egyptians to the flowing beards of Greek philosophers. And inventors have kept finding ways to trim hair, moving from the earliest bronze razors to iron and steel, then to disposable blades, and finally to electric razors.
This list is a rundown of the things humans have used to shave over the eons. Here are some of the earliest pre-razor shaving tools, along with notable razors throughout history, from Alexander the Great's novacila to the newest seven-bladed shaving behemoth.
It’s believed that our ancestors were finding ways to remove hair as far back as 100,000 years ago. Cave paintings suggest early humans held two seashells together to make a crude pair of tweezers. So were prehistoric people into fashion? Tweezing with seashells was probably more practical than fashionable, since less hair meant a lower risk of developing lice, as well as an easier time keeping cool in hot climates and avoiding freezing whiskers in the cold.
Way back in 30,000 BCE people were shaving with rudimentary blades made of flint. That's not all, either, because these same blades could be used to slice decorative designs into skin. Add a little primitive dye to those cuts and you've got prehistoric tattoos to go with your shaved face.
Cave paintings demonstrate how ancient people would use sharpened shark teeth to scrape hair off. This was probably incredibly painful, but represents a pretty creative solution to a tonsorial challenge.
If you happened to have lived in an area that used to harbor ancient volcanoes, you could shave with obsidian flakes. Obsidian is one of the hardest substances in the world and was used by everyone from ancient Britons to 15th-century Aztecs.