Where Did The Tradition Of Wet Shaving Originate?

Imagine stepping back in time, to an era where barbershops were the gathering places for gentlemen seeking a well-groomed appearance. The practice of wet shaving, the act of using a razor blade and shaving cream to remove facial hair, has been a long-standing tradition among men. But have you ever wondered where this ritual originated? In this article, we will explore the fascinating history behind the tradition of wet shaving, uncovering its ancient roots and tracing its evolution through the ages. So grab your shaving kit and prepare to embark on a journey through time as we uncover the origins of this timeless grooming practice.


Have you ever wondered about the history and origins of wet shaving? Shaving is a daily routine for many people, but have you ever stopped to think about how it all began? In this comprehensive article, we will explore the ancient origins of wet shaving, the influences of ancient civilizations and barbarian tribes, the introduction of razors and the rise of barber surgeons, the developments in medieval and Renaissance periods, the impact of European settlers in colonial America, the industrial revolution and the growth of the shaving industry, the inventions of the safety razor, shaving cream, and brushes in the early 20th century, and finally, the modern times of electric shavers and the return to traditional wet shaving. So sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the fascinating history of wet shaving!

Ancient Origins


The tradition of wet shaving can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it was believed to have originated around 3000 BC. The Egyptians considered personal hygiene to be of utmost importance and shaving was an essential part of their grooming routine. Both men and women in ancient Egypt would shave their heads and faces using sharpened stones or shells. They even had specialized tools, known as bronze razors, which were created with a curved blade and a wooden handle.


In Mesopotamia, which is present-day Iraq, wet shaving was also practiced by the ancient civilizations that flourished in the region. Archaeological discoveries have revealed that the people of Mesopotamia used bronze razors similar to those of the Egyptians. They would shave their beards and heads as a way of maintaining cleanliness and as a cultural expression. Mesopotamians believed that shaving was an important part of their identity and a reflection of their social status.

Ancient Greece

Shaving played a significant role in ancient Greek society, especially among men. In ancient Greece, a beard was often seen as a symbol of virility and masculinity. However, shaving was not completely abandoned. Many Greek men would shave their faces regularly, as it was believed to be a sign of cleanliness and good grooming. The Greeks used a variety of tools for shaving, including straight razors made from iron or bronze. Additionally, they made use of oils and creams to soften the hair and make the shaving process easier.

Roman and Barbarian Influences

Ancient Rome

The influence of ancient Rome on the tradition of wet shaving cannot be underestimated. The Romans were known for their meticulous grooming habits and saw shaving as an essential part of their daily routine. They even had dedicated barbers and shaving shops where men could go to get their beards and hair trimmed. The Romans used a variety of tools for shaving, including straight razors and tweezers. They also developed a technique known as depilation, which involved the removal of body hair using a mixture of powdered minerals.

Barbarian Tribes

During the period of Roman domination, the tradition of wet shaving spread to the various barbarian tribes that inhabited Europe. These tribes, such as the Goths, Vandals, and Franks, adopted the Roman grooming practices, including shaving. However, the barbarian tribes had their own unique styles, with some favoring long, flowing beards, while others preferred to keep their faces clean-shaven. The use of razors, along with other grooming tools, became a common practice among the barbarian tribes.

Introduction of Razors

Evolution of Razors

While the ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Greeks used various tools for shaving, it was during the Middle Ages that the first recognizable razor was introduced. The early razors consisted of a single blade with a handle and were made from either copper or iron. These razors were relatively simple in design and required skilled craftsmanship to produce. Over time, advancements were made, and razors began to feature a protective guard to prevent accidental cuts.

Rise of Barber Surgeons

During the Medieval period, the art of shaving became closely associated with barber surgeons. Barber surgeons were individuals who performed a variety of tasks, including shaving, hair cutting, and minor surgical procedures. They were skilled craftsmen who used razors to remove hair and provide grooming services to their clients. Barber surgeons played an important role in society, as they were not only responsible for grooming but also for maintaining the health and well-being of the community.

Medieval and Renaissance Periods

Medieval Europe

In Medieval Europe, shaving was not limited to the upper classes but was practiced by men of all social ranks. However, the tools and techniques used varied depending on one’s status and wealth. Wealthy individuals could afford finely crafted razors made from high-quality metals, while those of lower social status had to make do with simpler and cheaper alternatives. Shaving in medieval Europe was often done at public bathhouses or by itinerant barbers who traveled from town to town.

The Renaissance

The Renaissance brought about a renewed interest in personal grooming and hygiene. The period was characterized by a focus on beauty, elegance, and refinement. Shaving became more sophisticated, with the introduction of more elaborate razors. These razors had intricately designed handles and often featured decorative engravings. The Renaissance also saw the emergence of shaving creams and lotions, which were used to prepare the skin for shaving and provide a smoother shave.

Colonial America

Influence of European Settlers

The tradition of wet shaving was brought to colonial America by the European settlers. As the colonies were established, settlers from various European countries arrived, each with their own shaving customs and techniques. The English, French, Dutch, and Spanish settlers all had different approaches to grooming and shaving, but they shared a common belief in the importance of maintaining a clean-shaven appearance. Wet shaving became a regular practice in colonial America, and it was seen as a symbol of civilization and cultural refinement.

Straight Razor Manufacturing

The demand for razors in colonial America led to the establishment of razor manufacturing. Skilled craftsmen began producing high-quality straight razors using traditional methods. These razors were highly valued, and men would often have them engraved with their initials or family crests. The production of straight razors created a thriving industry and provided employment opportunities for many individuals.

Industrial Revolution

Safety Razor Invention

The invention of the safety razor during the Industrial Revolution revolutionized the shaving industry. In 1762, a Frenchman named Jean-Jacques Perret patented the first razor with a protective guard or “comb.” This innovative design helped prevent accidental cuts and made shaving safer and more accessible to the general public. The safety razor quickly gained popularity and became a staple in households around the world.

Growth of the Shaving Industry

The Industrial Revolution also brought about advancements in manufacturing techniques and the mass production of shaving products. With the rise of factories and the availability of new materials, such as stainless steel, the production of razors became faster and more efficient. Shaving creams, brushes, and other grooming accessories also became more readily available and affordable. As a result, wet shaving became increasingly widespread and accessible to people from all walks of life.

Early 20th Century

Invention of the Safety Razor

The early 20th century saw further advancements in shaving technology with the invention of the double-edged safety razor. This razor design featured a replaceable blade that could be flipped over, providing a fresh cutting edge. This innovation made shaving even safer and more convenient, as it eliminated the need to regularly sharpen or hone the blades. Safety razors became highly popular and were widely used by men around the world.

Shaving Cream and Brushes

The early 20th century also witnessed the invention and widespread use of shaving cream and brushes. Shaving cream replaced traditional soap and water, providing a more lubricating and moisturizing surface for the razor to glide over. Brushes made from animal hair, such as boar or badger, were used to apply the shaving cream and to create a rich, foamy lather. These additions to the shaving routine enhanced the overall shaving experience and resulted in a smoother, more comfortable shave.

Modern Times

Electric Shavers

In the mid-20th century, electric shavers were introduced, offering a convenient alternative to traditional wet shaving. Electric shavers featured rotating or oscillating blades that did not require water or shaving cream. They provided a quick and efficient way to remove facial hair, and their popularity soared, particularly for those seeking a more time-efficient grooming routine.

Return to Traditional Wet Shaving

Despite the popularity of electric shavers, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in traditional wet shaving. Many individuals are embracing the traditional methods of wet shaving, appreciating the ritual and the superior results it provides. Traditional wet shaving involves using a straight razor or a safety razor along with a brush and shaving cream or soap. This return to the roots of wet shaving has sparked a thriving community of wet shaving enthusiasts who enjoy the process and the camaraderie that comes with it.


The tradition of wet shaving has a rich and diverse history that spans thousands of years. From its humble beginnings in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, to its transformation during the Roman Empire, and its development throughout medieval Europe and the Renaissance, wet shaving has evolved alongside human civilization. It has been influenced by various cultures, survived technological advancements, and continues to be an integral part of many individuals’ grooming routines today. Whether you prefer the modern convenience of electric shavers or the timeless tradition of wet shaving, the history of shaving is a testament to our ongoing desire to present ourselves to the world with care and attention to detail. So next time you pick up your razor, take a moment to appreciate the centuries of tradition and innovation that have brought us to this point in the history of wet shaving.