Why were the old Romans mostly clean-shaven?


Even if men have been shaving their faces with a knife for thousands of years, the razor is more modern than ever. It can look back on a longer development history than almost all objects that you come across in everyday life.

Now let's take a closer look at how this endless evolution brought about the perfect shaving tool:

Every beginning was difficult

To understand why razors have existed for over 5000 years, we need to look a little behind the scenes of world history. Let's start at the beginning:

Shark teeth and cobwebs?

Archaeological finds show that men took care of their facial hair in the early days.

At that time there was of course not the luxury of a DOVO BARBAROSSA. The lords of creation had to resort to sharp shells or shark teeth. Very masculine. Sharp tools made of flint or obsidian were also used to scrape off the hair.

3000 years ago, the first metal knives were used for shaving in the Bronze Age. The style-conscious Egyptian used ax-like knives made of copper or gold to take up the fight against facial hair.

Shaving was also common in ancient Rome. On the one hand, the first shave of a young man was considered a religious ritual of growing up, on the other hand, the barber profession already existed there. In Pompeii one also found artfully decorated folding knives, which were probably created as precious family heirlooms.

Since the poor Romans could of course not read our blog about shaving properly, one or two cuts arose. These were treated with cobwebs. Sounds strange, but it's actually an issue again in modern medicine.

Monks and Louis XIV.

In the Middle Ages it was more the clergy who dealt with shaving. In fact, the popes were, for the most part, clean-shaven. The pilgrims would have been bad customers for us back then: They let it sprout and didn't bother about your hair or your nails. If you are not on a religious pilgrimage, then here we will tell you how to properly take care of a manicure.

In the early modern times, razor production was already at a very high level. The knives were sharpened in a wedge shape, wide at the tip and tapered towards the tang. When the god of fashion Louis XIV shaved, there was even talk of the decline of the beard in the West. The invention of hard and pure cast steel made razors so user-friendly that even self-shaving became very popular again.

The perfection

With the invention of the silver steel, the 19th century went down in history as the golden era of the razor. Blades from Sheffield and Solingen in particular were in great demand. The first hollow grinds can be recognized by 1825 at the latest, and the shape of the knives was very similar to what you can still buy today.

Towards the end of the 19th century, razor manufacture was largely industrialized and no longer consisted solely of manual work.

The beginning of the 20th century is an absolute key date for us in Solingen, because the DOVO company was founded in 1906. We have explained our company history in more detail here.

Sadly, World War I made shaving not only fashionable, but essential for survival. In order for the soldiers to survive the horrific gas attacks in the trench warfare, it was essential to guarantee the secure fit of the gas mask with a shaved face. Safety razors became very widespread among the population. Interchangeable blade knives, similar to our Shavette, were now on the market.

The use of razors by hairdressers or barbers tended to decrease. On the one hand, the barber trade was not as widespread as before in the following decades and, on the other hand, the razor no longer completely corresponded to the zeitgeist in terms of hygiene. In barber shops it was common for several men to be shaved with the same razor, which is undesirable from today's perspective.

The invention of the electric razor and the system razor also had a very negative effect on the use of straight razors.

Quo Vadis?

Especially in the last few years the razor can look forward to increased popularity again:

A well-groomed beard is welcome today and also makes many women's hearts beat faster. The anchoring of the beard in fashion goes hand in hand with the return of the barber's trade. For real men there is hardly anything nicer than having a trained barber thoroughly cared for your face, smelling the leather of the peel-off strap, letting soothing tonics spread over your hair and feeling the gentle feeling of well-shaved skin. If you learn to use the razor, then you can experience this beauty spa in the luxury of your own four walls - every day.

In our opinion, the ongoing “retro” or “vintage” trend is also related to this wonderful thing: people are again eager to discover good old things. Whether it's a classic car, a vintage watch or the millennia-old art of shaving with a knife.

But we must not lose sight of the most important things: Straight razors offer the most thorough shave to this day. No other form of shaving removes facial hair so gently and clearly and is gentle on the skin. Even as a beard wearer, you can't really avoid the knife if you want to impress with well-groomed beard contours that are accurate to the millimeter. As you have just read, several thousand years of experience went into the development of the razor, which has made the razor exactly what it is today: the perfect tool and indispensable for your beard.

Make the history of the razor your own tradition and opt for the stylish shave. Become part of this legacy and help ensure that razors from Solingen will still be written about 1000 years from now.