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Mankind has had hygiene regimens that include removing unwanted body hair for thousands of years. Throughout the centuries, removing facial hair has been linked to a person's standing in society, their religious beliefs, and the culture or government they belong to.
Ancient Egyptians were known for their cleanliness. They had a strict regimen of cleaning and shaving their bodies every single day. This included men, women, and children. The higher up in society a person was, the more likely it was that they would keep themselves shaved completely bare. This was due in part to the weather in Egypt. Egypt is hot, and the Nile River produced a lot of humidity. Having long hair and a long beard in these conditions would have been all but intolerable.
Long facial hair also made the spread of pests like lice easier. And since there was not the same medicine to treat these pests available in ancient Egypt as there is available today, keeping clean-shaven and going bald was the most hygienic option available. In fact, researchers have found that the ancient Egyptians viewed growing facial hair as a sign of neglecting one’s personal hygiene. A barber who would keep a person well shaved was a well-respected person in the community. They had a position in ancient Egypt that was comparable to other professional trades like being a doctor.
The idea of staying clean-shaven continued on with the Grecian Empire. In fact, it is reported that Alexander the Great ordered his men to keep themselves clean-shaven and to cut off their hair in order to prevent their enemies from having anything to grab onto during combat. Over time, the clean shaven appearance of the military found its way into socially acceptable fashion in the ancient Greek world. Ancient Greeks used a straightened raiser to keep themselves clean-shaven. It is very similar to the razor blades that are commonly used today.
As the Roman Empire came into power, the trend in shaving that was instituted by Alexander the Great centuries earlier quickly became part of Roman society. The richer a person was, the less body hair they sported.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the practice of shaving became less popular with the common people. However, following the split of the Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1054 A.D., church leaders required that the clergy shave to distinguish themselves from the Jews and Muslims.
Today shaving is an integral part of Western society. In most circles, a clean-shaven man is seen as respectable and professional. In modern society, there are many apparatuses that are available to give men a clean and nick free shave.