Published on 18th July 2016
Today men are grooming more than ever, and that’s not a bad thing! If we had told our dads that in their lifetime men would be using beard oil, and following skin regimes they’d have thought we were crazy. But how did we get to where we are today with men’s grooming? Just like fashion, views on grooming are all to do with the times and trends, and men’s grooming is now at its height. But unbeknown to most, it has done a full 360 from ancient times…
We start our journey to men’s grooming in Ancient Egypt, think the pyramids and Tutankhamun. Perhaps not your first thought when you think of men’s grooming, but it was actually a prominent time in the journey to get to where we are today. Egyptian priests believed that body hair was unclean but as you will probably guess they didn’t have electric razors, or even just the standard razors back then. They would rub a pumice stone over their bodies, to rid the body of hair. Sounds painful, right? And we thought razor burn hurt!
Wealthy Egyptian men would often hire a full time barber to live with them, so they could have this done every day, and the poorer gentlemen, just like we do today, would visit their local barber to rid them of their hair. Sound familiar?
In a time where hair was considered shameful, it may surprise you that hair & beards were actually allowed for one reason, mourning. When in mourning, priests would stop shaving, and allow their hair & beards to grow until the mourning period ended.
Next stop on our journey Ancient Greece, not the Greece you know today where you’ve probably been on your summer holidays, but the Greece probably best remembered in history for The Gods and The Olympics.
The Gods were the symbol of Ancient Greece, and many men would seek to emulate them. Zeus and Heracles were both defined as having long, lustrous beards, leading to grooming trends changing dramatically because of this. Ancient Greeks grew out their beards and would use hot tongs to give their manly manes long sultry curls. Beards were so desirable in Ancient Greece, that it was actually a serious offence to cut another man’s beard and could be punishable with jail. Imagine if this still existed!
However this was to change under the rule of Alexander the Great, as he insisted that soldiers should shave, and hired barbers to shave his men before battle. The reason behind this? A bearded man’s biggest weakness… The beard tug!
And so to Ancient Rome, the home of the Colosseum, and the start of modern times as we know it, with the aqueduct systems. But more fitting for this piece, probably the biggest advances in men’s grooming.
Roman men would start their day with a visit to the barber to have their faces shaved with an iron ‘novacila’ (a Roman solution to the modern day razor). Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, King of Rome is credited with the introduction of the razor and the habit of shaving.
A young man’s shave was an important part of life in Ancient Rome, and, when a lad reached an age of maturity, on their birthday they would shave while their family & friends watched. Just like today’s classic father & son bonding of standing around the bathroom mirror while the son bleeds from all areas of his face, and dad teaches us how to shave properly.
Beards also had a part in Ancient Rome, but not the long flowing beards you would have seen in Ancient Greece. The Romans preferred shorter, neater, well-kept beards, more like we commonly see on gentlemen today.
Skip a few thousand years and it brings us on to more modern times. The early-mid 1900’s are perhaps one of the most renowned for their grooming icons. The slick, sharp looks of the Hollywood era, with icons such as Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby & Frank Sinatra, just to name a few, leading the way for gentleman’s grooming. The classic side part was in, and the clean shaven look sported so often by our Ancient friends was ever popular (bar the odd moustache). Technological advances meant the shaving brush and cut throat razor, were the tools to own for your grooming needs in the early-mid 1900’s, a far cry from rubbing the skin with pumice stone.
The 60’s-70’s saw Rock & Roll come to the forefront and a rebellious nature in grooming, with a more “rugged look” being in. Our grooming icons started to become less clean cut, people like Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Paul Newman & The Beatles, all had a certain edge to them that our clean cut, sharp looking icons of the early 1900’s didn’t have. Haircuts became longer, and ungroomed beards started to pop up.
And then there was the 90’s. Well, the less we say about grooming in the 90’s-early 2000’s the better. Bowl cuts, mullets and curtains were just some of the “in” haircuts. Need we say more? Magazines, TV and pop culture meant we were influenced in our grooming routines more than ever by the rich & famous. But, we did get one of the biggest grooming icons to date, Mr David Beckham from the 90’s so it wasn’t all bad!
So now to 2016, where men’s grooming is at its height. “Men’s grooming is now a multi-billion” pound worldwide industry.”
Beard oils, pomades, moisturisers and body washes. Products which our ancient cousins, probably wish they could have chosen from, are now a regular feature on the bathroom shelves of many a gentleman. But, also the traditional still has a part to play, with many men favouring shaving with a shaving cream and brush.
We owe a lot of our grooming routines today to our ancient ancestors, and grooming is not looking like slowing down any time soon. Beards have been the biggest trend of the last few years, but what will be our next big trend be?
Guest Post written by Regal Gentleman https://regalgentleman.com