The earliest form of men’s grooming, as with any ritual, began as a means of survival. Hair removal and upkeep were important as long hair that was left wet in the open could lead to frostbite and undesirable ailments such as head lice. In a time before the invention of the ubiquitous Gillette razor, they would resort to the most primitive (and painful) method: Plucking!
As time progressed, men began to learn how to use external tools to groom themselves. Cave paintings from as early as 100,000BC in the Stone Age show that humans had learnt to pull hair from their body using sharpened shells.
The next instance of men’s grooming can be found during the Ancient Egyptian civilisation with the discovery of ancient copper razors within the tomb of the mummies! This comes as no surprise, as the Egyptians are known for their elaborate beauty rituals to promote health and rejuvenation. It has also been discovered that the Egyptians were the ones who piloted the use of pumice stones and waxes to remove hair.
The harshness of desert living also made the Egyptians extremely fascinated with using various natural ingredients such as aloe vera and various essential oils to meet various grooming needs, sparking the very first versions of the grooming products we use today.
We then move on to the Romans who were responsible for advocating overall cleanliness through the introduction of communal baths. It was also at these baths that men would commune and share grooming secrets with one another. The Romans were also one of the first to dabble with hair dyes in a bid to upkeep their youthful looks.
Middle Ages and Victorian Era
The subsequent Middle Ages saw a plateau in advancement of the male grooming scene with the early church actually labelling men’s grooming as ‘the devil’s work’. During this period, barbers were also known as barber-surgeons, and would perform minor surgeries on top of cutting hair.
In the Victorian era, men started growing out their facial hair to complement shorter hairstyles that were in vogue during that period. This led to a rise in demand for products such as beard waxes, dyes and oils to keep their facial hair in shape. It was in this era that men’s grooming products became widely accessible to the masses.
At the turn of the 20th Century, the inception of Hollywood put men’s grooming on the pedestal once again with the introduction of the wildly popular ‘Mad Men’ style characteristically known by its slicked back and side parted hairstyles. It was the era where iconic hairstyles such as the pompadour made its debut through pop culture icons such as Fred Astaire and Elvis Presley. Shaving was also revolutionised with the invention of the first ever modern double edged safety razor by Gillette, this allowed men everywhere in the world to get a shave wherever and whenever they wanted, without the fear of hurting themselves.
Now and Beyond
The men’s grooming industry has evolved by leaps and bounds with the advancement of technology and science. The rising profile of the metrosexual male has also broken the previously held stereotype that grooming is an activity predominantly reserved for females. This increasing demand has resulted in a vast variety of products targeted solely for the male demographic like cleansers, serums, anti-ageing creams, conditioners, face scrubs and of course hair pomades!
We hope you’ve had a fun time discovering the developments in grooming across the ages. Stay tuned as we profile the grooming routines and rituals of now and the future!