Unique Shaving & Grooming Rituals from History and Around the World

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 7, 2012 · 56 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Shaving

This post is brought to you by Phillips Norelco What’s this?

When most modern men shave or comb their hair, it’s just something they do to get ready for the day. Sure, you might make the experience a bit more enjoyable by using a straight razor or an old-school pomade, but other than that you probably don’t give grooming much thought.

But throughout time and across cultures, shaving, beard trimming, and even hairstyling carried heavy cultural meaning for men. Shaving and grooming were part of many cultures’ rites of passage, were sometimes tied to religious rituals, and could connote power or status.

Today we explore some of the unique cultural and religious meanings of shaving and men’s grooming from history and around the world. If you think today’s man is overly fastidious about his appearance, wait until you get a load of the practices of our manly ancestors.

Ancient Egyptians

In the early years of Egyptian civilization, men grew out their beards along with the hair on their heads. Death masks and murals from this period depict men sporting full beards. Kings would braid their beards and dust them with gold powder. Some Egyptian men, like Rahotep, a Third Dynasty official, even rocked awesome mustaches.

Rahotep: Government official and winner of seven gold medals in the Egyptian Olympics

But the love of virile and natural body hair would quickly fade as Egyptian men embraced shaving with gusto at the start of the Dynastic Period. During this time, hair became seen as a symbol of man’s animalistic tendencies. Thus to put off the primal man and become civilized, Egyptian men began removing all the hair from their heads, faces, and even bodies. Wealthy Egyptian men often hired full-time barbers to live with them in order to maintain their smooth as a baby’s behind look every day. Less affluent Egyptians would frequent the local barber to have their faces and heads shaved daily. To appear unshaven became a mark of low social status.

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Egyptian priests in 6th century BCE would shave their entire bodies every other day as part of a ritual cleansing. They even plucked out all of their eyebrows and even their eyelashes (ouch!).

Hair removal was so important to Ancient Egyptians that kings would have their barbers shave them with sanctified, jewel-encrusted razors. When a king died, he was often buried with a barber and his trusty razor, so he could continue to get his daily shaves in the afterlife.

While Dynastic Egyptians eschewed facial hair, they still reverenced the beard as a symbol of divinity and power. Kings during this period were often depicted sporting beards. But rather than embracing the full-on natural beard like their predecessors in the Old and Middle Kingdoms, Dynastic kings sported a small fake goatee called the “osird,” or “the divine beard.” The osird was usually made of precious metals like gold or silver and was worn during religious rites or celebrations. While living, a king’s osird was straight. When he died, an upward pointed curl would be added at the end, denoting that the pharaoh had become a god.

Ancient Mesopotamians

An eye for an eye, a beard hair for a beard hair...

Ancient men living between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers devoted a lot of time and attention to the care of their beards.  The Assyrians, Sumerians, and Phoenicians all grew long, thick, and luxurious beards. None of that fake Egyptian beard stuff for these gents. Upper-class men dyed their beards with henna and powdered them with gold-dust. Ribbons and thread were woven throughout their beards for added flair. The most distinct feature of Mesopotamian beards was the way in which they were meticulously and artfully curled. Men would spend hours having the ends of their beards curled into tiny locks and arranged in three hanging tiers. The higher up you were in Mesopotamian hierarchy, the longer and more elaborate your beard was.

Ancient Mesopotamians also spent a lot of time thinking about the hair on their heads. While they weren’t fond of hair washing (most only washed their hair once a year), they did devise an elaborate hairstyle system to signify what sort of work a man did. Doctors, lawyers, priests, and even slaves had their own special kind of haircut. Whenever a Mesopotamian man was at party making small talk, he could simply point at his head whenever someone asked, “So Belanum, what do you do for a living?”

The Ancient Greeks

Ancient Greek philosophy would have likely been greatly impoverished if the period's philosophers had not had a nice beard to stroke while contemplating the universe.

The Ancient Greeks were a people of the beard. For them, a beard was a sign of virility, manhood, and wisdom. In fact, according to Plutarch, when an ancient Greek boy began growing whiskers, it was the custom to dedicate the boy’s first beard to the sun god Apollo in a religious ritual. Greek boys were also not allowed to cut the hair on their heads until their beards started to grow.

Greek men would only cut their beards during times of grief and mourning. If a blade wasn’t available, a grief-stricken man would resort to tearing out his beard with his bare hands or burning it off with fire. When a man died, his relatives would often hang the trimmings of his beard on the door.

Cutting another man’s beard was a serious offense and punishable by a fine and sometimes even jail. Being de-bearded was considered shameful, and thus the ancient Greeks would often use beard cutting as a means of punishment. For example, the Spartans would shave off half of a man’s beard to indicate he had displayed cowardice during battle.

Alexander the Great started the trend towards whisker-less warriors.

Beard growing would eventually go out of style among the ancient Greeks when Alexander the Great came to power. Xander, ever the tactician, ordered his soldiers to remove their beards lest they be grabbed by their enemies in hand-to-hand combat.

The Ancient Romans

To distinguish themselves from their Greek cousins, the Ancient Romans were clean-shaven folk. A young man’s first shave was an important event in his life and was ritualized in an elaborate religious ceremony. Young men would keep growing their peach fuzz until they reached the age of majority. On their birthday, they would shave while family and friends watched. The whiskers would then be placed in a special box and consecrated to a Roman deity. For example, the Emperor Nero housed his first shavings in a golden, pearl-studded casket. Some young men would rub olive oil on their faces throughout their teenage years in the hopes it would help them grow a thick beard for their ceremonial first shave. In addition to keeping their first whiskers in consecrated boxes, the Roman grammarian Sextus Pompeius Festus recorded that young Roman men would shave their first full-on beard and hang it from a communal capillaris arbor, or tree of hair.

Ancient Germanic Tribes

Ancient Germanic men would make oaths by swearing on their beard.

In the German frontiers of ancient Rome lived barbarian tribes who grew some of the fiercest beards in history. The mostly beardless ancient Romans were both afraid of and fascinated by Germanic beards.

We learn from the Roman historian Tacitus that it was customary for a young Germanic man to make a vow to never cut his hair or beard until he had killed an enemy. Later Germanic tribes had a similar beard vow. St. Gregory of Tours notes in his History that the defeated Saxons vowed to never cut their hair or beards until they were avenged. Unfortunately, the beards weren’t able to help them, as they were summarily defeated again.

Ancient Hindus

While beard-growing was the norm for many Hindu sects, some practiced a first shave ritual similar to the ancient Romans. According to the Grihya Sutra, a collection of ritual texts that outlined the rites a Hindu was to perform in his home, a boy was to receive his first shave when he turned sixteen. Known as the Godanakaruman, this ceremonial first shave was performed by a local barber. The face as well as the head were to be razored clean.

The Grihya Sutra laid out the fees a family was to pay the barber for their boy’s first shave: an ox and cow if you were Brahmin, a pair of horses if you were a Kshatriya, or two sheep if you were Vaishya. Before the shave, the family would gather around the boy and the barber and repeat the following mantra: Purify his head and face, O barber, but do not take away his life. Basically, it was an admonishment to the barber to give the boy a close shave, but to not go all Sweeney Todd on him.

African Tribes

Amongst African tribes, both past and present, male grooming practices are as varied as the many tribes that inhabit that continent.

In Kenya’s Masai tribe for example, the young men have their heads shaved as part of the numerous steps of initiation into manhood they must undergo. When a Masai boy is circumcised around age 14, he becomes a warrior in the tribe. Ten years later, another ceremony is held to initiate him as a senior warrior. At this ceremony, his mother shaves his head while he sits on the same cowhide on which he was circumcised a decade earlier. The Masai warrior can now take a wife. Two initiation ceremonies later, a Masai man ends his journey into manhood and becomes a junior elder of the tribe. During this ceremony he is given an elder chair by the tribe, which he will keep his whole life through. He sits in the chair and his wife shaves his head to once again symbolize his new status.

Masai men spend hours doing each other's hair.

Masai warriors are the only group in the tribe allowed to wear their hair long (women shave their heads), and the young men allow their hair to grow out in-between the periodic initiatory shavings. Thus it is the men of the tribe who are most concerned about their tresses, and they spend hours grooming and styling each other’s hair — mixing in ashes, clay, and animal fat, coloring it with ochre, and forming thinly braided strands which may be woven together with cotton or wool threads. The warriors’ “manes” symbolize the African lion’s strength and masculine beauty, and is a source of pride and confidence.

Early Christians

While the ancient Jews and Muslims were commanded not to shave off their beards, the acceptability of beards among the early Christians waxed and waned.

Sometimes beards were seen as symbols of piety — other times as diabolic. In the faith’s early days, the beard took on the former meaning. A man who decided to devote himself to a monastic life would often undergo an initiatory first shave (in addition to the tonsure — the cutting of the hair on the crown of the head) that was observed by the other monks in the monastery. Before the shave, a prayer called the benedictio ad barbam, or “blessing of the beard” would be said. One version used in the Abbey of Bec in France went like this:

Dominus vobiscum.

Oremus, Dilectissimi, Deum Patrem omnipotentem, ut huic Famulo suo N., quem ad juvenitem perducere est aetatem, bendictionis suae dona concedate; ut, sicut exemplo Beati Petri, Principis Apostolorum,  ei exteriora, pro Christi amore, sunt attondenda juventutis auspicia, ita praecordiorum divellantur interiorum superflua, ac felicitatis aetermae percipiat incrementa. Per eum qui unus in Trinitate perfecta vivit et gloriatur Deus per imortalia saecula saeculorum. Amen

My Latin is a little rusty, but I believe the prayer says a new cleric must follow the example of the apostle Peter by shaving, which makes sense if you know the story of how Peter’s life came to an end. According to non-canonical Church history, before he was crucified upside down, Peter was mocked by having his head and beard shaved. So a young initiate in the Abbey of Bec symbolically shared Peter’s mockery by having his head and face shaved, too. After the shaving, the hair and whiskers were consecrated on an altar.

After their initial shave, monks were put on a strict shaving schedule. In a convocation held in 817 AD, French monks decided that they should shave once a fortnight, but would take part in an occasional razor and shaving fast during certain times of the year.

If there are any Latin experts out there, I’d really appreciate it if you could provide a full translation of the above prayer!

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Asriel June 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Very interesting, I really enjoyed this Article. I have a full beard myself, and sometimes I wonder how beards were maintained, and viewed back in those days.

2 Gary June 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Our own gladiators er.. hockey players come to mind when they stop shaving during playoffs. It’s hoped that the playoff beard will see them through to the last game of the finals and victory.

I suppose they undergo a ritual shave before their first post season golf game.

3 Zack June 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Thank you for this fantastic article! Very interesting to say the least.

4 jeremy June 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

A very interesting piece.

I only wish that it would have gone into the Eastern Christian tradition of beards and not completely focused on the West. Beards in the East have been more widely accepted by laity and clerics alike, as opposed to the West. In contradistinction to the West, in Eastern monasticism it is the Tradition for the monks to never shave or cut their hair at all.

5 Scott June 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm

“Let us pray, Beloved, God the Father Almighty, so that this to His servant, whom juvenility to lead us to the age, the gifts of His bendictionis grant, that as the example of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, to him, things that are without, for the love of Christ, they are shaved the auspices of youth, so diverge over the heart of the interior too, and happiness to continue to receive increments. By him who lives and one in three perfect immortal glory, God, world without end. Amen.”

Or something like that. I don’t know Latin, thank Google translate…it’s probably not that accurate.

6 Brett McKay June 7, 2012 at 4:00 pm

@Jeremy-

Good comment. We thought about including more of the Eastern Christian tradition, but since they often don’t shave or cut their beard at all, we felt it didn’t fit as well into the parameters of this post, which deals more with shaving and grooming as opposed to simply letting it grow.

7 kowalski June 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Any info on new world (Americas) groups?

8 Brett McKay June 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm

@Kowalski-

I tried to find out some information on the Americas but couldn’t turn up anything besides the fact they sometimes used pumice stones and seashells to remove body hair. If anyone has any insight into that part of the world I’d love to hear it!

9 TMP June 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I often make the comparison of a man with a beard is like a pregnant woman, therefore he is “with beard”. The beard requires attention, nurturing and respect. I was once with beard while in college (geology major), now that I am in IT, I shave everyday. Great article.

10 Louis Cunningham June 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Dominus vobiscum.
Oremus, Dilectissimi, Deum Patrem omnipotentem, ut huic Famulo suo N., quem ad juvenitem perducere est aetatem, bendictionis suae dona concedate; ut, sicut exemplo Beati Petri, Principis Apostolorum,  ei exteriora, pro Christi amore, sunt attondenda juventutis auspicia, ita praecordiorum divellantur interiorum superflua, ac felicitatis aetermae percipiat incrementa. Per eum qui unus in Trinitate perfecta vivit et gloriatur Deus per imortalia saecula saeculorum. Amen

The Lord be with you.

Let us pray Beloved, to God the Almighty Father, that to this man His own son, N., who is brought to youthful age, having received the gift of His blessings; that to this man, just as from the example of Blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, the exterior auspices of his youth ought to be shaven, in such a way may the surplus of his interior passions be torn away, and may he attain the increase of eternal felicity. Through him who lives and is glorified in perfect Trinity, God through the eternal ages of ages.
~~~~~~
Good to know my 6 years of Latin has finally come in handy!

11 Bear June 7, 2012 at 4:41 pm

My father’s family is Iroquois; I was told by my grandmother that facial shaving was traditionally done with tweezers made from clam or mussel shells. Facial hair was considered “dog like,” a sign of unintelligence. Scalp hair, if one was going to have a scalp lock or mohawk, was simply pulled out to symbolize a warrior’s fortitude.

My wife is Quinault (a Pacific NW tribe), they simply let their facial hair grow; her father has a beard that would rival Santa Claus.

12 Sander June 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Scott and Louis,
You both translate “princeps” as “Prince” – this is possible, but it could also mean “first of the Apostles”, an expression I’ve heard more often.

Interesting article.

13 DaMoose June 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I’ll try that Latin thing, I have a high school Latin book around somewhere ……

14 DaMoose June 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm

The Lord be with you. Let us pray, Beloved, God the Father Almighty, so that this to His servant (initiate’s name goes here), who is now of age, to gain the gifts of His bendictions, at the example of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, to him, things external, for the love of Christ, they are shaved the auspices of youth, so should diverge (depart) the interior of the heart (desires) too, and joys to continue to be received in increments. By Him who lives, one in three, perfect, imortal, glory, God, world without end. – AMEN

15 DaMoose June 7, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I only had one year of Latin

16 DaMoose June 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm

princeps means first among many ….. only one year of Latin, but I have degrees in English.

17 DaMoose June 7, 2012 at 5:51 pm

And it is the root word of Prince. I’m not Catholic ….. so prince I used ….. so sue me!

18 Christopher Poole June 7, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I’ve heard of South Korean men shaving with blocks of ice.

19 Rob June 7, 2012 at 7:36 pm

The Lord be with us.

We pray, Greatly Beloved One, all-mighty God the Father, that for this your servant (NAME), who from youth has been lead to age, you concede the gift of your blessings; that, after the example of the Blessed Peter, Chief Apostle, for the love of Christ, his external appearance of youth be shaved, as the contents of his heart overflow, that he may continue to receive joy and prosperity. For Him who lives as one in perfect Trinity and glorifies God without death for ever and ever. Amen.

20 Rob June 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Sorry-
Should say “The Lord be with you.” My bad typing “us”. Brain stopped working for a moment.

21 Guy Manningham June 7, 2012 at 7:39 pm

You forgot the metrosexual grooming rituals of the gorillas on The Jersey Shore.

22 Michael June 7, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Great article. My understanding is that our word barbarian actually comes from the way the clean shaven Romans viewed those frightening Germanic tribes. The root of the word, barba, is Latin for beard.

23 Anders June 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I see Brett made it to Fortune Magazine with some shaving news!
Congratulations!
management.fortune.cnn.com/2012/06/07/gillette-razor-lifespan/

24 Reuben June 7, 2012 at 9:05 pm

@Michael: The word “barbarian” actually comes from the Greek “barbaroi,” because the Greeks heard their language as “bar-bar-bar.” Kind of like calling them Gibbers because they speak Gibberish.

25 Brad June 7, 2012 at 11:37 pm

In addition, men in France and throughout much of Europe in the 18th century wore curly, shoulder-length wigs.

26 Nod June 8, 2012 at 12:57 am

Ok, there are a lot of very close translations here of the Latin which convey the general sense of what is going on here.

I would translate it thus, since it is a prayer asking for blessings on the new initiate and comparing his shaving to that of Peter. (Allowing for some clauses to be rearranged for better flowing English.)


Dominus vobiscum.

Oremus, Dilectissimi, Deum Patrem omnipotentem, ut huic Famulo suo N., quem ad juvenitem perducere est aetatem, bendictionis suae dona concedate; ut, sicut exemplo Beati Petri, Principis Apostolorum, ei exteriora, pro Christi amore, sunt attondenda juventutis auspicia, ita praecordiorum divellantur interiorum superflua, ac felicitatis aetermae percipiat incrementa. Per eum qui unus in Trinitate perfecta vivit et gloriatur Deus per imortalia saecula saeculorum. Amen


The Lord be with you.

Let us pray, Beloved, to God the Almighty Father, that he may grant his gifts of blessing to this your servant, N., who has been led from youth to age; that, just like the example of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, whose exterior was shaved to the appearance of youth for the love of Christ, so too may the surplus inner passions be torn away, and may he perceive the continuing growth of happiness. Through him who lives and is glorified one in perfect Trinity, God for ever and ever. Amen.

27 Nod June 8, 2012 at 1:01 am

Note the comparisons with “shaved” and “torn away”, and then the metaphor of spiritual “continuing growth” (presumably as the beard grew back).

28 Walter Boswell June 8, 2012 at 1:49 am

It goes a little something like this:
Our master,

something something, all knowing father God, something something, something about not being a child anymore, something with the word “give” in it; no idea, nope, something about love for Christ, are something about a child, something something, no idea. for something about three in one and perfect life and glory for God and some other stuff. Amen

29 Walter Boswell June 8, 2012 at 1:53 am

Actually, all-powerful or almighty. Not all-knowing

30 Darren June 8, 2012 at 6:50 am

Dudes, Rahotep totally looks like Lionel Ritchie. Am I right?

31 Rahul June 8, 2012 at 7:25 am

Check out the history of the Sikhs as well for whom having long hair and a beard is an essential part of their religion. Unfortunately, due to their distinctive headgear and beard many of them have been mistaken to be terrorists or followers of Osama. It is quite tragic for if you research their history you would know that they are anything but.

32 Rafael June 8, 2012 at 7:30 am

“In fact, according to Plutarch, when an ancient Greek boy began growing whiskers, it was the custom to dedicate the boy’s first beard to the sun god Apollo in a religious ritual”

And according to Plato, it was the time when philosophers were allowed to “do their thing” with the kids. It’s in the book “The Banquet”

33 Adam June 8, 2012 at 8:35 am

You left out dwarves!! Gimli would have a ton to say about this…

34 Edgardus de la Vega June 8, 2012 at 10:44 am

Any mention of the Orthodox Christian world of Byzantium as regard the beard? Full coverage is key (no pun intended).

35 John June 8, 2012 at 10:54 am

Couple of details about the ancient Romans:

First, not only did they reverse the Greeks’ attitude to wearing beards, but they also reversed the mourning customs. Whereas the Greeks shaved as a sign of mourning, Roman men would stop shaving after the death of a loved one, only resuming shaving when the mourning period was over.

Additionally, when Mark Antony was dallying with Cleopatra, one of the points Octavian (later Caesar Augustus) made in his propaganda against him was that he had so abandoned his Roman virtue so far as to grow a beard, thus helping turn public opinion against Antony and gaining support for his own cause.

36 Souk June 8, 2012 at 10:58 am

Dominus vobiscum.
Oremus, Dilectissimi, Deum Patrem omnipotentem, ut huic Famulo suo N., quem ad juvenitem perducere est aetatem, bendictionis suae dona concedate; ut, sicut exemplo Beati Petri, Principis Apostolorum,  ei exteriora, pro Christi amore, sunt attondenda juventutis auspicia, ita praecordiorum divellantur interiorum superflua, ac felicitatis aetermae percipiat incrementa. Per eum qui unus in Trinitate perfecta vivit et gloriatur Deus per imortalia saecula saeculorum. Ame

The Lord be with you.

Most beloved, let us pray to God the Father Almighty that He may give His gift of blessing to His own servant (name), who is brought to this youthful age. For as in the example of St Peter, the first of apostles, this person’s external signs of youth are to be shaved for the love of Christ. In this way the remaining signs of internal desires would be pulled out and he would gain the increase of eternal happiness. Through him, who lives as one in the perfect Trinity and is glorified as God through eternal ages. AMEN

There are couple wrongly written words in the Latin (e.g. concedata not concedate; aeternae not aetermae; immortalia not imortalia), but this is what I got. I’ve worked with Latin since 1998.

The Latin words for “youth” or “youthful” is also interesting. It usually is used for people between 20-40/45 years old. (At least in classical Latin.)

37 Max June 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm

You missed two of the grandest grooming traditions in history. 1. Followers of Islam generally boast grand, well-trimmed beards as part of their practice. 2. Rastafarians take it as part of their creed never to cut their hair and hence the dreadlocks and big beards (of true rastas).

thanks!

38 A.S Falcon June 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I know this comment is irrelevant to the subject at hand, but nevertheless relevant to the writers. I just want Both Brett & Kate to know how special I think you both are. You have had such a positive impact in my life, and I thought to just let you know. P.S much love from London, England

39 Jonathan Blair June 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm

The Lord be with you. Let us pray, Beloved, God the Father Almighty, so that this to His servant N., whom JUVENILITY to lead is to the age, the gifts of His bendictionis grant, that as the example of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, to him, things that are without, for the love of Christ, they are shaved the auspices of youth, so diverge over the heart of the interior too, and happiness to continue to receive increments. By him who lives and one in three perfect imortalia glory, God, world without end. I
I got this from Google translate

40 Brad June 8, 2012 at 10:17 pm

I remember there was one year in the city I grew up in where all the men did not shave for a whole year (or maybe a month). I am not sure what the celebration or meaning of it was and my dad has passed, so I can’t ask him. It was the only time I ever saw my dad with facial hair. Other than that he was clean shaven with the 50′s style part in his hair.!

41 Nicholas June 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Wow, as a professional translator and Latinist, I am impressed at the number of people that have stepped forward to provide a translation for the prayer!
My wedding was actually in Latin, and much of my singing and the church services I attend are also in that language.

42 Fr. Hardesty June 9, 2012 at 12:13 am

As a recently ordained Catholic priest (but one still learning Latin myself) and knowing how our prayers from the old days tend to sound, I think Nod’s translation is the best of the lot so far. What this comment section needs is the expert translation skills of the preeminent traditional Catholic priest, Fr. Z, at wdtprs.com (stands for “What Does the Prayer Really Say)

43 Brian June 9, 2012 at 9:30 am

In another case in point of cultural differences regarding hair/beards and what they mean……

In the first crusade, the (mostly French) crusaders had long hair, mustaches and no beards, in accordance with common style at the time from their home. The Byzantine emperor and his court in the Greek style, had short hair and full beards/mustaches.

Both sides thought the other was basically effeminate/unmanly ‘gay’ because their hairstyles/facial hair were the opposite of what they were used to.

In the same manner, the Templar order required short hair+beards (differentiating them from the norm at the time in Europe). Muslims/Arabs at the time generally though them more manly because they were bearded (still common in the middle east, no facial hair=you’re a boy) and also since they had orders never to retreat unless outnumbered 3 to 1 if I remember right.

Even to this day, facial hair and culture can affect how people interact.

44 jim June 9, 2012 at 10:51 am

Even in modern times there are interesting grooming traditions. Firemen used to sport beards, but as early as the 1920s with the start of primitive filter masks and years later with the widespread arrival of SCBA, firefighters had to start shaving. In order for the facepiece to seal on the wearer it needs clean skin. So then many firemen were forced tor lose the beard, but kept the moustache

45 Ray June 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Interesting piece. Thanks

I can’t help but comment on the Catholic idea that Peter is the ‘prince’ of the apostles, since I was just reading what Jesus said about that earlier today…

Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. (Luke 9:46-48 KJV)

46 Harold Stassen June 10, 2012 at 2:14 am

The Normans who invaded England shaved the backs of their heads.
The Spartans had bears and elaborate hairstyles but were forbidden by their legendary lawgiver Lycurgus to have mustaches.
The Amish also have beards but are forbidden both mustaches and warfare.
Peter the Great of Russia tried to get Russians to shave their beards; those who didn’t want to do this had to pay a special tax. Some of those who did cut off their beards saved their beards so that they could be buried with them; apparently they thought God wouldn’t recognize them or that it was a sin for a man to die without a beard.
Slovak shepherds used to braid their hair as late as the 1920s.
According to archeologists, one of the rituals for admission to the Mithras mystery religion was plucking out, one by one, of a man’s public hairs.

47 P.M.Lawrence June 10, 2012 at 2:22 am

I noticed that the last picture shows something remarkably like a Bowie Knife. Apparently Jim Bowie designed it to have curves and other features to meet a carefully thought out set of requirements, but it looks as though someone else had the same ideas earlier.

48 Aleksandr Gifford June 10, 2012 at 7:45 am

The prayer is as follows: The Lord be with you. Let us pray, Beloved, God the Father Almighty, so that this to His servant N., whom JUVENILITY to lead is to the age, the gifts of His bendictionis grant, that as the example of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, to him, things that are without, for the love of Christ, they are shaved the auspices of youth, so diverge over the heart of the interior too, and happiness to continue to receive increments. By him who lives and one in three perfect imortalia glory, God, world without end. Amen

49 Phil June 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I have been reading some really great stories here, but this one takes the cake, this is some serious info and well written. I have been shaving with a Straight Razor for 20 years and also have a love for History. Awesome job Brett & Kate!!!!

50 JeffC June 11, 2012 at 1:32 am

Harold Stassen posted:
According to archeologists, one of the rituals for admission to the Mithras mystery religion was plucking out, one by one, of a man’s public hairs. (emphasis mine)

I imagine it was the private hairs, rather than the public ones.

51 Harold Stassen June 11, 2012 at 3:05 am

Turns red right up to the roots…..

52 Jonathan Logemann June 11, 2012 at 11:35 am

From my study of the Crusades in college, I remember another curious, if not odd, fact from a particular reading (either in a book by Riley-Smith or Madden, I believe) between the Muslims and the Christians regarding male hair: It was fashionable, in the time of the early Crusades, for Christian men in Western Europe to shave their faces, but not their pubic region, while the opposite was true for Muslims. A Christian encountered a Muslim in the Holy Land and observed his shaving practices to his own astonishment. As the story goes, he enjoyed the Muslim practices so much that he began to replicate them.

53 Umer June 11, 2012 at 10:57 pm

A word or two about the Muslim traditions of hair, hope this helps:

There is no “mandatory” command to grow or keep a beard or a certain length of hair, but there is a recommendation following the personal tradition and preference of the Prophet Muhammad, which is as follows:

Scalp: hair grown and kept at shoulder-length, shaved clean during the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca.
Moustache: shaved clean, none kept.
Beard: grown and kept at four-finger lengths, or as much can be grasped by a your own fist, the excess trimmed.
Armpit/pubic hair: shaved at least every two weeks, pubic hair shaved at least once a month.
Eyebrows, limb & chest hair: left alone.

These are generally in keeping with the other rather strict requirements of cleanliness, such as washing five times a day and bathing at least once a day, brushing and using perfume.

54 Yisrael June 20, 2012 at 7:59 am

Funny that you don’t mention anything about jewish beards. It seems like jews are the only group ( maybe amish too ) that are religiously forbidden to shave.

55 Imdad June 26, 2012 at 12:13 am

“The Egyptian king was often buried with his barber…”
was his barber killed before burying or was he buried alive ? Or did I just misinterprete the statement ?

56 tom moran October 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

Let us pray, Dear, God, the Father almighty, that to this to His servant N., whom it is to lead to the JUVENILITY age, bendictionis allow the gifts of His, that we, as the example of Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, to him, things that are without, for the love of Christ, they are shaved the auspices of youth, in such a way hypochondria displacing interior superfluous, and to continue to receive an increase of happiness. Through him God is glorified through the lives and who was the only immortal
in perfect Trinity, world without end. Amen

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