From Alexander The Great banning his soldiers from having beards, to women beginning to shave their armpits in the early 20th century, this edition of History Matters explains a little bit about shaving and the razor blade.
If you flip through your family album, you’ll likely see your forefathers’ facial hair appear and vanish like leaves in one of those time-lapse nature documentaries. Flip-flops in facial-hair fashion date to 30,000 BC, when our prehistoric ancestors first tried shaving with flint blades—little wonder many of them gave up and grew beards. Ancient Egyptians revived shaving with a vengeance, using copper razors to de-hair their faces as well as their heads. In ancient Greece, however, beards signified virility.
Then came Alexander the Great, who reputedly fretted that enemies could grasp beards in battle, making it easier to slay his soldiers. He banned beards and set an example by shaving before battle. His clean-shaven visage on coins boosted barbering businesses throughout the ancient world. In Rome, Scipio Africanus, the beardless general who defeated Hannibal, set a fashion for shaving that persisted until Hadrian, who grew a beard to hide his scarred face.