|
3
Shave and a Haircut

False beards like the one this statue of Rameses II is sporting were popular in ancient Egypt.

Stephen Studd/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Perhaps the Egyptians were the first ancient people to fuss over their hair, or perhaps not. But either way, they considered hair unhygienic, and the sweltering heat of their homeland made long tresses and beards uncomfortable. Thus, they cut their hair short or shaved their heads and faces regularly. Priests, who apparently were especially averse to hirsuteness, shaved their entire bodies every three days [source: Knight]. For much of their history, being clean-shaven was considered fashionable, and being stubbly came to be considered a mark of poor social status.

To that end, the Egyptians invented what may have been the first shaving implements, a set of sharp stone blades set in wooden handles, and later replaced those with copper-bladed razors. They also invented the barbering profession. The first barbers made house calls to wealthy aristocrats' houses but tended to ordinary customers outdoors, seating them on benches underneath shady sycamore trees.

Oddly, though, they also retained a fascination for facial hair, or at least the appearance of having some. The Egyptians took shorn hair and sheep's wool and fashioned them into wigs and fake beards -- which, even more oddly, were sometimes worn by Egyptian queens as well as kings [source: Dunn]. The fake beards had various shapes, to indicate the dignity and social position of their wearer. Ordinary citizens wore small fake beards about 2 inches (5 centimeters) long, while kings wore their phony whiskers to extravagant lengths and had them trimmed to be square at the end. Egyptian gods had even more luxurious long beards, which were turned up at the tip [source: King].

|