In Ancient Egypt, the men (and women!) had EXACTLY the same idea, yet their style icons were the gods and kings of their times. Members of all social groups followed special grooming regimes which allowed them to copy and depict their most favorable god or king. For example, OSIRIS was the Egyptian ‘god’ of Death and the After-life, who wore a thick, long pointed beard. Naturally, the Egyptians saw this god as an important figure, so when a King died, he would adorn a (usually fake) beard, aiming to emulate Osiris, hoping for a high place in the After-life.
In Early Egypt, long hair and thick beards were hugely favored by men, not just because they depicted the gods and kings, but they also represented levels of ‘manliness’. A man’s thick beard and long hair was often seen as a representation of maturity, fertility, and capability, so obviously the bigger the better! Decorations were also used, although mostly by the higher classes. Gold dust, jewels and decorations were used during ceremonies and burials to ‘glorify’ the hair.
Just like now, fashions changed throughout Ancient times. The thick, hairy look did not last long within the Aristocracy of Egypt, who quickly took a shine to the ‘smooth’ look. Kings and Priests now started shaving off their bodily hair, and the increased demand for Barbers began….
Vanity, hygiene and simplicity were the main motivations behind the Egyptian’s obsession for being clean-shaven, with High Priests even opting for full-body shaves. Initially, tweezers were used to pull hair, or alternatively, waxing and sugaring. Over time, blades and razors were produced, making life a whole lot easier for the Ancient Egyptians….and their Barbers! Kings were often buried with jewel-encrusted or solid gold razors, ensuring the smooth look in the After-life.
While many of the wealthier members of society now took pride in hiring their very own live-in Barbers, the masses would turn to the trusted services of the humble Street-Barber (Yes….we have required and valued the Street Barber for a LONG time!) And as you can imagine, most people would not be able to afford the upkeep of being clean-shaven all of the time, so it was generally the Elites who would maintain this look.
HOWEVER….despite the new obsession with cleanliness and hygiene, the Elites still LOVED the ‘long hair, thick beard’ look when it came to acts of worship and displays of eminence. This is where wigs came into play, with animal and other people’s hair being used to make wigs for the wealthy, often elaborately decorated and styled with luxurious oils and scents.
One’s hair (or lack of) was a clear indication of social status during these times, along with cultural identification. Just like now, styles and fashions varied all over the world, so it was easy to identify who was from ‘foreign’ lands. For example, a rich man from Egypt would differ in style in comparison to a rich man from Mesopotamia or Greece, where thick, voluptuous beards never faded from fashion, and their maintenance deemed very important. The average Joe, however, no matter where he was from, would more than likely be rocking his manly locks and beard on a daily basis, smoothed down by bit of sweat and grime, only to receive a good short back and sides by the local Street Barber once in a while…maybe for a celebration or a lads night out!