In Honour of the Playoff Hockey Beard

It is a well-known hockey tradition by now, probably started by the legendary New York Islanders hockey teams of the late 70s and early 80s. The playoffs start and player immediately stop shaving, not taking blade to skin until they finally win it all or drop out on the marathon of attrition their.

But where did it start? Not the tradition, but the whole of idea of humans altering their appearance by shaving to begin with?


History of Shaving
For thousands of years man has been fighting a battle with his facial hair – over 25,000 hairs as hard as copper wire of the same thickness.

The hairs grow between 125mm and 150mm per year and man will spend an average of more than 3,000 hours of his life shaving them.

Egyptians shaved their beards and heads which was a custom adopted by the Greeks and Romans about 330BC during the reign of Alexander the Great.

This was encouraged for soldiers as a defensive measure to stop enemies from grabbing their hair in hand-to-hand combat.

As shaving spread through the world, men of unshaven societies became known as “barbarians” meaning the “unbarbered”. The practice of women shaving legs and underarms developed much later.

Men scraped their hair away in early times man with crude items such as stone, flint, clam shells and other sharpened materials. He later experimented with bronze, copper and iron razors.

In more recent centuries he used the steel straight razor (aptly called the “cut-throat” for obvious reasons).

For hundreds of years razors maintained a knife-like design and needed to be sharpened by the owner or a barber with the aid of a honing stone or leather strop.

These “weapons” required considerable skill by the user to avoid cutting himself badly.

Why, when and how people started shaving
Shaving predates history but it was the early Egyptian men and women who really established shaving and hair removal as a regular part of daily grooming.

And the custom continues today for people all over the world.

The Egyptians had an almost unhealthy personal obsession with body hygiene – and curious customs to accompany it.

The Greek historian Herodotus (485-425BC) commented that the Egyptians bathed several times a day and “set cleanliness above seemliness”.

Being so clean all the time was associated with fanatical behaviour by outsiders. The ancient Romans thought that a lack of major body hair was some kind of terrible deformity.

But not in Egypt where priests believed that body hair was shameful and unclean.

Wild animals and barbarians had hair, not the sophisticated and advanced Egyptian civilisation. Being hairless was achieved by shaving, using depilatory creams and rubbing one’s hair off with a pumice stone.

Men, women, and even the children of ancient Egypt all shaved their heads bald and wore elaborate specially-made wigs, which were preferred over a natural head of hair for ultimate protection from the sun’s harmful solar rays.

These wigs were made of natural or artificial hair, and were strategically designed to keep the head cool.

It was rare to find a man or woman out in public totally bald-headed, not just for sun protection, but for making a fashion statement as well.

Another reason for removing all body hair, including that on the scalp was that being hairless gave people an excellent way to prevent various body infections and diseases.

Living in the Nile Valley wasn’t at all easy because it was so very hot and body hair and the heat could become an irritating combination.

Soap was not easily available to the masses and the Egyptians certainly didn’t have the hair care products available to us today.

Keeping shoulder length hair clean was very difficult and washing didn’t always clear up the lice problem that most people had. A bald head could be easily washed and dried.

A bald head didn’t feel itchy under a wig, or create a place for the lice to live. Everyone started shaving everything eventually, yes – everywhere. Being hairless kept people cooler, as well as bug and odour free.

The less hair one had the easier life was.

Celebrity barbers and bogus beards
Items of Egyptian royalties personal care items found during archeological tomb excavations have thrown up such items as razors, manicure tools and other cosmetic implements made of jewel encrusted gold.

Excavations have uncovered works of Egyptian art that show in detail that only peasants, slaves, mercenaries, criminals, plunderers and barbarians were hairy faced.

Ever wonder why we started shaving our faces and heads?

Egyptian men thought that wearing facial hair was a sign of personal neglect. Egyptians who could afford to normally kept a barber on their household staff.

In Mesopotamia barbers were held in the highest regard by society like a doctor or dignitary.

Each town had a street or an area where a number of barber shops could be found. These barbers took great care of the general public by shaving their clients daily with razors and pumice stones then massaging perfumed oils and lotions into their skin.

The evidence we see on ancient wall murals proves that some Egyptians did have hair on their faces. Even with their obsession for personal cleanliness they also thought though that a beard was the sign of a real man, of masculinity and dignity since the beginning of time and that it could give a man status.

On certain occasions therefore the heads of Egypt wore artificial beards which they strapped on with string that fastened beneath their chins.

The Original Hairless Elite
Prehistoric Times – shaving history takes us way back to the Stone Age, around 100,000BC, when Neanderthal Man started first pulling hair from his body.

Filing down his teeth was also a popular pastime.

Cave paintings show that early man discovered ways to remove hair from his face that are still being used today. In the beginning he simply plucked the hair out using seashells like tweezers.

Throughout history tweezers have remained the most popular ever grooming tool invented, used by both “civilised” men and women to painfully remove body and facial hair.

The earliest shaving razors discovered were flint blades from as far back as 30,000BC.

Flint can provide an extremely sharp edge, perfect at the time for shaving. These implements were the first disposable razors as flint dulls rather quickly.

Not only did your early man cut or shave off his body hair with flint he also enjoyed cutting unusual designs his skin. He added dyes and colours to the cuts and ended up tattooed.

Other shaving tools made of stone found were made during the Neolithic Period.

4000-3000BC Women are removing body hair with depilatory creams made from such combinations as arsenic, quicklime and starch.

3000BC marked the first permanent development of razors due to metalworking being invented. In both India and Egypt razors made from copper are found available.

1500-1200BC Some of the most elaborate razors in ancient times in Scandinavia were produced. Razors were found in leather carrying cases with scenes embossed in the bronze blades in excavations carried out in the Danish Mound Graves with the handles carved into horse head shapes.

500BC It became popular for men to crop their hair very short and shave the face in Greece. Alexander the Great is responsible for this as he is obsessed with shaving.

He shaves even during war and will not be seen going to battle with a five o clock shadow. Like the Middle East culture Greeks back then considered it an aesthetic approach to personal hygiene.

Around this time, Roman women remove their hair with razors and pumice stones. They even make their own depilatory creams from medicinal drugs such as Bryonia.

They also pluck their eyebrows using tweezers.

Roman men have a skilled live-in servant to shave them; otherwise they start their day with a trip to the tonsor, or barber, who will shave a face with an iron novacila, or Roman razor.

This type of shaver corrodes quickly and becomes blunt; so most customers usually, or eventually, get cut. But don’t worry – the tonsor can fix this by applying to the face a soothing plaster made from special perfumed ointment and spider webs soaked in oil and vinegar.

Despite the dangers of going to the barber shop, Roman men continue to flock in daily because they are also great centres for news and gossip.

400BC The typical man of India is found sporting a neatly trimmed, well-groomed beard, yet he shaves off all hair on his chest and pubic area.

The average woman is removing hair from her legs with razors and tweezers.

Greek women are removing hair from their legs by singeing it with a lamp. Most Greek men are shaving their faces on a regular basis.

300BC and one day Publicus Ticinius Maenas, a rich Greek businessman brings professional barbers from Sicily to Rome which introduces a new craze for shaving.

The barbers use thin bladed iron razors which are sharpened with water and a whetstone. They don’t always use soap or oil making it a long process of shaving a face.

300 BC During this time in Rome young men of about the age of 21 are required to have their first shave. They kick this off by celebrating their official entry into manhood with an elaborate party.

Other friends are invited to watch and give the novice a bunch of gifts. Only soldiers and those training to become philosophers are excused from participating in this cultural ordeal.

50BC In Rome men are following the example of Julius Caesar, who has his facial hairs plucked out individually by tweezing every day.

Depilatories are used as an alternative to the bloody mess that results from shaving with a blade. The latest available creams include some pretty wild ingredients such as resin, pitch, white vine or ivy gum extract, asses fat, she goats gall, bats blood and powdered viper.

100AD In Rome shaving the male face starts to become old hat thanks to Emperor Hadrian, 76-138AD, who is now reviving the growth of beards.

The truth though is that Hadrian grows a beard to hide the lousy complexion he has on his face.

Middle Ages to The Crusades
476-1270AD European women carry out the bizarre beauty secret of removing all the hair from their eyebrows, eyelashes, temples, and necks.

The look to die for becoming trés chic. This is carried out masochistically by plucking and shaving every day, but a real lady who wants to represent herself in the ideal image of modern female beauty knows this is a necessity.

840AD In Spain, a famous musician and singer from Baghdad, Blackbird, opens the world’s first beauty institute.

Here, students learnt the secrets of hair removal as well as how to apply cosmetics, manufacture deodorants, use toothpowder and the basics of hairdressing.

1066AD Shaving and haircuts help William of Normandy invade England to overcome Harold the Saxon of Hastings. Harold’s spies ventured out before the attack and came back reporting a large group of priests seen nearby but no enemy.

The priests were William’s army who they mistook for Holy Men owing to their clean shaven appearance. They also carried exaggerated pageboy haircuts.

They shaved the hair on the back of their heads but kept a short back and sides which made them look like monks.

1770 French barber Jean-Jacques Perret writes The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself – La Pogonotomie – which gives advice for the use of different shaving products and equipment. The book is the first to propose the idea of a safety razor.

French women shave their heads completely so they can wear the huge powdered wigs of the latest hairstyles.

The Perret Razor is manufactured as an L-shaped wooden guard that holds a razor blade in place. It prevents the user cutting themselves too deeply.

It still does not have any real safety and is not considered to be the first true safety razor but this is the beginning of the safety razor.

1800s and shaving and grooming for men is now a self indulgent pastime thanks to George Bryan (Beau) Brummell who is a dandy known for his impeccable manners and style of dress.

Brummell is said to have shaved his face several times a day and pluck out any remaining hairs with tweezers. After inheriting a sizeable fortune Brummell dedicated himself to be known as a gentleman of fashion.

European women are still knocking up their own depilatory creams in their kitchens. The ingredients now contain such items as oak and French white wine to be taken in a hot bath for 24 hours.

In Sheffield production begins of straight steel razors and they are in constant demand until the middle of the 1800s. These razors dull very quickly however so they have to be honed and stropped frequently in order to use over and over again.

1840 After fleeing England in 1814 to escape from paying off tremendous gambling debts possessed shaver Beau Brummell died in a French lunatic asylum.

1847 William Henson created the first hoe razor which placed the blade perpendicular to its handle, just like a garden tool. This changes forever the way that man will grip his shaver and provides more control.

It is an overnight success.

By the late 1800s Victorian man is now extremely particular over his personal grooming and is starting to use shaving soaps and after shaving lotions which are usually home made in the kitchen using cherry laurel water.

In the United States the Kampfe Brothers file a patent for the first Safety Razor featuring a wire skin guard along one side of the blade’s edge. Only one side of the blade is used which has to be removed often for sharpening.

This is the best available shaving method on the market that won’t cut a user unlike straight steel razors. Blades are manufactured by forging which requires frequent sharpening.

1895 – In the United States King Camp Gillette, a salesman for the Baltimore Seal Company comes up with the idea for a new type of disposable razor blade.

Over the next six years he promotes and sells his idea to backers and toolmakers in order to make his dream shaver a reality.

Big, tough hockey players being felled by … mumps!

It’s not concussions, bruised shin from blocking shots, even bruised knuckles from the odd fight. Mumps is the current scourge of North America’s professional ice warriors.


The National Hockey League is facing a health threat straight out of the last century. Nine NHL players, including five Canadians, have come down with the mumps virus.

The outbreak seems to have started among the Anaheim Ducks. Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, and Clayton Stoner were all infected. On Oct. 17 the Ducks played the visiting Minnesota Wild, and now five of that team’s players—Keith Ballard, Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin, Christian Folin and now All-Star defenceman Ryan Suter—are ill. The Wild played the St. Louis Blues, several of whom came down with mysterious flulike symptoms that haven’t been confirmed as mumps yet. But the Blues then played the New York Rangers, and Ranger Tanner Glass definitely has the mumps.

There was not a representative from the NHL and NHL players’ association joint health and safety committee available to be interviewed about the precautions being taken to stop the spread of infection. A spokesperson sent an email stating that information about mumps was sent to all team physicians in mid-November, along with recommended changes to “bench and locker room behaviour.” Booster shots are encouraged, but the statement said ”vaccination decisions for mumps and any other diseases are made at the club level.”

About 1 in 5 people who get mumps never show signs of disease, but can still spread it to others. Symptoms don’t start until 12 to 25 days after infection, so chances are that at least a few NHL players are in for a nasty Christmas present.

Perhaps not coincidentally, in September the local health unit issued an alert about mumps in the Anaheim area, where the presumed Patient Zero, Ducks superstar Corey Perry, lives. California, like other regions in North America, has seen outbreaks of measles, mumps, and whooping cough in recent years. Reduced compliance with vaccines certainly hasn’t helped—an entrenched, wholly discredited conspiracy theory holds that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism.

Mumps are miserable, but not serious for most people, causing fever, headache, loss of appetite and flulike symptoms. The classic indicator is parotitis, or painful swelling of the salivary glands, which gives sufferers their characteristic chipmunk cheeks. In years past, mumps was a leading cause of childhood deafness, and meningitis is a fairly common and potentially life-threatening complication that can also cause hearing loss. Orchitis—painful, swollen testicles—is seen in 20 to 30 per cent of adult men.

An estimated 13 per cent of men with that unfortunate complication end up with lasting infertility. However, the science is a bit fuzzy, and the most often cited studies are extremely out of date. Some were done on soldiers in the Second World War. Men who had a history of orchitis due to mumps had fewer children, and one in three had some sort of lingering abnormality with their sperm. That on its own is not definitive proof of sterility, but can certainly contribute to a reduced ability to conceive. Up-to-date research hasn’t really been called for: before the first vaccines were introduced in the late 1960s, few people escaped childhood without catching mumps. Today it’s rare in the developed world.

The virus spreads easily through contact with infected saliva, on surfaces or in airborne droplets. Hockey players are nature’s perfect population for a mumps outbreak—they share water bottles and towels, spend extended periods of time in close quarters, and regularly bash heads with opposing team members on the ice, spraying spit hither and yon. As young adults, NHLers are also at just about the right age to be uniquely vulnerable to the disease. People born before 1970 are largely unvaccinated but largely immune because of childhood exposure. Beginning in 1969, Canadian children routinely got one mumps shot in infancy. A single shot is estimated to protect 64 to 80 per cent of people, but the immunity fades with time. In 1996 and 1997, an MMR booster program was rolled out for children between 18 months and four years old. People who were born after 1970, but were too old to receive a second shot when they started kindergarten, may not have very strong immunity.

Inadequate vaccination isn’t the only factor at play, says University of Ottawa virologist Kathryn Wright. The large mumps outbreak in the U.K. in 2003-2005 was linked to reduced vaccination, she says, but in North America many mumps cases are being diagnosed in people who’ve had all their shots. Scientists think that in highly-vaccinated populations, there just isn’t that much virus circulating. When a vaccinated person comes into contact with the virus, they produce a flood of antibodies to fight it off. It’s essentially a natural booster shot that refreshes the immune system for any future onslaught. Without exposure, immunity wears off as the years pass (a full-blown case of mumps, however, leaves you immune for life).

Even people who have had two shots are only 88 per cent protected—not bad, but not great if you’re faced with mumps on every surface in the locker room.