View Full Version : To Shave, Or Not To Shave???

11-15-2006, 07:22 AM
I'm not sure if this is the right spot for this question, but....

As you may have guessed from my screen name, I'm not particularly gifted in the hair department. Being as I'm fairly young (28) and not fond of comb-overs or wigs, I shave my head. Besides, my wife digs it;)

What I'm uncertian of, is if head shaving was common in the 1860's. I'm sure it was not as common as today since we have superiour shaving equipment (like 5 blade razors), and they used straight razors. I don't plan on doing much shaving at events, because I never used a straight razor and they make me a little nervous. Also I think that on a hot day, a wool cap on a freshly shaved head would not be too comfortable. But I wonder if it would be best, or more accurate to let my hair (what's left of it) grow for a week or so before an event? Or perhaps is a day or two worth of stubble acceptible?

11-15-2006, 09:02 AM
Hey, Anthony, another bald Yankee here! I've been a member of the "chrome dome" club since about age 21, more than half my life now. These days I just wait until my remaining hair is tickling my ears and then usually get it buzzed down real close. IIRC, the Columbia Rifles Research Compendium Vol. I (and, I believe, Vol. II) talks about haircuts. I might be wrong and actually have read this someplace else, but anyway, it mentioned that one of the period treatments for Pediculus capitis was to shave the head so the little creepers have no cover and habitat. The novel Cold Mountain has one of the Home Guard who had this done.

The article I read goes into how a skin head look could be incorporated into your impression, i.e., if anyone asks why your head is shaved down you could look angry and/or embarrassed and refuse to talk about it, and your pards would chuckle and tell the questioner that you'd had an infestation of head lice. And if your unit wants to do a scenario of drumming a miscreant out of camp, you're the natural choice. Also there are period photos of men, often Fire Zouaves but not always, with very short hair. Anyway, that's just some thoughts on this.

11-15-2006, 10:44 PM
Fascinating question. A straight razor of high quality, wielded by a skilled practitioner of the tonsorial arts, is an instrument of precision. I've long thought learning the use of a straight razor from an expert barber is a worthy effort for a reenactor portraying a 19th century man who may well have used one on a daily basis. I used one for shaving some years ago and may take it up again now that I have more time on my hands.

Frenchie posed some interesting possibilities regarding a shaved cranium, especially about head lice. I think vermin infestation is under-represented in the hobby.

Oh, dear me, did I really say that? :)

11-15-2006, 11:57 PM
Sgt. P,

Col. Keith Bartsch (USAF, now retired) did a dandy article awhile back on the procedures and merits of straight razor shaving--I can't remember whether for the Civil War Historian, or for the Camp Chase back when Nicky Hughes was still editor( and well before the CC began its current journey to the nether worlds in a dainty hand held plagerized basket).

In real life, Col. B is a daily practitioner of the art of straight razor shaving. Its a noble art, and one guaranteed to draw a fine crowd at any living history event. Folks appear out of nowhere and stand in awed silence befitting the last shot of the 18th hole at the Master's at Augusta.

An impression certainly to be encouraged!

11-16-2006, 02:08 AM
The article referred to was in the Skillet Licker newsletter. I don't know if Joe still has it on his site. Meanwhile, check the following:


11-16-2006, 05:23 AM
Thanks everyone. I like the lice idea. It's a quick explanation if anyone asks, and it's accurate. Even if I learned to use a straight razor on my face it would be some time before I tried it on my head.... especially during an event with just one small mirror.

But Shaving at home the day before is what I was curious about. Even though I'm probably going to be what alot would call mainstream, I'd like to portray an accurate (as possible) impression. One of the reasons I'm getting into this is to help educate people. So, I guess having a guy with his head shaved do to an infestation of head lice would be a nice touch. I'm not to proud to be that guy:D

It's good to know that I have options though. If I'm ever in the mood to grow my hair out(which would reveal how thin I've really gotten up top) that of course will not ruin my impression. But, if I keep it shaved, that won't ruin it either. Now, if I could only get that big bushy mustache look going.....

Oh, I just had a thought. Down the road, considering my lack of hair, and A reasonaly good ability to grow facial hair, I could probably make a fairly convincing looking General Burnside.

11-16-2006, 12:59 PM
I use a straight razor a lot and have for dacades--good for trimming beards...or taking them off. They're not at all hard to use once one knows the basic principles, which are easy to understand and learn. Can even do it half asleep in the morning.
I too, am 'follicularly challanged' (how's that for modern PC talk?) but I don't think I'd DARE shave my head myself with a straight razor, even with all those years experience shaving my mug with one.
I always have liked the 'hat hair' look so wear what little I have kind of long for that effect, so really can't give advice here. But unless you're really adventurous I'd leave the shaving to others in your 'explanation' of the shiny dome. The above ideas are all good and preclude you having to say you did it yourself--which would sound like a little 'stretch' I would think.
And if you SHOULD ever try to shave your own head with a straight razor, do tell me how it went. As I say, I am too timorious to ever try that trick myself.

Spence Waldron~
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