What is Good Hygiene?
By Steven J. Grisafi, PhD.
Many years ago, before the current trend of extreme intolerance, I read a report about advertising. It indicated that it was good policy to show and use fictional characters, such as Aunt Jemina and Uncle Ben, who by their appearance would be recognized as Black Americans, because such characters would encourage sales of the products these characters represented by Black Americans and would not harm sales of the products to White Americans. Times have changed and the use of such fictional characters is now deemed inappropriate. Although the thinking behind the advertising report I reference is clearly outdated it should indicate to all of us that the advertisement industry is quite clever in their attempts to persuade the general public to spend our money. While their tactics may have changed the strategy behind all advertising remains the same. I have taken notice of one particular instance.
Recent trends in immigration has brought to America peoples whose religious faith causes men to remain unshaven. When one seeks to notice such things one will observe that many advertisements today show men with facial hair. This is something one would not see often in the days of my youth. Usually the men would bear closely cropped beards or even just the stubble of a few days growth. In times past such features would be indicative of slovenliness. Today they are shown, not because advertisers think the men “look cool,” but because they know that showing unshaven men would attract non-Christians to their products.
My recent move from Pennsylvania to Wyoming has brought me in contact with a larger proportion of unshaven men than I had seen during my nineteen years of living in Pennsylvania or even the twenty years I lived in New York City prior to that. Even with the high proportion of immigrants in New York City, beards are not as common as I see today amongst the rural dwelling men of Wyoming. The rural unshaven men of Wyoming are nearly all White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. They are not the Hindu nor Muslim unshaven men one would see in New York City. This curiosity led me to realize that one never sees photographs nor pictures depicting Native Americans (Amerindians) as wearing beards. Indeed, here in Wyoming, where there are many descendants of the Amerindians, one can see that the men are always clean shaven. So I decided to check the history of the practice of shaving.
Humans began shaving their bodies at least 60,000 years ago, perhaps as much as 100,000 years. Our Amerindians were the people who crossed the land bridge from Siberia into Alaska in prehistoric times. Those Asians crossed the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska around 13,000 years ago. So the practice of shaving was already prevalent before the Amerindians came to the North America. However their culture may have modified to adapt to their new environment, Amerindian men continued their practice of shaving. Amongst the Europeans the practice of shaving has waxed and waned several times. The Ancient Greeks wore beards while the Romans oscillated between clean shaven or closely cropped beards. But the most interesting of all ancient Western peoples are the Ancient Egyptians. Both men and women, and also both rich and poor, the Ancient Egyptians shaved their entire bodies, from head to toe, as a means of avoiding the heat of their climate. To avoid sunburn on their heads their wore wigs.
Some will say that I need to respect the religious practices of others. However, I say that shaving is beneficial. Men who fail to shave regularly lose the benefit of exfoliation of layers of dead skin on their faces. Frequent, periodic shaving helps prevent unsightly facial growths such as moles and warts. Women go to great length, and cost, to achieve the same benefit of exfoliation that men achieve through frequent shaving. I have heard it claimed often, usually by the women themselves, that men seem to age more gracefully than they do. Undoubtedly, a significant part of the observation results from men’s practice of shaving. The creams and facial treatments women use cannot match the effect of a razor.
So what is good hygiene? Is bathing uncut body hair considered sufficient good hygiene? Or is it both proper and good hygiene to trim our extraneous growths? This leads me back to my observation of the clean shaven Amerindians. Who were the barbarians? The English colonists who wore beards or the clean shaven Amerindians? Barbarian is what the Romans called those who wore beards.