All the way up to the 20th century, beards were fashionable and most men had them.
But during World War I in the United States, that all changed. And there were two reasons for that change:
- Gillette had released the “safety razor” in 1901, and it was steadily gaining popularity because of a massive ad campaign. The safety razor made it possible and inexpensive for men to shave daily.
- Soldiers in the United States army were required to shave.
Shaving during WWI is the fact that it was the first war to see chemical agents used on the battlefield. Soldiers had to use gas masks for the first time. In order for a gas mask to fit properly, you need to be clean-shaven. The army bought millions of Gillette razors and blades to make shaving possible.
When all of the soldiers returned from WWI with their clean-shaven faces, they were heroes. They appeared in their home towns, and they also appeared in newsreels in the new movie theaters that had sprung up everywhere. Combined with ad campaigns from companies like Gillette, it became the fashion to be clean shaven.
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Source: Ultra Facts