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As one writer put it, "because facial hair is one of the obvious characteristics that differentiate the male from the female, it is not surprising that hairiness has become a symbol and a proof of masculinity.

The ability to grow a beard is a specifically male ability...

Artifactual analysis, in short, requires a significant semiotic component, although one that is not based on linguistics but on predominately tactile and visual input.

This is an area that is crucial to an understanding of the role of objects in a consumer society, but one which has not to date been adequately accommodated in the dominant analytic paradigms.

S'inspirant de diverses théories et méthodes, cet article tente de déterminer les catégories symboliques qui entrent dans la conception des rasoirs et d'avancer des façons dont ces significations symboliques sont diffusées.

Cet examen préliminaire suggère que les pratiques de rasage modernes sont un rituel exprimant des prescriptions culturelles traditionnelles en fonction du sexe et que les responsables de la fabrication et de la mise en marché de ces produits incorporent presque universellement un éventail d'images associatives dans leurs concepts.

Physical appearance is an important aspect of an individual's sense of personal identity, particularly in the context of the modern consumer society.

The purpose of this study is to explore the ways in which the processes and material components of one particular grooming practice, namely shaving, both reflect and reinforce traditional gender distinctions in modern North American culture.

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The more common practice was to shave only once or twice a week, and for the urban middle class at least this was often managed through regular visits to the barber.In fact, we all regularly make judgements about people based on what they wear, the kind of car they drive, where they live and so on.In doing so, we are implicitly acknowledging that the material goods we surround ourselves with can be taken as a reflection of the kind of person we are.However, a closer examination of the material culture and rituals of shaving disclose a complex nexus of gender construction and affirmation that is neither simple nor "natural," but a culturally defined and refined process entirely devoted to converting the biological "man" into the social "male."3 In addition, although shaving for women is a relatively new phenomenon4 and differs from the male activity in several crucial respects, the same analysis suggests that it too embodies and reflects the same gendering functions, as well as emphasizing and perpetuating many traditional signs of differentiation between the sexes.While this may seem a trivial point in a field dominated by themes of politics, violence and discrimination, I would suggest that it is precisely because the micro-ecology of our daily lives is so little considered that we find here the most persistent and deeply rooted reflection of cultural norms and symbols.Men, he noted, "would not participate in the research.Apparently, there's a secret rule of masculinity that says, 'Hair and style are not guy stuff."7 The problem is further exacerbated by the difficulty in locating an adequate number of respondents for the earlier periods of a study that spans more than a century." The author goes on to elucidate the association between puberty, fertility and virility, and concludes that "there follows [a] simple equation: male hair equals virility, equals power, equals strength."9 If this is true, and there is strong evidence to suggest that it is, then the modern paradigm of the perpetually clean-cheeked male is all the more astonishing.And it is very much a twentieth-century phenomenon, whose genesis can be pinpointed with some accuracy to the release of the Gillette safety razor in 1903.10 Prior to this time, shaving was an exclusively male activity, and was invariably performed with a straight or "cut-throat" razor.Of the many ways of classifying items within a given constellation of objects — by materials used, date of manufacture, technological sophistication, decorative elements, or any other common characteristic — the most robust approach for our purposes is the use of formal sequences comprising a "Prime Object" and subsequent replications, in part because tools or implements such as razors "commonly have extremely long durations."19 By first identifying such sequences, we can both analyse the characteristics within each range as well as discern any significant differences or similarities between them.As a starting point, we may accept the basic distinction between the utility of the object and its design.


  1. But the word here is mostly, not exclusively, so I'm weighing imagined percentages in my head when I try to date this pipe. It is better to remain. If the rim edge is razor sharp on a vintage pipe, that's a dead giveaway, and getting the stain to match seamlessly is difficult to get right. You might be better off.

  2. Of course, not every razor displays the entire range of differentiating elements, nor necessarily to the same degree, but every case examined to date exhibits enough compliance with one or the other of these value. It goes with his stout walking stick, his Bulldog pipe, his man's size pocket knife and his thick fountain pen.

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