Monday, May 6, 2013

Antique Razor Revolution

    Razors have been around since before the Bronze Age. In prehistoric times, cave drawings depict blades made of clam shells, shark teeth and flint. During the Bronze Age razors were made from bronze and obsidian. Egyptian priests were shaved every three days and the Greeks and Romans were fastidious about the proper care of facial hair. Through the ages, the razor has gone through many changes. The first modern-day straight
edge razors, with harden steel blades, were made in the 1700s in England. Since then, straight edged razors have evolved. The discovery of silver-steel in the 1820s made the metal used to make the blade of the razor look shiny and by 1840 it had replaced cast steel. Not long after, hollow grinding blades made an appearance, hollow grinding means that the sides of the blades cross-section are concave.
 Extra Hollow Ground, 1888 Germany
Companies began making straight-edge razors with hard steel blades and decorated handles making them fashionable for the wealthy. By 1840, the term 'Old English' and The Celebrated Razor were often used. Sometimes the wedge blade was etched with a beautiful design or picture that commemorated a special event. Carves bone and horn, along with bakelite were often used for the handles.

SS St Louis engraved ship on blade
     Soon barber shops were opening up and became very popular in the 1880s. During this time, the barber shop was a place for men to gather, socialize and be pampered. Barber shops were luxurious places with marble, carved wood ornamentation, chandeliers, and fine leather barber chairs. A shave at the barber shop was often an established part of a man's daily routine. From 1880 to the 1920s straight-edged razors was improved and hollow ground blades were offered in depths from three-eighths of an inch to a full one inch. The hollow ground five-eight blade is the most popular. The blade of a straight-edged razor acts like a scoop allowing the lather to be carried along so that you don't have to rinse the blade so often. But the practice of shaving each day did not really take hold until WWI, when military men were required to shave each day so their gas masks would fit properly.
Gillette Safety Razor, 1950s
   These straight-edge razors began to fall out of fashion when King C. Gillette started to mass produce safety razors. Straight -edge razors were thought of as a once in a lifetime purchase, often expensive, needing constant care and attention to keep them sharp.  Fathers evenhanded down their straight-edge razor sets to their sons. Gillette needed to change the consumer's opinion about throwing the razor blades away that were in his safety razor. This new razor provided a faster less painful shave.  Gillette's inventive idea was to sell the safety razor at a loss, but gain repeat sales on the one-use replacement blades, and there-by earning a higher sales margin.Gillette's inventive idea was to sell the safety razor at a loss, but gain repeat sales on the one-use replacement blades, and there-by earning a higher sales margin. With great advertising campaign slogans and a low initial investment, Gillette's safety razor soon started to out sell the straight-edge razor, and more men began shaving themselves at home. In the 1960s reusable stainless steel blades became available, for the safety razors, reducing the cost of shaving even more. By 1976 Gillette plastic disposable razors entered the marketplace. Today cheap plastic razors and blades are used and discarded contributing daily to the pollution of our environment. 
    Shaving is a rite of passage for many young teenage males maturing into men. Whether a straight-edge razor or a safety razor, antique razors are making a comeback. A movement is on the rise with the younger generation of males, this generation is embracing the old traditions and shaving styles of their grandfathers by bringing back the razors of the past. There are many reasons for this return to the basics in shaving. Using a straight-edged razor or safety razors does not irritate the skin like the plastic disposable multi-blade razors can and they handle the toughest facial hair while providing a superior smoother, closer shave. While the initial investment may be high on these razors, it is an investment that pays for itself. Once the technique is acquired the investment in a straight-edged or safety razor will last a lifetime and the shave it provides is the closest cleanest shave ever. With very little training, skill, and knowledge, you will end up saving 50-70 dollars a year, by not using disposables. Not to mention the greener aspect of adding less garbage to our landfills. Also, why not display your beautiful shaving tools, with a sense of pride. Are you ready to join the shaving revolution? A onetime investment in a straight-edged razor can provide you with shaving nirvana for the rest of your life.

1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting. I'm going to post a link to your blog on my Facebook page. You really do post some fascinating information.


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