For centuries, men relied on straight razors to remove their beard stubble. These long steel blades with a hinged handle could give a smooth shave if regularly sharpened and expertly handled. But they could inflict wicked cuts on the inattentive shaver.
Then, in 1903, King Camp Gillette introduced his safety razor with a disposable blade held underneath a protective guard at just the proper angle. And if this wasn’t enough, Gillette’s razors had two shaving edges instead of the single edge of a straight razor.
It was a good design and reasonably priced, but many men remained faithful to the straight razors. Then came World War I, and the Army’s prohibition on beards, which prevented gas masks from fitting tightly, not to mention being good nesting places for lice. The government bought 4.8 million of Gillette’s razors and issued them to men in uniform. By the time the men returned home, the era of straight razors was over.
This article is featured in the November/December 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
Featured image: SEPS