1930s MEN'S GROOMING GEAR
The period between the wars saw a revolution in shaving gear, with the move from the cut-throat razor to the safety razor and then the electric razor.
In the 1930s the fashionable look for men was sleek and clean shaven (although some dashing types sported a pencil-slim moustache, like the film star Errol Flynn). The emphasis on streamlined hairstyles and smooth cheeks gave new importance to men's grooming, and the bathroom of the well-turned-out gentleman of the day would have contained a cornucopia of lotions and equipment to help him look good and smell sweet.
The most important item was the razor. Until the turn of the 20th century, the cut-throat razor in universal use. Then in 1901, after a six year struggle to perfect the design, the American inventor King Camp Gillette and his
partner William Nickerson patented the razor blade. They launched their new product in 1903, but in the first year sales amounted to only 51 razors and 168 blades. However, Gillette persevered in spite of imminent bankruptcy, and by 1906 sales were up to 90,000 razors and well over 12 million blades.
Soon there were many imitators and rival firms, but the next big breakthrough in razor design did not come until the late 1920s, when Jacob Schick - a retired American army officer - designed the first electric model. He simply took Gillette's design for a holder and fitted a tiny electric motor in the handle, geared to a row of blades behind a slotted guard - a remarkable piece of precision engineering. Schick first marketed his invention in 1931. He was soon followed by the Remington company in manufacturing both electric and clockwork razors using this oscillating system.
The bathroom cupboard would be filled with an eye-bath, mouth-washes, brilliantines, toilet waters and after-shave lotions. For the gadget enthusiast there was such a thing as a hydraulic-powered toothbrush. Other accessories might include a shaving set, hairbrushes and manicure equipment in elegant chrome.
A well-groomed gentleman's bathroom shelf would hold his essential shaving utensils as well as an array of lotions and powders to help him look his best. The new celluloid toothbrushes were very popular and helped make the brushing of teeth a universal habit. Chrome was greatly in vogue and was used for bathroom fittings as well as for grooming and shaving accessories.
Grooming accessories from the 1930s can still he picked tip fairly cheaply in such places as markets and junk shops, although better quality items are now finding their way into antique shops and are rising in price. Among the things that are particularly in demand are matching sets of articles such as shaving brushes and soap dishes, particularly if they are in the distinctive art deco style, which is now so much in fashion again. Travelling bathroom sets, in which such items are neatly packaged into little cases, are often fine pieces of craftsmanship and are especially desirable. Ideally, all the individual items should be in good condition and in working order.
Several of the articles that would have been found in the bathroom of the well-off and
up-to-date gentleman of the 1930s were not only beautifully made but also highly ingenious. It was not only razors that had become motorized, for there were also hydraulic toothbrushes and even electric hairbrushes. As with any piece of old electrical equipment, if you buy one of these devices and intend using it, you should first have it checked thoroughly for safety by a qualified electrician.