In modern man’s arsenal of grooming tools, the electric razor has come to be an instrument of efficiency and convenience. While you might consider your shaving routine a tedious task, a look back into the history of shaving will quickly reveal how practical and stress-free shaving has actually become in today’s world.
The Pre Electric Shaver Era
The desire to trim facial hair isn’t new by any means. In times as early as the Stone Age, people were finding primitive, hazardous ways of taming their hair, such as using clam shells, flint knives and even shark teeth. Ancient Egyptians used more advanced means from hair-removing chemicals, to pumice stones and sharp blades. Later in the Bronze Age, sharp volcanic obsidian tools were brought about, and finally, blades were used for shaving during and after the reign of the Romans.
However, until safety razor blades were popularized in the 1900s – thanks to the Kampfe Brothers and King C. Gillette – people had conducted this simple routine with fingers crossed that they wouldn’t shred their faces for the sake of a clean shave.
The Inventor: Schick
An American, and later Canadian entrepreneur, Colonel Jacob Schick was the first person to pursue the concept of an electric shaver. Schick was a visionary who foresaw the potential of this unheard-of contraption. He was also driven by his personal need to shave with one hand due to an injury to his arm, and the rather peculiar belief that shaving regularly could extend the life of a man to 120 years.
A Slow Start to Success
Schick filed a patent for the first ever electric dry shaver in 1930. The first concept offered convenience in use, but simply lacked a practical design, with its shaving head that was powered with a bulky external motor and required both hands to operate. Unsurprisingly, it was rejected for its crude design.
After several attempts to address these shortcomings, Schick finally managed to incorporate all the electric shaver’s mechanisms into a more compact single-hand design. And so, the product was released in 1931. The demand for this new technology skyrocketed and Schick razors took store shelves by storm, selling millions of units. After Schick passed away, his invention lived on and continued to be developed by other companies who would carry electric shaving to even greater heights.
After its successful launch, companies quickly realized the potential of the product and the electric shaver marketplace became a head-to-head battle for top brands to redesign a shaver that worked quicker, safer, and was more appealing to customers. This lead to the rapid succession of the following new developments:
- Rotary Blades
- Multiple Heads
It was Remington who took hold of the baton and continued the process of refining Schick’s original designs. Their first shaver had a micro-screen foil sheath that had holes, and covered the blades of the shaver. This was an improvement from the previous designs of the razor, which exposed the skin directly to the blades. This enhancement vastly improved the comfort of use, and is one of the developments that remains in use to this day.
However, several changes have been made to the original foil shaver’s functionality. When Braun released their first foil shaver in 1951, this was their sole focus. It was later, with the major success of their Sixtant model, which sold over 10 million units, that Braun was established as a major player among the top brands.
Another leap in the history of the electric razor is the introduction of circular blades by Phillips in 1939. While Schick’s electric razors worked like regular hair trimmers (with blades that move rapidly back and forth), the new Phillips rotary shaving system resulted in a shaver that was smaller in size, and better at shaving around the contours of the face.
Phillips changed the game yet again when they introduced a third rotary head to their design in 1966. The three-head shaver design remains the most prominent type today, except for travel shavers (these contain only two heads to keep a compact size). The multiple head model has been improved over time with the availability of better technology so that the heads are now flexible, allowing the shaver to follow the curvature of the skin even better than before.
Throughout the first 30 years, the electric shaver was powered with an electric cord so users were limited to using the shavers near electrical outlets. Thankfully, this all changed in the 1960s when advancements in battery technology lead to the creation of razors with internal batteries.
Despite the short lifespan of batteries at the time, the battery powered design was far superior to its predecessor. In 2010, Wahl’s Lithium Series was launched providing rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries, that make the shaver much more convenient and cost effective.
The combination of electronics and water has often spelled disaster in the past. This is why all the main brands steered clear of wet-shave electric razors and stuck to shavers that were only suitable for dry shaving. But as we entered the new millennium, designers and consumers alike have become comfortable with the idea and electric razors have evolved to become waterproof.
Today, people can rinse their razor and use it with shaving creams and gels, or they can opt for a dry shave. It all depends on what’s more suitable for the consumer at any given time. The development of waterproof razors was another revolutionary addition, as it makes cleaning the razor easier, and allows for a wet-shave which had always made for a cleaner cut than electric shavers before then.
It was soon after waterproofing made it possible to clean electric razors that they became self-cleaning; doing away with the trouble altogether. In 2001, Braun delivered this top-of-the-line technology, making them a major player among the top brand
With the notable brands Wahl, Braun, Philips and Remington in the frontline of electric shaver innovation, we’ve come a long way from the crude, hazardous methods of grooming in the past. Today we have electric shavers that use the latest technology and have even been designed to be outer space friendly so that NASA astronauts can use them too while on missions. Modern electric shavers are not only effective but also affordable, convenient and easy on the skin, while providing a cut that rivals manual razors in the closeness of the shave.