Perret, Elder, Kampfe, Schick, Bic and Gillette…May We Never Forget!
So what exactly puts the ‘safety’ in safety razors?
Great question! Here’s how we managed to answer pretty quickly. It turns out that the safety feature in a safety razors is in fact a barrier or comb shaped wire guard that is thoughtfully positioned between the blade and the skin.
In addition and to our delight (we love all things shaving) the first inventor dates back to mid late 19th century America (we lie – but read on).
In fact, the word ‘safety’ in regard to was first mentioned in the records at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1880. The inspiration for a safety feature came from the desire to allow the user to shave as close as possible (for that just-shaved-professional barber look) with the risk of slicing himself open, minimized considerably.
But hang on, let’s start with the Elder Albans Safety razor, with an 1847 (January 10th) date stamped patent by the aviation visionary, Englishman William S. Henson.
The razor was ahead of its time with its detachable “comb tooth guard or protector”. But Henson didn’t actually mention the term safety in his patent application. It was later in 1880 that two New York brothers Otto and Frederik actually put the words on paper and we quote ‘’new and useful improvements in Safety-Razors’’.
Both these designs were comprised a single edged blade that folded into a sheath. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that the Gillette brand made its appearance with a 1901 patent by Mr. King Camp Gillette. This was (for its time) a revolutionary improvement on the Henson and Kampfé model sporting the double edged blade. Gillette was enormously successful with his safety razor by securing a contract to supply all the US troops in WW1.
Schick razors (called the ‘injector’) arrived in the 1920’s with something as close to disposable blades as we know it today. And of course Gillette raising the ante in 1947 with their ‘aristocrat’ model. Wilkson in 1965 were the pioneers of the stainless steel blade allowing users to shave until the blade was as blunt as a meat-ax without risk of tetanus from rusty blades.
Bic (think pens) in 1974, took the European market by storm with their disposable razors (blade included!). Gillette beat Bic to the American market with their “good news plus” disposable razor hitting stores early in 1976.
So let’s stitch things up and dance a little on the razors edge, so to speak, by dethroning our putative first-time-safety-razor-blade inventors (Nelson, Gillette and his crew) and reinstating the rightful recipient – a little known Frenchman by the name of Jean Jacques Perret who gave the world the first safety razor way back in…wait for it…1771! His device was aptly called ‘the plane’ due to a cleverly designed shield of wood (aka the plane) that allows even the handicapped to shave without harm!
That’s it folks! From humble beginnings back in the eighteenth century to today, the safety razor has certainly come a long way.