Clean Shaven

Images The 1920 Men Shaving
The clean-shaven man only became popular in the 1920s. Before then, being clean shaven was considered an act of rebellion. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

At the time most men were shaved by barbers; they occasionally shaved themselves at home, peering into small mirrors before lathering up their faces. They favored some form of facial hair if only because they could not be bothered to shave themselves, or be shaved, every day. During World War I Gillette struck a deal with the U.S. armed forces, which issued a safety razor and disposable blades to each soldier. While in combat shaving one's face was practical, and potentially lifesav-ing, because it allowed the soldier to more safely close and seal his gas mask. Thus, hundreds of thousands of young men simultaneously became adept at shaving themselves. At the war's end each soldier was allowed to keep his razor and Gillette began mass-producing replacement blades for this ready-made market of men who shaved daily.

Adding to the popularity of the cleanshaven look was the development of the electric shaver in the 1920s and its subsequent marketing during the following decade. With the advent of the electric shaver, men found it even easier to remove their facial hair without having to depend upon water, soap, and razor blades.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Adams, Russell B. King C. Gillette, the Man and His Wonderful Shaving Device. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1978.

Barlow, Ronald S. The Vanishing American Barber Shop. El Cajon, CA: Windmill Publishing Company, 1993.

Dowling, Tim. King Camp Gillette: Inventor of the Disposable Culture. London, England: Short Books, 2001.

[See also Volume 4, 1930-45: Electric Shaver]

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