Savills Shaves the Day…….
It’s a cut-throat world, and specifically more so in the grooming industry. What is almost synonymous with the word barber is the image of the cut-throat razor. A tool not just to sharpen up the unkempt gent, but also a tool used in suicide and murder, hence its name.
We all grew up with the lore of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street who, alongside his accomplice Mrs. Lovett, sliced and diced his way into our nightmares; cutting the throats of his “patrons”, tipping his barber chair back and sliding the corpses down into the cellar, where Lovett would collect her “fresh ingredients” and make some scrummy, if not rather fatty, short crust pies for the public. Waste not, want not and all that. Or how about the gang’s choice of weapon? Easily concealed in a pocket, and extremely effective to “teach somebody a lesson”. That lesson definitely not being on how to get the closest shave!
However, as much as the steel razor sometimes has these ghastly connotations hanging over its legacy, it is one of a barber’s most treasured tools. The close shave that can be achieved simply cannot be matched by a mechanical clipper or a multi-tiered razor.
Straight razors have perceptively changed very little since the late 1700’s, but in actual fact, more about them has changed than we actually realise. The steel has altered drastically over the years; the handles have taken on new compositions, and materials also; all these differences are subtle, but significant.
In the early days razors looked more like “hatchets” than they did a tool to shave with, and were most likely something blacksmiths used than the domesticated gentlemen. Pre 1800’s, the single blade razors were wedge shaped, often made from woodbine or other organic materials, with their scales almost always flat. Razors between 1740 and 1830 had the words “warranted” or “cast steel” etched onto them to show that the blade was in fact made with the metal invented by Robert Huntsman of…Sheffield!! That’s right, our very own city played part in paving the way for the augmentation of the cut-throat razor! Rooster razors have a three-pin blonde buffalo horn handle. The blades are made of Sheffield silver steel; a highly polished steel, famous for its deep gloss finish.
Throughout the 1800’s, more and more improvements were made to the shaping, materials and ergonomics of the straight razor. Big changes such as the discovery of “silver steel” by Michael Faraday – adding silver to steel – made a difference that wasn’t massive in practicality, but in the upgrading of aesthetics and appearance it really “shined” (pun intended). Silver steel eventually went on to replace cast steel, the razors tang (the part of the blade you can hold) became more pronounced and defined from the actual sharp edge blade, and close to the beginning of the 19th century, celluloid handles became popular due to the versatility and durability of the material.
The (cursed) invention by Gillette in 1901 of the replaceable safety razor, with blades that were disposed of after use, metaphorically signed an impending death warrant for the straight razors use in anywhere other than the barber shops; that is, until now.
The cut-throat is making a return in domestic use, and we at Savills are certainly happy to see this age old tool making a resurgence, especially those of the Sheffield steel variety. Of course, there is still nothing like sitting in a barber’s chair, having a hot towel exfoliate, and a close, wet shave with a straight edge razor by a trusted barber; trust us! It’s not all as cut and dried as it seems in the grooming industry, but you have to always go straight for the jugular!