Before the invention of the first safety razor, or the razor as we know it nowadays, men were using straight razor, and, as you might imagine, did not have any security system to protect their users. As straight razor requires very accurate skills, many accidents occurred, from minor cuts to sever ones (as you could remember from some old comedy when a barber accidentally cut its customer ear).
In the late 18th century, a Frenchman, Jean-Jacques Perret , invented the first safety razor. He was inspired by the joiner’s plane, which are used to flatten, reduce the thickness of, and impart a smooth surface to a rough piece of lumber.
As he had a passion for this field, he also wrote a book called Pogonotomy or the Art of Learning to Shave Oneself.
The pogonotome or joiner’s plane razor
In the late 1820s, a similar system was created in Sheffield, England. Later, in the 19th century, single-edge blade mounted on a hoe-shaped handle became fashionable and was available in Britain and Germany.
The first American safety razor was patented in 1880 by the Kampfe Brothers, the razor was being described as “a small blade held in a suitable frame and provided with a guard to prevent the edge of the razor from cutting into the skin”. This new razor featured a wire-skin guard on top of the razors-edge.
In 1901, An American inventor named King Camp Gillette and his partner William Nickerson designed a safety razor with disposable blades (as previous system required to sharpen regularly the blade).
Gillette's patent of his safety razor
Gillette realised that by selling an inexpensive razor and disposable blade, he could create a new market and generate large profits. In 1902, the manufacturing of this new generation of razors began. It was in 1904 that the sales skyrocketed with total sales for the new safety razor reaching 90000 razors and 123000 blades. The design behind Gillette’s safety razor was based on a thin blade covered by the razor housing, therefore protecting the skin against deep cuts. From this time, people stopped going to barber shops (or ask family members), and started shaving themselves from their own bathrooms.