Monday is, by and large, the least favourite day of the week, right? Well, this coming Monday is a little different to the others. This Monday marks the 29th February. The elusive date that rears its head only once every four years. We bet you didn’t know that leap years have been particularly important in the evolution of shaving and grooming? Well, you’re in luck. In celebration of the leap year, we have compiled a list of many of the most important shaving advances that occurred in leap years.
Before we jump to 20th century, there are two leap years of particular importance we just could not skip over. The first is 1680, the year that narrow-bladed folding straight razors were listed by a manufacturer in Sheffield, England. Use of straight edge razors were prevalent before the 20th century and it wasn’t until a safer alternatives came along that the straight edge fell out of the fashion. One of those challengers was the brainchild of a French writer, Jacques Perret, who authored Pogonotomie, or The Art of Shaving Oneself in which he describes his rasoir à rabot which consisted of a wood cover that allowed only a small portion of the straight edge blade to protrude, preventing any chance of significant damage when shaving. Although Perret produced and sold his razor guard, he did not patent it. It wasn’t until 1880 — our second leap year — that the term “safety razor” was first used in a patent.
The 20th century in particular counts many leap years during which the shaving and grooming industry leapt forward.
King C. Gilette (Namesake of the Gilette brand) was granted a patent for the safety razor
Mustachioed William Howard Taft is elected president, the last president with facial hair to be elected President of the United States.
The buzz around electric razors begins when retired army colonel Jacob Schick (namesake of Schick razors) patented his design of a cutting head driven by a handheld motor, connected by a flexible rotating shaft.
WWII has begun and nylon, as a valuable wartime commodity, went sparse. Tights were a luxury women could not afford and were forced to go barelegged. Remington enters the dry shave fray and begins selling the first women’s electric razor.
British engineers at Wilkinson Sword perfect the production of stainless steel blades and disrupt the shaving industry. Wilkinson Sword’s stainless steel blades, unlike their competitor’s carbon steel blades that would rust after only one use, remained sharp and oxide-free for multiple uses. Wilkinson Sword’s competitors were forced to follow suit and the continuous daily need for blades that Gilette had architected came to a crumbling halt.
Wilkinson Sword’s stainless steel blades were paired with inexpensive handles. The disposable razor, or razors that were good for several uses and then thrown away, became a big player.
If you know of any other leap year innovations in shaving or grooming, let us know in the comments!
If you’re interested in reading more about the history of shaving, read our article on China’s superstitious relationship with grooming.