logo - Join me in the 1900s early C20th
Florence Cole as a child

How men shaved
with open razors

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A man's shaving mug and brush, early 1900s

A man's shaving mug and brush. The mug was to hold the hot water and the lip held the soap. Photographed in West Somerset Rural Life Museum.

'Open' man's shaving razor: a very sharp blade which folded inside a handle.

An 'open' man's shaving razor: a very sharp blade which folded inside a handle. Photographed in Fagans Museum of Welsh Life.

In the early 1900s when I was a child, my father kept his shaving equipment in the sink alcove in the scullery.

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Shaving equipment

The shaving equipment consisted of a shaving brush, a specially shaped china shaving mug and a razor.

The shaving mug held the hot water and the lip of the mug held the soap.

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The open 'cut-throat' razor

open razor sharpened with a leather strop

Razor being sharpened on a leather strap known as a strop. Screen shot from an old film.

Shaving could be a tricky business because the razor had an open blade which had to be kept very sharp. When it wasn't in use, it folder inside its handle, as shown in the photograph, but it could still needed to be treated with care.

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How the razor was sharpened

The blade was sharpened on a special leather strap called a 'strop'. This had a fine powder applied to it to act as an abrasive. Both sides of the blade had to be stropped.

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Man shaving with an open razor

Shaving with an open razor. Screen shot from an old film.

The process of shaving

My father would use the brush and soap to work up a thick lather around his chin and then contort his face and use his hand to stretch his skin.

Then, as he drew the blade of the razor over it, only the stubble would be cut and not his face. It was, though, quite common to see men with cuts on their faces from shaving.

If you can add anything to this page, or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

  Pat Cryer, webmaster

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.