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“The Gentleman’s Companion”: Staying A Cut Above The Rest!

JAN 22 2018

By William McNab

Razors have been in use since the Bronze Age (3500 B.C.). Throughout history men have chosen to be clean shaven for many reasons; whether it be Alexander the Great reputedly telling his soldiers to shave to gain advantage in battle, or Roman citizens shaving to distinguish themselves  from slaves, right through to Hollywood stars influencing the latest fashion trends.

However, the history of shaving has been far from clean. In medieval times barber-surgeons fulfilled the dual role of cutting hair and performing rudimentary medical procedures such as blood-letting, dentistry, amputations and all manner of painful acts of the time (practically barbaric!). In fact the traditional barber’s pole even has hidden meanings; the brass cap represents the canister leeches were held in, the red and white stripes are the blood and bandages, and even the pole itself symbolises something patients gripped to help with the pain.

The first modern-type straight-edge or cut-throat razors were made in Sheffield in the late 17th century, and were the most common type of shaving implement for over 200 years until the safety razor was introduced in the late 19th century. However, in the last few years cut-throat razors have come back into fashion; the 21st century man is paying greater attention to male grooming and there has been a resurgence in traditional barbers offering wet-shaving as a luxury grooming experience.
Antique Razors at Auction

The trend for collecting antique razors is on the rise too, and it is a captivating subject. There is a great variety in razors - from the different types of blades (Sheffield, Solingen etc), to the numerous different types of handles (or scales) made from horn, bone, steel and cellulose to ivory, mother-of-pearl and silver. From early cut-throat examples to the mass-produced safety razors of the early 20th century, there is a great diversity of razors to choose from.

The most sought after razors at auction are sets of ‘seven day’ razors in their original fitted case, which were produced so men only had to sharpen their razors once a week. Look out for good quality handles, and of course any particularly rare sets, or razors with provenance!

Here are examples of some of the rarest sold at auction:
Sold by C&T Auctions, Kent in 2017 for £1,700: A rare Special Operations Executive (S.O.E) Shaving Kit, Assassination Punch Dagger, and Escape Razor Compass Set

Sold by Lyon & Turnbull, Edinburgh in 2009 for £1,350: An open razor, reputedly once the property of Robert Burns

Sold at Tennants in 2017 for £700: A cased set of four George Wostenholm & Sons I.X.L Celebrated Razors

A large Single Owner Private Collection of razors are coming up for sale in Tennant’s Antiques & Interiors Sale on 26th February. Highlights include:

A set of seven George Butler & Co., Sheffield cut-throat razors with horn handles, each named on the back of the blade for a day of the week and each blade acid etched with a quote from William Shakespeare's Love's Labour Lost, "KEEN as this razors edge invisible": Estimate - £200-300 plus 21% inc. VAT buyer’s premium

A set of seven A.J.Jordan, Sheffield cut-throat razors with ivory handles, each named on the back of the blade for a day of the week and each blade engraved to the tang "OLD FAITHFUL" housed within a silk lined leather case: Estimate - £200-300 plus 21% inc. VAT buyer’s premium

To enquire about buying or selling shaving paraphernalia at Tennants, please contact us on or 01969 923780
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