For centuries men could not shave their faces without having water and soap, to soften their skin, and a sharp-edged object. With the advent of the electronic age, inventors and visionaries wanted to employ electric current to simplify and improve everyday living. Out of this desire came the electric, or dry, shaver, a device that employs electrically powered blades, rather than old-fashioned soap, water, and razor blades, to remove body hair.
Before the electric shaver was successfully marketed, quite a few attempts were made to develop and promote variations of the device. The initial electric shaver patent was issued in 1898. A typical early model was called Lek-tro-shav and was sold in the 1910s. In order to work, a Lek-tro-shav had to be connected to a lightbulb socket. In the mid-1920s came the Vibro-Shave, whose handle included a tiny magnet and spring that also depended upon a lightbulb socket for its electric current.
Jacob Schick (1878–1937), a career U.S. Army officer, is credited as the inventor of what evolved into the modern-era electric shaver. Schick initially devised a shaver powered by an external motor but could find no one to market it. Then in 1921 he invented what he called the Magazine Repeating Razor, a predecessor of the injector razor, in which replacement blades were kept in the razor handle and were fed into position without having to touch the blade. Schick formed his own company and began selling this razor in 1926. Despite his early success, he continued to invent. He was determined to develop a dry shaver and did so in 1927. Schick's first electric shaver included a tiny motor and shaving head that were connected via a bendable shaft. The head consisted of cutters that reciprocated, or went back and forth in a repeating motion. By the end of the decade Schick established a second company, Schick Dry Shaver, Inc., to produce and market his invention. Sales initially were slow, but upgraded models were developed and the product gradually caught on with the public. The Schick Model S, the first to replace Jacob Schick's prototype, or original, was marketed in 1935. Two years later 1.5 million Schick electric shavers were sold. Meanwhile, other companies began producing electric shavers. Among the types marketed during the 1930s were the Remington Model E, Sunbeam Shavemaster, Arvin Consort, Braun Standard 50, and Rolls Razor Viceroy.
An engineer named Alexandre Horowitz (1904–1982) invented the rotary electric shaver, which employed rotating cutters. Horowitz was employed by the Netherlands-based N.V. Philips Gloeilampenfabrieken (Royal Philips Electronics), a producer of radios and lightbulbs. Working with Schick's shaver, Horowitz developed his own rotating razor. Philips first marketed the rotary shaver in 1939; it was called the Philishave shaver. Horowitz's invention featured a single head; two-headed models were devised during World War II (1939–45) and marketed after the war. The various models of electric shavers were all welcomed by men seeking convenience and interested in the possibilities of electricity.
Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.
Krumholz, Phillip L. A History of Shaving and Razors. Bartonville, IL: Ad Libs Publishing, 1987.