‘Noble outline of a manly chin’: A history of shaving in ‘Irish Times’ ads

Beard advantages, 1950s: ‘It provides, as it were, a built-in outlet for nervous tension’

Ads for razors, gift sets and shaving creams have been published in ‘The Irish Times’ since the very first issues

Ads for razors, gift sets and shaving creams have been published in ‘The Irish Times’ since the very first issues

 

Movember is over for another year. The Big Shave has begun. Men’s health is an excellent reason to grow facial hair – but, of course, there are others.

One advantage is the provision of a built-in gadget – an essential accessory for the modern man, according to an Irish Times article published in March, 1954.

“In an age when men are often ill-at-ease without some toy with which to fiddle, it provides, as it were, a built-in outlet for nervous tension. The man with a beard to tug has no need for a pipe to pull or a cigarette to tap,” reads the piece.

“He may encounter some trifling difficulty in negotiating certain foodstuffs; but, against that, he can make minor economies on neckties, to say nothing of the major economies in razor blades, shaving soap, hot water and discomfort.”

JUMP TO: Shaving ads from past editions

Growing facial hair (that looks well) can be hard work. Many would have discovered that during their own attempts to grow moustaches last month. Particularly tricky are the middle-stages.

“Taken by and large, the scale would be heavily loaded in favour of the beard if it were not for the awkward and embarrassing period of apprenticeship; for beards, like cities, are not built in a day.”

Nevertheless, the author apparently likes beards. Very much so.

“Without question, there is something splendid and impressive about a beard full-blown,” the piece suggests. “ At best, a luxuriant growth of hairs upon the chin and upper lip adds dignity and virility to an already dignified and virile countenance; at worst, it disguises the weaknesses and covers the irregularities of anybody who is lacking in such heroic qualities.”

The shaving of beards – “the daily ordeal by soap and steel” – also pops up from time to time in the archive of The Irish Times.

Shaving made the news pages on occasion, such as in 1953 when, facing the decline in people attending salons for their regular shave, barbers issued an urgent appeal: “Bring back the shaves.”

Most mentions of shaving, however, appear in ads for razors, sharpeners, creams and foams, mostly geared towards men. Many others were pitched at women as gift ideas.

With many formerly-mustachioed men looking at bare faces in the mirror today, it wouldn’t be kind to profess how great facial hair is. With that in mind, here is a brief history of shaving, as told in adverts in The Irish Times through the years.

Razors! Razors! Razors! (July 28th, 1865)
Razors! Razors! Razors! (July 28th, 1865)
Convex razor strop (November 29th, 1879)
Convex razor strop (November 29th, 1879)
If you want a clean and easy shave, try the Little Beauty Razor (January 9th, 1897)
If you want a clean and easy shave, try the Little Beauty Razor (January 9th, 1897)
Vinolia Shaving Stick makes it easy for the Razor (March 16th, 1909)
Vinolia Shaving Stick makes it easy for the Razor (March 16th, 1909)
The number used by the Nobility is more than double that of any other razor (June 11th, 1909)
The number used by the Nobility is more than double that of any other razor (June 11th, 1909)
Get a Gillette Razor for the holidays (April 12th, 1911)
Get a Gillette Razor for the holidays (April 12th, 1911)
This was the most unkindest cut of all (May 36th, 1911)
This was the most unkindest cut of all (May 36th, 1911)
The gift that pleases every man... (December 17th, 1912)
The gift that pleases every man... (December 17th, 1912)
This heavy safety razor free (December 20th, 1912)
This heavy safety razor free (December 20th, 1912)
Simplicity! (August 15th, 1913)
Simplicity! (August 15th, 1913)
The old-fashioned shave is nothing but a habit... (May 24, 1916)
The old-fashioned shave is nothing but a habit... (May 24, 1916)
Luxury with economy (April 17th, 1918)
Luxury with economy (April 17th, 1918)
When the razor has a temper, coax it (March 8th, 1919)
When the razor has a temper, coax it (March 8th, 1919)
THE SEXTOBLADE (April 21st, 1920)
THE SEXTOBLADE (April 21st, 1920)
I've never seen a man look more surprised (October 3rd, 1922)
I've never seen a man look more surprised (October 3rd, 1922)
You can get it from your own Ironmonger (November 17th, 1923)
You can get it from your own Ironmonger (November 17th, 1923)
The noble outline of a manly chin (November 26th, 1923)
The noble outline of a manly chin (November 26th, 1923)
A clean finish (October 24th, 1929)
A clean finish (October 24th, 1929)
It's the most economical shave he's found (March 27th, 1936)
It's the most economical shave he's found (March 27th, 1936)
Oh well shaved sir! (March 17th, 1939)
Oh well shaved sir! (March 17th, 1939)
'I know, I'll give him a Gillette razor set!' (December 21st 1948)
'I know, I'll give him a Gillette razor set!' (December 21st 1948)
5 million women can't be wrong (July 13th, 1949)
5 million women can't be wrong (July 13th, 1949)
Hallo! Shavallo! (December 7th, 1949)
Hallo! Shavallo! (December 7th, 1949)
Give your chin a holiday (July 3rd, 1953)
Give your chin a holiday (July 3rd, 1953)
Mac's Smile Shaving Test! (February 3rd, 1954)
Mac's Smile Shaving Test! (February 3rd, 1954)
How happy I could be with either! (December 9th, 1954)
How happy I could be with either! (December 9th, 1954)
The best shave in the world (October 25th, 1962)
The best shave in the world (October 25th, 1962)
The most thought out shaver in the world (August 10th, 1972)
The most thought out shaver in the world (August 10th, 1972)
shop around the best shop around (May 3rd, 1978)
shop around the best shop around (May 3rd, 1978)
Now-the most advanced shaving system every developed (September 17th, 1979)
Now-the most advanced shaving system every developed (September 17th, 1979)
Dominate the disposable now! (September 29th, 1981)
Dominate the disposable now! (September 29th, 1981)