A previous post (Sept. 21,2017) explored the history of Newark’s preeminent scissor and shear company J. Wiss & Sons. This post highlights an important component of their extensive product line – the straight edge shaving razor. According to Don Wiss, who has a fascinating website http://jwissandsons.com/razors/ pertaining to his family’s business, Wiss produced razors for approximately seventy years finally removing them from their catalogue in 1925.
The regular production of the straight edge razor was begun in 1680 in Sheffield, England. For almost two hundred years, well into the first quarter of the twentieth century they remained the favored method of shaving. In the late 19th century , the double sided safety razor, manufactured by King C. Gillette emerged as the first major challenge to straight razors. . Despite the fact that the straight razor was reusable and was more economical in the long term, it required a certain amount of skill to use and a period of training. So while the double sided safety razor was made for single use and could not be sharpened, the straight razor still lost significant market share. Men who shaved embraced the convenience and ease with which a safety razor could be utilized.
Because men found shaving easier and began to shave themselves, many stopped going to their barber for a shave. Barbers, many of whom found their business shrinking , ordered less straight edge razors, further reducing demand. By the mid twentieth with the introduction of electric razors, use of the straight edge had died out.
In recent years, straight edge razors have enjoyed a revival. Demand by straight edge aficionados has led to a surge in sales with the demand remaining steady. The quality of the shave and the fact that straight edge razors can last for years have been significant factors in this resurgence. Will antique Wiss razors be pressed into service again? That remains to be seen.