History of Wet Shaving: Thiers-Issard

A Master Craftsman

It took nearly a quarter century of apprenticeship for Frenchman Pierre Thiers to found Thiers-Issard, one of the most respected cutlery and straight razor manufacturers in the world. Thiers began apprenticing in blacksmithing at the young age of 10, working 6 days a week and delivering as many as 10,000 hammer blows in a single day’s work. The rigorous daily exertion helped Thiers develop into a strongman –  he was known to carry one 168-lb. sack under each arm.

In 1884 at the age of 24, he had mastered the art well enough to establish his own forge, soon carving out a name for himself. He named his company Thiers-Issard, adding his wife’s family name, Issard, to differentiate himself from other family members who were also razor makers.

Thiers held the reins at his company from 1884 to 1929, when he passed away at age 69, fittingly while working at his forge.

The first trademark for Thiers-Issard, 1889. Via Straight Razor Place

Passing Down Tradition

After Pierre Thiers’ death, his wife and son, Pierre Thiers Jr., continued the family business. Pierre Thiers Jr. had apprenticed under the senior Pierre and became a master forger in his own right. Later, Louis Thiers took over the company, and he was joined by yet another Pierre Thiers.

After economic troubles, the Thiers family sold the business to Gilles Reynewaeter in 1985. Gilles was a blacksmith who made knives near Thiers-Issard.

Thiers with his wife.

From Cutlery to Straight Razors

Pierre Thiers actually began his career by producing high quality cutlery, coveted by discerning connoisseurs. Over the years, Thiers-Issard acquired a maker of Sabatier kitchen knives as well as makers of catering and butchering equipment, enhancing its range.

While Thiers-Issard had always created straight razors, it only accounted for 3% of what the company made until the mid-2000s. Gilles Reynewaeter saw the increasing interest in traditional wet shaving, so he began refining production techniques, employing modern technology while still preserving artistry.

A few modifications you’ll find on newer Thiers-Issard razors: sculpted razor backs in beautiful patterns, gold leafing with a much more permanent 24K deposit, and the use of Sheffield silver steel for enhanced solidity and longer cutting edge life. Reynewaeter also introduced new handles, made from luxurious materials like ox bone, wood, and ivory.

What hasn’t changed is Reynewaeter’s commitment to never compromising craftsmanship and quality. Each razor is ground and tempered to exacting specifications, producing a piece that’s meant to be passed down the generations. If you’re lucky, you own one of Thiers-Issard’s legendary singing steel razors, which give you delightful auditory feedback while you shave.

Find out more on Thiers-Issard’s website, and shop Thiers-Issard at RoyalShave.

History of Wet Shaving: Proraso

Images via Proraso

Founded on the motto, “Shaving is an art and a pleasure,” Proraso brings the barbershop experience home – a premium product without a premium cost. And with four lines to suit specific concerns, Proraso seems to really cover the bases, boasting a legion of fans worldwide. The nearly 70-year-old company’s products have become classics.

Here’s a little history behind the popular wet shaving brand:

Keeping it in the Family

In 1908, Ludovico Martelli founded a cosmetics company under his own name in Florence. It wasn’t until Martelli’s son, Piero, came on to the company in 1948 that Proraso was born. Proraso transitioned the focus from cosmetics to shaving.

On the eve of an economic boom in Italy, Piero invented the Proraso Crema Miracolosa, a eucalyptus-based cream that could be used before a shave to soften the beard and after a shave to soothe irritation. You know it today as Proraso Green Pre-Shave Cream. As you might expect, the recipe for the formula of Pre-Shave Cream is tightly guarded, passed down from one generation to the next. Pre-Shave Cream became the first in a line of men’s grooming products now referred to as the Green line.

Proraso Pre-Shave Cream was an instant hit with barbers, and soon word of this fresh, multitasking product spread to Italian men who shaved at home.

Working on formulation in the Florence laboratory.

Targeted Lines for Different Concerns

Following on the heels of the Green line’s success, Proraso released its Red line for sensitive skin, which was discontinued several years ago. The White line eventually picked up where the Red line left off, with gentle formulations for reactive skin types.

The company then proceeded to launch a new Red line, this time targeted towards guys with coarse beards.

Recently, Proraso came out with its Blue line, designed to deeply moisturize dry skin.

Reinvention

In 2012 Proraso reformulated its products, to much discussion on the shaving forums. For the most part the formula stayed the same, but now it became over 95% natural origin and free of parabens, mineral oil, SLS, and silicones.

Find out more about Proraso on its website, and shop Proraso at RoyalShave.

5 Vintage Wet Shaving Products You Should Be Using Today

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Photo: Badger and Blade

There’s something undeniably intriguing about vintage wet shaving products. Shaving with a vintage razor (especially one that was passed down) may remind you of your father or grandfather, adding a nostalgic dimension to your daily shave routine.

In addition to vintage/collector’s pieces, there are a small number of old school items still in production today. These are time-tested grooming superstars that deserve your attention. From an alum block that has been produced in France the same way since the 1950s to a revival of the WWII Bakelite safety razor, we take a look at five vintage wet shaving essentials you should be using today.

Study this list before you pick up your next aftershave or DE razor.

Osma Alum Block

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Bloc Osma has been producing natural potassium alum blocks since the mid 1950s. Unlike many alum block makers, who cut costs by sourcing their alum from Asia, Osma Laboratories reduces their carbon footprint by only using product found in France. 100% crystalline alum soothes and cools the face while stopping bleeding from minor cuts. Alum blocks have a myriad of benefits: they are natural astringents, tightening pores and combating oil. They also act as antiseptics, killing surface bacteria.

Fun fact: Alum blocks are the first known aftershave. They were used by the ancient Egyptians more than four thousand years ago as antiseptics.

SHOP: Osma Alum Block

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D.R. Harris Arlington Pre-Shave Lotion

D.R. Harris boasts the title of the oldest pharmacy in London, and also holds the Royal Warrants to Her Majesty the Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales. D.R. Harris was founded in 1790 on St. James Street, where it still operates today. The D.R. Harris Arlington Pre-Shave Lotion is part of the British pharmacy’s classic collection.

This non-oily pre-shave enhances glide and cushions for the shave ahead. A subtle blend of fern and citrus make this pre-shave a delight for the senses.

SHOP: D.R. Harris Arlington Pre-Shave Lotion

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Boker 6/8” Silver Steel Straight Razor

The Boker 6/8” Silver Steel Straight Razor is a modern edition of a classic razor from the Boker range. Around the beginning of the 20th century, Boker came out with a razor featuring blade steel that contained real silver, which they called “Silver Steel.” Because the blade contained silver, the cutting performance was literally cut-throat.

Thus, the “Silver Steel” etching references the days when silver was included in the blade. The current version employs a sharp, extra hollow carbon steel blade with a grooved thumb rest. Timeless faux tortoiseshell rounds out this elegant piece.

SHOP: Boker 6/8” Silver Steel Straight Razor

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Ballistol Lubrication Oil

Straight razors are beautiful tools of precision, but in order to keep them sharp, consistent maintenance is mandatory. Prevent your razor from rusting while promoting free joint movement with Ballistol, a lubrication oil. Invented in 1904 by Dr. Helmut Klever for the German Imperial Army, Ballistol (from the words “ballistic” and “oleum,” the Latin word for “oil”) quickly went into use for cleaning and maintaining the metallic parts of a rifle, as well as its wooden stock.

By the 1940s, hunters, hikers, and other outdoorsmen had adopted Ballistol. If you’re worried about using a propellant on your pricey safety razor, don’t be – Ballistol is biodegradable, and doesn’t produce byproducts that are harmful to the environment. It’s non-carcinogenic and safe for use on skin.

SHOP: Ballistol Lubrication Oil

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Merkur 45 Bakelite Safety Razor Travel Set

During the WWII metal shortage, companies were pressed to find a high-functioning substitute. Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, went into service for a number of applications, including DE razors. The plastic was named after Belgian scientist Dr. Leo Baekeland, who invented it in the early 20th century. Popular manufacturers of these Bakelite safety razors included Souplex and Wardonia.

A few years ago, Merkur brought back this retro design with their 45 Bakelite Safety Razor, outfitted in a pop of red and black. Because the razor is made of plastic, it is much lighter than your average DE razor, but don’t let the light weight fool you – customers who have used this razor say it produces an aggressive, close shave.

The Merkur 45 Bakelite Safety Razor’s plastic construction requires less maintenance than metal razors.

SHOP: Merkur 45 Bakelite Safety Razor Travel Set

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Interview: Truefitt & Hill

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Joanna Broughton, Director of Truefitt & Hill in London

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Truefitt & Hill Barbershop in London

As a traditional shaver, you are probably very familiar with Truefitt & Hill. Given the title of the ‘Oldest Barbershop in the World’ by the Guinness Book of World Records, Truefitt & Hill is one of the most respected and long-storied wet shaving companies in existence.

Founded in 1805 by wigmaker, barber, and perfumer Francis Truefitt, the company’s history encompasses a long list of Royal Warrants, starting with King George III and continuing today with H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, as well as distinguished historical figures like Winston Churchill and Lord Byron, who were regulars.

Today, we sit down with Joanna Broughton, Director of Truefitt & Hill in London, to take you behind the brand and reveal some interesting, lesser known spots in the company’s history. From the incorporation of Truefitt & Hill into the British lexicon – ever heard of the expression, “right as a trivet”? That’s a corruption of ‘Truefitt’ – to the development of the first commercially produced lipstick by Truefitt’s chemists, we believe you’ll learn something new about this legendary brand.

Enjoy!

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Truefitt & Hill has an incredibly rich history. Can you tell us the story of how it began?

There is no question that Truefitt’s history is rather impressive. In fact, in April 2000 the company was awarded the title of the ‘Oldest Barbershop in the World’ by Guinness Book of World Records! It all began when Francis Truefitt opened his doors for trade on the 21st of October, 1805 in fashionable Mayfair, on the day of the Battle at Cape Trafalgar.

While King George III sat on England’s throne, he appointed Truefitt as Court Wig Maker. It wasn’t until 1935 that Truefitt acquired Edwin Hill’s salon and they merged businesses, moving to an enlarged premise on Old Bond Street. Truefitt offered London’s gentry a new level of service unsurpassed anywhere in the world, featuring exceptional products and barbering services.

The company also has long-standing royal ties, which started with a Royal Warrant from King George III. How does it feel having maintained such prestigious recognition?

We feel exceptionally honored to have maintained our Royal Warrant status. Truefitt & Hill currently are Royal Warrant holders to H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. Today’s product offerings reflect over 200 years of research, knowledge, and experience which we are proud to be able to build upon, while we continue providing services and superior grooming products to a discerning modern male who is aware of the advantages of always putting his best face forward.

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Truefitt & Hill’s famous colognes

What was Truefitt & Hill’s first product, and how did it come about?

Truefitt opened its doors in 1805 as a barber, perfumer, and wigmaker. So the very first products were shaving preparations, fragrances, and wigs. In fact, Truefitt’s reputation as a very talented wigmaker soon earned him the customer of King George III. Since Truefitt’s wigs were so well made, they were indeed fit for the king himself! It was the perfect fit of Truefitt’s wigs in the bygone days that gave the rise to the English phrase, “right as a trivet,” which was a corruption of ‘Truefitt’!

Indeed, if anything was a perfect fit, it was as right as Truefitt’s wig. The pioneering spirit of Truefitt’s innovative past has influenced not only male grooming trends, but has also given birth to ladies’ hairdressing salons! It was Truefitt who, in 1870, opened the very first ladies’ salon at 23 Old Bond Street. This fashionable establishment was an instant success and numerous literary quotes confirm Truefitt’s status as the hairdresser of choice for fashionable aristocratic ladies and for Queen Victoria herself! Graced by Her Majesty’s favor and driven by an increasing demand, Truefitt commenced commercial production of toiletries in 1875. What’s more, it also appears that the first commercially produced lipstick was developed by Truefitt’s chemists!

In 1900, C.A.R. Lotion was formulated after a barrage of requests from members of the Royal Automobile Club (R.A.C.), who sought a solution to the problem of unruly and windswept hair caused by travel in their new, open automobiles that were driven at the alarming speeds of 20 miles an hour! The product is still a firm favorite today.

Some of your fragrances, like West Indian Limes and Spanish Leather, date as far back as the early 1800’s. Why do you think these scents have persisted in popularity with customers?

Truefitt fragrances have indeed stood the test of time as they continue in their popularity. We have a wide selection of scents which appeal to a wide spectrum of tastes, and the addition of new colognes is very carefully thought out to ensure they complement the current fragrance selection. The latest addition to our repertoire of fragrances is Apsley, a distinctive and captivating fragrance which already enjoys great popularity!

West Indian Limes draws on our rich heritage and traces its origins to an Imperial Bouquet, which was specially blended for Queen Victoria by Truefitt’s perfumers in 1876 to celebrate her crowning as Empress of India. This enchanting fragrance was re-orchestrated in 1989 with great success, making it one of Truefitt’s most popular, classic scents. It remains to this day a favourite with British Royalty.

Spanish Leather, on the other hand, is one of the oldest in Truefitt’s stable, with the original formulation dating back to around 1814, during a time when all of England was waiting with great anticipation for any news from Spain regarding the British military campaign that was at the time being led by the gallant Arthur Wellesley (later the 1st Duke of Wellington) in the Peninsular War. This rich, but subtle blend of woody, leathery and spicy notes, which truly captures the spirit of old Granada and Castile, was extensively re-orchestrated in 2001, bringing it firmly into the 2nd millennium. It has become a favourite with stylish men who enjoy a touch of nostalgia.

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A Truefitt barber performing a wet shave

What do you take into consideration when developing a new product?  

The necessity of staying relevant at all times to the changing needs of the modern man is the key to Truefitt’s enduring success. New ranges of products are regularly launched to cater not only to the latest fashion and grooming trends, but also to stay in the forefront of product innovation, utilizing the latest advancements in product formulations.

What do you believe makes Truefitt & Hill products distinctive?

Our heritage. With over 200 years of experience and refinement, we have been able to adjust formulations to ensure the best quality possible for all skin types. Our shaving creams, for example, have a high level of glycerin in their composition, which ensures a protective shave with a full lather and minimal application.

Our balms are non-oily and non-greasy but have moisturizing ingredients to replenish the skin post shave, leaving a smooth, clean finish. Our Ultimate Comfort unscented line offers sensitive skin or allergenic gentleman a superior product without irritation. The line includes our very fine pre-shave oil, which only requires a few drops to still allow a close shave (most oils are too thick). We feel privileged to be able to offer every gentleman a product suitable for them with an outstanding result.

What is one Truefitt & Hill product every man should own and why?

Our shaving creams are exemplary, as are our balms. A superior shave and healthy, clean skin exude confidence. A little goes a long way with all our products.

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Truefitt & Hill’s storefront is a wet shaver’s paradise

What new products can we expect from Truefitt & Hill in the future?

We are very pleased to announce that our new cologne will be launching in the next couple of weeks in North America (it has already launched in the UK), called “Apsley”. This cologne was named after the iconic London landmark and former residence of the 1st Duke of Wellington, and has been formulated to ignite the senses with a refined blend of smouldering woods accentuated by light citrus notes. The harmonious overtones of woody vetiver are lifted with a refreshing essence of grapefruit, and are accentuated by notes of pepper. Its heart of cedarwood and patchouli, enriched by sensual notes of musk, gives an alluring base to this captivating fragrance.

Apsley shaving cream and bath & shower gel are to follow.

We have also recently launched new beard products, including a beard oil and a beard balm, as well as a moustache wax to offer a wider range to those who wish to maintain their facial hair.

We have 5 new traditional hair dressings that just launched:  Limnol, Freshman Friction, Monte Carlo with Oil, Athenian Water, and Eau de Portugal to add to our hair management products.

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Where can readers find out more about your company?

We will have an updated historical brochure available online on all our websites in coming months, as we are in the process of updating with our new offerings. Any questions may be addressed to info@truefittandhill.com.

Learn more about Truefitt & Hill on their website. Follow Truefitt & Hill on Facebook and Instagram.

Shop Truefitt & Hill at RoyalShave.

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