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How Did the Three Pass Shave Originate? One or Two Passes Were Standard Historically.

Curious as to the origination of today's recommended three pass DE shave with, across and against the grain? Is anyone familiar with the basis for this? My attempt to research the topic hasn't found any historical basis for this beyond the more recent posts and videos from DE shavers who recommend the approach. Details of my experience and research on the topic are as follows:

I started DE shaving during my college days (After 5 years I went electric returning after decades to DE three years ago) and don't recall any instructions regarding this approach for shaving back then. Basically applied canned foam, shaved and did some touch up for a DFS. Today I achieve a BBS shave with two passes and some touch up. No need for a full third pass.

Research of historical commercial shaving directions hasn't surfaced anything on the three pass shave though there was some discussion of a two passes if an extra close shave was desired. Way back in 1905 a pamphlet on straight razor shaving (link below) stated " If you desire a really clean shave, you must go over the face the second time......In shaving over the face the second time, some reverse the stroke. That is, they shave upward against the growth of the beard, instead of downward, as during the first time over." basically suggesting an optional two pass shave with the first pass with the grain and the second against.

More recent DE shaving instructions from the mid-20th century either recommend one pass with the grain with some against the grain touch up (1961 Gillette Directions link below) or, similar to 1905 a single with the grain pass with an optional " if necessary" second against the grain pass (1963 Gillette British Directions link below). The 1958 directions (link below) only mention a single pass with long diagonal strokes that appear to be a trademark of many Gillette shaving instructions from those days. More recent Gillette instructions from the 1970s & 80s only focus on operation of the razor.

Found an old 2014 thread on B&B (2nd to last link below) where the posts also affirm that a one or two pass shave was pretty standard at the time these instructions were distributed.

I did find one possible source for the three pass shave in an open source professional barbering textbook (last link below) that talks about a three pass shave though interestingly it notes that the third pass is almost never done. The specific text instructions are"

"There are three main types of shaves traditionally practiced in barbershops:
  • The first time over: The standard shave service performed in barbershops today. It is performed using a lather on the beard and by shaving in the direction of the grain. This shave removes all visible hair growth and leaves the skin smooth and without irritation.
  • The second time over: This shave is performed immediately after the first time over to create a closer shave by removing any remaining hair. The second time over shave is generally performed on dampened skin with no lather, while working with or across the grain.
  • The close shave: A shave that is typically not practiced, unless the client has a particularly challenging beard or growth pattern, in which the first time over and second time over shaves were not enough to adequately remove all of the hair. This shave is performed against the grain, therefore it is not commonly performed as it is more likely to cause irritation, ingrown hairs, and the possibility of infection.
Source: Barbering Techniques for Hairstylists by Arden Magtiza and Gary Franceschini

In the detailed instruction section the text notes that "The Second Time Over" shave is only done where needed. It is not a full second pass. So really the recommended professional barber shave is a single pass with touch up.

Back to the original question. Is anyone familiar with how the three pass shave became the recommended approach for DE shavers today? Wondering if there is any real basis for it or if in reality, as noted in the text above, we just need to determine what works best for us given our unique beard characteristics and YMMV.


Post with links to 1905 shaving pamphlet

1958 Gillette U.S. Razor Directions:
https://mr-razor.com/Anleitungen/1958 TV Super-Speed.jpg

1961 Gillette U.S. Razor Directions

1963 Gillette British Shaving Directions

The History of Multiple Pass Shaving - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/the-history-of-multiple-pass-shaving.436596/

Barbering Textbook Link
 
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rbscebu

Girls call me Makaluod
Three full-passes has become more popular as people started to enjoy their shaving after decades of using carts. They are now not shaving just for the result but also the pleasure.

Now those foolish enough to master SR shaving, find they can do as many passes as time permits and gain even more enjoyment.
 
Hi @Lane101 I wondered about this, as I am very interested in how our fathers and grandfathers shaved in the 30's-70's with a 'working mans' setup and what methods they used. I tend to use vintages and am always interested in the history of our hobby.

A lot of interesting replies with recollections were gathered in this thread, with the help of B&B colleagues, here: Looking For Descriptions Of Authentic 1950's Shaving Techniques From Those Who Did It. Gents Over 80, I am Asking You! - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/looking-for-descriptions-of-authentic-1950s-shaving-techniques-from-those-who-did-it-gents-over-80-i-am-asking-you.627294/

It seems from this that the 1 or at the most 2 pass shave was pretty much standard, there being an accent on speed and minimal 'luxury' gear. Also it seems WTG & ATG passes were universally used. The vibe seems to have been on a swift, utility shave. I suspect from this that our 3 pass shave with all the modern soaps and pre-post shaves, etc, is a very recent development. There were a variety of aftershaves, and many soaps, even in the 50's, but the 1 razor, 1 blade type, 1 soap, 1 aftershave, was the norm.

The idea of 'pampering' oneself with a shave would have seemed very suspect to them at the least, it would seem.

There were some very illuminating replies. You may find them useful
 
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Was the military as strict about shaving prior to the invention of disposable cartridge razors? If it was, then I could see veterans continuing to perform extra passes to get extremely close shaves in their civilian life, especially with stubble/beards being unacceptable for most professional white collar jobs (and many blue collar jobs) in the 1960s or earlier.

I think another factor is that the majority of men in the 1960s or earlier shaved every day, since going to work with stubble would have been completely unacceptable. Daily shaving with DE razors would mean that even those with very heavy beard growth wouldn't have as much to shave as men nowadays who may not shave for several days.
 
Was the military as strict about shaving prior to the invention of disposable cartridge razors? If it was, then I could see veterans continuing to perform extra passes to get extremely close shaves in their civilian life, especially with stubble/beards being unacceptable for most professional white collar jobs (and many blue collar jobs) in the 1960s or earlier.

I think another factor is that the majority of men in the 1960s or earlier shaved every day, since going to work with stubble would have been completely unacceptable. Daily shaving with DE razors would mean that even those with very heavy beard growth wouldn't have as much to shave as men nowadays who may not shave for several days.
They were very strict, if you check out the quantity of military shaving sets which were issued in WW1 and especially WW2, with DE types, almost all Techs, SE GEMS and Schick injectors all being in evidence. The quality of the shave would have been a 2 passer at the most in the field, not a BBS, but many commands demanded a daily shave. This would have been grim on the front lines, especially in the European theatre in 1944-5, or in the Pacific theatre.

The popularity of the Tech and other types post war, indicated that ex military guys carried on using the types they were familiar with in military service when they got back to 'normal' life after the war.

The idea of not shaving daily to work in the 40's to even recently would have been unthinkable.

The post 1945 idea of very much increased work efficiency I think played a part in razor development too, commuting and getting to your place of work on time.

I suspect this is why the 1947 Super Speed shaving system was designed, to get the working man, or the executive, to their lathe or office, quickly in the morning.
 
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I concur! I believe that back in the old days, shaving was considered utilitarian in nature. Wake up in the morning, go to the bathroom. Get your mug with Williams shave soap going with bore, horse, or badger brush. First pass WTG, second pass ATG. Quick shaving was the name of the game, because time is money, and if your not at your job, your not making money. After shaving, a thrown towel over your shoulder, walk into the kitchen, get a mug of coffee from the stove top percolator, sit down and read the morning paper that got wet from the yard sprinklers, while drinking your mug of coffee. Then off to work you go.

I am fairly certain that was the routine for most folks. Watch The Marvelous Mrs Mazel on Amazon Prime, you will see several wet shaving scenes in that show, where men using safety razors.

I didn't get exposed to traditional wet shaving till March of this year. But I gotta tell ya, I just enjoy a 3-pass shave. Yep, I got alotta soap in my bowl, gotta use it up. But I am all about that BBS, even if I give myself nicks in order to get it. Paul H Shaves and I both seem to agree on that mindset. LOL! But ya, I think we do enjoy a lot more luxury in modern day, with our fancy DE razors, and our luxury shave soaps, brushes and bowls. We have it made compared to men back in the 20's - 70's.
 
My observation:
Shaving in the old days was done because it was a chore (one pass and go).
We made it a hobby when we discovered the beauty of what they used.
I'm sure our forefathers didn't drool over a Fatboy!
And they probably would have fumed knowing that we spend $200+ on a razor!
So the hobby has become a (shave quality) obsession for some and that's why
all the extra passes have come into play. I have no clue when this happened though!
I'm a 2 pass shaver WTG/XTG resulting in a DFS. More than that and I get irritation!
 
They were very strict, if you check out the quantity of military shaving sets which were issued in WW1 and especially WW2, with DE types, almost all Techs, SE GEMS and Schick injectors all being in evidence. The quality of the shave would have been a 2 passer at the most in the field, not a BBS, but many commands demanded a daily shave. This would have been grim on the front lines, especially in the European theatre in 1944-5, or in the Pacific theatre.

The popularity of the Tech and other types post war, indicated that ex military guys carried on using the types they were familiar with in military service when they got back to 'normal' life after the war.

The idea of not shaving daily to work in the 40's to even recently would have been unthinkable.

The post 1945 idea of very much increased work efficiency I think played a part in razor development too, commuting and getting to your place of work on time.

I suspect this is why the 1947 Super Speed shaving system was designed, to get the working man, or the executive, to their lathe or office, quickly in the morning.
I wasn't sure about the shaving requirements, since it seems that military personnel during WW2 were allowed to have longer hair than what the military allows today. I doubt if the current Army or Air Force would allow a hair style as long as this fellow's.
121113-F-XX010-002.jpg
 
I wasn't sure about the shaving requirements, since it seems that military personnel during WW2 were allowed to have longer hair than what the military allows today. I doubt if the current Army or Air Force would allow a hair style as long as this fellow's.View attachment 1534321
They did have long hairstyles in the 40's especially the USAAF and Royal Air Force, from pics I have seen. In the UK the Air Force were called Brylcreem Boys because of their hairstyles. The Army seemed to favour a more cropped style, or the shaved back and sides, but again, long at the front often.

But what a smooth face this guy has got! A GEM SE or a Schick E3 user I suspect.
 
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ERS4

My exploding razor knows secrets
I also have no way of knowing the origin.
But I believe that youtuber prefers to maintain a certain length of video time for video bonuses, so many new wet shavers think that Three Passes are necessary.

The shaving process in the second half of the Billy Hukin documentary.
We can see how simple and pure his shave is.
Grinding, Setting In and Whetting of Open Razors and Using a Razor - Billy Hukin (1966 & 1993)

While I enjoy the hobby, I do feel that many of the techniques and procedures being preached today are overkill.
 
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I wasn't sure about the shaving requirements, since it seems that military personnel during WW2 were allowed to have longer hair than what the military allows today. I doubt if the current Army or Air Force would allow a hair style as long as this fellow's.View attachment 1534321

The Canadian armed forces have changed their policy and both men and women in the military are allowed longer hair, beards (men) and tattoos. :eek2:
 
I started shaving in 1970 and never heard of a 3-pass shave - it was once, with minor touchup (still that darn cowlick right below the right jawline), and done. First I heard of a 3-pass was here at B&B...

I had never done a 2-pass shave in my life using the old Trac II or other disposable cartridge blades back in the day. It wasn't until I recently started using the DE safety razor that I read or saw YT videos about how to properly shave using one. Since my father only used electric shavers, I did not grow up watching him wet shave. I tried using an electric shaver like him in my early teens but would get terrible irritation using one. I switched to the Gillette Trac II in 1977 when they first came out when I was 15 years old and shaving regularly by then and never did more than the 1-pass shave. Now I find 2 passes with my DE safety razors is usually enough.
 
I certainly remember it was commonly advised not to shave against the grain. I always ignored that, from the time I started shaving in the early ‘80s, since two-pass shaves did not satisfy me and there were no cops in my bathroom to stop me. I have always assumed I was far from the only outlaw in this respect. I think against-the-grain shaving was always discussed as long as I’ve been in this forum (2013) and wasn’t considered unusual by any means.

I have no idea how common shaving against the grain was over time, or how much it has changed, but it does appear now there is a broader acknowledgement at least that many (most?) people shave this way, and that they did not die in the process.
 
Hi,

I perform a daily one pass shave with some touching up. So, no additional lather. Each pass means lathering again and starting over. I don't enjoy shaving enough to do that. Although, I have tried it because so many like it, but it really didn't give me enough extra to be worth it.

I need to shave or die essentially. The firefighting SCBA mask requires a seal and facial hair equals leaks. Positive pressure to keep the toxic gasses out. If they leak in, one dies.

Short hair, too. the helmet is a hot bugger. And the turnout gear has a Tyvek liner to prevent steam burns. All heating and no cooling there. Once out of the fire (literally, but no frying pan) cooling down works much better with short hair. And the short hair leads to wearing of hats all the time. And that leads to another website where we spend a lot more money than we do here on B&B. :p

As for that US Army Air Corps photo, the short hair in the Army back then was in the infantry. Prevent an enemy from grabbing by the hair in a fight. Not too many enemy getting into the aircraft and grabbing hair, so they had different rules. I recall my WWII infantry father telling about how his air corps brother got to keep his hair. ;)

Stan
 
fun read I do reckon its more about perfection chasing the BBS cause the hobby like many is about going deep into things and making things as best we can

the 1 razor 1 blade 1 soap thing mentioned shave to shave like I did for 40 yrs till I found this fun hobby now my wife can smile and tease me off all my products for shaving I have for now ;) makes perfect sense to over complicate it make it something harder than it is that takes forever to master like its rocket science the face mapping and so on

my father in law loves to just sit in his chair in the morning with his tea and use an electric my dad also loves his electric and has since I was a teen or so when I remember him shaving with a blade early on (I am 59) so I think to them its more a shave for work when work cared what your appearance was more

I have been thinking of dropping to 2 pass for a while just to see what I think but I do love the art of the shave

my thing is I am that guy that stacks my forks in the drawer and has to be ultra neat OCD issues that BBS has to happen its just hard to leave anything on the face BUT I do have that side that hours later I would be in the same spot ? just something I have to try to get over and I might prefer it as I chase comfort over efficiency
my left side has this swirl growth that kinda needs 3 passes though as the ATG is every which way :) but oh well
 
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