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Why Did Shaving Sticks Vanish in the US?

Here's another wrinkle:

My father had a shaving mug of 1950s vintage, and a nylon shaving brush that does not work well for face lathering. Yet when I cleaned the brush, I found old soap residue. The last time he would have used it would have been in the early 1960s. When I accidentally broke his shaving mug, he wasn't upset; he'd gone to canned foam.

This raises the question of what did he use in WWII and the Korean War. If he used shaving sticks, it certainly wasn't with that shaving brush. Maybe shaving cream in a tube? If so, and if servicemen in that era used brushless cream instead of shaving sticks, it might have made an impact on post war sales.
 
Palmolive, Colgate, and Williams sticks are all ubiquitous in the US from before WW1 through the onset of WW2. Palmolive disappears first, with Colgate and Williams hobbling through the late 40s, last breath is approximately coincident with the appearance of the Barbasol can around '53 but sticks had been in decline since brushless cream caught fire in the 30s. Ads here 1916/1954.



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Here's another wrinkle:

My father had a shaving mug of 1950s vintage, and a nylon shaving brush that does not work well for face lathering. Yet when I cleaned the brush, I found old soap residue. The last time he would have used it would have been in the early 1960s. When I accidentally broke his shaving mug, he wasn't upset; he'd gone to canned foam.

This raises the question of what did he use in WWII and the Korean War. If he used shaving sticks, it certainly wasn't with that shaving brush. Maybe shaving cream in a tube? If so, and if servicemen in that era used brushless cream instead of shaving sticks, it might have made an impact on post war sales.
Brushless creams:


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Palmolive, Colgate, and Williams sticks are all ubiquitous in the US from before WW1 through the onset of WW2. Palmolive disappears first, with Colgate and Williams hobbling through the late 40s, last breath is approximately coincident with the appearance of the Barbasol can around '53 but sticks had been in decline since brushless cream caught fire in the 30s. Ads here 1916/1954.



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Face putty in an aerosol can. How wonderful. I think I used it once or twice...the Gillette brand.


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I recall my grandfather using soap in a mug. My uncles used canned foam with their DEs. My dad preferred electrics. I never saw a shaving stick until I returned to traditional wet shaving and read about them.
 
Several comments

I think post WWII Americans jumped on "modern" in a big way. Brushless, canned foam and electric razors were all tried by many. Some were steadfast and stayed with the soap or stick. Other countries were maybe not progressing as fast as the US in the post WWII era and thus sticks hung on. Progress was made but there was probably the baby with the bath water situation to an extent too.

So, if the corner drug store didn't carry the stick because other products out sold them, where would one get the stick?

As to why things progressed the way they did... given that there were nearly zero hobbiest shavers until the advent of the internet (or if there were, they didn't have a collective voice until the internet), pragmatism and speed ruled the day. Brushless creams were faster and canned foam was even faster to lather. Now, maybe it wasn't quite as good as true soap lathered with a brush, but it was close enough once the time and convenience were factored in.

The only curious part for me is why did pucks hang on, when sticks, also hard soap, went away.


+7
The first time that I used a stick was the last time I used a bowl.
-7 for me. I've tried to like sticks. They work well enough, I just don't care for the feel of rubbing a hard stick of soap on my face. I shave daily, so there isn't a lot of stubble to grab soap readily. I will say for some that have trouble lathering certain hard pucks, that same soap in stick form may work better for them. My enjoyment of sticks is inversely proportional to the hardness of the soap.
 

ajkel64

Moderator
When I first tried shave sticks back in the 1980’s here in Australia I think it was either Palmolive or Mennen. I had no idea how to use it. I tried rubbing the brush on the end of the stick and trying to build a lather. It was hopeless. I had no idea that you rubbed the stick on your face and then built the lather with the brush. There was no instructions or even ads on the TV to inform you on how to use one. Maybe that is why they fell out of favour, people didn’t know how to use them and thought that they were too much trouble.
 
One of my favourite soaps, Tabac, is available in an inexpensive stick which is in a very nice container with a twist up action. Easy to use, store, and clean for travel. Best bit is that you can get refills or transfer your soap stick of choice to the dispenser. A fantastic product.
 
I always build lather by rubbing a shave stick on my wet face prior to applying traditional shaving soap using a brush. So for me, a stick will always be in my arsenal.
 
La Toja and Tabac together with Palmolive forms my trio of shaving sticks. Sticks are superiour to all alternatives as the lather making in the face really softens up the beard. In addition, they are compact and light, super for travel. With my Bakelite Merkur 45 and a badger friendly synthetic brush I go to Spain tomorrow for a month of golf.
 
-7 for me. I've tried to like sticks. They work well enough, I just don't care for the feel of rubbing a hard stick of soap on my face. I shave daily, so there isn't a lot of stubble to grab soap readily. I will say for some that have trouble lathering certain hard pucks, that same soap in stick form may work better for them. My enjoyment of sticks is inversely proportional to the hardness of the soap.
Courses for horses. I also shave every day, used an entire puck of Tabac as a stick and I'm presently using a DR Harris sample as a stick. I actually like using the harder soaps as sticks better than the softer soaps.

Not saying that either of us is right or wrong.

"If we all liked the same thing, everyone would be after my wife."

:a17:
 
Palmolive, Colgate, and Williams sticks are all ubiquitous in the US from before WW1 through the onset of WW2. Palmolive disappears first, with Colgate and Williams hobbling through the late 40s, last breath is approximately coincident with the appearance of the Barbasol can around '53 but sticks had been in decline since brushless cream caught fire in the 30s. Ads here 1916/1954.

Brother Mudrick,

When I went into the army in the summer of 1961 I was required to buy a Williams Shave Stick in the PX.



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Several comments

I think post WWII Americans jumped on "modern" in a big way. Brushless, canned foam and electric razors were all tried by many. Some were steadfast and stayed with the soap or stick. Other countries were maybe not progressing as fast as the US in the post WWII era and thus sticks hung on. Progress was made but there was probably the baby with the bath water situation to an extent too.
It was the era of the space race and before Vietnam. People trusted experts, scientists, and engineers to deliver a superior way of life. A shave cream could advertise its "polyglycols" and not be dismissed for having a barely pronounceable ingredient.

So, if the corner drug store didn't carry the stick because other products out sold them, where would one get the stick?

As to why things progressed the way they did... given that there were nearly zero hobbiest shavers until the advent of the internet (or if there were, they didn't have a collective voice until the internet), pragmatism and speed ruled the day. Brushless creams were faster and canned foam was even faster to lather. Now, maybe it wasn't quite as good as true soap lathered with a brush, but it was close enough once the time and convenience were factored in.

The only curious part for me is why did pucks hang on, when sticks, also hard soap, went away.
I suspect puck shavers were more loyal to the product. Shave soaps have, after all, been around a long, long time- far longer than brushless shave creams or shave sticks. Some people tend to form emotional attachments to old things, even if in a blind test, they prefer newer products or reformulations.
 
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Palmolive, Colgate, and Williams sticks are all ubiquitous in the US from before WW1 through the onset of WW2. Palmolive disappears first, with Colgate and Williams hobbling through the late 40s, last breath is approximately coincident with the appearance of the Barbasol can around '53 but sticks had been in decline since brushless cream caught fire in the 30s. Ads here 1916/1954.



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I wonder how the older Barbasol in the can was formulated? The new stuff is quite spartan as far as shave creams go. Whereas the older Barbasol in the tube, the brushless cream, delivered a relatively luxurious shave for the time period in terms of skin conditioning.
 
Interesting Steve. Yes when I say "disappeared" I mean from mainstream advertising.

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The only curious part for me is why did pucks hang on, when sticks, also hard soap, went away.
What follows is only speculation:

Have notice adopting new services and products seems to follow a logarithmic curve, with the greatest jump early on, then tapering off over time. My guess is that there were those who preferred the puck who never shifted, and remained in sufficient number that the stores continued to stock it. At one point, soap users were every man that shaves, so that was likely a sizeable number who didn't shift. Maybe sizeable enough that it remained a larger market than the same portion of shaving stick users? Don't know.
 
I havn't seen a shaving stick on the store shelves since the early '60's and that's when I lived in NYC. So I bought the box of Arko sticks (12) but after trying using the stick the way it's meant to use, I didn't like the method. Pressed the stick into my bowl, loved the soap and haven't looked back. Really like the Arko both the scent and the way it lathers from the bowl.
 
Shaving sticks and soaps in general were eclipsed in the US by lathering and brushless shave creams in the 30’s long before aerosol creams hit the market in the 50’s


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I travel weekly. I take sticks with me exclusively when I do. and my travel straights if I'm not flying commercial carry-on only.

Speick is the only commercially made one I buy as a stick these days. I also like it enough that I grate up a couple into a container for use at the house. and it travels in a vintage Williams stick tin. otherwise, I make my own.

Mike's has been making sticks as long as I've known about his soaps. maybe 7 years? I just buy bars are reload my stick and house containers as I need to. same with Hasslinger's and MWF. those are the 4 I have sticked.

sticks may be the hardest soap application to learn to get right ratio wise, but they simply can't be beat for ease of travel once you do.

if you're using a hard stick like Spieck, Palmolive, Wilkinson, Lea/Bea, La Toya, etc... run it under a hot tap for a bit to soften it up and it'll go on easier. apply it to a wet face.
 
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