Shaving the best for… ah, forget it.

I was going through my archives today and ran into this little gem from 2003. The piece is titled, “The Luxury of Shaving,” and it was for the program guide for a trade show called New You (I have another article from that publication in my portfolio here). I remember this one being fun to write. My interviewees were happy to talk to me, people who loved their jobs. That’s always refreshing. Looking back on it, there’s no way I’d be able to write this article today without getting into the whole body-shaving phenomenon that’s sweeping the industry now.

According to archaeologists, men have shaved their faces for about 20,000 years. For much of that time, men had a simple choice to make before applying the shark tooth, flint blade or razor to their faces: soap or no soap.

Frank B. Shields changed the course of history when, in 1920, he invented Barbasol – the first “brushless shaving cream” to hit the market.

“Barbasol is one of the most recognized names in the shave industry,” says Janis Morgan, product manager at Perio Inc., current owners of Barbasol. “Since it went into the aerosol can, the formula has stayed pretty much the same.”

Shaving cream in an aerosol can was introduced in the 1950s. It would be over 20 years before shave gels, the next big thing in shaving, would come along to challenge the shave cream market.

Fast forward to the 21st century. A look at any department store, salon, or catalogue finds the once-simple shaving market evolving to a new level.

“There is a whole range of new products that men are looking for,” Ross Barclay says. Mr. Barclay is the proprietor of The Trafalgar Shop (, an online store specializing in high-quality men’s grooming products. “They want natural products, a variety of fragrances, different styles of packaging, and they also have an eclectic selection.”

Mr. Barclay says that the most important factor in driving this new market is that men are starting to let a little luxury into their lives.

“Overhauling the shaving routine, which most men do every day, is a natural and straightforward place to start,” he says. “With a badger hair shaving brush, a British shaving cream and a few minutes of peace and quiet, it’s possible for a man to match the type of enjoyment women have been getting from things like facials or manicures.”

Brands such as Nivea and Neutrogena, enjoyed by women for years, have recently released skin care and shaving products for men. This is not only seen as proof that the market for luxury men’s shaving products has reached the mainstream, but it has also worked to raise awareness of other brands that may be hard to find.

“When a man tries one different product, he’ll usually start looking for others,” says Mr. Barclay. “A man may start with a heavily-advertised product and enjoy it, which will make him all the more likely to seek out and find similar manufacturers without advertising budgets.”

The growth of these higher-end shaving lines has not gone unnoticed by stalwarts such as Barbasol. A lot of boys grew up watching their dads work the foam from those rusty-bottomed cans into their faces before a shave, and Ms. Morgan says her company will use that brand recognition to expand its own line.

“I don’t know how soon that will be, but you’re always looking at what’s out there, what people are concerned with,” she says.

Still, there is room in the market for those who prefer to stick to tradition.

“Classic shave creams is a declining category,” says Ms. Morgan. “We are the only brand that is growing in sales in a declining category, which is amazing.”