Learn about Life in the 1920s

Cutting and Styling Hair with a Razor

The cutting of hair with a razor is not a new method. It has been used in completing wigs and toupees for many years.

NOTE: The following text is taken from one of our books on 1920s hairstyles. While you can read the complete text of this book online, most of the illustrations are missing. However it gives you an opportunity to assess the content and if you're interested you can buy a digital download version of the Book complete with 119 illustrations and photos - Click here to buy "1920's-30's Haircutting and Styling"


Razor hair cutting has been in use in Europe for a long time. Only in the last few years has it become popular in this country and it is at present, very much in demand.

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For those with no knowledge of using a razor, it is advisable to practice the handling movements and the cutting itself on old hair pieces before trying to give an actual hair cut with the razor.

Practice by laying the razor flat on a strand of hair and move in short, steady strokes downward towards the ends. You will find that the more erect the razor is held, the greater is the amount of hair removed.

The holding of the razor as shown in Figure 42 is preferred by many experienced hairdressers. It is the most difficult one and requires considerable practice.

The hair should always be dampened before cutting with a razor, other-wise the razor would become dull and pull the hair. The razor must be kept in a good, sharp condition and a blade with a rounded point is preferable.

To obtain the finest, finished results for a contour or tailored hair cut, the razor is the best tool to use.

• Fig. 40

• Fig. 41

Hair as it looks before starting to shape in for a tailored or contour hair cut.

• Fig. 42

It is very important to dampen the entire hair before using a razor; otherwise the razor will be dulled and will pull the hair. When the hair is dampened, it is not necessary to use side combs to hold this part of the hair down so as not to interfere with the hair to be cut. (Please refer to the section on Razor Hair Cutting.)

Part the hair across the crown from ear to ear. Comb the top hair towards the front. Take a layer of hair as indicated above.

When finished with layer 1, comb up and out of the way so it will not interfere with the thinning of layer 2. Then take the second layer and pro-ceed in the same manner with each layer, including layer 7.

Take layer 8, which is the last layer, and thin and shorten at the same time. Shorten the hair with the razor in this manner by holding the razor more erect than when thinning.

Here you have finished the thinning at the nape of the neck.

Now part the hair off in the back, all the way down to the nape of the neck. Leave about two or three inches, including layer 8, to make the foundation of the back for a shingle.

Having finished the thinning of the back, you are now ready to start shingling.

• Fig. 43

Work with the point of the comb and cut with the point of the scissors. Then cut as you move your comb up, turning the comb outward at the same time. If a low shingle is desired, turn the comb out sooner than if cutting for a high shingle. After each upward movement with the comb, comb the hair down again and start over in the same manner, until you have reached the desired length for the shingle, whether high or low. The degree of perfection you reach depends on the steadiness with which you hold the comb as you work with the scissors and comb.

Finish off the neck line in the most suitable way. With your left hand stretch the skin to prevent cutting; lay your scissors flat on the neck and remove the superfluous hair by cutting with the points of the scissors only. This finishes the foundation of the back and you are now ready to begin tapering the hair.

• Fig. 44

Here you see the tapering of layers 6 and 7. These layers have to be tapered to fit in properly with the already finished shingle (layer 8), as indicated in the illustration. Arrow points to the thin layers 6 and 7.

• Fig. 45

It sometimes happens that after thinning and tapering, there is still a bulky part above the nape of the neck. In that case, use the razor as indicated to shape in this bulky part and bring out the contour of the head. This applies as well to the parts behind the ears.

But remember never use the razor on dry hair. As mentioned, hair should always be damp for razor hair cutting. This method of cutting hair requires a steady, and skilled hand. Therefore I would not advise a beginner to attempt using the razor as indicated above. Refer again to the section on Razor Hair Cutting.

• Fig. 46

To thin the sides, start with layer 2, as the layer next to the part (layer 1) is never thinned. Follow the same method of thinning as shown for the back of the hair.

• Fig. 47

If the hair is dressed off the face in pompadour fashion, it is preferable to hold the hair back while thinning with the razor.

Notice, in this illustration, the thinning of layer B, section 1. Proceed in the same manner with layer B, sections 2 and 3. Then comb up layer B and begin with layer C in the same manner up to section 3. Take section 3 and taper to fit in with the already finished back.

Now take section 2 of layer C and fit in with section 3. Then take layer C, front layer, to fit in with the preceding sections and follow in the same manner with layers B and A.

• Fig. 48

This illustration indicates how to hold the hair down while thinning with the razor if it is dressed slightly slanted or straight down. As this is the heavy side, it is divided into 9 layers. The number of layers depends on the thickness and texture of the hair.

The last two layers must be thinned and tapered at the same time, to the desired length. The length depends entirely on how the patron wears her hair; whether straight, naturally curly, marcelled, or finger waved.

After finishing these last layers, we have made a so-called foundation for the sides. Now take layers 5 and 6 and taper to fit in with the already finished parts. Proceed in the same manner with layers 4, 3, 2 and 1.

Fig. 49

Notice in this illustration that the sides are left longer, allowing for more hair to be taken up in waving.

Now that the hair has been sufficiently thinned, tapered and fitted, it may be used as a foundation for numerous fashions, with slight alterations here and there. For instance, if pin curls are desired and the hair is too long, it may be shortened even before pin curling while the hair is damp.

See Index below for next Chapter


Index to How to Create 1920's and 1930's Hairstyles

1. 1920's Hair Styling and Design

- Foreheads

- Cowlicks

- Neck Lines

2. Hairdressing Tools

- Combs

- Razor Comb

- Scissors

- Thinning Scissors

- Clippers

3. Thinning and Tapering

4. Cutting and Thinning the Hair for Permanent Waving

5. Scissors Hair Cutting

6. Shingling

7. Razor Hair Cutting

8. Hair Form and Structure

9. Layer Hair Cutting

10. Alteration Hair Cutting

11. Bangs