4 Feather Facts For Feather Fans

Feather 80th anniversary

80 years of Feather

Feather is a name well known to those in the Wetshaving gig…their DE blades are (in)famous for sharpness and quality, and their disposable blade straights are the only ones that anyone really takes seriously. Living in Japan, I feel a natural affinity for this company. Wanting to know a bit more about the history of the company, I did some research on the net, and contacted Feather directly to get a little information.

The Feather Safety Razor Company was started in 1932 as the “Japan Safety Razor Company,” this coming July first will be the company’s 80th anniversary. According to the Kamisori Club website’s English synopsis of Yasuoki Takeuchi’s “History and Culture of Shaving in Japan,” the company was initially founded by two German WW1 POWs who stayed in Japan after their release. However, Hiroshi Yoshimura from Feather’s Marketing department told me the founder and CEO was a man named Toshio Kosaka, who started the company with help from cutlery distributors and makers. I imagine the discrepancy comes from the fact that at the time (and, indeed, now) it is extremely difficult for non-Japanese to own businesses; Yoshimura was likely the Japanese representative for the Germans involved.

Feather Portable and Gillette Tech...Which is which?

Feather Portable and Gillette Tech...Which is which?

According to Yoshimura as well, they started by making double edge safety razors, but of course their primary product was (carbon steel) blades. The Gillette model of the loss-leader worked just as well in Japan as it did in the USA-sell the holders for cheap, so the blades become your cash cow. Later, they began making Valet auto-strop type single-edge razors; for which, in fact, they still make and sell blades (the holders are, sadly, unavailable).

Built on quality products and early market-penetration, Feather lead the Japanese safety razor market for decades, until Schick entered the market with their “Personna” razor. In 1965, Feather had 72.7% of the home-razor market; by 1970 that had fallen to 42.7%. In 1980, it was down to 9.4%, and they never recovered (Takeuchi, “History of Shaving in Japan,” p. 74-95). Now, Feather has joined the current generation of razor madness with their own multi-bladed, gel-stripped gadgeted up cartridges (The “F-System MR3 Neo“), but honestly you’re lucky to find any Feather products except their DE blades, or the occasional “Popular” DE holder, on any drugstore shelves.

In recent years, Feather has largely turned from the consumer shaving market to concentrate on professional tools. Their Artist Club professional disposable-blade razors are not only regarded by most users as far and away the best “non-sharpen straight razors” there are, but they have also reached near total domination of the professional market. It’s rare to walk into a barber’s shop in Japan and not see one in hand or on the shelf. They also make barber’s shears, medical tools and more. According to Hiroshi Yoshimura, Feather’s expertise in making precision medical tools in particular guides their manufacture of razor blades, so the next time you put a Feather to your face, remember you’ve got a rather big scalpel there.

For those who want to learn and see more, and happen to be in Japan, Feather has a museum in Gifu prefecture, Japan, with exhibits describing not only their own history but that of shaving in general. I’ve yet to visit, but I’ve heard only good things. Here’s the link I posted in my last article: Feather Museum (GT).

JimR (10 Posts)

Jim Rion is a slightly obsessive straight razor shaver and honer. He lives in Japan, and has made it his goal to learn everything there is to be learned about Japanese razors and honing stones. You can read about what he's found so far at Eastern Smooth, and follow him on Twitter @EasternSmooth. He's also been known to play the odd video game and write the odd short story.


Comments

  1. Thanks Jim,
    Fascinating history of a great company. I have recently returned to double edged shaving and the Feather was my razor of choice. Being in my fifties, this is the company I started with, having been introduced by my father. I am loving it and it makes feel closer to my Dad whom I lost in the eighties. Thanks again for this piece!

  2. Tom Donahue says:

    Hello Jim,
    Please look at this Feather travel razor at Badger and Blade:
    http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php/346221-Vintage-Feather-travel-razor?highlight=elmerwood+feather+travel
    There are no markings on the either part of the head, nor on the two-part handle.
    Is this, in fact, a Feather product?
    It is very difficult to find any information on earlier Feather products. Any assistance you can provide would be sincerely appreciated.
    Thank you.
    Tom

  3. Hi Jim,
    Wondering if HISTORY AND CULTURE OF SHAVING IN JAPAN by Yasuoki TAKEUCHI has been translated to English. If so, where can I pick it up? I am actually really trying to get in touch with the author but failing. Any help on this would be great! Great article!
    Douglas

  4. Feathers last me two shaves at the most, are sharp for about the first half of the first one, and seemed to have forgotten about being smooth too.

  5. Roger Kahn says:

    Feather blades are awesome. Recently I purchased a 30 ct batch for about 5.63 plus 4.52 in shipping from Thailand. It seems that someone in Thailand is selling these razor blades for 30% of what it normally cost. My concern is: Are these the real deal or are they knockoffs that someone is claiming to be Feathers?

  6. Feather makes great blades, but their Stainless Razor is a hideous piece of junk. I popped near $200 for one and it is aweful. It is beautiful to look at, but we all know performance is where it’s at. There’s barely any blade exposure and on the first pass, you think “man this thing is awesome…smooth as butter”. By the third pass and buffing touchups you’re thinking “heck, this thing ain’t cutting”. I’ll stick with my SlantBar. The Feather Stainless would be perfect for a young man with acne, it’s that mild. Don’t mean to rant, but I don’t want to see someone else ripped off like I was.

    • Wayne, I don’t know which blade you did place in your razor or how were you holding your blade, but what I can say is I get great shave with Feather and I have to say that I have a very thick and hard beard hair. It is so hard that some times some barbers who are using some normal quality blade had to change their blade after they were done with the half of my face.

  7. Wow, cool! Wish I could see that museum. Then again I’d settle for just being able to read their website.

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