Shaving Mugs And Scuttles – What You Need To Know


There seems to be increasing interest in shaving mugs and scuttles.  And with good reason: some are built so that lather stays warm during the shave, providing a more luxurious experience.  Others are meant to show off some aspect of the shave…or the shaver.  But there are quite a few styles, new and vintage.  Let’s see if we can make sense of the different varieties and what they are used for with this introduction to shaving mugs and scuttles.


vintage soap scuttle

First, for the purposes of this article let’s try to distinguish between a mug and a scuttle.  I think the main difference is that a scuttle is made to hold hot water in a separate compartment.  Historically the hot water is for dipping a shaving brush into.  Sometimes they are made so that shaving soap or cream can also be kept warm for a more luxurious shave.  From there things get a little less clear.  Early vintage mugs and scuttles were generally decorated (sometimes elaborately): vintage mugs in particular often depicted the shaver’s occupation although sometimes they showed membership in a fraternal group or perhaps a favorite hobby.  Later vintages saw the beginnings of promotional uses.

The classic shaving mug or scuttle is meant to hold a shaving soap.  A recent addition is the shaving cream scuttle (or perhaps more accurately, a lather scuttle).  The shaving cream scuttle was originally meant to keep the lather on the shave brush warm throughout the shave.  However the designs of cream scuttles were “tweaked” to promote the building of lather as well.  An off-shoot of the cream scuttle is the lathering bowl, meant specifically to generate lather with a shaving brush after it has been loaded with cream or soap.

Let’s look a little closer at each type.

Vintage Occupational Shaving Mugs

1915 Barber Shop
Image Courtesy US Library of Congress

Vintage occupational shaving mugs are probably what most people think of when they see the term “shaving mug.”  Here are the romanticized notions of the turn-of-the-century (OK, turn-of-the-20th-Century) barber shop, a place for men to meet and discuss all things while getting their hair cut and shave.  There are actually two time frames involved with occupational shaving mugs.

Occupational Shaving Mug

Roughly the years between 1880 and 1920 are considered the original time period for the occupational shaving mug.  Most men owned a shaving mug, either at home or at a barber shop. Mugs purchased for home use typically were purchased through local stores (or maybe the Sears catalog), had more variety in style but usually went unpersonalized, without a name.  Mugs purchased and held at barbershops were customized with the client’s name and often displayed to encourage the customer to return to the barbershop regularly.  Most barber shaving mugs were imported from France or Germany undecorated: it was customary to have the mug then hand decorated with the shaver’s occupation and name.  Genuine examples of these types of vintage mugs command the highest prices on internet auction sites.

Barber shops sold mugs with the owners’ names on them partly because they thought that shaving rash came from sharing the same soap. In reality, the rash was not a result of soap but of un-sterilized razors.

There was a secondary time period from the 1950’s to the 1970’s where “occupational” shaving mugs enjoyed a modest resurgence.  However by the end of this period they were more often just used for decorative purposes and not really used.  Prices for these more recent vintage mugs are much lower compared to the previous time frame.

Vintage Promotional, Fraternal, and Souvenir Shaving Mugs

promotional mug

Many shaving soap manufacturers gave free (or inexpensive) mugs to customers as sales promotions, hoping the customer would continue to purchase their shaving soap. Probably the most famous example is the Old Spice “sailing ship” mug (which has many variations depending on production run and date).

Many men belonged to fraternal organizations during the early time period mentioned previously, and for a very practical reason; they often paid burial fees and death benefits for members. The organizations had designs that made membership unique. Fraternal shaving mugs for common organizations like the Masons are plentiful on internet auction sites.

When people went on vacation they might bring back a souvenir.  Souvenir shaving mugs represent many vacation locations. They were also used to commemorate events like the completion of a church, school, or town hall.

Shaving Soap Scuttles (Vintage and New)

football souvenir scuttle

As mentioned above, shaving soap scuttles are distinguished from shaving mugs by having a separate area for hot water.  Vintage scuttles are often elaborately decorated.  More recent versions are less elaborate but still available.  Promotional shaving soap scuttles tend to be of a more recent time frame and are less “practical” in the shaving sense.  They’re usually just used for display purposes.

Shaving scuttles are so named because they resemble coal scuttles.

The Moustache Cup?

moustache cup
Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Often mistaken for a shaving mug of some kind, the moustache cup is actually a drinking mug.

New Apothecary Mugs, Soap Scuttles, Mugs, and Do-It-Yourself

apothecary mug

Apothecary-style shaving mugs are really just a mug with a ball-type handle.  They are meant to give the feel of an old-time pharmacy but they are actually a fairly recent development.  They tend to be plainly decorated and promotional in design.  Some people find they are able to hold this type of mug better than other types for the purpose of shaving.

New soap scuttles are functional but somewhat promotional (in that they usually simply designed and decorated, and show the logo of a shaving brand like Trumper’s, Col. Conk, or Carter and Bond).

Modern “regular” shaving mugs are generally mass-produced (some are really just repurposed coffee mugs).  The better ones will be relatively tall (but not too tall!) and wide on the bottom to promote easy loading on the brush.

A really good “do-it-yourself” solution is a large latte’ or soup cup.  These 16 oz. (or more) bowls with a handle can often be found at discount shops for a very reasonable price.

Shaving Cream Scuttles

shaving cream scuttle

The past few years have seen the rise of the shaving cream scuttle.  Sometimes called a “Moss scuttle” after it’s “inventor,” Dr. Chris Moss, a shaving cream scuttle was originally designed to keep a shaving brush and lather warm throughout the shave.  Cream scuttles were quickly modified so shavers could build lather in the bowl portion as well as hold brush and lather during the shave.  The first cream scuttles were made by Sara Bonnyman Pottery but soon others appeared, such as Georgetown Pottery.

Lathering Bowl


The lathering bowl is another somewhat recent development.  Actually people have used bowls to lather in for a long time, but these bowls are purpose-built specifically to build shaving lather with a shaving brush.  They’re usually distinguished by having a “rough” or textured inside-bottom to improve lather-making production.  Some potters have integrated the textured bottom concept to a scuttle design mentioned earlier so this type of bowl has started to fall out of favor.

Keeping That Lather Warm

Here’s a video I did a few years ago that goes into keeping lather warm and how to use scuttles:

Further Reading

Some people end up collecting shaving memorabilia like occupational mugs and scuttles.  Here are some additional information resources.

National Shaving Mug Collectors Association

Collecting Occupational Shaving Mugs

A Primer on Collecting Shaving Mugs

Victorian-era shaving mugs often depict owner’s occupation

Occupational Shaving Mugs

The Shaving Mug Review 

From The Barber’s Chair

Real or Fake: Shaving Mugs


Related Posts:

Advice: Shaving Mug Lathering

Confessions of a Shower Shaver


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  1. Larry says

    Excellent piece. I love the historical information. Your ability to improvise is MacGyver like! Strop on.

  2. AdamE says

    Nice piece. I myself am a bowl guy, I have a simple chrome bowl for building lather in, it retains heat fairly well (I’ll run it under hot water with my brush, while I’m getting ready to shave, and then it can retain the heat for the shave). the bowl is identical to one sold at a local babershop/shaving supply shop for $17, but I got it at the dollar store for $1+tax…

  3. The Dean says

    Very nice article, Mark. I will be checking out those links tonight.

    I’m not a collector nor that fussy about the looks of my shaving gear. So it makes sense I’ve used a green Marvy mug for awhile,. But I recently acquired a Japanese shaving scuttle and I am hooked! It is really more of a brush scuttle which is perfect for me as I face lather. Here are a couple images from two different Japanese scuttles.

  4. Olden Goat says

    Very informative article! I don’t believe that the Old Spice mug included here is a shaving mug. It is a coffee mug and billed as such when manufactured during the 1990s or late 1980s. I actually had one at work from which I guzzled coffee. If anyone should know the difference between Old Spice coffee and shave mugs, it is likely me. I say this out of remorse and stupidity and not knowledge. Old Spice did away with its shave mugs in the early 90s. I remember being at a Drug Emporium, which had a few new mugs with new soap on a sale table. Since I wasn’t shaving with a brush at that time, I passed them over. The sale price: 50 cents for each mug and soap. Live and learn.

    • eric76 says

      I used to have an Old Spice mug. If I remember correctly the bottom had some ridges on it to help hold the soap and keep it from turning in the mug. Of course, I may be confusing that with another shaving mug.

      I really like a Santa Fe style bowl.

      Most bowls are too large for me. I like the bowl to sit in my hand with my fingers around the edges while I work the lather with a brush in the other hand. I’ve used bowls that were too large and ended up dropping and breaking them.

  5. Larry says

    I tried the cup within a bigger cup filled with boiled water. You are certainly right. It is an improvement. Had to stifle a moan while re-lathering between passes!

  6. Larry says

    FYI the hot lather diminishes the chilling effect of menthol eucalyptus shave creams. Still gives an outstanding shave without the freeze.

  7. says

    The upcoming International Shave Collectibles Extravaganze in early October in West Chester (near Cincy) OH will undoubtedly feature the largest display of shave mugs available in one place on the planet.

    Collector’s from across the fruited plain & Europe will be there to buy, sell & trade. Great rarities will be available.

    There will also be mass, cone-head quantities of Straight, DE’s & other
    items of Barberiana for B/S/T

    If you love Barberiana & live anywhere near Cincy this is a not to be missed annual Event.

    Even if you don’t b/s/t anything you’ll certainly receive an education from the collector’s in attendance.

    BTW – if you hold off buying until the last hr or 2 of the show some terrific bargains will be had :)

  8. Walter says

    I just ordered a Georgetown G20 Hamada and Blue they have some seconds for sale, for those whoo don’t know what a second is, they are products that may have a slight defect that is purely astetic and has no affect on the way the scuttle preforms. the G20 usually go for $55.00 +$11.00 bucks shipping, I got one for $35.00 plus shipping pretty good deal I mean I would’ve paid $55 but $35 you can’t beat it.

  9. Randy L says

    I use a latte mug I got from Pier 1. It is big enough to allow me to build a good lather and tall enough so that I have it sitting in the hot water in the sink. It keeps the lather at a good temp by doing this. I run the hot water into the mug for the initial warm up, letting it overflow to fill the sink, then dump it out when it is time to add my cream.

  10. Logan says

    I use a custom soup bowl I painted at one of those art places with my wife. It has a lil knob handle on both sides, a good lip at top, and is ceramic so it holds heat nicely. The best part is I was able to paint it with my colors and my “Logo.”

  11. Craig says

    I just got a Georgetown shaving cream scuttle for Christmas. It is great. The bumpy edges inside the bowl help to whip up a thick foamy lather and it stays warm for a three pass shave session and the glaze is absolutely beautiful. It looks like a rustic clay tea kettle with a bowl fused into the top.

  12. says

    I remember my Dad having an “Old Spice” little mug and then 5 years ago a gentleman in Melbourne needed a larger scuttle. Large bowl, swirl inside and vertical grooves too! Since then I have enjoyed making personal scuttles, “Quantum” and scuttles with initials, Greek designs, matching bathroom tiles, etc. Personally, my hubby loves the plug type.

    Good warm shave in the morning and that lovely baby smooth face, smelly good. I Love it!

  13. Hector says

    Excellent article. I’m going to add a scuttle to my den. It seems like a nice piece of equipment for that warm leathery feeling.

  14. A guy says

    I stopped reading after I saw the word “luxurious” for the second time. It’s like I was reading a review of really fancy tampons.

  15. says

    Manifest Auctions has a huge antique shaving mug auction coming up on September 19th. It will begin promptly at 1 PM EST. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Our number is 864-520-2209. Live bidding is available on and on eBay’s live auctions.

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