This item’s brand name is The Graduating Strop, and it is a tool used by barbers, mostly during the first half of the 20th century, to sharpen their razors.  It has its original box, which is marked with the brand name.

In order to keep their razors and scissors sharp so as to avoid cutting their customers, a barber would use a leather strop.  The blade would be pressed onto the flat leather surface of the strop, then slid back and forth, turning the blade over at the end of each slide, so as to sharpen both edges.  Some strops were simply a length of leather that the barber would attach on one end to a work surface, and hold the other end while stropping, to maintain the required tension.  This particular item, however, has rigid metal rods inside, which would keep the leather flat and taut.  It has a wooden handle, so the barber could use it away from surfaces, anywhere he wanted to in his barber’s shop.

This particular item looks to have been manufactured in the 1940’s/50’s, judging by the style of the printing tooled into the box.  The fashion in this post war era was for gentlemen to be very clean cut, with short, slicked back hair and very little facial hair.  Some styles of moustache were popular, but very few beards were to be seen in “celebrities” of the time.  So barbers were in high demand.  Modern electric razors were beginning to have an impact – with men being able to achieve a close shave in the comfort of their own homes – but traditional barbershop shaves were still extremely popular.

Key theme(s):


More information:

Date 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s
Material(s) LeatherMetalWood
Item number MBPO196

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • What reasons might there have been for a man to choose the experience of a visit to the barbershop instead of shaving at home?

User Stories

A man being given a shave by a barber using a cut-throat razor would have been in a very vulnerable position.  He would be exposing his neck to a man weilding an extremely sharp implement, and it would have been a matter of moments for a barber to inflict sufficient injury to his “client” to dispatch him quickly.  This led to a number of melodramatic rumours, anecdotes and stories, the most famous of which was that of Sweeney Todd.

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street first appeared in a Victorian penny dreadful called “A String of Pearls”.  He was probably a complete fiction, but some believe he was based on a real character operating in the heart of London.  The story told of a barber who would slit the throats of his customers, drop the bodies of his victims through a trapdoor to his partner in crime – Mrs Lovett – who would cut up the flesh and make pies to sell in her shop.  Since this original incarnation, there have been plays and musicals based around the story.

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