Vintage 1957 – Wow! Aftershave


In 1957, some men still shed their whiskers with safety razors and Barbasol. My father and grandfather had converted to electric razors that plugged into the wall with springy cords like telephones.

I never watched my father shave. He was, and continues to be, a very private man. But I have very fond memories of my grandfather singing in the bathroom, accompanied by a fiercely businesslike buzzing.

When I was a young child, I lived with my grandparents on the weekends. I the mornings, I would keep my grandmother company in the kitchen while she made breakfast. There was a small bathroom off the kitchen at their house, between the kitchen and the stairs – down to the basement or up to the garage. While my grandmother made poached eggs and toast, my grandfather would pass through the kitchen and go into the bathroom, which was flooded with sunshine early in the day. Fit and trim, he would be wearing a white ribbed tank top and pleated tan trousers held up by suspenders. He was always a dapper guy.

He was also a barbershop tenor and not shy about filling the house with song. His singing, the buzzing shaver, and the warm smells of breakfast combined into feelings of joy. My grandfather and I had a little ritual after he was done shaving that we truly relished. It had started somewhere back in my fuzzy past (fuzzy to me). When the shaving was done, he would splash aftershave on his hands and briskly pat his cheeks and neck. He would come out into the kitchen and let me smell his aftershave, and then we’d say together, “WOW!” At some time, little me had wow! about his aftershave, and it stuck.

As for brands of aftershave, my father used Old Spice (which I just learned was originally intended as a fragrance for women).

My grandfather was always – as the ads used to say – an “Aqua-Velva Man.”

I miss you, Pop.