Perfect illustration in a 1941 shaving cream ad

The illustration in this 1943 Listerine shaving ad is totally perfect, and really makes the case that the MAD Magazine parodies of old time ads were basically faithful recreations. I love that they gave the guy a double chin.

Listerine Shaving Cream


  1. I look at that guy’s face and suddenly I hear trumpets blaring and an announcer saying, “Jackie Gleason…”

    I also wish I figure out how to submit a 1950 ad for Owens-Corning Fiberglas appliance insulation that starts with the words “Stand back, woman! I’ll prove I was right!” It was one of those genuine ads that was more ridiculous than any parody could possibly be.

  2. Talk about some horribly cumbersome ad copy. The headline plus first couple sentences, at first glance, read like they don’t want you to buy anything. 

    The fine print “for the ladies” is odd too. Are they actually suggesting women wash their hair with this stuff, or was “shampoo” what ladies used when shaving their legs/arms/whatevers back then?

    1. I loved the “for the ladies” bit, actually. It puts a neat twist on the main theme of the ad. “Look, all shaving cream is crap, so why not use our economical crap? At least we’re not trying to bullshit you! …Oh, and ladies, it makes a mediocre shampoo, too!”

      Lots of products advertised multiple uses back in the day, on account of how we were all using every part of the buffalo back then. Listerine did it with its other products, too. The mouthwash doubled as a dandruff rinse.

      1. The mouthwash doubled as a dandruff rinse.”  Yep. The Listerine antiseptic.  It had no effect on dandruff. 

        The label said Listerine could cure and prevent colds. “Every winter cold season the whole family gargles with Listerine” Then when the FTC made them say it didn’t cure colds, they ran the corrective ads, “”Every winter cold season the whole family gargles with Listerine. Listerine may not cure or prevent colds but it may help to make them less severe.”  When they got called on that,  “Every winter cold season the whole family gargles with Listerine, Listerine may not cure or prevent colds or make them less severe…”  Each time the FTC approved the mandatory corrective informative ads that snuck in a new claim.

        Listerine features the lab-proven placebo action. 

    2. I can see you’ve never dragged a razor across your face using only water as the lubricant.  Ladies used it to shave their legs.

      Shaving creams and soaps provide lubrication for the blade head, retains moisture where it’s needed (at the whisker), and hold the cut whiskers.

    1.  The ad copy has an undercurrent of hostility, “…you had better see a psychoanalyst.”

  3. ‘Honest’ was/is the trade mark of Listerine. So the brand hardly sells anything anymore.

  4. That guy looks way too excited about a shave marketed as “ordinary.”  Maybe he’s just that disillusioned.  Maybe he’s exuberant that finally, FINALLY, he’s found a shaving cream that won’t LIE to him like that duplicitous SHREW.

  5. “FUCK YEAH it’s gonna burn you. It’s like napalm for your face! What are you, some kinda pussy?”

  6. Ah, shaving nostalgia, I tried a bit of that using my grandfather’s safety razor. No more, I’m sick of cutting the shot out of my face

    1.  If you’re cutting the snot out of your face with a safety razor, you’re Doing It Wrong.

      I ditched the plastic multi-blade wonder shavers a few years ago because, if I shaved more’n once every two or three days, I broke out along my jawline and got ingrowns on my neck. I can shave every day with a DE saftey razor and a good soap/cream, and my skin’s in the best shape it’s been in ages. Can’t remember the last time I seriously cut myself.

      1.  Exactly Doc_S. People who haven’t caught on to the renewed popularity of DE shaving can catch the mantic59 youtube channel (he’s not selling anything, just sharing shaving knowledge). The old double-edge safety razor is coming back. I enjoy shaving with Turkish blades, but others prefer Russian, German, Israeli, Pakistani, Japanese, Indian, Korean or other blades. They all fit the traditional DE razor with that shape we all recognize, and each country’s blade maker sharpens the blades in a little bit different way to give the edge unique properties. DE shaving is a multicultural adventure!

        1. OK, you used to be able to shave for less than $3 a week, because Schick, Gilette, (and Bic?) made disposable razors.

          Then Schick disappeared (bought by Gillette?), the familiar disposable razors suddenly became little more than gardening tools, and the price of shaving tripled.

          Seriously this is one time I would like to see an American company get their throat cut (heh-heh) by China.  

          1. I still shave for less than $3 a week. How about less than $0.50? Figuring I use about $0.25 worth of shaving soap a week and $0.16 for two blades, I shave for significantly less than $3.00 per week.

            If you’re paying $20 for a package of multi-blade face scrapers, you’re wasting some serious amounts of money.

      2. Yeah. It takes a bit of practice but I was getting so pissed off with all the hype of three/four/five blade cartridges and all their crap names (turbo/mach, etc.) that they convinced me to switch. Advertising isn’t completely useless. Now I use a good German razor, Japanese blades, English shaving cream and aftershave and Turkish moisturiser. I could never go back.

        1. In case anyone’s curiosity about shaving with this stuff is piqued from this thread, let me say that you don’t need to order exotic blades and soaps from around the world. 

          You can buy a pack of 10 blades at many local stores for $1.50-$2 which work fine. You can find a safety razor handle for cheap too, you don’t have to buy the $60 made in Germany ones. And you don’t have to buy exotic soaps, though you may have to experiment before you find something that works really well for you (I prefer shaving creams, which you can find in many varieties at local stores).

          If you have issues shaving with modern stuff, as I do, it’s definitely worth a try. I could never go back either.

          1. England is exotic? Germany and Turkey are both in Europe, and closer to London (where I am) than the distance between New York and Los Angeles.

          2. @Wreckrob8:disqus  Hehe, I get your point, but yes in this context the things you described are ‘exotic’ in some sense in that they’re not easy or inexpensive to buy. I am of course writing from a US perspective, too, and didn’t realize that you’re in London.

            In the US, things made in Europe and especially in England have a reputation for being expensive, if you can even find them locally. My point is just that you don’t have to spend the money on that stuff (which I agree is the best) if you don’t want to or can’t afford it, and you can still get an excellent shave.

          3. Yeah. Here we have very good online suppliers and with the right combination of free offers and incentives to buy things do not need to cost too much. My razor came with almost the equivalent value in vouchers for any shaving requisites, for example. Razor blades cost 10 quid for a year’s supply. I now realise it might not be so easy in the States. But I agree with your fundamental point.

          4.  Have you looked at The English Shaving Company? On occasion you can score some really great deals with free shipping to the US.

        2. Feathers? I tried one from a sampler and got a decent shave, but I like the Rapira better. I just bought a couple hundred Rapiras for $16. I love the save I’m getting with them.

          My favorite is a Weber DLC long handle (made in the US). I also use an Edwin Jagger on occasion.

          1. I like the weight of the Merkur Futur and the sharpness of Feathers. (I’ll look out for Rapiras and give them a go.)

      3. Or he may just have crap skin. A safety razor or even a straight barber’s razor will leave my face a bloody mess. Excellent barbers have tried, no luck. Not everybody’s skin is like yours (unfortunately).

        What works best for me is shaving every 2-3 days with a two-blade BIC razor that I throw away after using it once, during or right after a shower with a good shaving brush and shaving cream.

  7. If it’s being marketed for both shaving and cleaning the hair, then it would be more correctly called a shaving SOAP, not a shaving CREAM. Anybody would be able to tell the difference – creams are greasy like lotion, while soaps wash away clean – so why try to market it as a multipurpose cream instead of simply a soap? Was it that important to push the multipurpose angle back then?

  8. “..All covered in ssshhh  aving cream, be nice and clean, shave every day and you’ll always look keen!”

  9.  “What kind of paranoid schizo could kill a man in cold blood and then jelly up his face with shaving cream?”:)

  10. “as smart to buy as it is smartless to use”? What? What does that mean?

    I mean, sometimes I do feel smartless, but I don’t SAY that because it would remove all doubt.

    1. If something stings or hurts a small amount, it “smarts”. The phrase is sometimes used in response to receiving a joking insult– “Oh, that smarts!”

      So something that is “smartless” to use won’t sting. I thought it was a pretty clever pun.

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