Without the radio, there would be no Braun electric razor.
Sounds weird, right? But before Braun started producing cutting-edge electric razors -- before they were even Braun -- the precursor to the German company made components for radio sets. This was back in 1921, when Max Braun opened up a little shop in Frankfurt. Only eight years later, he began producing the sets himself. Under his vision and commitment to innovation, it wasn't long before that little shop became Braun, one of Germany's leading radio manufacturers.
Although WWII destroyed many of Braun's Frankfurt factories, Max Braun revived his pre-war plans to build the S50, an electric razor that differentiated itself from competitors Schick and Remington by replacing the comb-like skin protector with a strip of perforated metal foil. This innovation, still seen on almost all present-day electric razors, made the S50 a commercial success. There were more innovations to come.
After Max Braun's sudden death a year later his sons Artur and Erwin took over the company, expanding the successful razor division and hiring a 23-year-old architect named Dieter Rams. Rams soon proved himself a pioneer in the field of design; Braun was his muse. When the lid of the company's SK4 radio and record player vibrated during product testing, Rams suggested replacing it with a Plexiglas lid that showed the player's mechanics. Rather than shying away from the strange design, consumers loved it. The player, nicknamed "Snow White's Coffin", sold well. In addition to audio equipment, lighters and calculators, Rams designed several electric razors, including the 300 Special DL 3, the Combi DL5, the Parat BT SM 53, the Sixtant 8008, and the Sixtant 4004. Some of his designs -- and we're still talking about razors here -- have been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art. In fact, at the helm of Braun's Design Department, Rams pushed boundaries so aggressively that men like Jonathan Ive of Apple still cite him (and his ten principles of design) as a major influence.
Rams's talent and Braun's commitment to technological innovation, quality construction and impeccable functionality brought success in all of their consumer appliances -- but no where so much as their electric razors. While competitors used imitation and cheap materials to undercut price, Braun maintained the integrity of their shavers. Men could tell the difference. Today Braun is easily the most recognizable name in shaving electrically, buoyed by this singular history and a strongly demonstrated belief in daily excellence, humming steadily above the bathroom sink, and beyond.
In May of 1963 Gordon Cooper lifted off on the last of NASA's Project Mercury missions and orbited the earth 22 times before splashing down near Florida. In the same year -- and much in the same vein -- Richard Fischer set out to free men from their terrestrial bonds by incorporating rechargeable batteries in the Commander SM5. Along with this significant engineering feat, Fischer deemed to clad the Commander in a strapping dulled chrome head and green plastic body -- a move away from the stark monochrome of its forebears.
Braun and razor design guru Roland Ullman rang in the 1990s with a host of new technologies. The 4515 was the first electric shaver to feature dual razor heads and colored indicator lights to signal battery level -- two features that have become ubiquitous in razor design. These technological leaps were packaged in a decidedly '90s plastic shell reminiscent of a walkie-talkie. But acid wash jeans were en vogue, so who are we to judge?
Another decade, another revolutionary razor design. Though the 7680 featured an LCD information display and a curvy, two-toned design, the real innovation came below. The razor's base circulated cleaning fluid throughout the razor head and charged the razor at the same time; a simple tilt to the razor in its stand drained the cleaning fluid more efficiently.
If you've tried using an electric razor but have since returned to manual, chances are you (a) weren't happy with the way it cut or (b) were left with even worse razor burn than before. While other companies avoided these issues like they were the debate over manscaping, Braun looked to past design traditions and futuristic technology to overcome them.
To improve cut, the foil-style razor Max Braun introduced 50 years ago was updated with two independently moving cutting elements that trim hairs growing in any direction. That bane of our existence, razor burn, was put in check with far more radical innovation: an electric ceramic chilling element paired with an aluminum bar in the razor's head reduces the heat caused by friction by up to seven degrees Fahrenheit. That's the discomfort you loathe so much, solved in an entirely unique way; suddenly dry shaving is a legitimate option, even for men with sensitive skin, so you can trim on the go or in a rush without a screaming red neck. Impressed yet? We haven't even discussed how it's waterproof, quick charging and ergonomic. We break down the entirety of Braun's CoolTec electric razor below.