The classic Grip-Tuth® Hairtainer combs’ journey began in the 1920s. They rose in popularity significantly during WWII as a replacement for metal bobby pins that were hard to get because of metal rationing. And, thanks to a U.S. company owned by a woman devoted to continuing Grip-Tuth’s® legacy, we are lucky to still have them today!
Notte: This is 1 part of a 2 part blog series. Please see the other post on hairstyles using Grip-Tuth® here.
The Invention of Grip-Tuth®
The original gripping teeth for the Grip-Tuth® hair combs were designed by Lester Thorndike Sawyer in the 1920s. The first patent was filed for in 1926 and granted in 1928.
I’d like to think that Mr. Sawyer might have heard his wife complaining one day that her combs kept slipping and then came up with the teeth that grip invention with her in mind. Kind of the way the story goes that Thomas Lyle Williams developed the first Maybelline mascara after watching his sister apply coal dust mixed in vaseline to her lashes in 1915 and then named the company after her. It’s exactly how the Roll & Go Hair Tool was developed…hearing so many readers ask for an easier way to do victory rolls.
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In the 1920s, hair combs were used more for decorative purposes. The teeth were straight similar to a hair pick and slipped more easily out of position in the hair. Women also had shorter hair well into the 1930s and did not require such strong hair retention.
Maybe Mr. Sawyer could see the future though. Several years after he invented the Grip-Tuth® comb for hair retaining, it would become an invaluable hair tool for women all over the world.
WWII and Rationing Required New Materials
Plastics were the saving grace for women during World War II. The need to preserve scarce natural resources for weapons and war vehicles made the production of synthetic alternatives like plastic a major priority.
In the beauty parlour, customers were asked to save there metal hair pins and bring them back for reuse.
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Long hair was also en vogue, presenting a difficult situation for women in the war effort. In uniform or at work, women had to keep their hair up off their collars and away from moving machinery. But if bobby pins are scarce, what is your alternative?
The Grip-Tuth® Hairtainer Hair Combs fit the bill perfectly to solve these dilemmas for women. Advertisements were in heavy rotation.
Grip-Tuth® remained an important hair tool for women’s coiffures for years and is still made from the original patent design here in the U.S. by its current owner, Good Hair Days, Inc.
The designs and plastic molds for this classic product are now in the hands of Rosemary Pepin at Good Hair Days, Inc. She continues their production along with many other hair retaining tools.
I asked Rosemary what series of events put the combs in her hands and she gave me this insight.
In 1982, my dad as the Cardinal Comb & Brush Mfg. owner, purchased the business, the molds, injection molding machines and the real estate in Leominster, Massachusetts at a Berman auction. He purchased everything from a company who had previously purchased it from Alice Sawyer, widow of the inventor.
I started Good Hair Days, Inc. after working for Cardinal Comb for many years in sales. There I learned about production, packaging, and molding schedules.
In 1992, the Topsy Tail was created and I was impressed that a needle loop would sell millions. So in 1994, I created the 6-pc Grip-Tuth® French Twist Kit for Cardinal Comb.
It sold in many retail places and was repackaged several times. I think the key was I included detailed instructions and illustrations. This was before YouTube really took off and prior to smartphones.
She started her company Good Hair Days, Inc. in 1996 and has been making the Grip-Tuth® brand in the United States ever since!
VintageHairstyling.com now has these classic side combs available for sale online and I have put together some material to all of you see the value in owning your own!