A Khaki Kit, but not what you think

We are all familiar with the Khaki Kit – made in huge numbers, handed out to doughboys so they wouldn’t die horrible in the trenches, reproduced and recreated today… but what if I told you there were non-Gillette Khaki Kits supplied by the US Govn’t to the US Army and Navy?

Let me present the GEM Damaskeene Razor Khaki Service Outfit. From the picture, it seems slightly larger than the Gillette version. It came with a lather catcher, seven blades, a mirror, and a blade holder for honing the blades. For 35 cents extra you also got a trench mirror.

Ad for the GEM Military No7 - also known as the GEM Damaskeene Razor Khaki Service Outfit
Advertisement from the August 10, 1918 issue of LESLIE’S WEEKLY

One US dollar in 1918 is equal to 18 US dollar in 2021 when adjusted for inflation. So that is 18 dollars for the kit, an extra 6.30 for the mirror, and 9 dollars for shipping to Canada. While not terrible expensive, Gillette sold their Service Kit1 for just 55 cents.

The drawn razor in this Khaki Kit looks like a 1912 to my eyes.2 I assume that you would unscrew the head and put it in the little pocket to the right for storage. Similar to the more well known Gillette Kit – and unlike the Comfy Kit – this kit does not have a space for a brush. I assume a soldier or sailor would do without, or keep one separately in his gear.

A big benefit compared to the Gillette is that you can more easily hone the old single edge GEM blades. They are thicker and less flexible, and any soldier would know how to scrounge up or jury rig a hone or strop. A piece of leather, some duck canvas, even a clean uniform pant leg. It’s not hard to be resourceful if the option is a dull blade and an ill fitting respirator.

Another, minor benefit compared to the more well known Khaki Kit is the lack of snaps. While a broken broken snap closure is broken forever, a string can easily be replaced.

As mentioned, reproductions and recreations of the Gillette Khaki Kit is easily available. So are vintage ones, but while I’m happy to use mine other people see them more as collectors items. So far I have not seen a GEM Khaki Kit for sale, neither original nor reproduction. I think there would be a small, untapped marked3 for them – even if the buyer would have to supply the 1912.

Footnotes

  1. Similar to their Khaki Kit, but in an embossed metal tin.
  2. And verified by the few photos I found online.
  3. It is my estimate that one or maybe two dozen reproduction GEM Khaki Kit could potentially be sold world wide.

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