Wahl yesterday, today and tomorrow

The story of the Wahl Clipper Corporation starts in 1911 when high school junior Leo J. Wahl begins experimenting with vibrating electromagnetic motors. His passion for discovery continues into young adulthood and Leo J. Wahl enrolls as an engineering student at the University of Illinois where he designs a vibrating medical massager for his uncle, J. Frank Wahl. Leo’s uncle begins manufacturing the massagers in his small plant in Sterling, Illinois and Leo sells them to barbershops in his spare time. It is during these visits that he recognizes the need for improved tools for barbers.

J. Frank Wahl is called into service during the Mexican Revolution and Leo takes over his uncle’s manufacturing business in Sterling. Leo uses this opportunity to begin experimentation on a new electric hair clipper, trying to meet the needs of the barbers he had worked with.

1919 On October 14th, Leo J. Wahl applies for patents on his newly developed electromagnetic hair clipper. It is the first practical electric hair clipper to be designed with the drive motor in the hand, rather than connected to a separate motor through a flexible shaft. Production begins and by the end of 1920, Wahl’s factory has manufactured and sold thousands of hair clippers to barbers all over the United States.

1921 Leo J. Wahl purchases 100% of the Wahl Manufacturing Company stock from his uncle and renames and incorporates the business as the Wahl Clipper Corporation. Growth is rapid, financed with manufacturing earnings and patent royalties.

1940 The company installs its own plastic molding presses. With the addition of various other manufacturing technologies, the corporation is able to produce almost every product component in the Wahl plant, making them a vertically integrated manufacturer.

The product line for professional barbers and beauticians is expanded with items such as a professional salon hairdryer, shears, curling brushes, combs and attachments for hair clippers.

1950 The potential of exporting Wahl clippers worldwide is realized, and the company begins building products in the voltages and frequencies required for international use. Over the years Wahl has developed an expansive and prosperous network of sales and service representatives throughout the world, meeting demand for Wahl products in 165 countries.

In the early 1950’s the company opens a manufacturing facility in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

1957 Leo J. Wahl passes away on May 20th. During his life he applied for over 100 patents on various inventions.

This same year the company completes the move to a spacious new plant on North Locust Street in Sterling, Illinois, USA.

1965 Continuing to embody the innovative spirit Leo J. Wahl instilled in the company, Wahl impresses trade show crowds with the new Vac Clipper, a clipper with vacuum hair pickup, allowing for an entire haircut without a single dropped hair.

1966 The company begins manufacturing a permanent-magnet type rotary motor and incorporates this into a powerful new animal clipper.

1967 Wahl designs the first cordless/rechargeable battery operated hair trimmer and markets it to professionals.

1975 Using Wahl’s very efficient electromagnetic motor, the company begins manufacturing a full line of foot and back massagers with controlled vibration and heat.

1977 Wahl introduces another totally new product concept; a hygienic, battery operated nose and brow trimmer.

1984 Using knowledge and experience gained through the manufacturing and sales of their professional trimmer, Wahl develops The Groomsman, the world’s first battery operated facial hair trimmer. This product creates a new and exciting consumer category. New products and sales growth create the need for a series of building expansions, and by 1992 over 150,000 sq. ft. of space has been added.

Wahl’s professional beauty and barber division continues its lead as the number one supplier of hair clippers to the market and begins the development of other tools for salon use, including a range of wet goods.

1987 Wahl introduces another truly innovative product to the professional market; the ZeeCurl. This unique, flat barrel curling iron gives stylists a tool to create new hairstyles with z-shaped curls. In 1988 the Frenzee, a consumer version, is added.

The company makes a major commitment to international business with the incorporation of Wahl Europe Ltd (later Wahl UK Ltd) in Herne Bay, Kent, UK.

1990 The personal care line of the Groomsman Beard and Mustache trimmers has now expanded into a full line of battery and rechargeable products. Creative hairstyling trends of the 1990’s lead Wahl’s professional and consumer divisions to develop tools for cutting and maintaining special shapes and designs in the hair, known as ‘hair doodles’ and ‘cool cuts’.

Wahl employees receive the ‘Illinois Exporter of the Year’ award from the Small Business Administration.

1991 Using its recently invented DynaFlex cutting system, Wahl begins mass production of three new electric shaver models out of Sterling.

The international division accelerates its growth with global trade shows, increasing sales to almost 20% of domestic sales.
The company is awarded the coveted ‘Presidential E Award’ for excellence in exporting, followed by the ‘Presidential E Star Award’ in 1994.

1996 A big year for expansion, 1996 sees the acquisition of Moser Elektrogerate GmBH, an international manufacturer headquartered in Unterkirnach, Germany. Moser’s production plant (Kuno Moser Kft in Hungary) and shares of Ermila GmBH (a distributor of professional hair clippers) are also included in the acquisition. All activities of the two companies are merged into a global personal care organization, combining research, development, production, logistics and marketing, resulting in a more extensive global presence for both companies.

1997 Gregory S. Wahl is elected President of Wahl Clipper, USA, succeeding his father, John F. (Jack) Wahl. Commenting on the future of the company in the 21st century, Greg Wahl reiterates the company’s drive towards globalization and its commitment to serve consumer and professional customers wherever they are located.

1998 The acquisition of Kim Laube & Company Inc. solidifies Wahl’s position as the preeminent worldwide manufacturer of pet clippers, trimmers and related products. Laube, based in Oxnard, California, makes and markets high end pet clippers and a full line of premium quality shampoos for professional groomers.

1999 The Wahl Clipper Corporation is an industry leader in the manufacture of consumer personal care appliances and products for the professional beauty and barber trade. The company employs over 1800 people worldwide in Australia, Canada, China, England, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Japan and the United States.

2001-2005 Wahl expands to Spain, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.

2006 Wahl develops the ‘Aero Clipper’ for NASA astronauts to use during space missions, and after extensive testing it is classed as ‘certified for flight’.

2009 Wahl Clipper Corporation celebrates its 90th anniversary as a pioneer of professional and home grooming products. In those nine decades, Wahl strived and diversified to bring quality and innovation to the professional beauty and barber trade, consumer personal care and animal grooming across the globe, and succeeded.

Wahl introduces the first grooming tool to harness the power of lithium ion, the most technologically advanced rechargeable battery available. Lithium ion provides consumers with quicker charge times, longer run times, more power and outstanding quick charge functions when compared to regular rechargeable batteries available in the market.

2011 Wahl sees huge success with its first lithium ion grooming station and expands the range to include a lithium ion clipper and the world’s first full size lithium ion shaver and trimmer system.

2014 Wahl celebrates 95 years of success. The company headquarters continue to be in Illinois, USA, but global growth now sees Wahl distribution in 165 countries globally with a full international team of over 1,500 employees.

The Future of Wahl

Greg Wahl outlines the company’s philosophy for the 21st century as ‘Leading with Vision’:

‘To maintain our leadership position in the personal care categories we serve, we must have vision; vision to continually improve our existing products, vision to bring new products to the market and meet the wants and needs of consumers, vision to stay innovative and ahead of our competitors and vision to support our customers and retailers with sales and marketing programs, making Wahl products their premiere choice.’ – Gregory S. Wahl

With this mission in mind, Wahl continues to serve its markets with enthusiasm and dedication, striving to produce innovative, high quality products that exceed the expectations of our customers and retailers and continue to set industry standards.