In what is perhaps one of the greatest ironies of the shaving industry... the same company responsible for the most ingenious, no-nonsense and economic shaving implement also gave us the most wasteful, gimmicky and expensive one.
It’s the turn of the 20th century. King Camp Gillette--a man who envisioned a utopian future where production is centralized, goods are free for all, and the population of North America lives in one massive metropolis powered entirely by the Niagara Falls--comes up with a deceptively simple yet brilliant idea.
An ultimate solution to sort out the problem of shaving once and for all.
You see, up until then, men had only two options: it was either the straight edge or the barber.
But the straight edge required constant maintenance and not everyone wanted to go to a barber, preferring to shave in the comfort and privacy of their own bathrooms.
So Gillette asked himself, “What could be mass-produced with only the smallest, most easily manufactured part requiring replacement?”
And that’s how he came up with the safety razor.
No laborious sharpening. Safe. Easy to use. Affordable. Elegantly effective.
It was a huge, enduring and instant success. Everyone and their uncle bought one.
Fast-forward to the next century and the same Gillette--not the man, but the company he founded--gives us the two-blade razor. From there, it was only a matter of time, competition, and an increasing appetite for a heftier bottom line that spurred novelty upon novelty, blade upon blade, until we got to the ubiquitous, multi-blade, multi-colored, gaudily designed, lightweight and plasticky disposable razor of today.
It flashes, it vibrates, it’s almost got as many blades as a monster truck has tires, it’s coated with lubrication and soothing strips… and it ends up in the landfill after just a few uses, kind of like the flimsy toys kids get with a Happy Meal.
The very antithesis of the safety razor?
But the most disappointing thing about the modern disposable razor is not not child-like aesthetics and weight.
It’s the horrible wastefulness. To the environment and your pocket.
How much, you ask? Well it depends but let's use this example to illustrate;
The Merkur 34C, a heavyweight workhorse of a razor that’ll last a lifetime with proper care, hand-machined and engineered in Germany to comforting perfection, costs $39.95.
A box of 100 double-edged Derby blades will run you $35. That’s 35 cents per blade. With each one lasting about 5 days, you’re looking at spending $24.5 a year.
Now, a 6-pack of Gillette Mach3 disposables, with each one lasting about a week, is currently priced at $13.77 on Amazon if you subscribe.
That’s about $120 a year.
How about a 12-pack of disposable Gillette Fusion cartridges with each one lasting a week?
$140 a year.
Gillette Fusion ProShield, at $40 a box for eight 5-blade cartridges? A whopping $260 for 365 days of shaving…
How does that work out over 10 years?
Derby blades $245
Gillette Mach3 $1,200
Gillette Fusion $1,400
Gillette Fusion ProShield $2,600
And what about 30 years?
Derby blades $735
Gillette Mach3 $3,600
Gillette Fusion $4,200
Gillette Fusion ProShield $7,800
So if you’re switching from the Gillette Fusion ProShield to a safety razor… you’re looking at taking your whole family to the Caribbean for a week of soaking in the sun by the impossibly blue ocean, sipping on tender coconuts, and dining on fresh seafood.
I know some people will say "my fusion razors last me 2 weeks not 1" or "I like Feather not Derby". That’s OK, redo the math with your parameters. Either way its food for thought.
And not just about all the money you could be saving--and what you’d enjoy doing with it--but also... why Gillette would lose interest in the same amazingly economic safety razor they had championed in the first place...
Feel like holding on to your well-deserved money, switching to a superior shaving routine, and taking your loved ones to a sun-drenched beach somewhere down the line…?