When I was about sixteen and headed off to a high school dance with a date … which means it was probably a prom … my Dad stopped me and told me I should shave before I went. In a town that was largely Italian, I may have been two or three years past the usual first-shave age, but I was thrilled none-the-less. Every boy wants to be a man until they’ve tried it for 20 or 30 years, at which point he realizes how much fun being a boy was. My first shave was with my Dad’s electric razor. As my beard thickened, I got my own Gillette double-edged safety razor, just like Dad’s. You may not know that King Camp Gillette was the inventor of the disposable double-edged blade and was the supplier of safety razors to American troops during World War I. Because GIs were allowed to keep their razors when the war was over, Gillette had a guaranteed customer base for his blades, making Gillette the dominant force in shaving supplies.
Like many men my age, I alternated between an electric razor (for speed) and my safety razor (for a closer shave) until the seventies when so-called bonded razor, in which a single-edged blade was imbedded in a plastic cartridge, was introduced by Wilkerson. Numerous competing cartridge razors appeared on the market, including Gillette’s Trac II with two blades, and Trac II Plus with a lubricating strip. I was a Trac II man for years, convinced that Gillette’s claim that two blades shaved closer than one. True or not the success of the Trac II set off years during which razors with up to six blades were heavily marketed. Satirical shows like SNL and MadTV couldn’t resist their own commercials that were parodies of the blade proliferation. This one is from MadTV:
Me? I stopped at three blades, settling on the Gillette Mach 3 for many years. Razor manufacturers continued to introduce new innovations such as additional lubricating strips and razor handles that allowed the razor cartridge to tilt or swivel to follow the contours of a face. And the prices of the blades began to climb … manufacturers were practically giving away razors in order to get people to use their latest blades.
Last week, after seeing a package of Mach 3 Fusion blades priced at over $50 in Costco, I decided to fight back. Searching on Amazon, I found that the old-fashioned double edged shavers are making a comeback. There are numerous manufacturers producing everything from the basic device that I used as a teenager to designer models costing over one hundred and fifty bucks. And there are dozens of blade manufacturers, too, from all over the world. The Amazon comments section is packed with advice from wet shave enthusiasts regarding what to buy and why. I found I could buy an assortment of blades so that I could try different brands and settle on the ones I like best. I bought a WEISHI Long Handle Version Butterfly Open Double Edge Safety Razor that came with five YingJili blades from Japan for about sixteen bucks. I also bought 20 Feather brand blades for about seven bucks. So, I got a razor and 25 blades for lest than the cost of 24 Mach 3 cartridges at Costco. I’ve been shaving with it for about a week now. For the first few shaves, the weight of the razor and the sharpness of the blade against my face made me cautious … with the result that the shave wasn’t as close as I was used to. But after a week, I’ve found the right angle at which to hold the razor and I’m no longer afraid to apply the necessary pressure to give me a smooth shave. The single blade (on each side of the razor) is actually better for trimming along the edges of my beard than the three-blade contraptions. The razor feels particularly manly in my hand (Thanks, Dad). I’m a happy customer … and think of the money I’m saving.
Maybe I’ll buy a new car 🙂 .