A Close Shave Part III

Kurt Cobain once said, “The only way I would wear a tye-died T-shirt would be if it were soaked in the blood of Jerry Garcia.” Being born around the same year as Cobain, our generational bias prevents us from donning tie-dye, friendship bracelets, or sandals. It also prevents us from cultivating a flowing beard, leaving us desperately hooked on shaving products.

As the alleged developer of the “loss-leader” business strategy King Gillette figured out that if you sold folks a cheap razor handle customers would have to come back for disposable razors for which you could charge an exorbitant price. Like desperate crack addicts we’ve been patronizing Gillette for years, plopping down ever more ridiculous sums for the latest “Mach-whatever” plastic multi-blade gimmick.

We finally decided to opt out of the Gillette trap and order up a retro safety razor from Lehmans. Here’s a comparison of costs:

Gillette Mach 3: four blades for $10.59 or $2.64 a blade
Package of double-edged, stainless steel blades: ten blades for 4.95 or 49 cents a blade.

So far so good, but there’s a catch. The fine folks at Gillette are a monopoly, as rapacious as the rail barons of the 19th century and completely dominate the shaving products industry. In a practice known as “slotting” large companies pay fees, sometimes as high as $25,000 per item, to reserve space on supermarket shelves and essentially eliminate the competition. The supermarket I checked did not have any blades other than Gillette–not even even Schick, and certainly not old-fashioned safety razors. So it appears that we may have to mail order replacement blades, and with shipping fees this will make the traditional safety razor gambit less appealing.

But we’re stubborn and just can’t give Gillette, now owned by Proctor and Gamble, any more of our money. The real way out of this dilemma is to take up the even more traditional straight razor but we’ve been warned about the learning curve on that strategy, not to mention the need to keep the blade sharp. Opinions dear readers? Any straight-edged razor types out there?

A Close Shave Part II: The Rolls Razor

Shaving authority and Root Simple Toronto correspondent Nicholas Sammond sent these handsome pics of a unique shaving system called the “Rolls Razor”. It looks like a safety razor, but instead of using disposable blades, the blade is permanent and re-sharpened on two stones contained in the case. One stone is used for occasional re-sharpening and the other stone is a “strop” used to sharpen the blade after each use. A detailed description of the operation of this unique razor can be found on this web site.

In effect the Rolls Razor is a compromise between a straight razor and a safety razor. We say it’s time to bring back the Rolls Razor so we all can stop handing Gillette and Schick, who have the same business models as crack gangs any more money, and stop filling all those landfills with more plastic.

A Close Shave

Author and fellow revolutionary Nicholas Sammond is visiting the Homegrown Revolution compound this week and he really knows how to stick it to the Man! You see the Man wants to sell us gentleman cheap shaving implements that just happen to need expensive replacement blades, a business strategy called a “loss leader” pioneered by American Safety Razor Company founder King Camp Gillette that has since been applied to everything from inkjet printers to fast food. At the Homegrown Revolution compound we don’t like to get hooked on shit the Man tries to force us to buy.

In order to escape this cycle there are basically three options. Stop shaving and become a hippie – but one look at this photo shows the problem with that approach. The hardcore and “green” option is to learn how to use a straight razor, something we may take up around here someday. For now, we’re going to compromise and use an old fashioned safety razor like the one pictured above. I’ve had some difficulty finding one of these things but they are available from a number of high-end shaving retailers, or you could try a thrift store, but make sure to get one that uses regular razor blades. I’ve got an antique model, but it uses a blade that is not made anymore. The irony here is that the safety razor is the kind King Gillette got us menfolk hooked on to begin with. The thing is, the old kind of razor is a much cheaper option than the overpriced plastic “Mach whatever” shit Gillette is pushing these days. Our revolutionary visitor points out that the old fashioned safety razor does not give as close a shave, but at least he’s not giving the Man lots of dead presidents.

Sometimes it’s best to revert to the previous era’s technology, like trading in your SUV for a bicycle. The trade is some convenience for a righteous independence.

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