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?

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  1. What about daily visits to the local independent barber? I’ve heard that a professional straight-razor shave is an incomparable experience. Plus you’re building ties with the community and supporting local business.

    Personally I’m sticking with the Miami Vice stubble. Only a matter of time before it’s in again.

  2. Any thoughts on shaving cream? I’m afraid I’m woefully ignorant of any alternatives to the commercial crap. I’ve tried soaps with little success. . .

  3. Check out traditional shaving forums like shavemyface.com.

    In addition to double edge razors, you can find the injector razor and the more obscure single edge razor. Blades for both are not hard to find at many drugstores. The same company – American Safety Razor – makes both kinds. Schick still makes injector blades, but the current German-made ones are generally not considered as good as the ones Schick used to make in the USA.

    For twin blades, if you don’t want Gillette, there’s always the Schick Tracer, Tracer FX, and FX Diamond, which can use each other’s blades.

    American Safety Razor makes 2- and 3-blade clones of the Sensor cartridge. They also make double edge blades branded as “Personna” or as a no-name or store brand.

  4. I have used a double edged safety razor for a little over a year and I think I got 50 blades with the razor as a starter kit. I am about to depleat my blade supply and the company I bought the kit from sells blades pretty cheaply with great quality. The trick to shave soap is the water before the soap or a light body oil, even olive oil wells well before any soap. This method has served me very well, I shave my face and head so I have a lot of skin to shave.

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