11. October 2005 · Comments Off on Shaving Rites And Rituals · Categories: General

This from Ralph Kinny Bennett at TCS:

Advances in shaving since the 1970s, when the first twin-blade razor was introduced, have been profound to say the least. Think about it. You have to really work to cut yourself with a modern shaving blade “system.” They put to shame even the relative safety of the “safety razor” of 50 years ago, which still employed single razor blades.

For more than three decades, two and then three-blade razor cartridges reigned supreme in the shaving world. Then, in 2003, Schick introduced the four-blade Quattro razor, a huge success that increased the company’s share of the replacement blade cartridge market from 10 percent to 16 percent.

Schick’s gain came at the expense of the Gillette Co., the unchallenged Goliath of the shaving business, whose market share for replacements dropped from 86 to 81 percent during the same period.

These figures have to be taken with a grain of salt because they do not include sales from Wal-Mart or from discount “club” stores. But the Quattro apparently sobered Gillette enough to at least speed up its next entry in the shaving wars — a five-blade razor cartridge.

The new razor, called Fusion, will be introduced in 2006 with a big price jump. The individual razor cartridges will cost a whopping $3 each. But history shows that men around the world will gratefully spend tens of billions of dollars to chase new shaving technology, even if it gains them the merest marginal improvement in shaving comfort.

And Gillette’s multi-billion dollar bet that the worldwide pursuit of a better shave will continue, and damn the cost, is being made on what the company sees as good odds. Here’s why:

Gillette’s Mach3 blade system, introduced back in 1998 at a steep price premium, weaned millions of men away from cheaper models, including Gillette’s, to become the best-selling razor of all time. The company estimates that 100 million men (yours truly included) now pay that price premium to shave daily with the Mach3.

Despite Mach3’s hold on the shaving market, Gillette expects the more expensive Fusion to be generating at least a billion dollars in annual sales by 2008. To understand why all this makes sense you have to go beyond mere market economics and get into the whole thing about shaving.

It is one of man’s most important little luxuries.


The articulated razors, beginning with Gillette’s Sensor (13 moving parts, 22 new patents), took the personal skill of shaving (wrist action, blade angle etc.) and incorporated it as much as possible into the technology of the shaver itself. In a remarkable way, the Sensor and its successors, including some of Gillette’s imitators, are able to “read” facial contours and the character of the skin itself as our hands guide them across cheek and chin.

Hat Tip to Glenn Reynolds, who links to his previous writings on the subject. And you might check my post here, where I debunk the multi-blade myth.

Update: The Onion predicted this five-blade thing February of last year.

Update 2: Oh, here’s something interesting from over two years ago:

Gillette’s response is guarded. “We’ve tested multiple blades and razor elements for decades,” [Eric] Kraus says. “The simple addition of another blade does not itself improve a shave.”

But what if the four-blade works? “We’ve tested razors with any number of blades,” he says, ignoring the five-bladed machete hanging overhead.

Update 3: Over at IronSoap Paul Hamilton is blogging on Shick’s response:

Shick Dectuple

Update 5: Our own Timmer reminds us of SNL’s Triple-Trac Razor skit, which I believe was from episode 1. And we surely can’t forget the Al Jaffee The Space Age Razor Race from MAD (July 1979):

Microwave Razor Trac LXXVI Razor

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