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In the World of Shaving, to Progress is to Regress

Posted on 27 July 2019

In the World of Shaving, to Progress is to Regress

As the world begins to assess its environmental footprint, sometimes we find the answer to our eco-friendly problems has been there all along. One of those greener answers lays within a humble shaving instrument otherwise known as the safety razor.

First developed in 1901 by a man named King Gillette, the humble safety razor has a history almost 120 years old. It was then a two-piece shaving instrument with a detachable handle and a double-edged blade that first took the grooming world by storm. The same year on the back the safety razor’s success, King Gillette founded the company we’ve also come to know by the slogan ‘The best a man can get’. While Gillette’s famed, the game-changing razor was busy turning heads – and shaving others – the company managed to strike up a deal with one of America’s largest consumers, the United States Military. In 1917 the US Defence Force issued its first lot of safety razors to its troops. In wake of the chemical warfare of World War I, the US Military had found a clean-shaven face helped gas masks seal correctly. And so began the issuing of khaki green safety razors to its soldiers.

While some say the US Military is in part responsible for the popularity of the safety razor, the model itself had been designed and sold for 17 years prior to its introduction into the defence force. The khaki green soldier’s razor and a silver public model held their own until 1920 when a newer, improved model joined the line. Made with a friendlier blade angle and a grippier handle, the new model was one of several design advances Gillette made in its line. A further two models with adjustable shave lengths and angles were created before the company developed a multi-blade system in the late 90s, much like the ones we’ve come to know.

While most of us have grown up using said multi-blade plastic and disposable razors, recent reflections on our environmental footprint have us thinking twice about our plastic-heavy choice. In turn, campaigns calling on the ‘single blade revolution’ and ‘the return of the safety razor’ are in full swing. What is this revolution? Well, put simply, it’s a switch. If you’re still a little unsure why that is, afford us your attention as we break down the eco-friendlier shaving tool.

How does an old fashioned product, one developed with technology far less sophisticated then that of today wind up being the preferred item of choice? It’s simple: Simplicity. Safety razors produce far less than wastage than plastic, disposable models quite simply because of an interchangeable blade they use. Much like a keep cup, safety razors can be a lifelong investment. When a blade runs blunt, instead of replacing the entire razor, you simply unscrew the head and replace a tiny blade roughly the size of two 10 cent pieces.

A timeline of the Gillette range. Image: Gillette

To the surprise of those unfamiliar with the old school device, safety razors are effective. Why? Both sides of the blade are sharpened and by simply turning it 180 degrees when it overfills with lather, you can continue the shave before having to rinse the blade. Is there a trick to it? Well, sure, but it’s simple: most shave connoisseurs advise us to wield the razor at a 30-degree angle and to not apply pressure but use the weight of the razor to shave. Warming the skin, using an appropriate lather or oil and pulling the skin can all help the process too. Once mastered, the safety razor provides a cleaner shave, both closer to the grain and without causing skin irritation and redness, often due to hairs being cut under the skin line by multi-blades.

For long the safety razor has been associated with gentlemen, from appearances in Colin Firth’s bathroom cabinet in the likes of Kingsman to expensive grooming cabinets in barbershops. But those days are about as old fashioned as the razor itself. Nowadays you can find a safety razor and shave brush set and stand for the same price you’d pay for a tin of pomade—$30. For the blades, forget supermarkets and head to your local barber where a 100 pack can be bought under $20. In essence, that’s more than a years’ worth of daily shaving for $50. No longer exclusive to gentlemen alone nor the affluent, the safety razor has become accessible to all, with gender-neutral models popping up for women, too. Is it time to switch? Well, use up your old model first. But when you’re ready to make the switch to a product that looks great and is better for your wallet, face and our environment, give the safety razor a go, you won’t be disappointed.

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