In the beginning there was the straight razor. A single blade of finely honed steel which, when folded out of its bone handle and stropped to a keen edge, did a perfectly adequate job of separating a man’s whiskers from his jaw.
Unfortunately it had the drawback of being a potentially lethal weapon. For a guy with St. Vitus’ dance (or even a hangover) shaving with a straight razor was an enterprise fraught with danger.
So they invented the safety razor — a two-edged blade with a guard plate preventing the user from self-inflicted (well, from serious self-inflicted) slashes.
Close shaves with no possibility of slitting one’s own jugular: perfect. You’d think Inventor Man would be content to let razor technology rest and move on to finding a formula that turns tar sands into peanut butter, but no, that’s not how Inventor Man works.
If guys liked a two-edge razor better than a single-edge blade, it stands to reason they’d go ape-bleep for THREE blades, right?
And so in 1998, the technological Brainiacs at Gillette came out with the Mach 3 which — featured not one, not two but three blades exquisitely cantilevered to nip those budding facial hairs.
The boys in white smocks over at Schick said “What are we — stropped liver?” — and launched the Schick Extreme 3, also a triple blade threat.
This was the hair-removal equivalent of the Russians challenging the Americans to see who could get to the moon first. Razor boffins at both shops pulled out all the stops. Bunsen burners at Gillette labs burned far into the night. Schick spies noted the ominous glow and redoubled their efforts to ensure that Schick, not Gillette, products would reign supreme.
And thus in ensuing years, consumers got blitzed with a plethora of products — The Quattro Titanium (Schick) and Sensor Excel (Gillette) — to name only the most prominent.
In 2006 Gillette dropped its hydrogen bomb: the Fusion Proglide — an instrument that features not just five blades — SIX blades, baby! The extra is a miniature trailing scythe designed to exfoliate “those tricky spots like sideburns, under the nose and around facial hair.”
Six blades to do the job of one. Woody Allen couldn’t top that.
Maybe not, but that’s not enough to stop the Deep Thinkers over at Gillette. They’ve just unleashed the all-new Flex-Ball Proglide, a razor that features six blades plus an in-handle swiveling ball joint to better follow the contours of the face and to “cut each whisker up to 23 microns shorter.”
My question is: why aren’t we giggling? Why aren’t the antics of Schick and Gillette ‘technologists’ fodder for stand up comedians and the Rick Mercer report?
Simple answer: because the antics work. Because we’re the people gullible enough to pay for bottled water — which comes from the same place that the water in our taps (the free stuff) comes from. We’re the people who ooh and aah when Nike announces a new running shoe with a sole so thin ‘it’s like running in your bare feet’.
Wow! Just like bare feet. And only a hundred bucks a pair.
I’m going into the razor biz. I plan to market my own model, an all-new 23-blade Probiotic, Gluten-free razor with automatic transmission and power windows. My sales pitch: “Buy Black’s Ultimo. Because you’ll buy anything.”
— Arthur Black’s column appears every Tuesday in The NEWS. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.