I just picked up an old Gillette Safety Razor (just like the one pictured) at a local trade/junk shop for $5. Years ago I had a couple that I inherited from my Uncle and thought they were lame and archaic so tossed em and bought the newest multi-blade vibrating shave tool. That decision has turned out to be extremely expensive and do exactly the same job as the old safety razors. So a new 10 pack of double sided blades at a local Walgreens was about $3.50, a scrub of boiling water and CLR and I am set for several months on a total $8.50 investment (the expense of two blade refills on a electrovibeshavecontraption). Besides that it is refreshing to take some time and appreciate the historic Barbasol shaving ritual shared by real Men of yesteryear.
The earliest safety razors, which were actually invented in the 1880’s, were for the most part, high quality well-made products, they were not intended to be used and disposed of like modern razors. Even the blades were intended to have a long and useful life. Blades at the time were actually made of forged steel and looked like a “section” of a straight razor blade. They were re-sharpened when they became dull and went back into the rotation with several others. Together with the razor handle they would serve the owner for a lifetime.
It was with just such a razor that King Camp Gillette was shaving in 1895 when his revolutionary idea came to mind.
Gillette had been working as a salesman for the Crown Cork & Seal Co. of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. While employed there he learned his profession well. You see his employer was the inventor of the cheap, one-time-use crown style bottle cap that reigned as the standard for beer and soft drink bottlers worldwide until only recently when it was replaced with a screw-off cap. Gillette learned that the path to fortune was to invent a product that was not intended to be re-used, but instead used once and disposed of, assuring a steady stream of buyers and repeat sales.
Gillette’s idea was that if he could develop a cheap and disposable razor blade that was viewed as an improvement over what was currently available, he could sell millions of them and the sales would keep on coming day after day – year after year.
The purpose of illustrating this concept is to point out that from the very beginning the disposable blade safety razor was not developed to be an honest improvement over what was available, only to “Look Like” an improvement. The safety razor had only been invented 10 years earlier and hadn’t yet found its market. Gillette’s real purpose was to seize market share by using clever (and often deceptive) marketing and thereby assuring a never-ending stream of sales for his products. What Gillette actually invented was the “Loss Leader” the concept of virtually giving away a product (the razor) in order to create a customer for the high profit replacement blades. Selling safety razors and blades (cartridges) has been all about profits ever since.
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