An interesting thing I got for Christmas this year has been a safety razor and a collection of blades.
A story I had read a while back about Gillette’s international expansion into the India market is what got me curious about these. Gillette had created a simplified version of their Mach razor cartridges for the Indian market that were less expensive than the western market equivalent. Despite this development, and aggressive marketing they were holding just 20% of the market. They sent a team to India to see how people where actually shaving and found two reasons why simply re-making a western style razor didn’t work: thicker hair clogged up multi-blade razors, and most men shaved with a bowl of water and couldn’t shave over a sink with running water. 60%-70% of the Indian market was happy to continue using safety razors, that got me reading a bit more about them.
These old style razors get a number of things right that are hard to find in a modern cartridge razor. The chrome handled razor has heft to it. It feels like it’s built to last a lifetime, and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t. The replacement blades are good quality, sharp, cheap and made with some exotic alloys which should help them stay sharp longer.
Gillette fusion cartridges cost $4-$5 each. Every time I bought them it felt like I was being gouged. On the other hand these simple double blade razors cost just $0.50 in my mixed pack, and $0.20 in bulk. 10x-20x less expensive. $25 got me enough blades to last 3 years!
So what’s the downside? These old style razors do require a more careful hand, they are more likely to cause razor burn and cuts, and you do need to use shaving soap
On the plus side, they feel more manly, don’t get clogged up with hair as easily, can be used without running the tap, and (with practice) can give a closer shave in fewer strokes.
The Parker 91R that I ordered came with 10 blades for $35 through Amazon.ca. At that price even the initial buy in is less expensive than a package of Gillette fusion cartridges. I’m pretty happy with it and looking forward to not having to buy a razor blade again until 2017.