Razor Technology and Obsolescence

Glenn Reynolds tried the Gillette “Fusion” 5-blade razor when he found it on sale and he and the InstaWife were quite impressed. He wonders, “What’s next? Will my grandsons be shaving with 12-blade razors?”

I am cursed with the worst possible combination of beard growth: Fairly sensitive skin, a very tough beard in places, and yet enough bare spots that I really can’t grow a decent beard.

My personal shaving evolution has included numerous electric shavers that proved inadequate to the task; some experiments with disposables; and several manual razors including the Trac II, Atra, Tracer, a battery operated Remington whose model name escapes me, Sensor, SensorExcel, Mach3, Mach3 Turbo, and my current M3 Power.

All of these have one thing in common: They work great for a while and then give me a shave comparable to what I was getting before the upgrade. In my teens and twenties, this was easily explainable by my beard getting progressively tougher. I doubt that is still the case, though, now that I’ve hit the big Four Oh.

My wife has had a similar experience with her Schick Intuition: “The revolutionary all-in-one cartridge [which] contains triple blades surrounded by a unique Skin Conditioning Solid that lathers and shaves in one easy step. So easy, in fact, there is no need for shave gel, soap, or body wash!” The cartridges which came with her razor in fact gave her a comfortable shave. The replacements, however, rust and dull quickly under the same conditions.

If I didn’t know better, I would swear that manufacturers intentionally put out blades with two different sets of specifications: Good ones to accompany the razor and lousy replacement cartridges that encourage users to continue the search for the Holy Grail of shaving. This isn’t actually the case, since replacement cartridges are ridiculously expensive, it would cost more to manufacture two sets of blades than it’s worth, and I’ve bought multiple razors of the same model so that I have ones for my dop kit and various localities such as the parents’ house.

Still, with razor blades costing about ten times what they rationally ought to, you’d think I could get a decent, comfortable shave.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology, Uncategorized,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. slickdpdx says:

    3 blades is ideal. You lose the ability to pivot the razor after that!

  2. McGehee says:

    I hear ya, James. Why don’t we get together and start The Beard Club for Men™?

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    Hint to a marketer. Put out a decent product at half the current costs and get 75% of the market.

  4. Ron says:

    A good straight razor, properly sharpened, is a wonderful shaving instrument. Lasts almost forever with good care. And you can get used to shaving yourself without looking like the victim of a knife fight in only a few years.

    Keep a paramedic handy during that learning period.

  5. Mark Jaquith says:

    Try to buy your replacement razors in bulk. You can often find them on eBay for less than $1.00 each.

    I tried the Schick Quattro and like it quite a bit.

    I always joke with my friends that eventually there are going to be shaving “masks” with hundreds of blades. You’ll fit the thing on your face, move it a centimeter up, and your entire face will be shaved. Bleeding horribly… but shaved.

  6. Jonk says:

    I have yet to find a razor that I like that gets the job done without some discomfort. I hate shaving! Why is having a beard considered non-professional…especially INSIDE The Beltway.


  7. Herb says:

    I have heard guys whine about their beards and shaving for years and years. You should be thankful you don’t have to shave with an old double edge razor that was the “only thing in town” many years ago. Shaving with that was something to behold, talk about pain, WOW.

  8. Herb says:

    My wife just told me to tell you all about pain in shaving. She said just try an Epilady.

  9. McGehee says:

    My wife just told me to tell you all about pain in shaving. She said just try an Epilady.

    Ah, yes. That’s my wife’s favorite instrument of self-torture too.