Gillette manages to wring out between $7,000 to $22,000 from each North American shaver who uses and buys plastic-handled multiple cartridge razors. The average lifetime shaving cost in Eastern Europe, where a steel-handled safety razor, which locks a single, replaceable, double-edged blade into place, is used is $400. North Americans believe that paying more for the new is a sign, not just of material wealth, but of moral virtue—only the best for me and my family.
It’s a 98% increase in cost. For a product that is both inferior, and which contain no recyclable parts. Gillette knows this. Gillette, invented the double-edged razor in 1903. It was—and is—a brilliant invention. Gillette continues to make and market most of the world’s safety razor blades. Each individual blade costs about ten cents, and you can get between two and five sharp shaves out of each. In the 1930s Gillette’s patent expired and a whole slew of competitors starting churning out cheaper razor blades. Gillette responded by buying all of those companies, shutting down all of those factories, and consolidating most of the rest of the world’s razor blade production into a single, very massive, plant in St. Petersburg, Russia. Gillette knows most of the rest of the world can only pay $400 a lifetime to shave. It still wants, and gets, most of that $400. Until they’re ready for the big step up—which is, of course, no such thing because...
There is no improvement, only more cost. The double-edged razor was the perfect invention. All subsequent patented multi-blade systems have been designed because Gillette figured that North Americans had more disposable income than they knew what to do with. Fixed cartridges cost between $3 and $5 per cartridge. Dragging five sharp blades simultaneously over your skin is a trauma for it. It’s an even bigger catastrophe for the planet. Razor cartridges cannot be recycled—unless you successfully disassemble each blade from the plastic yourself, which you are not advised to do. The old system, the metal does not get wasted; double edge razor blades are fully recyclable.
And, once you’ve made the switch over to fixed razor systems, Gillette takes you for a sucker. They never stop selling you on the next big thing. Whatever system you’re using today (Mach III, FusionPro Glide) is destined for obsolescence tomorrow. Gillette invented the strategic model of planned obsolescence to make sure that they are continually patenting new systems to replace old systems with expiring patents. Gillette figures if they whisper the words “best’ or “newest’ into the ears of any well-trained North American, you’ll know what to do.
The blades I’m currently using (pictured below) are non-Gillette made. There are still a few independent, safety razor blade manufacturers in existence. Shark blades are made in Egypt by Lord. Lord is the name the company chose for itself when it bought the plant back from Wilkinson Sword, amidst that company’s global restructuring in the late 1970s. Wilkinson Sword is long gone, but their former plant in Egypt is still churning out the sleekest, sharpest razor blades ever made and selling them to all those unfortunates in the world still too poor to be able to afford the worst.