With the recent advent of the five-bladed “Fusion” razor, the Economist predicts that the fourteen-bladed razor should appear no later than 2100. Their analysis would benefit from that of Dave Barry’s several years ago, which explained the intricacies of the razor industry’s R&D:
Mine was a lonely adolescence.
The razors of that era had one blade, and they worked fine; ask any older person who is not actively drooling. But then, in 1971, a very bad thing happened: Gillette, looking for a way to enhance the shaving experience (by which I mean “charge more”) came out with a razor that had TWO blades. This touched off a nuclear arms race among razor companies, vying to outdo one another by adding “high-tech” features that made the product more expensive, but not necessarily better. This tactic is called “sneakerization,” in honor of the sneaker industry, which now has people paying upwards of $200 a pair for increasingly weird-looking footwear boasting the durability of thinly sliced Velveeta.
Soon everybody was selling two-blade razors. So the marketing people put on their thinking caps, and, in an astounding burst of creativity, came up with the breakthrough concept of: THREE BLADES. Gillette, which is on the cutting edge (har!) of razor sneakerization, currently has a top-of-the-line three-blade razor — excuse me, I mean “shaving system” — called the “Mach3Turbo,” which, according to the Gillette Web site (www.gillette.com) has more technology than a nuclear submarine, including “open cartridge architecture” and an “ergonomic handle” featuring “knurled elastomeric crescents.” That’s right: It has elastomeric crescents, and they have been knurled! By knurlers! No, I don’t know what this means. But it sure sounds technological.
Which brings us to today’s exciting news, which was brought to my attention by alert reader Jake Hamer. Gillette’s arch-rival, Schick (maker of the Xtreme 3 shaving system) has announced that it’s coming out with a new razor that has — prepare to be floored by innovativeness — FOUR BLADES. Yes! It will be called the “Quattro,” which is Italian for “more expensive.”
Of course it will not end there. I bet an urgent memo has already gone out in Gillette’s marketing department. “Hold some focus groups immediately!” it says. “Find out what number comes after four!”
Yes, the razor-technology race shows no signs of slowing. And who knows what lies ahead? Razors with 10 blades? Twenty blades? A thousand blades? Razors that go backward in time and shave your ancestors? Exciting times lie ahead, shaving consumers!