Another Thing Us Bearded Guys Miss Out On

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 ( 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!


  1. That reminds me of a great passage from Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi:

    The Mississippi between Cairo and New Orleans was twelve hundred and fifteen miles long one hundred and seventy-six years ago. It was eleven hundred and eighty after the cut-off of 1722. It was one thousand and forty after the American Bend cut-off. It has lost sixty-seven miles since. Consequently, its length is only nine hundred and seventy-three miles at present.

    Now, if I wanted to be one of those ponderous scientific people, and ‘let on’ to prove what had occurred in the remote past by what had occurred in late years, what an opportunity is here! Geology never had such a chance, nor such exact data to argue from! Nor ‘development of species,’ either! Glacial epochs are great things, but they are vague—vague. Please observe: In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the lower Mississippi has shortened itself two-hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just one million years ago next November, the lower Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

  2. That is funny. I used on of those four-bladed Quattro razors before I grew my beard (and may I compliement you on yours, by the way), and I felt like I was cutting off like half my face each morning.

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