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Hirsute Hipsters Have Harrowing Habits

August 29th, 2013 - 6:35 am

FuturHarrowing, that is, if you’re in the business of selling disposable razors:

Procter & Gamble (PG), which rules the category with Mach-3-maker Gillette, said its razor sales are falling in developed markets. This followed yesterday’s announcement by Energizer (ENR) that unit sales of its Schick men’s razors have dropped 10 percent in the past year—a literal decimation.

Energizer blames the sales slide on aggressive promotions, specifically P&G’s. Meanwhile, P&G focused on its gains abroad and glossed over its losses in major markets. Euromonitor points to another culprit: “the vogue for stubble” and a “growing acceptance of the unshaven look in the workplace.” In other words: hairy dudes. And this is one market where China may not save the day; Euromonitor claims Chinese men are relatively “nonhairy.”

I’ll tell you what’s really killing them, and that’s $4 razor cartridges. If you’re a kid in your 20s, stuck living at home because of Obamanomics, you’ll save money wherever you can — and there’s a good chance your boss at your McJob doesn’t care if you have stubble or not. The worst part for manufacturers is, how they gonna get those kids back on the cartridge farm, once they’ve seen hairy Par-ee?

I haven’t shaved with a disposable in years, and it was the price (and the promise of a better shave) that chased me away. I used to go through two Fusion cartridges each and every week, for a total annual bill of almost $420 on blades alone. But if you’re willing to take a few extra minutes in the morning, and a few weeks to learn a new skill, you can save a bundle by switching to old-school double edge safety razors.

FeatherThe very best, most expensive DE blades you can buy is Japan’s Feather brand. Purchased in bulk on Amazon, 100 blades will set you back about 30 dollars — and last you 100 weeks. I used to go through about $800 worth of Gillette’s crap in that same amount of time. Or you can get even cheaper blades and save even more. The Personna brand from Israel comes recommended by people I trust and will run you about 15 cents each.

I used some of the savings on a very nice badger tail shave brush which ought to last a lifetime, and a little more of it on Proraso shave soap and Truefitt & Hill shave oil. If your curious, I love Merkur’s Futur razor and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s adjustable, so you teach yourself to shave on the safest setting, and dial it up as you get better at it. After about a year, I got mine dialed up to 5 — it goes up to 6. The 5 setting provides such a close, fast shave, that 6 frankly scares me. Maybe 6 is what you use if you ever find yourself trapped in the jungle without a machete.

Anyway, buying the best of the best products was about $200 up front to get in, then annual expenses of about $100 or so a year. You could easily spend just half of that, if you really wanted to save the money. The razor and the brush will both outlive their owner, so the buy-in expense amortizes down to almost zero. In my case I’m spending 25% of what I used to spend just on cartridges, while getting a shave almost equal to the one you’d get from a professional barber. The only trick is, taking some time to learn a new skill.

Will the young hipsters ever bother to go through all that? They might, once they realize they need to move up to McManagement if they ever want to move out of their parents’ basements.

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All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
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What are you shaving that you don't even get a week out of a Fusion cartridge?

Never mind - I probably don't want to know...

Maybe it's your shaving cream, or lack thereof. I've been using Barbasol for about... wow, 30+ years now. I can easily get two or three month's worth of shaves out of a Fusion cartridge. Rinse it before starting, rinse it when you're done, shake the water out of it, and toss it in a drawer for the next use.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just my face. Now, my beard doesn't seem to grow any faster than anyone else's and it isn't particularly heavy. But it's extremely coarse and curly, and cartridge "blades" leave my face bloody at the end of the fourth shave. I put "blades" in scare quotes because the thin strips of foil in a cartridge don't really qualify as blades. If you think I'm joking, try disassembling a used Fusion sometime and you'll see what I mean.

A real blade also irritates the skin far less while shaving closer to it. Shave one side of your face with a Fusion, then the other with a DE. Then try applying an alcohol-based aftershave. One side will burn, the other not at all. That other side will be quite a bit smoother, too.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
made the switch this year. now I have to learn how to shave my head with one.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I used some of the savings on a very nice badger tail shave brush which ought to last a lifetime...."

I'd been using a pig bristle brush. It started coming apart after a year's use. That's when my wife got me a badger brush. That was ten years ago. It's still one of the best things of my mornings. Meanwhile, I continue using my old (fifteen years) Atra, and I get a lot of uses out of the cartriges -- and I'm a head shaver, too. And if I'm feeling particulary retro, there's bay rum....
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I tend to let it grow until keeping it looking decent becomes more annoying than shaving it every day or so. Then I use my electric -- until shaving every day or so becomes too much of a nuisance.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
My Dad still shaves with a Double Edge, and I have seen packages of the blades for varying prices (Under $2 at WalMart, over $7 at Rite-Aid). But I've NEVER seen the razors anywhere.

I use Generic twin blades, and maybe there's something I'm doing wrong, because I usually use 'em for a month, shaving in the shower with ordinary soap, and that includes shaving my head.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I bought an Edwin Jagger with Feather blades a year ago. My beard is ao tough that I only get 3 uses from any blade. The savings made it a no-brainer and the quality of the shave is so much better than I ever got from a Mach 3. You just have to invest the time in practice:It forces you to really learn the contours and lines of your face and how the direction of the hairs changes from one part of your face to another.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
On the other hand, there's the Dollar Shave Club.

For $1/month you get a 4-pack of 2-bladed cartridges mailed to your door. For $6/month you get four 4-bladed cartridges, and for $9/month you get four 6-bladed cartridges.

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Electric for me. $150 every 4-5 years. 2 minutes, and I'm done. And it's much more compatible with travel.

But then again, since I’ve got about 95% coverage in beard, “quality of shave” has little meaning to me.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excellent post, Stephen. I have been using a DE razor for ages and I get a much better shave than those silly cartridges. Anyone interested in learning more should visit badgerandblade.com
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
After switching to a safety razor years ago, I bought on for my son.

What got me was the free samples with shiny handles that they'd send. First Gillette, then Schick. 3 blades, 4 blades, 5 blades. Ridiculous.

46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
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