Hirsute Hipsters Have Harrowing Habits

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.