Grooming's cutting edge
Dave Barry (c) 2003 Tribune Media Services
August 3, 2003
Attention, consumers with bodily hair: The razor industry has news for you! You will never in a million years guess what this news is, unless your IQ is higher than zero, in which case you're already thinking: "Not another blade! Don't tell me they're adding ANOTHER BLADE!!"
Shut up! Don't spoil the surprise for everybody else!
Before I tell you the news, let's put it in historical context by reviewing: THE HISTORY OF SHAVING. Human beings are one of only two species of animals that shave themselves (the other one is salamanders). The Internet tells us that humans have been shaving since the Stone Age. Of course, the Internet also tells us that hot naked women want to befriend us, so we can't be 100 percent sure about everything we read there.
But assuming that quikshave.com/timeline.htm is telling the truth, Neanderthal Man used to pluck his facial hairs "using two seashells as tweezers." No doubt Neanderthal Woman found this very attractive. "You smell like a clam," were probably her exact words. It was during this era that the headache was invented.
By 30,000 B.C., primitive man was shaving with blades made from flint, which is a rock, so you had a lot of guys whose faces were basically big oozing scabs. The next shaving breakthrough came when the ancient Egyptians figured out how to make razors from sharp metal, which meant that, for the first time, the man who wanted to be well-groomed could, without any assistance or special training, cut an ear completely off.
This was pretty much the situation until the late 19th Century, when the safety razor was invented. This introduced a wonderful era known to historians as "The Golden Age of Not Having Razor Companies Introduce Some Ludicrously Unnecessary New Shaving Technology Every Ten Damn Minutes."
I personally grew up during this era. I got my first razor when I was 15, and I used it to shave my "beard," which consisted of a lone chin hair approximately one electron in diameter. My beard would poke its wispy head out of its follicle every week or so, and I, feeling manly, would smother it under 14 cubic feet of shaving cream and lop it off with my razor. Then I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror, waiting for it to grow again. Mine was a lonely adolescence.
The razors of that era had one blade, and they worked fine. But then in 1971, 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 each other 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 everyone was selling two-blade razors. So the marketing people put on their thinking caps, and, in a 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 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 an "ergonomic handle" featuring "knurled elastomeric crescents." That's right: elastomeric crescents, and they have been knurled!
Which brings us to today's exciting news, which was brought to my attention by alert reader Jake Hamer. Gillette's archrival, 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!"
And who knows what lies ahead? Razors with 10 blades? Twenty blades? Razors that go backward in time and shave your ancestors? Exciting times lie ahead, shaving consumer!
I'm getting a set of seashells.
Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
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