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Understanding the Razor Debates

Some time ago we discussed the value of shaving subscription services, which reminded some of our readers of an article we had written on safety razors.  We also offer old fashioned straight razor shave services in our clubs.  We do think there's value in different types of razors, so we decided to revisit both articles by giving more perspective.

Safety Razors vs. Cartridge Razors – They’re Not Mutually Exclusive

Since the recent resurrected hype in straight razors and safety razors, there seems to have emerged an “us vs. them” mantra between traditional wet shaving and today’s higher-tech, multi-blade cartridge counterparts. In what could be likened to the PC vs. Mac commercials from a few years back, promoters from both camps tout the relative cost vs. quality vs. speed comparisons between the two forms of shaving. This tit-for-tat approach is not only unnecessary but frequently short-sighted.

In fact, users on the wet shaving forums are typically very open, kind and helpful to new members that are even just looking to try wet shaving for the first time. But, on occasion the discussions can and do get heated between promoters from either side.  The fact is, safety razors and cartridge razors are not mutually exclusive.

Safety Razors and Cartridge Razors: Each Has Its Role

Whether you shave daily using a safety razor, brush, a puck of soap or shave butter, or simply pay for one of several cartridge razor subscription shave clubs, the result is the same. However, there are nuanced differences as to the when and where one should choose a cartridge razor vs. a safety razor. Certain scenarios may warrant choosing one over the other, regardless of your daily shaving preference. For instance:

  • Travel. Airport security is not kind on safety razors. If you plan on checking your bags, then you can still slip in a few double-edge safety razor blades, but if you go carry-on-only, you will likely be forced to give up both your razor and blades. Even travel safety razors are subject to confiscation, but the main culprits are the blades.
  • Speed. When speed is of the essence, cartridge razors can be (slightly) faster, particularly if you shave in the shower and can avoid some of the nuances of your pre-shave preparation.
  • Delicate Parts. Due to their open-blade nature safety razors can sometimes be a bit riskier with certain body parts. For instance, balding gentlemen that regularly shave the dome will often opt for the cartridge over the safety razor.

In most cases—and with the daily shave in particular—the safety razor shaver does not spurn the cartridge razor, he simply uses it as a trusty back-up for some of the anomalies listed above.

Cartridge Razors: Overmarketing and Overengineering

Despite this symbiotic relationship between the cartridge razor and safety razor community, a gap still remains in both education and awareness that other options to the cartridge razor not only exist, but that they are just as good or better than their current methods.

It would be safe to argue that the us vs. them or PC vs. Mac comparison is not exactly accurate. Big Razor, Inc. is not interested in starting a razor war with a small, antiquated cottage industry whose margins fall far below their over-priced blades. As the lion on top of the food chain, they also do not have competitors large enough to wage a war. They also own the industry (manufacturing, marketing, and distribution) for wet shaving as well. As a result, they would have no incentive to cannibalize their own profits. In fact, it is more likely that—given the choice—Big Razor would put an end to the original safety razor invention created over 100 years ago.

Of course, Big Razor, Inc. is incentivized to keep the consuming public believing the large difference in price between cartridge razors and safety razors is worth the marginal difference in time or quality. The argument of speed and quality will continue to be hotly debated.

Most men married to cartridge razor shaving only have a single cartridge razor shave handle and perhaps a few replacement blades. Safety razor shavers, on the other hand, are typically owners of one or more safety razors as well as a cartridge razor. Yes, it’s a more expensive up-front cost, but the recurring cost of shaving this way will save thousands over a shaver’s lifetime. As we said in our previous article on safety razors, it’s an ROI in cash and quality that pays for itself again and again.

Where do you fall?  Cartridge, safety, or straight razor?  Or some combination of all three?  Share your thoughts in the comments below to get 25% off your next shave service with us!

Ben Davis

About Ben Davis

A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.

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