As you will probably be aware of the UK men’s shaving market is dominated by three big players -Gillete (owned by US giant Proctor and Gamble) and British brands Wilkinson Sword and King of Shaves (the brainchild of likeable entrepreneur Will King).
All three of these companies specialise in providing men with easy to use multi bladed cartridge razor systems, and in Gillette’s case, these products are backed and promoted with billionaire dollar marketing campaigns.
Thankfully there is still a market for traditional double edge safety razors, and its growing as more men get fed up with the increasing cost of cartridge razor blades. A recent study has found the annual cost of shaving with a Gillette Power Fusion, new cartridges and all, is an eye-watering £85.37.
But getting the message to the masses that double edge shaving is not only cheaper in the long run, but also much better for the skin, is a difficult one as the mainstream press favour the Gillette Power Fusion over the Merkur 34C and the Hydro 5 over the Edwin Jagger DE89.
Well that was until we contacted The Sun Newspaper journalist David Firth, who runs the highly popular Tried and Test section on The Sun website. David had previously tested out wet razors from the “big three” brands to see which was the best.
To our delight and slight surprise, he agreed to test three of our top selling safety razors – the Merkur 38c Barberpole, Parker 94R and The Bluebeards Revenge ‘Scimitar’ (which has graced the likes of the Daily Mail, Loaded and GQ).
So what did David think to the razors we sent him?
“My favourite of the three,” he said. David praised its balance, control and grip. “The diagonal thread design on the pole helps you keep a solid grip and I also like that you change the blade by simply unscrewing the base, rather than having to disassemble the whole thing. A great piece of kit,” he added. Price: £39.99. Buy here.
“The big plus-point with the Parker is the grip – thick, diamond-shaped ridges help keep this lodged in your hand no matter how much cream or water is knocking about,” explained David. He added that he liked the light weight of the razor; but found the short pole a little fiddly during the shave. Price £19.99. Buy here.
The Bluebeards Revenge ‘Scimitar’
David loved the look of the Scimitar. “It does look lovely, particularly with the laser-etched Bluebeards Revenge skull and cross bones logo on the razor head. As with the other two – it does give a great shave,” he said. Price £34.99. Buy here.
Overall, David loved the theatre of double edge shaving. “You splash your face with warm water, apply a pre-shave cream to help the blade glide, then apply the shaving cream all frothed up with an old-school brush to exfoliate a bit and lift up your bristles. And then you can shave. It takes time but it’s a lot of fun,” he explained.
In conclusion, David said: “If you follow all the appropriate hints and tips on how to use double-edged blade razors properly – you can find loads of videos on YouTube – you will get the best shave of your life.”
Thanks for taking the double edge shaving test David, and for helping to bring such as a cool method shaving back in to the media spotlight. You can follow David on Twitter at @davefirth.
Read his full review by clicking here.
What do you think think to David’s comments? Let us know by commenting below.
The increasing cost of cartridge razor blades has been a grave concern for millions of men all over the globe.
And now Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have expressed their concern over the cost of shaving. So much so that three of their MPs have backed a Commons call for the pricing to be looked at.
The Early Day Motion notes “the exorbitant increase in the retail price of men’s razor blade cartridges where in three years the price has increased in some cases by almost 100%”.
The three MPs, East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell, South Antrim MP Willie McCrea and David Simpson, have called on the Office of Fair Trading and consumer bodies to investigate why prices so are so high.
They said “it has been reported that the production costs per cartridge are in pence, while marketing, packaging and profiteering are resulting in margins of around a 1,000%, with an eight-cartridge pack currently retailing at many outlets at approximately £22″.
Here at The Shaving Shack we agree that the cost of cartridge blades is something that needs to be addressed, but there is an easy solution guys – change your shaving habits and ditch the overpriced cartridge razor. Opt instead for a double edge safety razor and if you’re feeling really adventurous, a straight or cut throat razor (as it’s more commonly referred to).
Not only will both types of razor give you a better quality of shave, they are also much cheaper in the long run.
A lot of men are simply unaware over the financial benefits of using a DE razor instead of a cartridge, so I thought it would be interesting to commission a new report and treat the exercise as an investment decision.
I spoke to leading business author and wet shaving enthusiast Andrew Wilson, who took time out of his busy schedule to look at the subject in detail.
And this is what he found:
“If you assume you buy a reasonable DE razor for £50 and a shaving brush for £35, shaving soap for £9 and just buy one blade for 20 pence, your upfront costs are about £94.20. To buy a “typical” cartridge razor, some foam and 1 blade costs you £17.86. So in upfront costs you need to spend £76.34 more on a DE razor.
“Now if you look at the annual renewal costs of each of these types of shaving you find that the DE method costs about £20.10 a year if you shave 6 times a week and change your blade after 4 shaves, and use half a shaving soap a year. The “typical” cartridge razor comes in at £100.22 a year. This assumes you get 10 shaves per blade and you shave 6 times a week. It assumes you have to buy a new razor every three years and that you buy 4 cans of foam a year. (Altogether not unrealistic)
“This means that each year that you shave with DE, you save £80.12. So is this a worthwhile investment. If you assume inflation at 3% and discount the cash flow over 20 years, that £76.34 investment is worth over £1,000 (Net present value) to you in today’s money! Or an Internal rate of return (IRR) of over 105%.
“Basically if you were a private equity business and this was an investment deal, the project would be a go.”
So guys please, please bin the multi-bladed cartridge razor and invest in some decent shaving equipment that is not just going to give you a closer and more comfortable shave (here is why), but also save you hundreds of pounds.
Change your shaving habits today….
We often get questions from customers about the aggressiveness of double edge safety razors and which ones are best suited for their particular hair/beard type.
With that in mind, I thought I would put together a brief guide about what makes a razor mild, medium or aggressive and what type and skill level of wet shaver it’s been designed for.
According to the popular Badger and Blade shaving forum, the aggressiveness of a razor is based on 5 key factors. These are:
• Blade gap
• Blade angle in the razor
• Razor weight
• Distribution of the weight. (Heavy head/light handle vs. all heavy.)
• Blade angle applied by the user (this can influence the shave drastically if not done properly).
Blade gap and angle:
The larger the blade gap, the more of the blade is exposed to the skin, hence the greater risk of nicks and cuts for an inexperienced DE shaver. On the flip side, experienced DE shavers generally prefer a larger blade gap because it allows for greater control over the angle of the blade as it makes contact to the skin.
Razor weight and distribution of weight:
The heavier the razor, the more aggressive it is generally perceived to be. Weight balance (such as whether a razor is more head-heavy or handle-heavy) also plays a role, with razors balanced more toward the head often considered milder shavers than their handle-heavy counterparts.
According to many wet shaving experts like the guys on Badger and Blade or top shaving blogs such as Shaving101 and Sharpologist, the user shouldn’t just follow a quest to find the mildest or most aggressive razor, but instead they should find the right level of aggressiveness for their particular type of skin.
Mild Safety Razors
A mild safety razor has a cutting head that is designed to limit the amount of force that is transferred to the blade’s edge. Because these types of razors are less likely to cause irritation or nicks during a shave, they are perfect for men with very sensitive skin or men with lighter/weaker beard growth.
Good examples of mild safety razors include the Feather All Stainless and Goodfella. You could also try an adjustable safety razor, such as the Merkur Futur 761 or Merkur 570 Progress, on the lowest blade exposure settings.
Medium Safety Razors
Medium aggressive safety razors, as the name suggests, have an average blade gap and expose a reasonable amount of blade edge. Providing a good balance between mild and aggressive, these types of razors allow the blade to cut efficiently without causing excessive irritation or increased probability of cuts and nicks.
Good examples of medium safety razors include the legendary Merkur 34C, Edwin Jagger DE89L and the shiny Bluebeards Revenge ‘Scimitar’. But in truth, most of the safety razors manufactured today would be considered medium as they provide the best of both worlds and can be targeted at both the experienced and inexperienced DE shaver.
Aggressive Safety Razors
Aggressive safety razors have a larger gap and greater blade exposure, allowing more hair to enter between the razor’s edge and the safety bar. This means it will cut through the beard much quicker and with fewer strokes. Aggressive safety razors are harsher on the skin and are usually favoured by men with very thick beard growth who struggle to get a close shave without having to do multiple passes.
The Merkur 37C Slant Bar is a serious bit of kit designed for the more experienced DE shaver for an extremely close shave. Another aggressive razor is the Merkur 39C Slant Bar, which is the long handled version of the 37C. The slanted head exposes more of the blade at one end and is very similar to the cutting angle of a straight (cut-throat) razor. It is also highly regarded as one of the best DE razors for sensitive skin sufferers because of the way it shaves.
Open comb razors like the Merkur 25C and Muhle R41 tend to be more aggressive and can give an easier shave for those who suffer from tough beards. The teeth help to guide and position the beard hair so that the blade can cut them more effectively without clogging like razor.
You could also try an adjustable safety razor, such as the Merkur Futur or Merkur Progress, on the highest blade exposure settings.
In January 2011, I blogged about why a double edge razor is technically better than a cartridge based razor system. Now there is yet another reason for men to ditch the horrid multi-bladed cartridge razor in favour of the single bladed razor.
“Replacement cartridges for Gillette’s Fusion ProGlide can be as much as £3.49 each,” the newspaper said.
It went on to say that blades for Gillette’s top-of-the-range Fusion ProGlide cost less than 10p to manufacturer, which in my book is a fairly decent profit margin.
The paper also blames Gillette, the world’s largest shaving company by quite a distance, for imposing a stealth price rise by cutting the number of replacement cartridges in its Mach3 Turbo packs from five to four.
“The smaller pack did not bring a corresponding cut in the price, leaving men paying at least 20 per cent more,” the article says.
It went on to blame the increasing cost of cartridge blades for men’s poor shaving habits.
“At the same time, men worried about making ends meet are either trying to make their razor blades last longer, with the resulting scrapes and cuts – or ditching their shaving regime and opting for designer stubble.”
A better quality shave with a long term saving
This all makes me rather angry as there is an easy solution – change your shaving habits and ditch the overpriced cartridge razor. Opt instead for a double edge safety razor and if you’re feeling really adventurous, a straight or cut throat razor (as its more commonly referred to).
Not only will both types of razor give you a better quality of shave, they are also much cheaper in the long run, as a number of the comments on the Daily Mail article point out.
“I switched from cartridge razors to a straight razor and have never looked back. True your initial investment is a little higher but the payback on these cartridge blades is 6 months or so. Have not had to buy a single razor blade in 18 months now,” commented Derrick Young, Wasaga Beach, Ontario.
Roy, from York, also pointed out the massive cost savings men could experience from switching to a DE razor: “I have used an old fashioned Double Edge safety razor for years and blades for that can cost as little as 10p. As they are cheap you can afford to change them regularly and get a good shave. With multi bladed cartridges because of the price people carry on using them when they are going blunt. With DE razors, OK the razor is more expensive but it lasts for many years, but one sharp blade every couple of shaves is better than a dull multi blade being stretched out over a week. People have had good shaves with single blades for centuries. Multi blades are a marketing gimmick.”
Roy’s last sentence is a very accurate one, “Multi blades are a marketing gimmick”. Let’s face it Gillette are excellent at marketing their products, they have pretty much convinced men that 3 blades are better than 1 and 5 blades are better than 3. They also spend millions of pounds on celebrity endorsements, with sports stars like Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, and Thierry Henry (who now wears a beard) fronting lavish TV and newspaper campaigns.
It was Gillete who first worked out that men would indeed fork out for overpriced cartridges as long as the initial cost, i.e. the handle, was affordable. It’s pretty much the same business model adopted by ink jet printer companies. Sell a cheap printer, then sell really expensive “cartridges” that run out quickly. It’s simple, but very effective.
Dollar Shave Club
It will be interesting to see how successful the much-hyped Dollar Shave Club will turn out to be. Dollar Shave Club’s business model is similar to LoveFilm, which sends subscribers movies in the post for a small monthly fee. Dollar Shave Club will send customers a monthly supply of disposable razor blades starting at $1 a month (however, when you add in delivery costs it’s more like the 4-Dollar Shave Club). A catchy brand name and I must say a pretty cool launch commercial, which has picked up nearly 5 million views on YouTube. And according to widespread media reports, more than 12,000 people have signed up for the service.
There is no question that the Dollar Shave Club YouTube video is hilarious. But aside from the online hype, can the Dollar Shave Club compete against the likes of Gillette in the long term? I’m guessing not…
Looking ahead, I really hope men will start to see through all this cleaver marketing and take a stand against the rising cost of cartridges. For those switching to the affordable yet luxurious world of double edged shaving, all I can do is welcome you to the real men’s club. And I will finish this article by saying; shaving should be regarded as a pleasure, not a chore.
As Gillette launches its much-hyped Fusion ProGlide Power razor in the UK – I take a quick look at why a double edge razor is still technically superior to a ProGlide or any other cartridge based razor system out there.
For those who use double edge safety razors for shaving on a regular basis, the answer to the question “Why is a double edge razor technically better than a cartridge based razor system?” may seem quite obvious: ‘because you get better results’. However, for the rest of the men out there who use multi-bladed cartridges instead – and let’s face it that includes the vast majority of men in the Western world – they may wonder why they should ever consider changing their shaving method?
Well, the real answer to the question above lies within the technology of the types of razor on offer. From a scientific standpoint double edge safety razors certainly have the edge over cartridge based razor systems like the Fusion ProGlide Power razor, Wilkinson Sword Hydro and the King of Shaves Azor.
I recently spoke to American wet shaving expert Mike Sandoval, who runs the Shaving101 website, about why the cartridge razor system was so popular.
“The cartridge razor system is appealing to many men because it is advertised to be modern and high performing with innovative designs and multi-blade cutting action,” he said. “High-dollar marketing campaigns feature celebrity athletes that promote modern cartridges as the only masculine option.”
So why do double edge razors produce a closer and more rewarding shave?
The cartridge system razor generally works by using its hinge or pivot point to maintain a constant angle on the face while shaving. And while there may be many other features or gimmicks they offer, this pivoting mechanism is the most important aspect of the razor at making the shave quick and easy to use – which is the key advantage of these razors.
“The problem is that the blades of a cartridge are close together with extremely small spacing between each cutting edge,” explains Mike. “The razor is unable to cleanly cutting hair without requiring multiple passes along your skin, catching and pulling long stubble, as well as constantly clogging during the shave.”
On the other hand, while double edge razors may take longer to get used too – with a short learning curve to overcome – you have far more control over the razor and the closeness of the shave itself. Therefore, with DE shavers the process may take longer, with shorter strokes, but you will notice an improvement in the (even more crucial) performance aspect of the shave.
Mike adds: ”The double edge safety razor uses a single cutting edge that tracks along the skin at a much more comfortable angle and cuts the hair cleanly without grabbing or pulling excessively (provided you choose the right blade for your beard and skin type).
”Although you won’t find many celebrity athletes promoting the double edge razor, there has been a strong resurgence in traditional shaving. Many men are returning to old-school shaving because it is more comfortable and more economical.”
If time really is the most important factor when shaving, a Hydro, Azor or ProGlide may be the answer, but if you are a man who likes to work with engineering excellence that has stood the test of time and has the patience to learn, then maybe it is time to think about leaving those expensive cartridges behind and opt for a results-proven double edged razor.
Gillette launched the new Fusion ProGlide Power razor in the UK this month. It is the latest addition to its growing family of Fusion razors with Gillette’s thinnest-ever blades. The firm says the ProGlide outperforms its existing Fusion razor.
There are two versions of the Gillette ProGlide, a battery-powered model and a manual version. The battery-powered Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power comes with one blade cartridge and is available priced £12.99. The manual version comes with two blade cartridges and costs £9.99.
Over the last few years, I have used many different brands of cartridge based razor system, including the Azor, Gillette Fusion Power Stealth and Gillette Mach 3 Turbo, Wilkinson Sword Quattro Titanium Energy and Wilkinson Sword Hydro 5 and Boots’ Hydro and Titanium Triple Razor, but personally still prefer the excitement and closeness of a DE razor.
The Merkur 33C Classic will always be my all-time favourite, but I would also highly recommend the Merkur Futur 760, Goodfella, Muhle R89 and the relatively new Bluebeards Revenge “Scimitar” Double Edge Razor.
Follow Nick Gibbens on Twitter @nickgibbens
Double edge shaving tips
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A new study claims today’s modern man would rather invest time and money refining himself and his lifestyles and putting his family first.
According to the survey, carried out by shaving firm Wilkinson Sword, spending time with family and loved ones tops the list of the modern man’s priorities with 65%.
Grooming and taking care of appearances came in as the second most important priority with 30%. It appears the modern man is now trying to smash the clichés of the lager lout, with drinking coming in third on 16%, followed by gaming (14%), clubbing (11%), and casual sex (8%).
The research of men aged between 25 and 34 also claims “British men are returning to the golden age of their grandfathers in terms of time honoured traditional dress, manners and shaving etiquette”.
Nearly 30% of men feel the best definition of masculinity is ‘a well-mannered man’, followed by ‘a clean shaven man’ (27%), with half of those questioned emphasising that being clean-shaven makes them both look and feel confident.
The study also found that 92% of men buy their own razors, while 71% buy their own skincare products.
The boffins at Wilkinson Sword claim this new trend towards personal grooming can be attributed to the “troubled economic climate of modern times”, as men respond to this “by looking back to smarter, simpler and more secure times”.
“This new breed of man longs for authenticity and craftsmanship, for connoisseurship and chivalry, and looks to an old template of masculinity to find it. His grooming and dressing habits are inspired by and evoke his grandfather – he buys bespoke suits and shirts, savours fine wines and whiskeys, and lists positively Edwardian-sounding traditional pastimes such as shooting, fishing and cycling,” the report said.
Mark Tungate, author of Marketing to Men and Luxury World, sees this new trend as a living act of cultural remembering. “We’ve forgotten how good it feels to be well-groomed” he says, “when I got married I had a manicure, a barbered shave, and then put on a bespoke suit made for the occasion and I felt so sharp. It was like I’d turned into the best possible version of me.”
Karen Williams, Senior Product Manager of Male Systems at Wilkinson Sword, added: “The report findings suggest that young men want to look and feel smarter and healthier, and shaving is a quick and easy way for them to achieve this.”
Wilkinson Sword launched its much-hyped Hyrdo cartridge based razor in the UK back in October of this year. Reports suggest the firm has spent a whopping £20m on marketing the product, covering TV, print and digital advertising.
The new razor claims to introduce “revolutionary” technology, including a gel reservoir to hydrate skin during shaving, and new skin guards to help prevent skin getting trapped between blades.
It will go head-to-head with Gillette’s Fusion ProGlide razor, which launches in the UK in January 2011.
The new Hydro razor comes with either three or five blades, costing £5.99 and £7.99 respectively.
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A shavetteis a razor that is similar to a straight or cutthroat razor, with the main difference relating to the fact that its blades can be changed. These razors are available from well-known brands such as Parker and Dovo and so you can be assured of a quality product. If you are wondering whether you should consider one above a typical open razor, then check out the points below.
The shavette is a distinctive and stylish razor that is proving to be very popular at this moment in time. The key reason for this is that as the blade does not need to be frequently stropped or sharpened, it can save time for those who are in a hurry, but still want to experience the luxury of a wet shave. Therefore, the preparation time for the shave is greatly reduced when using a shavette.
As with a safety razor, the shavette can be fitted with disposable blades, which slide into place and can be changed from time to time. This gives the user a greater flexibility to replace the blades when required, yet still be able to enjoy the closeness of a shave you can only get by using a straight razor.
A shavette is quite affordable and standard double edged razor blades are not all that expensive. These products are great when travelling as you won’t need to take the other shaving equipment such as a strop or hone with you.
So, you may be wondering after hearing about these advantages why anyone would use anything else. Well, the blades can still be very sharp and so they are usually recommended for more experienced (and patient) wet shavers. If you make any errors with this lighter razor you can easily cut yourself, so with a steep learning curve extra care is needed when using a shavette.
In the end it is up to you to decide if a shavette is for you or not. Many people still prefer the extra comfort a straight razor gives you, and don’t mind taking the time to prepare a razor for shaving. For these shavers, there is no substitute for the real thing. Other people prefer to keep both to hand, so there is always a spare razor ready to use. Whatever your view on this, there is no denying that shavettes are an excellent quick alternative to an open razor.
Follow Nick Gibbens on Twitter @nickgibbens