In praise of old technology

Shaving. Nearly everybody does it. For the most part, a lot of people are doing it completely wrong. Watch any sports game on TV and there are bound to be advertisements for shaving. 200 blades in one cartridge, battery-powered vibration, lotion strips, ball joints, the gimmicks never end. And, according to the ads, without buying the newest and best razor on the planet, people are in serious danger of not being all they can be. Men won’t be winners and without buying the right razor, women can’t meet their full potential, either.

Gillette posted on Facebook once, celebrating the anniversary of their first razor. An old safety razor and new Gillette Fusion were put side-by-side, to demonstrate just how far technology had come. What was interesting wasn’t the graphic, but the comments. Almost unanimously, people were complaining about the price and quality of the newer razor and raving about how well safety razors worked.

When it comes to shaving, nothing can beat a straight razor. The absolute closest and highest-quality shave one can get. It can shave any part of the body and needs no replacement of cartridges, only a honing by a knife shop every six months to a year.

There are drawbacks, however. It takes a long time to learn how to use one skillfully, and the act of shaving can last a while. Try to hurry it up and things could get real messy, real quick.

The talk about safety razors intrigued me. I’ve used all sorts of shaving methods in the past, cheap hotel razors, multi-bladed plastic monstrosities, the Dollar Shave Club and a straight razor.

What makes a safety razor different is the replaceable blade. Not a blade or multiple blades encased by plastic, but a single double-edged razor blade. Safety razors hold the blade at an ideal angle so as to minimize chance of nicks and cuts, and expose only a small sliver of the blade.

The best part about safety razors by far is the cost. Instead of the four or five dollars for a Gillette cartridge or even one dollar for a mid-range Dollar Shave Club cartridge, safety razor blades come in at about ten cents each. I bought a box of 100 blades for $10 a couple months ago and have barely made a dent in it. The blade holder itself was only $30, safety razors pay for themselves within weeks.

For those who are environmentally-conscious, safety razors are great because of a complete lack of plastic. Instead of filling up landfills with bulky plastic cartridges, the paper-thin blades have minimal environmental impact.

When looking at the multi-bladed cartridges, it’s easy to think that a single blade wouldn’t shave as well. I mean, four or five blades compared to one? No contest. I can’t say why or how it happens, but it shaves just as well if not better. One single, super-sharp, high quality blade puts the cartridges to shame.

This isn’t just for men, there’s no reason women need to use shaving implements branded for use by women. From any woman I’ve talked to who has used shaving implements for men, I’ve heard almost unanimously that “guy razors are better”.

There is no reason why men and women need different types of razors or ways of shaving. Gimmicks are what dominate the market these days, trying to convince the consumer that they will look better if only they shave with the newest technology. When it comes down to it, hair is hair and skin is skin and getting rid of hair has been part of human behavior for a long time.

What was used 100 years ago works just as well, if not better, than the latest tricks and technology being pushed on the market. There’s no better example of companies convincing people to buy something they don’t need than shaving. When what’s old and accepted isn’t making enough money, come out with something fancy and expensive that doesn’t work as well.

When it comes down to it, it’s the consumer that allows it to happen. If more people did some research on the best methods of going about things, there wouldn’t be an opening for companies to put out sub-par product.

Technology has done incredible things for humanity, but every so often, low-tech is the best tech. Look around, and I guarantee that shaving isn’t the only aspect of life where going back to basics is better.