In praise of safety razors

For fifteen years, I’ve been using one cartridge razor or another to shave my face. They work well enough, but have always seemed so wasteful and expensive. Even the best cartridge generally only lasts a few shaves. And you dispose of them, not because the construction gives way, or even because the blades are no longer sharp. You dispose of them because the blades are packed together so tightly that they become blocked with hair, and can no longer function. It’s a design flaw that manufacturers probably intended, and is in any case, unfortunate as each cartridge runs two or three dollars.

My long suppressed frustration with cartridge razors has since given way, and I’ve started to use a traditional safety razor — the kind that’s been around for over a century — and I love it.

It’s easy to use, trivial to clean, and provides a very smooth shave. It doesn’t use expensive cartridges, but rather commodity blades that sell for ten cents each. It appears to have zero disadvantages.

Given this, why do any of us use cartridge razors at all? Why haven’t we all chosen the undeniably superior product, thus digging a grave for contemporary razors and all their billions of cartridges?

I think it must boil down to mass ignorance and propaganda.

The truth is, while I’ve heard of the term “safety razor”, I had assumed it referred to the modern, plastic cartridge razor. Although the cartridge razor is fundamentally unsound, I’d concede that it’s safe. Perhaps even a little too safe.

I was vaguely aware that previous iterations of razors existed, but generally understood them to be dangerous contraptions that served mainly as props in horror films. They could be used to slash someone’s throat, but not much else.

I imagine that this perceived danger has only bolstered the cartridge razor, but in these past few days, I’ve concluded the perceived danger is utter nonsense. I have yet to even nick my skin with the safety razor, and when I do, I suspect the damage will be similar to anything that’s done by cartridge razors.

However, where serious damage has occurred is in the manufacturing and marketing of cartridge razors. It’s plain enough that billions of people have unnecessarily spent many billions of dollars in purchasing an inferior product. But perhaps more importantly, a great number of lives have been wasted in engineering and developing that inferior product. A product whose total inferiority must have been known to those producing it.

I don’t believe it’s possible to improve upon the safety razor, and the cartridge razor people have been proving this for decades.