In 1975 when Saturday Night Live was brand new, the show’s very first episode with host George Carlin offered a faux commercial for the Triple-Trac razor, which offered three blades instead of two. A caveman, played by Al Franken, now a senator, tried to shave using a club. We then saw a host of shaving instruments through history from the straight razor to the twin-blade cartridge.
To convince us of three blades, close-up animation demonstrated how the first blade cut most of a hair, the second blade sheared off even more, and, said the announcer, “Triple-Trac's third blade, a finely-honed bonded platinum instrument, cuts cleanly through the whisker at its base, leaving your face as smooth as a billiard ball.”
The announcer stood clean-shaven before the camera and held the razor aloft. He said, “The Triple-Trac. Because you'll believe anything.”
I did believe in Gillette’s Trac II for years. I liked its weight and the fact I didn’t cut my face often. At some point the cartridges upgraded to Trac II Plus, then to Trac II Sensor, then to Trac II Sensor Excel with flexible microfins. I was ready to follow the evolution to the Trac II Sensor Excel Millennium Photon Torpedo with glycerin vibrofoam when I couldn’t get any Trac II anything at all at my local Vons.
A few months ago, I travelled to Target, a store that always had Trac II cartridges. I stood before a wall of razors and saw no twin-blade shaving systems. To my astonishment, the 1975 parody had become reality. There was the Schick Hydro 3, the Schick Quattro (four-blades!), and, could I believe, the Gillette Fusion Proglide with five-blades. Will we have ten- and twenty-blade systems next? I’m betting the next evolution is to have your shower wall embedded with hundreds of blades, and you can put the weight of your body into your face. “Your face glides against the Zorro Infinity Wall where the fatter you are, the closer the shave.” It’s also perfect for men who don’t want hairy backs. Perhaps, too, it’ll be a new way for the Brazilian look.
On Mad Men, which I follow closely, certain other truths about advertising come out. One of my favorite quotes is, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.” That told me we are willing to spend money on a crazy razor because a clean shave may make us happy, and our happiness will give us a life.
I used to buy ten Trac II Sensor cartridges for ten dollars—a dollar a unit. Now I can spend at Target $7.49 for four Hydro 3 cartridges ($1.87 each) or $17.49 for four Fusion Proglide cartridges ($4.37 each). That day at the store, I felt so defeated. The advertisers had won. I found another option, though. I ended up spending $5 for eight throw-away triple-blade razors. Still, it all seemed ludicrous that I had to contribute more plastic to the waste dump.
My son became more proactive than I. He decided to go back to the good-ol’ days of safety razors. He went onto Amazon and after a lot of research bought a Parker 99R Butterfly Open Double Edge Safety Razor, which sells for $31.88 with free shipping and comes with ten blades. He also bought thirty Derby double-edged razor blades for $6.24 (21-cents each) as well as a traditional badger hair brush and European-style shaving soap for his lather. The system will save him a lot of money over time. He swears that it gives him the closest shave ever.
He kept telling me how great it was, so I said I’d try it, and he insisted that I use a warm towel first and then his brush and shaving soap. I said to compare, I’d shave in the shower with shaving gel, which is how I usually shave. He gave me his razor and a new blade (21 cents).
I liked the razor’s weight immediately, but when I started shaving, I thought there was some sort of protective shield on it because I didn’t feel it bite into my beard. I thought I was scraping only lather off. I saw no shield, so tried the razor on my neck where I’m more sensitive. Now I felt it, but it was still smooth.
Another thing I noticed was the blade didn’t get clogged as the multiple-blade systems do. I’d never used a safety razor before. In high school, I had a Norelco electric shaver because in the commercials, Santa Claus sailed on twin rotary blades across snow. From there went to Trac II, so this was an eye-opener.
After the shower, I looked in the mirror. My face didn’t look any different than after a twin-blade shave, but shaving was easier with no clogging hassle. When I told my son that I thought it gave a great shave, though, he mentioned that some people say that razor bumps, which look like acne, are caused by multiple blades that force follicles to grow inward.
I needed more research on this and shaving in general. Thus I headed right to Cecil Adam’s Straight Dope column. Sure enough, he gives the research on single blades vs. double blades (click here for it) where he also mentions how twin blades gunk up easily. In a second column, he writes about how to shave correctly for the least amount of irritation (click here).
However, if you want to buy into the new age, you have to see the Gillette Fusion Proglide commercial. Click here for it. Tell me if you don’t think it’s as funny as the SNL parody—complete with animation to show how it works. The only difference is that the ending doesn’t have, “Because you’ll believe anything.”
Christopher Meeks also writes about the truth of men, their relationships, and mid-life crises in his award-winning collection The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea. It’ll make you laugh, gain insight, and find happiness. Buy it for Christmas.
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