Home shaving
home grooming

       Different Strokes

 In 1903, King Camp set out to perfect the disposable razor blade. How successful he was will be apparent when you learn his last name: Gillette. Home shaving has led to the demise of the barbershop shave, but Gillette originally offered his idea to barbers. Unfortunately, they scoffed at the idea, incredulous that home razors could ever replace the shaving parlour.

       Barbers later did partner up with suppliers, presaging the shops of today, when supplies may take up half a salon. The carton for Vaseline Hair Tonic included a coupon for 25 cents off a haircut when presented to your barber. The in-store display featured a barber shop motif with a flashing barber pole and the current prices: 59 cents for Vaseline Hair Cream, and 79 cents for tonic. "Get Vitalis today," urged a 1950 magazine ad, "at any drug counter or barber shop." "Like to try Kreml?" asked another hair tonic ad, "After your next haircut, ask your barber for the Kreml application."

       Without the morning migration to the barbershop for the daily shave, men were left to figure it out on their own. Some stropped and honed and braved the straight edge, but increasing numbers tried out King Camp's creation, and injector blades eventually showed up next to the Vitalis in barbershop sale counters. Likewise the lather. The sloshing of mug and brush gave way to new aerosol "shave bombs," and electric shavers became increasingly sophisticated. Each method had its merits. Electrics were fast and easy, but they didn't cut close and razor burn meant you needed pre- and after shave lotion. Single-edged razors shaved close and clean, but getting the knack could be tricky, and blades soon lost their edge. Shave bombs were simple and didn't require a brush, but no denying the delight of a mug of lather, and the traditional warm shave.




      Some Like it Hot

   Injectors evolved into cartridge razors, and single blades increased to two, three and four. Blades got sharper and lasted longer, approaching ever closer the elusive goal of a "barbershop shave." Electrics aside, a shave consisted of two things: shave cream and blades. Finally, an invention came to sell both: the home lather machine. The multitude of daily shavers welcomed this great, good idea as a godsend, but early machines proved less than ideal. Shick made one that required special shaving cream cartridges which, after the unit went off the market, proved impossible to obtain. One Gillette model won a design award for its modern styling, but the unit proved difficult to clean. Another Gillette design could use any standard shaving cream can -- except Foamy, Gillette's own brand.

       The worst machine was probably the Eclipse, distributed by Conair, in which the "hot" lather could best be described as lukewarm. But after having made the worst machine, in 2003, they surprisingly made the best. The Conair Hot Lather Machine was the soul of ingenuity, and its engineers had overcome all the problems that had plagued home machines in the past. Previous machines were open on the bottom, and the cans frequently fell out. Conair's machine used a reversible bottom to accomodate 11 oz. or 14oz. cans.  "Shake before using" it said on a shaving cream can, but there was no way to shake the lather in the machine, so the lather lost its fizz. Conair's solution? Shake the machine.

       With the Conair machine, you can use your favorite lather brand. This pleases users; now their favorite brand is hot lather. It also pleases Gillette, Colgate, and Barbasol, whose own products are now enhanced when used with the "value-adding" Conair machine. Likewise, razors. A hot shave is a powerful incentive for a blade razor over an electric. In fact, electric shaver manufacturers were the only ones left out of the equation. Until now. Early wet-dry shavers were cumbersome and innefective. But Panasonic, with its linear shavers, took wet/ dry shaving to the next level, and other companies have added "wet" to their "dry" lines. Electrics have started to include such "wet" features as lotion dispensers on their dry models. Gillette has raised the bar again with its battery-powered Power M3, a mutation of the Mach III with features of an electric wet/ dry shaver.

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