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Too much innovation: Everybody must get stroned

February 16, 2007, 5:52 AM

Shave_blog_vintageEvery week, the Wall Street Journal publishes a quick-and-dirty "Tricks of the Trade" column with an expert within a certain field. Some weeks, it might be a wine sommelier at a fancy restaurant explaining how to preserve a bottle of wine overnight, while other weeks, it might be a big-shot travel expert explaining how to save a few bucks on a travel reservation to Europe. (I find these types of insights strangely addictive, even if I don't actually get to use them.) So anyway, the topic of this week's column was "A salon owner shaves," and it featured the owner of a chain of private men's salons that provide grooming services to men. What better person to explain how to get a nice, close shave? After all, John Allan Meing ("John Allan" to his clients) also has a line of grooming products available at Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York and considers himself something of a close shave expert.

That's why I was surprised to hear that he uses a Gillette Mach 3 blade -- something you can buy off-the-shelf at the local Duane Reade. As John Allan points out, "Three blades is enough. I tried five blades and didn't see a real benefit from it." Let me repeat: three blades is enough.

Which brings me to my innovation question of the day: Is there ever a case when you can have "too much" innovation? I think that companies like Gillette have been laboring under this delusion, with their breathless claims of brand-new technology ("Fusion," "Nitro") or breakthrough shaving experiences (e.g. is Mach 3 a razor blade that functions at three times the speed of sound?). For the past 50 to 60 years, in fact, the razor blade industry has always operated under this assumption -- that rapid, technological innovation with razor blades is the way to go. Referencing this 1948 vintage shaving advertisement, Corey Greenberg of the Shave Blog weighs in:

"Shavegeeks tend to romanticize the past, and I'm as guilty of it as anyone. I talk about safety razors like they're some pure manifestation of The Greatest Generation, used by JFK, Cary Grant, and Lee Marvin, back when men were men and shaved like men, even though the women probably had legs that felt more like Brokeback Mountain than smooth 'n' silky.

But the more I delve into shaving's past, the more I see that the times, they've never really a' changed much. Witness this 1948 magazine advertisement for the then-new Schick/Eversharp Injector safety razor, and its absurd claim that each and every blade was "stroned!"


That is to say, stropped and honed, like a straight razor's edge -- honed on a whetstone, and stropped on a hanging leather strop. Serious he-men wetshavers who use a straight razor have to periodically hone their razors on a stone, and then before each and every shave, they swipe the blade to and fro on a leather strop to keep the edge keen. But safety razor blades?

I believe Schick was honing all of their Injector blades -- all razor blades are "honed" in one way or another, whether it's done with a stone or a laser beam. But am I really supposed to believe Schick was stropping each and every Injector blade with "30 ft. of leather" any more than I'm supposed to believe that the Mach3 Power's "micro-pulses" make the shave closer?

How stroned do they think I am?"

[image: Shave Blog]


Too much innovation: Everyb...

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