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I am a "wetshaver" and collector of vintage Gillete razors and memorabillia. This is a fascinating look at the development of modern shaving courtesy of King C. Gillette. If not for this mans vision and perseverance in developing double edge razor technology, we would still be going to the barber for a straight razor shave or stropping and honing our "cutthroat" razors at home. Up until Gillette first marketed his three-piece razor handle and disposable double-edge razor blades, the only options available for a smooth, close shave were to visit the barber every day or to do it yourself with a straight razor which required constant stropping and honing to keep a sharp edge. With Gillette's razors, everybody could shave safely, quickly, and easily at home. Gillette was savvy enough to market different razor handles at different price points, from the very simple and inexpensive to rather ornate sets which cost quite a bit of money back in the early 20th century. Gillette was also the first to market razors that were designed just for women. King C. Gillette would never recognize his company today, which exists in name only after being bought by Proctor & Gamble a few years ago.
A very dry as a bone read, with very little about King C Gillette after the first couple of chapters. This much more a book about the history of the Gillette company and there is very little biographical data on the people involved. Indeed, the first acknowledgement in the book thanks the Gillette PR department, so this is very much an official corporate biography.
As other reviewers have said, the book barely discuss the various razors Gillette manufactured. The history of Gillette Blades is the over-riding narrative to the book overlaid against what went on in boardroom and in some of the factories.
Very disappointing and not particularly well written. As a wet shaving hobbyist, I was left with the feeling "is that all there is?"
This book can be classified as a biography of King Gillette, or a business history of the Gillette company. My library has it catalogued as a personal biography. Actually, it's more like a biography of the company. As a combination of bio, marketing strategies, and business history, it reads very well. The author has us sail from one epoch in the company's history to the next along the tides of technology breakthroughs and waves of economic undulations. Along the way, we learn about the answers to some interesting questions: Why was the first razor priced at $5 without allowing any discounts? How did Gillette thrive after the expiration of its first patents? How did a lawsuit against a small hardware store expose the company's own potential patent infringement liabilities? What does "Atra" mean? (There are two answers.)
If you want to read all about the business and technology surrounding the history of blades, this is the book for you.
Oddly, however, the book is rather bereft of much of the history of the safety razor between the open-comb New and the Trac II. The Super Speed gets briefly mentioned only twice, as appearing in early television advertisements; and the adjustable is mentioned only because Schick advertised how "dangerous" the adjustable was. Yet the omission of the development of the one-piece (TTO) razor is particularly glaring, when we read "Researchers had developed a razor-blade dispenser that did away with paper wrappings and promised to help thwart the strong competition from the Schick injector razor." (p. 201) Well, that new dispenser is specifically designed to work with the TTO razor, so to leave out the development of that razor in tandem with the dispenser is inexcusable.Read more ›