Reviewing Gillette's New Fusion 5-Blade Razor: Insert Your Own Damn Shaving Pun

As someone who has obsessed, analyzed, and quested for the perfect shave for as long as I’ve had facial hair, Christmas came early yesterday, in the form of an invitation Gillette extended to the press to come to a boutique midtown Manhattan hotel and “experience” the new Gillette Fusion 5-blade razor. Gillette announced the Fusion a couple of weeks ago, but it won’t be available to the public until early next year. It’s not releasing trial razors for media or other “influencers” to test, but it did host these private events for people to get a first shave with Fusion. If nanotech, biotech, and all that were operating with the kind of missionary zeal that Gillette and Schick are to improve how we shave, there’d be no disease, war, pestilence, locusts, boils, etc. So I excitedly snagged an appointment to see if this latest advance—5 blades!—was revolutionary, evolutionary, or somehow, a step backwards. And while we’re at it, we’ll consider the Gillette PR assault for the fun of it.

Before I could be shaved, of course, I had to be propagandized about the new razor and all its accoutrements. I guess Gillette’s feeling is that after you shave you won’t be paying attention, or maybe you’ll be woozy from the loss of blood, I don’t know. So the PR chief ran me through certain aspects of the razor and the new Gillette shaving cream and aftershave balms they’ll be selling. She couldn’t answer my very basic questions, such as how long has this been in the works? (A: “several.”) My interpretation: We were working on a 4-blade razor, taking our sweet time, trying to convert as many people to the M3 Power first before we forced everyone to shift again, this time with a blade that’s not compatible with old razors, forcing you to buy the whole system and not just the blades. And then Schick, perennial also-ran, a company so disrespected that drugstores leave its razors out in the aisles without anti-theft devices for anyone to steal, but ours, which are, you know, desirable, are behind the counter, released a 4-blade razor, the Quattro, and even though no one seemed to notice, we did and then we had to go back to the drawing board and accelerate long-term plans to go to five blades. But why say that when you can say, “Several.”

My favorite moment then of the pre-shave PR ritual was when the Gillette rep caught herself not using a laudatory enough adjective to describe the new razor. She used something like “advanced,” but quickly corrected herself to describe the Fusion as a “breakthrough” technology. Duly noted.

Now I was a bit confused by the invitation and mistakenly believed from the invitation that a Gillette professional would be shaving me using the new razor. Personally, I think some variation thereof is the future of shaving: A Gillette rep will just come to your house, and your whiskers, so beaten down by the pace of innovation as compared with your evolution, will just fall out of your face, ashamed. But not yet. And alas, I was wrong. What Gillette had set up was that a licensed (well, I think she was licensed. I didn’t ask to see it) esthetician would wash and massage your face and neck and then they’d send you to the bathroom in the hotel to shave yourself.

Here’s the genius part: The esthetician was impossibly hot by conventional standards. Coors Light ad during a professional football game conventional standards hot, in other words. I’ve had a straight razor shave before, and you get a 60-something male Russian barber rubbing your face with hands meaty enough to knead bread or kill a guy without straining. Gillette brings in a Glamazon with her delicate hands to prep your face for shaving. It does make a difference.

Again, you can see the wheels turning over at Gillette PR HQ: Who cares if those journalists walk out of here with their skin hanging off their face in ribbons, like what you see at a car wash? They could have their face skin peeled right off, star in a roadshow production of Silence of the Lambs; all they’re gonna remember is that impossibly hot by conventional standards woman who rubbed their face for five minutes.

By the time I did get to the bathroom and selected the Fusion Power (I was going to the edge, baby! No lame-o manual shaving for me now, I don’t care how many blades), it was a bit anticlimactic. It’s a razor, ya know? At first shave, I wasn’t even remotely impressed. I wasn’t getting that close a shave! To prepare for this day, I had bought a Schick Quattro Power, today’s technological state of the art, to test it out. Shockingly (Schickingly?), it’s quite good. I get a close, comfortable shave with less strokes than the Gillette Mach3 Turbo I had regularly used before my experiment.

Part of the problem may have been that I had to use Gillette’s unbelievably awful shaving cream. If I had known I was going to shave myself, I would have smuggled in my own good stuff. The “hydrogel” is that electric blue color that most people associate with Windex; the chemical smell that accompanied it wasn’t doing anything to erase that association. Where’s the licensed esthetician to tell Gillette that these chemicals may not be good for my face?

But as I reapplied the blue goo and shaved again, I did get what I would have to admit is the closest shave I can recall. Almost on par with the straight razor shave I received not too long ago. But also on par with the shave I’ve been getting for the last week with the Schick Quattro Power. In other words, this is an incremental improvement, not a “breakthrough” or a “revolution,” no matter what Gillette tries to tell you in the months ahead. It is worth upgrading to a vibrating razor, and maybe it’s worth upgrading to something with more than three blades. But the Schick razor feels better designed than the Fusion in its weight balance to make sure that you don’t push down too hard when shaving. And the difference in blades seems negligible.

Maybe this is like office productivity software or any other product category that experiences fast growth in a short period: You can only go so far before people’s needs are met and anything else on top of that is an incremental improvement, like a better spell check. You make the power button on the handle flush instead of raised. You add a low-battery indicator light. Whoopee! Not enough to get me to switch unless you force me. Until Gillette’s people can just scare the hair out of my face, or something pretty darn close, I think I’m going to be a Schick man. Now that's a breakthrough.

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26 Comments

  • Scott Hunter

    Who needs a five-blade razor? Not me. And I don't care if it's from Gilette. I'm happy with my Edwin Jagger Chatsworth Barley double edge razor from http://www.fendrihan.com that I always look forward to my daily morning shave.

  • john

    I have been waiting for a chance to sound off against this "more blades is better" crap.The marketing fools have done the same thing with the simple toothbrush.You can't keep re-inventing these things.They are what they are:Simple oral hygienic devices.For my money,the best and closest shave I ever got was from the old disposable-blade safety razor,bar none.If they would only bring that back,they would have real innovation.I am sick of high priced Narketing Gimmicks,How stupid do they think we are,to keep falling for these gags?

  • graeme Bloor

    well, if you all hadn't realised it yet, more blades equal more bullshit, equals more money for people who sell blades. a cut-throat, straight razor is the only way to go. one up front cost (it is quite a bit, around $150 for everything you need) that will last for the rest of your life is not too bad when you compare that to $14 for 4 blades that last for 3-4 shaves. don't be sucked in, they just want your money for the rest of your life, but one good razor and stop being a pussy!

  • Vaughn Hartsell

    Hey, Atts!

    Hey, I've been meaning to tell you for several weeks that a miracle has happened to me. Before I went to Ireland with you (September 26-October 6) I put in a new blade in my razor. WOULD YOU BELIEVE THAT I'M STILL USING THAT VERY SAME RAZOR BLADE? I used it every day on the trip to Ireland and I've used it every day since returning. It is unbelievable!
    I've been using it, the razor, for 8 or 10 years. I bought it at a BIG LOTS store in Wytheville. I think I paid $1.98 for the razor and a couple of blades that came with it. It is a Schick Razor with replaceable blades. In the past I've changed blades about every week or 10 days.
    The Razor is a Schick FX and I use TRACER FX replacer blades. Can you believe I've NOT changed blades SINCE BEFORE going on the Ireland trip? We're talking about 4 months (September 24, 2005,,January 20, 2006

    Over and Out

    Vaughn Earl
    (The Rev. Vaughn Earl Hartsell, Honorably Retired Presbyterian Minister) 730 Charter Drive, F-10, Longs, SC 29568, Phone 843-399-2394

  • Husain A.Zaidi

    SCHICK QUATTRO ATLEAST TRIPPLE SINCERITY WITH A SPEED OF MACH 4 . GILLETTE I USED TO LIKE YOU BEFORE...........

  • ali naqvi

    i guess converting from two to three was enough on my face, now five!! man i hope gillette guys are not moving towards the light saber or let me see mmmm.. a personalized face with nanotech, just put it on and let the nano do the rest.. they already have started photographing us through the chips / RIDFs or whatever the stuff is called..
    i think i better get the idea patented.

  • Phin White

    The blade race will have to come full circle now. It was simple to suggest razor advancement by increasing the number of blades. Now they are up to 5- and people (consumers) will be laughing! They reached too high.
    I use a Schick Injector razor- ONE BLADE! IT IS ALL YOU NEED.
    This style razor gives the closest shave to a straight razor of all safety razors. It was invented about 75 years ago. The model I use was introduced in 1965. It is the adjustable version with a dial that adjusts the gap between the blade and the bar. I believe this model to be the engineering pinnacle achieved in safety razor design.
    You can find this razor- it is no longer produced- on ebay from time to time. A "new old stock" Adjustable Schick Injector goes for more than $100 because there is fierce competition for this particular injector razor. The Schick Injector blades are available all over the web- just google it. Some stores still sell them too.

  • Herby

    Throw all those ridiculos multi-blade razors in the garbage. Get over to www.classicshaving.com. Buy yourself a Straight Edge or if you still want to go with a saftey a double egdge razor. Single sharp blades that give you the best shave of your life. I switched to a Feather Straight (disposable blades that are much cheaper then the multi-blade razors) about six months ago and I will NEVER EVER use a multi-blade razor again.

  • Mark Hesketh

    I've enjoyed reading comment on the Gillette promotion of their new 5 blade razor, with all their emphasis on "technological" innovation.

    My particular interest comes from the fact that about 18 months ago I took a close look at the way even the most expensive multiblade razor de-grade just as quickly as single blades! I concluded that the very obvious fact is that the first blade in the set suffers the most wear. So when it gets tired so does the quality of the shave. Although the initial shaves are very good we throw these expensive blades in the bin just as quickly as cheap blades, because they wear out just the same.

    So I have come up with an almost unbelievably simple invention that enables the user to rejuvenate the razor by swapping the tired front blades for the blades in the back which up to the moment they get changed over have had very little wear. It works, I've tested it out, my close friends have tested it out, you get more than 50% more use from a 4 blade arrangement.

    So I've patented it, it's recently gone open book in England, try http://gb.espacenet.com and enter the application number GB2411141 you'll get the patent detail there.

    This is INNOVATION.

    BUT, here's the dumb bit, do any of the world's major razor manufacturers want to talk about it? NO.

    Yet another case of "Not invented here".

    Can I get anyone in England interested in my idea. Again NO.

    I know it's a familiar story, but is the only answer just to go into the middle of a field and scream!

    Kind regards

    Mark Hesketh
    POSS Ltd
    01423 734977
    mark@possltd.co.uk
    www.possltd.co.uk

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  • AASHEESH KHOONGER

    RESP.SIR,

    HAVING WORKED IN JINDAL STAINLESS STEEL,INDIA,AS EXECUTIVE IN BLADE STEEL COLD ROLLING PLANT
    FOR 9 YEARS, PRODUCING RAZOR BLADE STEEL COILS OF 0.10 MM THICKNESS
    PRESENTLY WORKING AS PLANT ENGINEER IN SUNFLAG BLADE STEEL COLD ROLLING PLANT IN PRODN. DEPARTT
    MYSELF ARDENTLY INTERESTED IN JOINING YOUR ESTEEMED GROUP IN PRODUCTION DEPTT IN RAZOR BLADE STEEL COLD ROLLING PLANT .

    THANKS

    AASHEESH KHOONGER

  • Vincent

    I loved the Mach3. Now I have the Philips Wetshave and I never looked back. Water's optional, mirror's optional, change the blades every 2 years. I think that Gillette went off-track years ago, with their "increase-the-blades"-innovation policy.

  • Bruce DeBoer

    The new razor is here!
    The new razor is here!

    [I’m jumping with excitement in true Steve Martin mimicry] Gillette announced its next move in the razor wars which heated up when Schick was bought by Energizer in 2003.

    The evolution of this face scraping tool from a double edge safety model in the 60’s to a high tech four bladed device is extraordinary. Gillette has done a masterful job of differentiating this disposable product by making periodic gradual improvements. Is it possible that we covet the latest razor model the same way we long for the hottest cell phone? How many male cohorts engage in conversations about vibrating razor handles during the Sunday game at O’Malley’s? Will the Super bowl chatter include self-lubricating razor envy?

    The dollars are big, $712 million big for the disposable blade category, but where will it stop? Perhaps five blades made with a yet undiscovered stainless steel alloy, ultrasonic handle with shave counter technology, and laser face terrain anticipation blade suspension circuitry is only a few years up the R&D pipeline. I can’t wait.

  • tjh

    Aleks: They try to get us to switch by discontinuing the manufacturing of earlier blade types. Sounds a lot like software doesn't it? Still using your Windows 95?

  • Aleks Y.

    I do not know how are they going to get us to switch. 1st: If you already have a razor, why would you spend money to buy another one? 2nd: The price of the new dispensable razors for the Fusion costs more[12$ for a 4 pack of Fusion vs. 9$ for a 4 pack of Mach3]. It just does not make sense to switch. Except the initial release hype[and whole lots of it], I do not see any breakthrough growth in the razor market for Gilette.

  • allwest88

    When is the octa-blade due? I can't wait to shave my wiskers 8 times in one pass. Wow! Five blades just isn't enough.

  • tjh

    Man, I just can't wait until we get the 10 blade release in early 2007... (Moore's Law applied to razors...)

    Really, the twin blade is just fine. Three blades are overkill, and always have been, at least for me. The idea of more blades is simply a foolish solution.

    The customer's long-term cost of these "breakthrough's" is approaching the cost of a decent electric shaver. Think enough people will notice?

    To me, the blade game is simply transparent greed. The logic(?) that "more blades equals a better shave" pales in light of the costs, and the ridiculousness of the product's "evolution".

  • Ed Di Gangi

    Think I'll stick with my single blad Bic. But ther discussion of the esthetician reminded me of my dentist of many, many, many years ago in midtown Manhattan. He employed young dental assistant trainess (also impossibly hot to a then 18 year old) who'd gently massage your gums (no rubber gloves in those days!) 'til the doctor came to work on you. As I recall, in spite of extensive work required, I never felt the need to ask for additional anesthesia. Same theory at work here as at Gillette, I think!