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Razor Technology, On The Cutting Edge

Gillette's new five-blade razor, called the Fusion ProGlide. Gillette.com

hide captionThere’s more technology packed into a five-blade shaving head than aboard the International Space Station.

Gillette.com

I can't buy razor blades. This wouldn’t be a news story except that I seem to share this predicament with quite a few men this weekend.

I bought Gillette's new five-blade razor, called the Fusion ProGlide. I kind of had to. Stores have already stopped stocking replacement blades for the old, merely Fusion razor. You may find this a crass commercial tactic to force men to buy new razors. The company prefers to think of it as keeping pace with modern shaving technology. You can't expect them to keep making Fusion blades, anymore than Sony should keep making eight-track tapes.

The drugstores I've tried in two cities have the new razor. But they've already run out of the new replacement blades. They tell me to check every day, like people in old Soviet Moscow used to check in at bakeries, desperately hoping to show up on the one day of the month the store got fresh bread.

I'm not one of those curmudgeons who grouse that their grandfather used a straight razor, stropped on a buffalo hide, so they use one, too. My grandfather used a double-edged razor that left so many cuts he had to report for duty as a police sergeant with half a dozen tiny blood-soaked toilet tissue balls affixed to his chin. If John Dillinger had been brought in when my grandfather was on duty, he would have died laughing, instead of in a hail of bullets. So I am glad for any shaving upgrade.

But Gillette's new razor has five coated blades, a stabilizer, a strip infused with mineral oil, a microcomb to steer stray beard hairs obediently into place for beheading, and an ergonomic handle—whatever that is.

There's more technology packed into a five-blade shaving head than aboard the International Space Station.

A keen European observer of American male culture — my wife — wonders when American men became so squeamish about shaving. Commercials for shaving products used to show sabers clanking and spitting sparks. Tough guys, tough beards and blades tough enough to rip stubble out at the root. Grrr! Just slap a little grain alcohol on your chin and keep going.

But shaving commercials for men today are filled with words like soft, scented and smooth, as if shaving amounted to pampering a baby's bottom. When the 82nd Airborne hits the ground, do they think that their smooth, scented cheeks, saturated with mineral oil, will intimidate all enemies?

Maybe the rush to buy new blades and razors will jolt the economy and create jobs in a way that housing credits and stimulus spending hasn't. America might be losing a competitive edge in many enterprises, from cars to space. But as long as we can devise a five-bladed, mineral-oil-saturated razor, we face the future well-shaved!

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Simon SaysSimon Says NPR's Scott Simon Shares His Take On Events Large And Small
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