There has been talk of a razor industry in crisis, attacked on one side by bearded hipsters and on the other by innovative start-ups with radical business models. But no one seems to be addressing the aesthetics of razors. Why are there no beautifully designed modern razors?
This is particularly surprising since consumers seem otherwise to have become more responsive to great design. Apple is the obvious example. They are a company who have effectively taken
existing product concepts and made them into desirable objects. A methodology that has made it the most valuable company in the world.
In a market dominated by ever more tenuous claims of improved performance, I just want a stylish razor that works and that I don’t need to hide in a bathroom cabinet. So I started to do a bit more research into the razor market, in search of a beautifully simple, stylish razor and an enjoyable shaving experience.
One response to the lack of options for the design-conscious shaver has been a return to more traditional razors. The style magazines are now full of cut-throat and double-edged safety razors. These can certainly be very cool, and conform to the reliable rule of style which is to ask ‘what would James Bond do?’
The reality is however, that men are more likely to use cartridge razors of the Gillette or Wilkinson Sword family than a cut-throat razor – that’s if they even wet shave at all. I think that the speed, convenience and lower risk of an arterial bleed are valid and compelling reasons for a lot of us to choose cartridge over cut-throat.
Cost of shaving
Cost is often sited as a reason why people may want to avoid cartridge razors and explore other shaving options. But for those of us with tame stubble, cartridges don’t actually work out to be that expensive. The big brands have clearly done their homework on this, and have set the price for cartridges at a level where the cost is noticeable at the point of purchase but not pricey enough to stop people buying them in their millions.
Another more recent option for shavers is the new crop of subscription razor services, whereby you can have your blades delivered on a regular basis. For me though, the convenience of being able to pick up your replacement razor cartridges in any supermarket or pharmacy still counts for a lot, particularly for those who travel, and that gives them the edge (pun intended) for me.
When cartridge razors are compared on a cost-of-ownership basis, the assumptions about usage are often over-stated. In user surveys I’ve carried out, I was a bit surprised by how many fully-grown men responded that they didn’t shave everyday. And many more were like me – in that I shave every day but I don’t have particularly thick facial hair and couldn’t grow a respectable hipster beard to save my life. For clean-shaven men, the cartridge cost per annum is therefore often lower than you might expect, particularly with the help of cool products such as the Shave Face strop.
One thing that is unavoidable however, is that standard cartridge razors these days are invariably ugly. Not only aesthetically unappealing but also conceptually ugly and unnecessarily over- engineered.
I’ve no doubt that some good material science goes into making the blades these days, but I can see no reason why you would want more than two or three of them. And I certainly don’t want a razor handle that vibrates and is made from silver-effect plastic and luminous orange rubber (not least because I don’t have a bathroom cabinet in which to hide such a monstrosity).
It seems to me that the world of cartridge razors has become an awful game of marketing, that often insults the consumer’s intelligence, and I’m somewhat reluctant to be a supporter of it all. If I could grow a beard in protest, I would.
So, although most razor cartridges work well and you can get them anywhere, the accompanying razor handles and the associated experience are rather lacking.
There are quite a few places where you can buy slightly more attractive third-party handles compatible with standard razor cartridges, but these almost universally look like mock-Victorian tap handles and can easily cost over £100.
A simple and elegant solution
Given the poor options, I decided to do something about my discontent. I wanted the convenience of a modern razor cartridge but a handle with more style. So, I decided to design my own – and the Ockham Razor was born.
To some extent, my inspiration came from the traditional safety razors of the past. In terms of designers, I respect what Jonny Ive has done at Apple and I’m a massive fan of his stylistic predecessor Dieter Rams. As Rams himself put it ‘good design is as little design as possible’. But in so many industries over-designed ugly products seem to be the norm. Don’t get me started on hi-fi systems and expensive watches…
So I wanted to design a razor that is simple, elegant and modern, yet timeless.
Almost a year later, here I am. I’ve had plenty of help along the way and now my ideas about what a razor should be have developed into the Ockham Razor which is launching on Kickstarter on 15
I decided to make the Ockham Razor compatible with Gillette Mach 3 blades. I find that these are great blades and I prefer them over the more expensive five-bladed models. The fitting mechanism is also nice and simple which allows the handle to have cleaner lines. Another advantage is that there’s less plastic used which is good because plastic tends to be more affected by lime scale build- up than metal.
If, like me, you’ve wondered why regular razors are invariably hideous contraptions, then maybe the Ockham Razor is for you. Even if you have a beard and only use a razor for round the edges, it might as well be a beautiful one. For our Kickstarter campaign we are also doing a couple of special edition razors, like the copper one shown here, and you can get them personalised with your name or initials too so make sure you check it out!
We may have just missed our chance for Spectre, but look out to see what James Bond is shaving with in the next movie…
About the author: My name is Rob Hallifax –@robhallifax, and I’m the man behind Ockham Razor. Our project is going live on Kickstarter on Wednesday April 15th, and we would like your support to make this beautiful razor, a reality. You can back our project by visiting our Kickstarter page. If you want to get to know us and stay up to date with our latest news, you can visit our website – www.ockhamrazorcompany.com, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.