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Rip van Winkle

March 19th, 2007

When Rip awoke from his 20-year sleep, he had a beard a foot long, and had missed out on some big political events. I’ve been paying attention to politics for the past 30 years or more, but events in the world of shaving have mostly passed me by. I was aware that it was no longer possible, as it once was, to get a shave and a haircut for two bits, but I was surprised to discover that you can no longer get a shave at all, at least, not at a barbershop – perhaps a long-delayed reaction to The Man from Ironbark.

Instead, having had my hair trimmed and my beard clipped down to Number 0 (as shown here), I was left to rely on my own devices to remove the stubble. Of course, I had no such devices, but I thought that the relevant technology would be fairly much as I remembered it. On the contrary, shaving now appears to require five blades and a power supply. Actually, I did read about this on CT a while back, but of course skipped over it as being of no relevance to me.

I’m slightly bemused by it, but I’m the ideal target market for this kind of thing, since the only memories of shaving that have survived three decades are the painful ones. So, I’m now on the bleeding edge of technology, literally, but hopefully not bleeding as much as I would be if I stuck with the old gear.

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  1. March 19th, 2007 at 14:54 | #1

    Put it back on!

  2. Hal9000
    March 19th, 2007 at 16:22 | #2

    You can still get the old tech original Gillette blades, Prof Q. My favourite intermediate technology, the twin blade, is however now only available in ‘generic’ form that for some reason is less face-friendly than the brand name version used to be. I’m sure there’s an economic theory to explain the phenomenon.

  3. Dylwah
    March 19th, 2007 at 16:46 | #3

    Congrats John tho i couldn’t see if there are dimples. Looks like you will have to rethink that Don Arthur quote.

    I don’t know about the cutting edge of Qld, but down here in dowdy old Melbourne you can still get a shave at a barbers, there are some competant looking practitioners on Carlisle st, Balalclava (Little Oddessa). The fella that used to give me my monthly no. 1 was trained as a barber in the USSR armed forces, there also used to be a Ukranian bloke in St Kilda who would wax lyrical about Makhno when given the chance. A no. 1 and a history lesson for $10, now if you could get those sorts of perifferalls (sic) through hecs. . . You can also get the twin blades at lots of supermecardos and cut price mega chemists.

  4. Pinguthepenguin
    March 20th, 2007 at 08:12 | #4

    My main suggestion for those who have sensitive skin like me…use the steam-room at your local gym for about 5min before shaving. You get a much closer shave and cuts become a thing of the past.

  5. garhane
    March 20th, 2007 at 09:13 | #5

    I have fixated on the story of the Wilkinson blade, the first of stainless steel. I recall that for a year or so it was known by word of mouth, you would hear that this or that drug store had a supply, and then with increased supplies it conquered all. After trying to kill it in various ways the American heavy weights like Gilette began to copy, all the tiime using huge ad campaigns that falsely proclaimed something wonderous for their product, and that they were the first, all false. Wilkinson sailed on. Then Wilkinson made a mistake in puting out a razor where you could renew the blade from a 5 blade dispenser. I guess the Brits were not yet quite ready for the throw away style, and the Americans soon had a number of throwaways like Bic where you use and disipose, and no nonsense about litter. To hell with the environment. Meanwhile Gillette went through a series of ever bigger ad campaigns with ever bigger absurdities for a simple razor. There was two blades, then 3, then four, maybe there are more now; and there was a series of names that were even more absurd. The last I heard was the power, mark 5, or something. The original safety razor had a second use as you could take out an old blade and use it for your stamp collecting or some such. Now the whole razor is soon useless, and I have not seen Wilkinson
    around for more than a decade. Don’t tell me about innovation, in the hands of Americans it is mostly the worst kind of industrial declining value duplication, accompanied by the loudest kind of lying.

  6. PeterRickwood
    March 20th, 2007 at 09:19 | #6

    The whole razor blade thing is a gigantic con.
    The mark-up on razor blades must be huge, but
    until Woolies started putting out home-brand
    razors, you had little choice but to pay. I
    used to use a Wilkinson Sword (only 2 blades
    – dinosaur technology!), which had comparatively
    cheap replacement blades, but I can’t find the blades
    at my local supermarket anymore.

    The oligopoly of shaving companies keep the racket
    going. It is sometimes cheaper to buy a packet with
    the blades and the shaver, and throw away the shaver!
    Why? Because they want you to be locked in to buying
    their blades, as very few blades fit multiple
    razors.

    It almost makes me want to grow a beard and become an
    economist.

  7. Hal9000
    March 20th, 2007 at 10:03 | #7

    “I have not seen Wilkinson
    around for more than a decade.”

    Garhane, the last Wilkinson iteration I’m aware of was the twin-blade Gel Response series, itself a development of the more colourful Response. They ceased stocking them at my local Woolies about 4 months ago. The most useful (and safest) of the original blade types was the single-edge – still made by Gem and still sold (although these days more often in the hardware aisle than in the toiletries…

    As to the multi-blade arms race – there is technological competition and indeed convergence with the newer types of power razor – now self-cleaning, lighter and with superior batteries.

    Meanwhile, Prof Q as he ponders the craziness of the shaving requisites shelves might like to reflect on the fact that shaving does indeed keep you looking younger longer by dint of the exercise the act gives to your facial muscles and skin, keeping them more toned and resistant to gravity and wrinkling.

  8. wilful
    March 20th, 2007 at 15:03 | #8

    I always thought this was a great article, except that the marketing departments created their own parody too quickly:
    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930

  9. Ian Gould
    March 20th, 2007 at 22:57 | #9

    John,

    There’s a barber not ten minutes from Saint Lucia (Sherwood Road Toowong between the NAB and Toowong Village) who’ll be only too happy to shave you7 if the need arises again.

  10. Kevin Brewer
    March 21st, 2007 at 08:15 | #10

    Grow it back, man, grow it back. I grew a beard in 1971, tried shaving twice, thought better of it. A Wahl no2 or 3 is far better for your face skin than any Gillette or Wilkinson Sword.

  11. Terje
    March 22nd, 2007 at 15:39 | #11

    I was left to rely on my own devices to remove the stubble.

    I visited the barber today and asked for a shave. No problemo.

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