The above is a lovely advert for the three Gillette Super Speed models that existed in production alongside each other during the mid to late 1950s. I will now try and put this in context, but this isn’t some academic paper, it is just me, so don’t rely too much on the facts!
The basic Gillette model for many decades was the Tech, a three piece razor where the handle screws in to clamp the blade between the two pieces that make up the head. These are cheap and simple to make and the rigid construction has the potential of a good shave if it is engineered properly. Many manufacturers around the world still make copies of this three piece construction. The Lord razor I wrote about earlier is one such.
The problem with the Tech is that changing blades can be a bit fiddly, Gillette decided to make a more upmarket razor that overcame this. Thus, during World War two, the Super Speed appeared with limited production between 1942 and 1945. In 1946 full scale civilian production started and this original version of the Super Speed was available from 1947 to 1954.
The Super Speed’s defining feature was the butterfly doors of the shave head that allowed easy blade insertion, these were operated with a Twist To Open (TTO) mechanism via a knob at the base of the handle.
In 1954 the original Super Speed was replaced by the “Flare Tip” Super Speed which has a flared TTO knob. Then in 1955 Gillette introduced two variations on the basic model. The Blue Tip was lighter with an aluminium handle and it shaved less aggressively (so was favoured by women), it had a blue painted TTO knob. The Red Tip was heavier than the standard Flare Tip and was more aggressive, obviously it had a red painted TTO knob.
It is these three models, the Flare Tip, Blue Tip and Red Tip that feature in the advertisement video above (for $1.29 each!). The Red and Blue tips had a short production life, just 1955 to 1959. This is because in 1958 Gillette introduced the Fat Boy adjustable razor, where the user could dial in the required degree of aggression, this made the two Super Speed variants obsolete.
The standard Flare Tip went on being made till 1966 when it was replaced with the black handled Super Speed, this remained in production till 1986. So the production life of the Super Speed razor was 1942 to 1986, that is 44 years.
The Super Speeds are classic razors, readily available secondhand and all of them still give a good shave today. Many traditional shaving enthusiasts own one or more of these. Gillette certainly got it right when a 65 year old mechanical device can still hold its own today.
And just as the Tech was widely copied, so was the Super Speed. The Weishi is a Chinese made near copy that is constructed all in aluminium, for instance. So the Super Speed lives on.