The shavepocalypse

The key to traditional shaving is the double edged (DE) safety razor blade invented by King Camp Gillette which has been in continuous production now for over 100 years. This is a consumable product so we real shavers need a continuous supply of them. If this supply were to ever dry up then traditional double edged shaving would be impossible, the dreaded shavepocalypse.

Since I last wrote about this, not so long ago, the battlefield has changed significantly with three huge events and the balance has shifted and maybe the day of the shavepocalypse has moved a little closer.

Firstly Gillette launched the Guard razor aimed directly at converting hundreds of millions of men from DE shaving to a patented cartridge system that is a lot more profitable for them and which stops competitors from making blades for Gillette razors. This will be rolled out worldwide where there are lots of customers who cannot afford the expensive Fusion system. With billions of marketing dollars behind it this will be the biggest DE killer yet.

Gillette themselves say (my bold): “This week, we will make one of the most significant product introductions in Gillette’s history. This product, called Gillette Guard, is the first razor we have ever designed from start to finish for consumers in emerging markets and brings to life our mission of serving more men, in more parts of the world more completely.”

Secondly there is the news that the Iridium DE razor blade, perhaps the best DE blade of the lot, has been discontinued. This was made in Gillette’s St Petersburg factory and there are rumours that the many other brands of DE blades made there may also be discontinued. To Procter and Gamble, who own Gillette, manufacture and marketing of DE blades is a low profit sideshow, so this makes sense. It also puts more pressure on consumers to switch to far higher profit cartridge systems.

The third big news is the takeover of The American Safety Razor Company (Personna etc) by Energizer (Wilkinson Sword, Schick etc). If the combined entity is going to have the faintest chance of taking on Gillette then they need to rationalise their production and marketing behind strong, profitable brands, which means patent protected system razors. So we could be very easily about to lose a whole pile more brands of DE razor blades. The good news is that Energizer haven’t announced a low cost system razor like the Guard. Yet.

If the above triple whammy transpires we will have lost most of the Western DE razor brands, not only that there will be two massively powerful global organisations proselytising patented system razors and trying to make the shavepocalypse happen by killing off DE shaving.

Working on the traditional shaving side is sheer momentum, 400 million wet shavers in India who don’t use system razors yet and probably a similar number in China (but remember that there is a lot of disposable razor use in much of the developing world). So the big multinational shaving companies have an immense conversion job, but this is a job that Gillette are throwing equally immense resources at.

Also there are other DE blade manufacturers. Biggest is Super-Max in India, but there is Treet in Pakistan, Lion in South Africa, Lord and their many brands in Egypt, Feather and Kai in Japan, Derby in Turkey, Dorco in Korea etc. Obviously Gillette with the Guard has declared war on all of these so we could be looking at a house of cards that brings the shavepocalypse when it collapses. Making DE razor blades is a low profit commodity industry whilst the Guard is a high profit brand.

What might emerge now are low volume, high cost artisan razor blade brands. This is eminently feasible. Without the economies of scale each blade would be a lot more expensive, but still far cheaper than a system blade cartridge. And we would still have DE blades. There are a couple of brands (Souplex and Timor) in Germany who are almost at this level already.

For diehard DE shavers who refuse to ever go over to the dark side of system shaving there are three ways to handle a shavepocalypse. The first is to grow a beard, the second is to use a straight, cut throat razor and the third is to hoard. In fact razor blades are so cheap now and storing them takes so little room that hoarding makes a lot of sense and many traditional shavers already have enough stashed away to last their expected lifetimes. 1,000 good quality blades cost about $120 and are enough to last at least 10 years. With recent events this seems to make good sense.

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14 Comments


  1. Learn how to use a straight (cut throat) razor! Not only does that free you from the reliance on the continued manufacture of DE blades but its more environmentally friendly as not even the blade is not a disposable item it is re-sharpened.

    I suspect the production of DE blades will continue as they are not only used by men shaving but also in hair dressing. Learning straight razor shaving is a steeper learning curve than DE’s but if you start now, by the time DE blades go out of production, or at least become too expensive to consider, you should be proficient.

    If you are interested in traditional wet shaving, straight razors are where it all started.


  2. Users of these blades should at least try Bluebird blades. I find very little difference (if any) between them and all of the “St. Petersburg” brands and find them almost as sharp but much smoother than Feathers. And at roughly $15 @ 100 on the Net not a bad deal! I have no financial interest in this. Just passing on some info to other DE’ers.


  3. Have ordered from Souplex in Germany several times. Their blades are not cheap, but are a quality product. There are a number of really good blades at reasonable cost. Astra, Israeli reds, blues, Shark, and Topaz. Any of these blades can be bought in bulk at prices from 5cents a blade up to 14 cents. I have roughly 1500 blades of various manufacture stored in a small drawer in my bathroom. Maybe enough blades to carry me for 10 to 15 years.


  4. Do DE blades have a shelf life?


  5. @Guy
    DE blades made since the 1960s are stainless steel, which limits corrosion. Modern blades are also metal sprayed with a little platinum, over which goes some PTFE and some inhibiting oil, they are then triple wrapped. So the rate that they lose their original condition will be very slow indeed. I reckon they are good for decades unless exposed long term to excessive dampness.


  6. Thought provoking but I am not panicking . I don’t forsee the shavocalypse. Wetshavers love the interest/hobby so much we are always thinking its too good to last and fear that something so enjoyable just has to end in tears.

    If blade production is low profit and labor intense doesn’t that mean that business in developing nations would continue interest in blade production. Lord, Derby , Dorco, Supermax in countries like Egypt, Korea, Turkey , India will continue to make blades to servedomestic consumption as well as export. Do we really understand how blade makers see the future and are they so dependent on what Gillette does. Isn’t it possible they want Gillette to leave the DE blade market to control it themselves. .

    Having started wetshaving 2 years ago, the availability of blades has widened and grown and their prices have declined so its hard to see the end of the DE blade from here.

    Bruce ,your blog sets a high standard for research . Is it possible to talk to the various blade manufacturers and gauge how they see the future?


  7. I am not worried about DE blades going out of production very soon, but I can see Sterling going throught the floor, so maybe now is the time to stock up.


  8. Funny written article:)


  9. Hi Bruce,

    I’m offered blades all the time from China. Some are of dubious quality. On these volumes I don’t see there being any end to the production of de blades. Also I can buy very cheap single blade disposables in my local supermarket now so why buy a Guard? We’ve been told for years that we need two blades to shave close now we need even more to shave what? Even closer? A move back to one blade is a case of shooting ones self in the foot. The consumer will see right through this one and will not be happy at the end of the day.


  10. Convert more people to DE shaving, obviously. Manufacturers will not stop making products when there is a large (possibly growing) customer base to buy them. I’m sure there would be plenty of companies happy to take the smaller profit margin from DE blade sales, as long as there is a profit margin to be had!


  11. I think that as DE shaving gains popularity in the West, that the rest of earth shall follow (they always seem to follow).


  12. Surely, if Japan manufactures Feather razor blades, and Japan being the 2nd largest economy, and pretty advanced at that, there is no risk razor blades will die out. Otherwise, smaller manufacturers will pick up the tab somewhere.


  13. I really hope the DE blade industry will not be hunted down by the cartridge giants, since I threw away my Fusion few days ago. Now that I’m a part of the manliness, I don’t want to go back.

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