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Nowadays shaving is one of the daily activities of most man. Different types of shavers are utilised by people. Surprisingly, razors have been part of human invention since the dawn of time. Men and women have been shaving since prehistoric times with all sorts of razors. Although, they were different in appearance from the modern razors, they were still used for the same purpose. (http://www.luxury-razors.co.uk/razors-history/)
Archaeologists presumed that the razors were made of flints, shark teeth or clam shells. Razors can be traced from 30,000 Before Christ and at that time hair removal was seen as part of tribal status and wealth. Pre-historians unearthed solid gold and copper razors in Egypt during the 4th millennium Before Christ.
(http://cremocream.com/articles/blog/) and (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razor)
The traditional straight razor was the main type for shaving before the 20th century. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straight_razor)http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5e/Open_Razor_with_double_stabiliser.JPG/250px-Open_Razor_with_double_stabiliser.JPG
However such razors demanded intense care and people easily cut themselves while shaving. Jean-Jacques Perret invented the first ever safety razor; it is a razor that protects the shin from the blades' edge. Then King Camp Gillette, a travelling salesman, was looking to make money to support his family whose house was completely damaged in Chicago fire of 1871. His voyage led him to William Painter, the one who invented the disposable crown cork bottle cap, who guaranteed him that the only way of satisfying consumers is through innovation. One morning in 1895, while shaving Gillette got the brightest idea of a new safe razor with disposable blade and far most one which would be inexpensive. Experts affirmed that such inexpensive blades would be impossible to produce but in 1901 MIT graduate William Nickerson accepted to try. After two years of attempts, he succeeded in 1903 and the production of the Gillette safety razor and blade began. On the 15th of November 1904, King C. Gillette was granted the patent #775,134 and sales grew constantly. The Government provided the entire armed force with Gillette Safety Razor during the World war 1 and by the end of the war, some 3,5 million razors were given into military hands. (http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blrazor.htm)http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/images/object_images/535x535/10316807.jpg
'Source of picture-http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/images/I048/10316807.aspx'
Reaction in the market
Safety razor was considered to be a great jump from the traditional straight razor. Straight razors also known as 'Cut Throat Razors' have a full hollow blade sharpened on one edge. The 'Cut Throat' name was given since that razor was highly dangerous since it could easily cut someone's throat (http://www.executive-shaving.co.uk/cut-throat-razor.php). Such razors demanded high care when shaving. Jean-Jacques Perret created the first ever safety razor and his product was advertised as 'The best available shaving method on the market that won't cut a user, like straight steel razors'. The safety razor made its name only when King Camp Gillette, with the help of William Nickerson, introduced it with disposable blade. (http://www.thehairfacts.com/razor-shaving.htm). During the 1st World War, King Camp Gillette provided the entire army force with his innovation and by the end of the the War approximately 3.5 million razors and 35 million were already in the hands of military forces. In a sense it can be said that an entire nation was converted towards Gillette razors. (http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blrazor.htm)
Soon the business was spread in other parts of the world, not only in the United States but it expanded to Canada, England, France and Germany. By 1915, 450,000 units of razors and over 70,000 blades had already been sold. (http://www.marketingcrossing.com/article/220303/King-C-Gillette-Inventor-Marketer-and-Strategist/, article by Amit Agarwal). This shows that customers were satisfied with the cheap disposable safety razor and since then almost everyone had started using the safety razor. It was clearly accepted by the society. In the 1920's, smaller safety razors were developed for women. (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/paul.linnell/sso/razors.html) Men and women could easily do their shaving with lesser risk of injury. King Camp Gillette idea was to sell at the cheapest price possible with his face on every single pack of razor. This idea of him gave him the title "the kind with the man's face". (http://www.marketingcrossing.com/article/220303/King-C-Gillette-Inventor-Marketer-and-Strategist/ by Amit Agarwal) Then came the existence of the electric razor, which was invented by Colonel Jacob Shick. It was known as the 'Electric Dry Shaver' and when it was first introduced; it did not have had that great impact on the market. It consisted of a motor and a flexible tool leading to a shaving end meaning that it was not that handy. In 1931, Colonel Jacob Shick came up with a new model which was easier to handle and which also had a better look. The business of electric shavers grew steadily and newer fashionable versions were soon on the market. (http://iavbbs.com/gflinn/schick.htm) http://iavbbs.com/gflinn/schick1.gif
On one side was the emergence of the electric shaver and on the side, the development and innovation of the safety razor continued. The fact that King Camp Gillette made fortune with his idea of safety razor with disposable blade, attracted competitors and soon there were other firms, like 'Bic', made their way onto the razor market. During the 1960's the safety razor which at that time was already widely used was started to be provided with rust-prone carbon steel and required frequent replacement but this was for only a short period of time because of the improvement towards more cost-effective stainless-steel blades. The 1970's saw the marketing of the twin-bladed razors and the fully disposable one by the 'Bic' company. (http://www.ehow.com/about_5038278_history-safety-razor.html) Within less than a century razors had become a large industry and consumers were faced with all varieties of razors with different colour, designs and brand names. Innovation of razors did not stop at any point since competition was and is still high. Electric razors were designed for women only and new types of safety razors with multi-blades were also found on the market.
In 1998, Gillette Company introduced a new safety razor to the shaving amateurs. It consisted of three blades and was called 'Mach3'. Sales for the firm increased by 50% and profits expanded. It can be said that the public adored the 3-bladed razor concept and it had established itself in the market very fast. Obviously, it did not take too long to see the emergence of the four blade cartridge designed by Schick Company. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_razor). It demonstrated the relationship of entrepreneurship and innovation. The innovation brought success to the firms and also it was the only way to survive on such a competition-oriented market. Such expansion had the great advantage to bring job opportunities to people and also allowed for different choices of razors to the society. In Economics terms, it can be described as an increase in living standard through the varieties of products available.
Razors have been part of human history since the dawn of time. Just like other products, it has been undergoing immense improvements throughout the years. Some innovation can be shown in the chart below.
The traditional straight razor- it was mostly used before the 18th century
The First Safety Razor invented by Jean Jacques Perret in the late 18th century.
First Safety Razor with disposable blade, invented by King Camp Gillette, in the 1900's.
The Electric shaver developed by Colonel Jacob Shick in 1931.http://iavbbs.com/gflinn/schick2.gif
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In the 1960's, safety razors were made with stainless steel blades. http://www.idsgn.org/images/now-and-then-do-we-really-need-five-blades/1960s.jpg
The Single Edge Razor developed in the late 20th century. http://badgerandblade.com/gallery/displayimage.php?imageid=14993
The Double Edge Razor was also created in the late 20th century.http://www.straightrazorplace.com/forums/attachments/shaving-safety-razors/39032d1267979240-pils-double-edge-safety-razor-ikon-pair.jpg
1971- The Twin Blades safety Razor
1974-The Twin Bladed safety razor which was fully disposablehttp://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQGuLqXL2H5_86ReS9uWq5l7v2HaqgGswm2O7KcwO5dgjD94U63Lg
http://money.cnn.com/2003/05/20/news/four_blade/cap_mach3.jpg http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSQ4HAxqDFimiRGA47vxh3axGUHcKNSHouMkc1-S-NVXctw5UCS http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSYzMPv3YFJeqG5vDjuw7Y38hjsHuKEoZmAJ1rSUNBTyjnfrsaaAw http://www.bocaraton.com/images/ShaveMate_6_blade_Diva_Titan.jpg
1998- Three Blades Razor 4 Bladed Razor 5 Bladed Razor and 6 Bladed Razor Respectively
Razor has had great changes in its design, colour and in its appearance as a whole. However its purpose has not changed. It is being used by men and women across the globe for shaving purposes. In my opinion, innovation occurred due to the following reasons.
Firstly one of the main reasons is the fact that the traditional straight razor, known as the 'Cut Throat Razor' had to be handled with care and as its name indicates, it often caused cut while shaving. This was one of the main purpose for the safety razor. It had to replace the straight razor to fasten and ease shaving process. These razors were easy to use and it prevented injuries.
A second reason for innovation was the competition factor. The razor market consists of various firms. In order to distinguish themselves from one another and in order to survive in the market, they have to improve or develop their product. It is the only way to attract customers by providing each time improvements to the existing product.
In this modern society, appearance is a key factor to the choice of a product. For instance light colours like, pink colour, attract mostly women and dark colours, like black, colour are mostly for men. Thus in order to bring satisfaction as per to the taste and preference of consumers, entrepreneurs have to go for innovations.
Furthermore some razors have specially been designed for luxury purposes whereby only the high class earners can use them. In a sense, it encourages inequality in the society but if seen from another point of view, it can also discourage inequality since razors are available at low cost and they are cost- effective as well. Meaning anyone can afford a razor which is safe and has a reasonable life span.
Razors have been part of human daily tools. In whichever design or appearance it will be in the future, it will still have the same purpose. Innovations will surely come in such a market. Perhaps razors will become more environmental friendly and even cheaper. It will have other equipments added to it like for instance the shaving gel or foam already included with razor and which will automatically make use of the gel or foam for use. However, this will demand research so as to provide such facilities with affordable price. In which ever angle it may be looked at, a razor will be a razor. It will forever and ever in human lives.
*Innovation chart References: