The Business of Shaving: 4 Reasons Innovation in Grooming-Tech Matters
Innovation and shaving go hand in hand. The US is home to many of the category’s leading players. But modern shaving - and the global industry built around it - has roots in 18th century France, thanks to a master cutler named Jean-Jacques Perret. JJ, as we call him here, was a pioneer. More of a medical blacksmith than a maker of forks and knives (today’s standard definition of “cutler”), Perret invented a blade for shaving that was not only sharp, but also safer and more practical for everyone. This shows the kind of unconventional and rigorous design the team at Shavelogic loves. More importantly? It shows that even 200 years ago, shaving at its best was about craftsmanship and applied technology.
We think shaving has strayed from this path.
Yes, justifiably iconic razors exist, brought to you by household names. And in the last few years, exciting new companies have energized the industry with direct-to-consumer approaches. Shaving has a thriving, competitive marketplace.
Our issue? The recent competition isn’t about the product.
It’s about everything relating to shaving except the razor. It’s about price. Subscription models. Distribution. Line extensions. Disruption. Trust. The razor wars have become a battle for ownership over the idea of shaving. Not shaving itself. Everyone’s fighting over the customer, for sure. But are they improving the product?
We didn’t think so. (We know many talented folks in the industry would disagree, but it’s a free country.) We wanted to get back to shaving’s roots. Here, JJ’s own story, and not just his invention, inspired us. As a boy of 15 from the sticks, Jean-Jacques stunned a Parisian master cutler’s team by making, when challenged, a scalpel superior in design and efficacy to anything the established sharps atelier could produce.
He didn’t impress the establishment with a better way to get scalpels to surgeons. He just made a better one. That’s the kind of competitiveness we respect. That’s the competition Shavelogic delivers.
Put differently, since we want everyone to use our razor, we also want everyone to understand why a better, more innovative razor matters. For us, it comes down to four truths:1. Shaving is hard
It’s easy to overlook this. So much so, it almost seems ridiculous to write it. Millions of people do it every day. And large portions of the population did it frequently long before modern razors, and of course, long before JJ’s invention as well. But the fact is, part of the reason depilatory creams, barbers, and hair removal strategies of all kinds exist, and part of the reason shaving is something of a ritual, is because it takes serious expertise - especially with, say, just a sharp blade like a knife or a straight razor. And even with an average modern safety razor, it’s still not always a walk in the park. That’s why we still fight razor burn, bumps, and nicks. Cutting hair off your body - safely, comfortably and repeatably - is a delicate, complex task.
What do you need for a delicate, complex task? An advanced, durable precision tool. And since form should follow function, that tool should be beautiful as well as useful.2. Shaving had a “space race” that put the modern industry into orbit - and then slowed down
Like the space race in the 1960’s that spawned the development of the satellite industry and supported modern telecommunications, razor tech accelerated in the mid-20th century. First came the development of the replaceable razor head, which meant users would no longer have to constantly sharpen their safety straight razors. In 1960, stainless steel blades came onto the scene, followed by multi-blade cartridges in 1971 (which look a lot like the razor you probably have in your bathroom right now).
The shaving space race ensured the broad availability of top-of-the-line modern razors. If you know design and engineering, then you know that a good razor has a claim to being the single most complex non-electronic device in everyday use by modern consumers. That meant that by the end of the 20th century, there was no longer just a global market for shaving. There was a global market for shaving TECHNOLOGY.
Yet, also like the space race, we’d argue that by the 2010’s, innovation had at least slowed down if not stopped. The moonshot days seemed to be over.
3. Like Big Tech (several times over) shaving had a bubble
Advances in non-shaving tech through the 2010’s also meant that getting things to consumers - and having a business and data-driven relationship with a consumer - was easier than ever. Given the way the modern razor was mostly sold up to that point - on brick-and-mortar shelves - some very smart people figured out that maybe razors were an everyday product they could disrupt with different distribution.
We think that was a great idea - and in fact we’re doing the same thing ourselves. But the only problem is that the razor sort of got tossed aside in the process. What was most attractive about the new shaving companies was their pricing, and their genuinely funny, cool, ads and marketing. The seemingly endless innovation and top-quality product design that formerly was paramount wasn’t necessarily the driver of sales, market share gains, or customer engagement. The assumption seemed to be that a good enough razor, priced right and marketed well, was good enough.
This created some wealth. And helped usher in the short golden age of the first “DTC brands.” But this type of competition didn’t advance razor technology, or the shaving experience. It wasn’t really about the shave, it was more about your wallet. And, ironically, for business models built on wallets, it’s not clear that this approach is even economically sustainable. Why does that matter? Because our belief at Shavelogic is that you can’t build a better shaving business if you aren’t IN the business of actually delivering a better shave, with a better product.4. Beards, screen time, and a world with more than the usual turmoil
Cynics might say we launched the S5 at a bad time - the peak of a beard trend, with people confined to their homes by quarantine, shopping less, saving more - and when shaving, on the scale of things to worry about, seems pretty far down.
Our own view? Whether or not you have a beard, or can go to an office, we still have improved on the basic experience of the shave. Because we’ve returned to the engineering, craftsmanship and innovation-centered roots of razor technology.
If you want to shave, when you shave, the S5 is different and - we believe - better. And in a sometimes frightening and frustrating world, we think a perfectly designed, beautiful tool offers a certain kind of comfort. In the plainest possible terms, you can’t market or brand your way into a better shave. That’s why we spent over a decade researching, developing, and patenting a high-tech performance shaving system unlike any other. Because when push comes to shave, it’s the engineering behind a razor that makes for a smoother, happier face. And when it comes to your face, you shouldn’t have to compromise. After all, it’s the only one you’ve got.