I moved house a few weeks ago. Moving is a good opportunity to change habits and I have thought for a while I ought to improve my personal grooming skills. So I dumped all my products and personal care technology and I am now looking at replacing them all with new and better ones. So lets start at the beginning. Despite sporting a beard, I still need a razor. So I spent some time in my local supermarket looking at the offerings.
There were quite a few options, but only three different brands – all the razors were the same size obviously. They are all designed to fit in the hand after all. But it was notable that they all had, frankly excessive packaging. This isn’t good from the point of view of saving the earth’s resources, nor indeed of keeping the bin in my kitchen relatively empty. But I guess you’d have to be a very courageous brand manager to put a minimalist offering up in direct competition with all the other flashy packs. You might help save the planet, but you probably wouldn’t save your job.
The name that is synonymous with shaving products is of course Gillette, and they had a range including the budget priced Fusion Power at £6.99, the pedestrian Mach 3 at £7.19, the Fusion Stealth at £11.99. I was a bit worried about the name of the Stealth, it raised the obvious question of how easy it would be to find. Topping the price range was the majestic feast of features that is the Fusion Proglide Styler at £20.00 with its five shaving blades, a tiny integral comb to straighten the stubble out prior to cutting it off and an astonishing extra blade enabling supplementary trimming without changing tools. I was tempted. Sorely tempted.
The two other players in the field had only one product each. Even though Wilkinson Sword has a large range of razors, only the Quatro at £9.99 was deemed worthy of shelf space by my local branch of Sainsburys. Wilkinson Sword used to dominate the world of razors back in the days when a single blade safety razor was the standard. Growing up in the sixties I remember being highly impressed by black and white television adverts that featured actual swords. They didn’t really keep up with the innovations in the market spearheaded by Gillette and for a long time you didn’t really see their products hardly anywhere really. They are back now, and much as I’d like to see someone seriously challenging Gillette I couldn’t see anything that makes their products appealing other than the historic brand name.
Which left the Azor 5 from King of Shaves, which was my choice. At £6.99 it was very nearly the cheapest. King of Shaves only have three razors – the Azor 5, the Azor 4 and a pink one for the girlies. The price you pay for the razor itself is only a small proportion of the overall cost of ownership. The true scrape cost is going to be largely down to how much you have to pay for the blades and how long they last once you’ve paid for them. The Azor’s blades were also a bit cheaper than the competition. This doesn’t mean anything of course, if they don’t last as long. As it happens, King of Shaves claim that their blades last longer than others – more on that claim later. Now I have had an Azor 4 before, and I think the blades last about the same number of shaves as other blades. So although I think they are overselling the benefit a bit, I think I’ll concede that this is a good value offering.
But I don’t think economy is the reason to buy this razor. Shaving isn’t one of life’s big expenses, but it is the thing many men do every day. Surely it is worth paying a bit extra if that makes it a bit more of a pleasure and less of a chore. Although I was very happy with the Azor’s price, I think I would have gone for this one even if it had been one of the more expensive options. I like that the Azor 5 is a bit different to the others and has some personality. In fact I would even describe it as stylish. I think this is actually its reason for being. Supermarket own brands will always offer the most economic way of keeping your stubble at bay. And I don’t think anybody can ultimately win on performance against Gillette who simply out spend everybody else on research and development. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will come up with all the innovations, but I think it does mean that over time they are always going to have products that work extremely well. So for King of Shaves to take them on they need to apply a lot of imagination to avoid being simply a me too. And this is something that I think they have done. It certainly stands out on the shelf.
I liked the relatively simple front of the pack. The copy on the back was another story altogether. It claims that it is no ordinary razor, which is true enough. It also features patented bendology technology. Right. Now you can’t just bandy about the word patented even if you are talking about something that has an amusing rhyme. So I had a look and found that a European patent, EP 1201376, has indeed been granted to King of Shaves. So they have exclusive use of razor designs where the blade is attached by a hinge to the handle. I am impressed. It is easy to miss innovations like this and fail to protect them, so full marks for identifying and following it through. It is also easy to come up with stupid marketing phrases like ‘bendology technology’. I hope we are meant to treat that as being ironic. And it gets worse.
The blades are made out of nano coated Endurium. You may have missed Endurium before. It is a bit of an obscure element found on the periodic table right next to cheezymarketinggimmickium. And it is nano coated as well. I hope they are laughing with us, not at us.
As I said, like all the razors on sale the Azor 5 is preposterously overpackaged. The pack is 7″ tall – that is nearly 18 cm and 4″ or 10 cm wide. Unlike a lot of these kind packs this one was relatively easy to open and to get the contents out. This at least avoided the thermoform hell that you often experience with these things where even armed with a pair of scissors fighting your way in feels like a task that should have been set for a mythological hero to win the hand of a princess. There was no leaflet inside, just the Azor itself, a blue plastic holder and a blade dispenser containing one spare blade. Replacing the blade wasn’t too difficult although it wasn’t actually intuitive, and you really do need to refer to the instructions the first time. This may well put a lot of men off the product. A lot of men don’t really do reading – and even ones with quite well developed literary tastes are still often completely unable to even register the existence of instructions let alone follow them.
So how does it shave. I have used it only once so far. I have to say it was remarkably gentle on the skin. The hinged handle – sorry I can’t bring myself to call it bendology technology – makes it particularly easy to follow the contours of your skin. I felt in no danger of even the slightest nick and my skin was absolutely undamaged in any way. I preferred the weight of the Azor 5 to the relatively light weight Azor 4. This came at a price. It was not the smoothest finish I have ever had. Now I don’t want to exaggerate this. It was still a perfectly acceptable result and I was quite happy with it. But if you wanted really smooth results I think you’d be disappointed. It was also a bit difficult cleaning the blade after use. I used straight soap as my shaving medium. I think I will try it with shaving oil next time.
But I really enjoyed using my Azor 5. There was no raw feeling and no need to stem any blood flow from small cuts. I barely knew I’d shaved at all. I’d say that for anyone who currently has any issues with the way their skin looks or feels after shaving, the Azor 5 is well worth investigating.