There are about 30 million men in Britain which probably means there are 30 million different ways of shaving. And most of us are completely confused about the technology on the shelves to help us.There is a steady flow of innovation into this sector, but not as much as you might expect when you consider how much money there is in it. I think this reflects the fact that when it comes to personal care in general men are both conservative and cautious. I loved the dialogue in the recent Sherlock Holmes episode. “I’ve been know to use product” says Watson following Holmes’ confident assertion that someone is gay based on the evidence of use of particular personal care products. “You shampoo your hair sometimes, Watson” replies Holmes. “It’s not the same thing.”
So with this in mind it is very impressive that King of Shaves have managed to shake up this sector with their shaving oil. The Azor is their latest attempt to do the almost impossible and change men’s shaving habits. I have been using one for two months now and thought it was time to share my experience.
First off – the price at less than five pounds is excellent. Replacement blades are also very reasonable. If you are as absent minded as me, the fact that there is only one kind of Azor blade is a huge plus. If I want some new blades, I go to the shop and buy some new blades. This may not sound like a big issue, but I cannot tell you how often I have stood baffled in the supermarket aisle trying to work out what I need. I never remember the name and often not even the make of my razor. Given that all the different brands have fiendishly clever mechanisms to prevent you from using the wrong blade it is very easy to get home and find that you have both wasted money and you still can’t have a shave. Has anyone else ever tried shaving with the wrong blade attached? You end up using the blade with your fingers, cutting yourself and with an opened box of blades that you hang on to for years in the hope that one day you will have a razor they fit. There is also a good chance you will get them mixed up again.
The Azor’s blades are white and so are easily distinguished from other brands. As an added bonus they clip easily into place and stay there. Why have we had to wait so long for a brand that does this?
The thing you notice first about the Azor is its flexible neck. This took me a little getting used to, and I think it is a mixed blessing. It is good for some parts of the face but not others. Eventually I worked out that when you need a bit more rigidity it is no problem to simply hold it in place with a finger. The other thing that that is out of the ordinary is the large safety guard in front of the blades. This is the only razor I can remember where this part of the razor itself rather than the blade. It is also a bit larger than I am used to and a bit larger than I would chose. It makes the razor slightly more cumbersome than it needs to be.
This is a four blade razor. The push towards ever more blades among different razor manufacturers has attracted some ridicule from satirists. I don’t think there is much doubt that you get a better shave from a double bladed razor than a single one most of the time. The benefits of three are less clear. The announcement of the five blade razor by Gillette in 2005, called the Fusion, was described by Fortune magazine at the time as a major escalation of the razor blade wars heralding a new era of multiblade shaving. Others just took the piss. The Fusion has sold well and has some enthusiasts. Pentaphiles I suppose we should call them. But I think it is fair to say that we still don’t live in the era of the five bladed razor.
The number of blades does have a bearing on performance. It spreads the force you are applying over a wider area. Using the four blade Azor it is noticeable that to get a close shave you do have to exert more pressure than with a two blade conventional razor. The big advantage is that it seems to cause much fewer cuts. I have cut myself once, and once only using my Azor. And that was this morning when I had decided to write this post. I deliberately tried to cut myself with it and succeeded. This is a shame because I can’t say ‘you couldn’t cut yourself if you tried’. But I can say cutting yourself with an Azor is quite hard work. I suppose it is a bit like a bed of nails spreading the pressure so widely that no harm is done. So although I was sceptical before actually trying it, 4 might well be the optimum.
I think that there might be a slight trade off between safety and closeness of shave. Using the Azor is a good experience – your skin feels fine afterward and you don’t need remedial medical attention for cuts and grazes. But I think that if you really want that smooth close shave feeling you might do better with a traditional single blade – though mind you don’t cut yourself.
But that aside, using the Azor is a real pleasure and I have enjoyed my morning shave much more since I got it. I like the way it looks and the way it feels in the hand. I like the ease of buying and fitting new blades. It pretty much fulfills the promises made for it on the pack. The only one that is a bit iffy is the blade life. The blade life is fine, about what I am used to from other brands. But it does say on the pack that the blades have an unusually long life because of the use of a special material called Endurium. Okay here’s a quiz. Is Endurium found on the Periodic Table of the Elements? (Hint: No. And neither is Cheesymarketingimmickium.)
Inventing a ridiculous name for an imaginary raw material is not the only laughable feature of the advertising for the Azor. The website would put off the most enthusiastic supporter. The safety guard is a skin pretensioner according to the website. What does that even mean? One of the things I like about the Azor is the shape and feel of the polycarbonate (?) handle. It is quite small but feels substantial. I am glad I bought it before I was told it was a unique polylastomer construction. I want a razor, not a prop left over from the last series of Blakes 7.
I suppose it is possible we are meant to be laughing with the blurb on the website rather than at it. But even if it is meant to be ironic it doesn’t do anything for me.
But overall, I love my Azor. It’s better than the competition functionally, and also a thing of beauty and a pleasure to use. I enjoy my shave more since I got it. It looks and feels good. Thanks guys.
In my opinion the best coverage of men’s grooming on the web is the SCforM blog. I get the impression he gets more female readers than male ones at the moment, so it would be great if you could get your Y chromosome over there to give him some support. Don’t worry, we won’t think you’re a wuss.