*sorry, I can’t miss the opportunity for a good pun!
Recently I decided to make an effort to reduce my plastic consumption and waste. To this end, I decided to ditch the (relatively) expensive plastic razors and research re-useable safety razors. In doing so, I stumbled upon the obvious truth that there is absolutely no difference between men and women’s razors, and that it is the result of a very successful marketing campaign.
King of his domain
History states that King Camp Gillette (his real name!) developed the first disposable safety razor. Whilst it was not the first safety razor on the market, it was the first ever with blades that could be removed and changed. This change revolutionised the industry, as well as reducing the price of the razors.
The other half
As these razors were no longer restricted to the elite, meaning that shaving was no longer a sign of class status amongst men, Gillette decided to target an untapped market, women.
The marketing campaigns coincided with a drastic change in women’s fashion, and it is discussed that it was likely a circular effect of fashion dictating women’s hair removal, and women’s hair removal dictating fashion.
Fashion dictates fashion
During the Victorian era, women’s clothing had covered both arms and legs, thus body hair was neither a concern nor noticed. However, the evolution of more daring clothing revealed the arms, shoulders, and, (gasp) armpits. This is where the clever marketing campaigns began. Prior to the 1900s, advertisements involved describing a product rather than telling a person as to why they need to buy it.
Securing a market 101: target insecurities
But the marketing campaigns surrounding women’s hair removal centred on promoting disgust and repulsion about body hair. These campaigns preyed on the desire of women to be ‘on trend’, as well as focusing on the loneliness of unmarried or single women. In 1915, Gillette launched its Milady Razor, and thus began the market of women-specific razors.
In the 1940s and 1950s, dresses became longer again due to a shortage of nylon. As a result, sales of razors slowed. Rather than promoting shaving as an ‘on trend’ fashion necessity, they started throwing words into the campaigns such as “unsightly”, “unwanted”, “embarrassing” and, “unhygienic”. Thereby cementing the idea that if you had body hair, you were unclean.
A change of focus
Later marketing ploys targeted the idea of femininity and women’s empowerment. The 1960s saw the Scaredy Kit, a shaving kit aimed at women who were reluctant to shave (possibly due to a fear of razors).
Also around this time, campaigns used phrases such as “smooth like a child”, promoting the idea that being brought back to a pre-pubescent state was somehow the ultimate form of femininity.
The irony of these campaigns is the image of teenage girls shaving to show their maturity, while bringing themselves back to a pre-pubescent, childlike state.
Particularly distasteful when we look at the current marketing campaigns that focus on sexuality and desirability!
So what have we learnt from this? One, the fact that men’s and women’s razors exist is simply from a desire to corner every aspect of the market, and two, the marketing campaigns targeting women were morally questionable!
Full disclosure: I’m still buying a safety razor!