As we all know, vintage razors are the real deal – they’ve got that authentic touch of history that you’re looking for, since they were actually made back when that kind of tool was actually a thing as opposed to those more artificial safety razors made now to capitalize on nostalgia. The Gillette Super Speed is probably the most famous of these vintage razors – it’s got a wonderful classic look, it still shaves very cleanly and professionally, and best of all it really takes you back to that classier old-fashioned time when people actually wet shaved.
We decided to take a closer look at the Gillette Super Speed to see how well it holds up to scrutiny; no surprise, it’s as good as ever. Read on!
A Brief History of Gillette:
The brand Gillette has been synonymous with shaving since your grandpappy was a wee tyke soiling his knickerbockers getting into all kinds of mischief. A company that outlives two world wars, hippies, grunge rock, and the Eisenhower administration has to be doing something right – and it’s not just marketing. Gillette has been on the front lines of shaving innovation for over 100 years and, for better or worse, are leading the way into the 21st century.
It’s probably that most men, before the 1800’s or so, had long, flowing beards. The ones that didn’t either weren’t genetically capable of growing a mane, or were crazy enough to shave with a blade that would make Crocodile Dundee proud. Eventually, barbers started spreading the gospel of a great shave, but men had to make a special trip to the barbershop in order to reap the benefits. Razors, at the time, were expensive, and required practice and skill to use effectively. A bloodless shave was a commodity, and a smooth chin was a rare feature.
Then, in 1901, the Sultan of Shave, the Friar for Fop, the Duke of Dapper, King C. Gillette patented the first safety razor and changed men’s grooming forever. Gillette saw the value in manufacturing disposable products that minimized the maintenance of daily sharpening that straight razors of the time required. Additionally, the safety razor was easier to handle and required less skill to successfully shave without accidentally mutilating one’s most-recognizable feature.
Gillette was able to to improved on the forged blade of the time by producing blades that were stamped out of a sheet. This not only made for quicker production, but also a high profit margin. Production for the then-named Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1903, and the company set the gold standard selling a whopping 51 razors and 168 blades.
Despite a lackluster first-year, Gillette managed to increase razor sales by over 1500% and blade sales by over 700% the following year. By the end of the decade, Gillette was manufacturing razors in five countries in North America and Europe.
Incredible sales figures didn’t deter Gillette Safety Razor Company from resting on it’s laurels. In 1920, the company put an emphasis on research to ever-improve the way guys get a great shave. Today, Gillette has two dedicated research and development facilities in Boston and Reading, UK.
Today Gillette is owned by Proctor and Gamble, and continues to innovate the world of modern shaving. Gillette products are endorsed by athletes in virtually every major professional sport and ads can be found featuring leading men of Hollywood and Grammy Award winners. Despite their continued innovation, is it possible that the company peaked in the mid-20th century with safety razors that maximized mass productions and a quality, classic shave?
Pros and Cons of the Super Speed:
First off, the pros: this razor is gorgeous. Granted, each of them has a different look, but the majority of them look like your typical DE safety razor – the chrome handle, the rounded adjustable razor head, and the flared bottom to make it stand upright. Still, the divine heaviness and gridlike texture of the stippled handle is really nice, since it makes for a lovely sight to a razor that is still incredibly balanced. Since it’s a bit heavier than normal, it makes it that much easier to let the blade’s weight do the work for you, making shaving a snap.
The history of the Super Speed is one of the most interesting things about it. The Super Speeds in particular were made in the mid to late 1950s, the Golden Era of wet shaving, and carries with them that appropriate history. There are all manner of different varieties, from Red Dots to Blue Dots to Flare Tips and more, each one with their own idiosyncrasies that make them unique among safety razors. Each model is like its own unique snowflake, which makes them great for collecting.
One of the few cons I can attribute to it is its relative unavailability – you have to do a bit more digging to actually find one. You can’t find them in a store, chiefly because Gillette stopped making them in favor of the rubber-handled disposable razor market! Luckily, though, these babies are pretty cheap once you actually find one. Because they’re so old and relatively high in number, you’ll probably find an awesome one four about $4 on eBay somewhere. Just do a little digging on online auction sites or around town at flea markets and secondhand shops, and it shouldn’t take long before you bump into one.
Who Should Get the Gillette Super Speed?
The Gillette Super Speed appeals mostly to collectors – those who have a bit of an obsessive spirit about wet shaving as a hobby. As we mentioned before, the sheer variety of the Super Speed razor makes it a great thing for collectors, as there are a million different models out there to pick up. Each one is slightly different, and has their own history and reasons for being made the way they are – finding the little variations in each model is really a thrill for collectors. Every model has a letter and a number just under the razor head that tells you which year and quarter it was made in, giving ownership of one of these razors an extra personal touch. Not only do you know what year it came from, but practically what month!
Apart from the novelty of collecting, though, the Super Speed just shaves that well – it’s a fantastic razor that gets the job done and gives you a breathtaking shave with little to no redness or irritation. The times I’ve shaved with a Super Speed, I couldn’t help but notice just how awesome of a shave it was – the razor just glided over my face with no difficulty, taking all the little unwanted hairs with it, and left my face smooth as a baby. For something so old, I’m very impressed with the way it’s able to still get the job done.
In short, the Super Speed is probably one of the best vintage double edged safety razors you could hope to ever find. It’s got a sense of authenticity to it, there are a million different varieties, and what’s more, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg – just a little bit more searching. By the time you find a Super Speed to take home with you, you’ll have spend less than you would getting some Chipotle, and it won’t leave you with an unfortunate digestive experience four hours later.
In the world of vintage razors, I earnestly think the Gillette Super Speed is among the best there is. It’s got that sweet spot of affordability, cool, sleek design, and sheer quality of shave that makes it impossible to not want one. Each model is a time capsule unto itself, tracing the world of shaving back to a larger picture about the American experience – it’s no small wonder people are obsessed about these guys. If you really want the kind of shaving experience your grandpa had, you just have to try a Super Speed on for size.
Additional Expertise on the Super Speed:
- The Best Shave Is a Wet Shave’s Video Review of the Super Speed 1964 Flare Tip
- Geofatboy’s Video Review of the Super Speed
- Wet Shave Obsession’s Vintage Razor Review of the Flare Tip Super Speed
- Straight Razor Place’s Thread for the 1958 Super Speed
- Sharpologist’s Article on the Best DE Razor (Hint: One of them is the Super Speed)
- GentlemanHQ’s Safety Razor Reviews Guide