Sometimes, the old ways are the best – we already know that with wet shaving, don’t we? All the same, we don’t even have to restrict ourselves to newer safety razors to get the job done right – true collectors love to grab the kinds of razors that actually existed in the 1950s and 1960s, just to get that little extra slice of authenticity. There’s always a sense of history that comes from tracking one of these babies down, and I can’t blame collectors for wanting to grab these seriously awesome old-school razors. The Gillette Fatboy, made during the late 1950s, is one of the most highly-sought and treasured adjustable safety razors out there, and it’s easy to see why – it’s amazing. Read on!
Cleaning Tips to Get You Started
We will get to the juicy review details in just a bit, but first we want to tell that you can totally clean a Fat Boy up and it will look good as new. Don’t pass one up if you happen across one somewhere. Here is the easiest way to give it a good cleaning.
To start the cleaning process you will definitely want to gather up some cleaning supplies. A major plus for cleaning this type of razor is that you probably already have most, if not all of the supplies needed. You will definitely need to grab some baking soda, any brand of bathroom soap scum remover, hard bristle brush (something similar to a gun brush is perfect), toothpicks and lastly a sterilization liquid (Barbicide or jewelry cleaner both work perfectly).
Grab one of those big glass measuring cups and fill it with hot water. Add a good amount of baking soda while the water is still super hot and start soaking your Fat Boy. Give it a good swirl in the water now and then to loosen up some of the built up gunk that’s been chilling in the cracks for forever. The fizzing action from the baking soda with help to lift some of that old beard hair and soap scum. This is a good time to break out the toothpicks to scrape out some of the crevices that have an extra bit of grossness lurking in them.
You may need to give the razor a few good dips into the hot water and baking soda pool to ensure that it’s ready for the next step. You can now move on to giving it a good scrub with your soap scum remover. Giving the razor a good scrubbing with a soft bristle toothbrush should get any last bits of stuff off. Once it’s all scrubbed and de-scummed, you can submerge it in some jewelry cleaner for about five minutes.
There may be some green tarnished spots on it that you might not have seen because of how dirty it was. No worries, because you can use the hard bristle brush we told you to grab to help scrub them off.
Go ahead and empty your original container that held the hot water and baking soda. Make sure that you give it a good wash and rinse it thoroughly as well. Once you’ve done that, fill it up with super hot water again, but this time we are going to ’86 the baking soda.
Gently place your Fat Boy back in the water and be careful not to burn yourself! This step is mainly just to give it a final rinse and get the left over jewelry cleaner off. By now your Fat Boy should be looking as good as new. If it still looks a bit dull, just give it a quick scrub and buff with some whitening toothpaste.
Now that you know how to clean a Fat Boy should you find one. Let’s get to the important stuff.
Pros and Cons of the Fatboy
First, a little history – the Gillette Fatboy was only produced for about 4 years (from 1958 to 1961), so it’s certainly a rarity. It’s very hard to find, so it can be a little more expensive than the Gillette Super Speed – sometimes you can find Fatboys running for about $40! It’s very well sought after because of this rarity, as well as the fact that it’s just an incredibly well-designed razor. These babies are built to last, so you should still be able to find some amazing ones in pretty good condition.
One of the most remarkable things about the Fatboy is the adjustable butterfly razor head; this was one of the earliest types of razor to feature the butterfly head, which is a fantastically easy way to change out razor heads once you need to do that. Instead of unscrewing the top half of the blade housing, it opens up from the middle like a butterfly’s wings. This allows for a tremendous amount of ease when changing out the razor head, which is always a plus. The adjustable nature of the razor is also a plus, since you can change the gap between the razor blade and the safety bar, giving you as close a shave as you might want.
Of course, there is a downside to adjustable razors like the Fatboy; for most adjustables, the adjustable setting leaves the blade exposure a bit different on both sides of the razor. This might be good for some (since it effectively gives you two default settings to work with) but it might not be nice for others, who want a little more consistency and less guesswork with their safety razors.
All in all, the Fatboy can also be a bit aggressive in its shave, leaving you a bit more nicked than usual. However, this is sometimes what you have to go through to get the kind of close shave the Fatboy will provide you. This is seriously one deft blade – very well balanced, safely adjustable and easy to grip. While nicks may happen, you’ll be in total control the entire time, so it’s mostly up to you to practice and get it right.
Who Would Use the Gillette Fatboy?
The Fatboy itself caters primarily to collectors – if need be, other wet shaving aficionados can find a decent safety razor elsewhere, but there’s just something about the Fatboy’s sense of history and tradition that makes it so endlessly appealing. The search for vintage Gillette razors like these is always a fun little adventure, and you can usually easily find them anyway. These are razors that have been well and truly proven in the field, and so you can’t really go wrong with them.
I would also say that, if you’re looking for a good shave, that’s another great reason to get the Fatboy. Even though it’s an old man, it’s no slouch – it’ll still shave with the best of them, and the combination of adjustable head and butterfly mechanism makes it that much easier to set up and change out the razor after shaves.
Some Parting Words
All in all, the Gillette Fatboy is one of the better vintage safety razors you can hope to find. As a razor, it’s fabulous; I find it incredibly attractive to look at and hold in my hand, and it shaves like an absolute dream. The textured handle is also really nice, and will make for a nice addition to your existing shave kit. I feel like it’s got so much going for it that I can’t possibly fault it for anything except a little unevenness in the blades and being too rare to easily find. Just look on eBay or other online auction or collection sites, and you’ll be sure to find a Fatboy somewhere around there. Just be sure to snatch it up before you have to pay too much – with this particular razor, that’s a distinct possibility!
In the end, you can get whatever kind of razor you want – you’ll be sure to find something that works for you. Still, the Gillette Fatboy is simply an amazing razor that will last for decades (after all, it already has!), and when you get hold of one you’ll be instantly reminded of all the people who have used it before you. Using a Fatboy has the weird effect of taking you back to a simpler time, and it’s rare to get that element of nostalgia from a grooming implement. Collector or no, it’s a solid razor.
These experts have an even better grasp of the Fatboy than we do:
- Geofatboy’s Video Guide to Shaving With the Fatboy
- JL Kessler’s Video Comparison of the Fatboy and the Merkur Futur
- SinatraLennon’s Video Fatboy Shave Guide
- Badger and Blade’s Thread on the Gillette Fatboy
- Axel and Sophie Steenberg’s Review of the Fatboy