Lately I switched to using a safety razor – the kind that your grandpa used. It’s a solid bit of chrome metal with a simple blade tightening mechanism; you can replace the actual blade – a single metal, double sided blade – for pennies. The razor itself will likely last a lifetime. For foam, I use an Arko stick and badger hair brush; just wet the stick, wipe it around your face, then lather it up with the brush. The shaving stick last ages and costs less than $2; it’s basically just soap, with natural ingredients.
You’d think that all this frugal shaving nonsense gives you a pretty horrendous shave, wouldn’t you? How can just one blade achieve anything? Surely years of research have gone into creating that blue chemical sludge you find in a typical can of shaving foam? Surely they made razors with no less than 5 blades in a “handle replaceble cartridge” because progress demanded it? There must be a reason for all that, right?!
Apparently not, becuase I swear you get a better shave the old-fashioned way, with just a single blade and cheap as chips shaving stick.
In fact, the humble razor is the most perfect and extreme example of the fundamental shift that occured in society; that is, the move away from quality products that did a job and did it well, and the move toward a cheaper, disposable item that sold faster and kept the factory going night and day. Apparently, there’s even a name for it: planned obselescence. Wikipedia tells me the term can be traced back to 1932, but it wasn’t until 1954 when an American industrial designer called Brooks Stevens popularised the idea. The basic idea was to
“instill in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is neccessary”
At the time, it received widespread criticism as being wasteful (the war was still fresh in everyone’s minds), even going to so far as to prompt Volkswagen to mock the term in an an advertising campaign with the slogan “we don’t believe in planned obselescence”. But slowly it took hold, and today is the norm for companies the world over. Make something that’s just good enough to satisfy the consumer, use up as much materials as possible to justify a higher price, and sell as many as possible to make the most efficient use of factories.
This video is quite old now, but ever relevant. Watch it, and stop buying crap that’ll just need to be replaced in a few years. It’s not cheap – the costs are externalised. It might cost you less money, but it costs workers their health, it costs the world it’s resources, and costs future generations a debt they will never be able to repay.