Gillette just pulled back the curtain on its latest innovation, and it’s not more blades. It’s actually a new type of handle that swivels, inspired by men making funny faces when they shave. Gillette says this so-called FlexBall Technology is “shaving rebuilt”. I’m not convinced.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a nice razor. The bulkily-named Fusion ProGlide with FlexBall Technology razor is also Gillette’s most expensive at $US11.50 for the manual version and $US12.50 for the battery-powered version. Of course, only the handle is new. The razor takes the regular old Fusion cartridges with five blades on the front and one on the back that have been on the market since 2006. At a launch event in New York City on Tuesday morning, Gillette called FlexBall technology “the biggest advance in the category since the introduction of five blades.” Gillette’s last big innovation, by the way, was the introduction of five blades.
So what’s the big deal here exactly? Like I said before, it swivels. Whereas all other Gillette razors and, arguably, most razors on the market allow the blades to swivel back and forth a little bit, the new Gillette technology lets them swivel more. The movement is pretty similar to how your wrist works. One goal of this new mobility is to make shaving more effective. Supposedly, that means the new razor misses 20 per cent fewer hairs and cuts stubble 23 microns shorter. That’s about half the width of a human hair.
Gillette also says that FlexBall Technology will let men — and yes, it’s just for men right now — shave without twisting their faces in awkward ways. The razor’s supposed to come to the hairs. So no need to move your cheeks, gents. Or looking goofy in the privacy of your own bathroom. Gillette’s here to make your morning easier. But is shaving really so hard?
This actually wasn’t the first time anyone’s heard about this about this FlexBall Technology. Nearly two weeks before the event, The Wall Street Journal reported on the details of the new product, and New York Magazine called it everything that’s wrong with American innovation, “a glorified marketing gimmick,” and “a dumb novelty that is meant to trick customers into believing that their old, swivel-free razors are outmoded.” After actually trying the new technology, it’s hard to disagree.
I got to shave with the new razor in a room full of strangers at the Gillette press event. A Gillette representative told me about something called the “J-stroke” and said wouldn’t even have to move my face. Still, I ended up shaving the same way I’ve been shaving for my entire life.
Indeed, I am the owner of an old, swivel-free razor: an original Gillette Mach 3. I’ve had it since high school, and while I bought into the five-blade gimmick at one point, I keep going back to the Mach 3. The cartridges are cheaper, and it works well enough without all the bells and whistles.
On our way out, we were all handed a our very own Fusion ProGlide with FlexBall Technology razor review units. But it wasn’t really much of a parting gift at all, since so much of what these razors actually are is just a reason to spend more money on Gillette products. Shaving with the demo version wasn’t a bad experience, but it didn’t make me want to shave more often. It definitely didn’t make me want to spend more money.
As I shuffled down the sidewalk, on the way to the office, I ran my hand across my freshly shaved face. Sure enough, I’d missed a couple spots and cut myself, just like any other morning.