1904: King C. Gillette Patents The Gillette Razor Blade

King C. Gillette’s parents must have had high hopes when they named him. Luckily he lived up to the hype and became a wealthy entrepreneur and a celebrity. Gillette didn’t invent the razor, but he developed his own model and business plan that led to the razor empire’s massive success.

King Gillette

In the late 19th century, shaving was a fairly barbaric practice, requiring a straight-edged razor that needed constant sharpening with a leather strap. Several inventors have tinkered with prototypes of safety razors, but King Gillette took the lead in designing them because they don’t require regular sharpening and would rather be discarded. Before entering the shaving business, Gillette worked as a traveling salesman for the Crown Coke and Seal Company. The company’s most profitable product was her disposable bottle cap. When she noticed one day that her razor was getting dull, she had the idea to start her shaving service. She runs a similar business that manufactures disposable razor blades – and is profitable.

The Best A Man Can Get

After a series of trials and errors, Gillette developed a method of stamping thin, sharp razor blades from inexpensive steel for mass production. Although he patented his own design on November 15, 1904, the key to Gillette’s success was his plan for his revolutionary Loss Leader business. Gillette lured customers by selling razors well below their cost to manufacture, but the blades that must be constantly replaced cost very little to manufacture, meaning razors can be astronomically cheap. That’s it.

Gillette’s competitors were quick to imitate his model of his business, but Gillette already had one trick up his sleeve. It’s celebrity endorsement marketing. Gillette hired some of the best professional athletes of the time to back his razor, including baseball player Honus Wagner. When the United States entered World War I, Gillette seized another opportunity and worked with the U.S. military to include its disposable razors in the supply of soldiers abroad. In 1918 alone, the military ordered over 3.5 million of her Gillette razors. To this day, Gillette remains the leading brand in disposable razors.