Gillette is an American brand of safety razors and other personal care products including shaving supplies, owned by the multi-national corporation Procter & Gamble (P&G). Based in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, it was owned by The Gillette Company, a supplier of products under various brands until that company merged into P&G in 2005. The Gillette Company was founded by King C. Gillette in 1901 as a safety razor manufacturer.
The Gillette company and brand originate from the late 19th century when salesman and inventor King Camp Gillette came up with the idea of a safety razor that used disposable blades. Safety razors at the time were essentially short pieces of a straight razor clamped to a holder. The blade had to be stropped before each shave and after a time needed to be honed by a cutler. Gillette's invention was inspired by his mentor at Crown Cork & Seal Company, William Painter, who had invented the Crown cork. Painter encouraged Gillette to come up with something that, like the Crown cork, could be thrown away once used.
While Gillette came up with the idea in 1895, developing the concept into a working model and drawings that could be submitted to the Patent Office took six years. Gillette had trouble finding anyone capable of developing a method to manufacture blades from thin sheet steel, but finally found William Emery Nickerson, an MIT graduate with a degree in chemistry. Gillette and other members of the project founded The American Safety Razor Company on September 28, 1901. The company had issues getting funding until Gillette's old friend John Joyce invested the necessary amount for the company to begin manufacturing. Production began slowly in 1903, but the following year Nickerson succeeded in building a new blade grinding machine that had bottlenecked production. During its first year of operation, the company had sold 51 razors and 168 blades, but the second year saw sales rise to 90,884 razors and 123,648 blades. The company was renamed to the Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1904 and it quickly began to expand outside the United States. In 1905 the company opened a sales office in London and a blade manufacturing plant in Paris, and by 1906 Gillette had a blade plant in Canada, a sales operation in Mexico, and a European distribution network that sold in many nations, including Russia.
Due to its premium pricing strategy, the Gillette Safety Razor Company's razor and blade unit sales grew at a modest pace from 1908 to 1916. Disposable razor blades still were not a true mass-market product, and barbershops and self-shaving with a straight razor were still popular methods of grooming. Among the general U.S. population, a two-day stubble was not uncommon. This changed once the United States declared war on the Central Powers in 1917; military regulations required every soldier to provide their own shaving kit, and Gillette's compact kit with disposable blades outsold competitors whose razors required stropping. Gillette marketed their razor by designing a military-only case decorated with U.S. Army and Navy insignia and in 1917 the company sold 1.1 million razors.
In 1918, the U.S. military began issuing Gillette shaving kits to every U.S. serviceman. Gillette's sales rose to 3.5 million razors and 32 million blades. As a consequence, millions of servicemen got accustomed to daily shaving using Gillette's razor. After the war, Gillette utilized this in their domestic marketing and used advertising to reinforce the habit acquired during the war.
The Great Depression weakened Gillette's position in the market significantly. The company had fallen behind its competitors in blade manufacturing technology in the 1920s and had let quality control slip while over-stretching its production equipment in order to hurry a new Kroman razor and blade to market in 1930. In 1932, Gillette apologized for the reduction in blade quality, withdrew the Kroman blade, and introduced the Blue Blade (initially called the Blue Super Blade) as its replacement. Other Gillette introductions during the Depression years were the Brushless Shaving Cream and an electric shaver that was soon discontinued due to modest sales.
The Second World War reduced Gillette's blade production both domestically and internationally. As a result of the war, many markets were closed off, German and Japanese forces expropriated the company's plants and property, and Gillette's plants in Boston and London were partially converted for weapons production. In 1942, the War Production Board ordered Gillette to dedicate its entire razor production and most blade production to the U.S. military. By the end of the war, servicemen had been issued 12.5 million razors and 1.5 billion blades. Gillette also assisted the U.S. Army in military intelligence by producing copies of German razor blades for secret agents venturing behind German lines so that their identities wouldn't be compromised by their shaving equipment. The company also manufactured razors that concealed money and escape maps in their handles, and magnetic double-edge blades that prisoners of war could use as a compass.
In 1947 Gillette introduced the Gillette Super Speed razor and along with it the Speed-pak blade dispenser the company had developed during the war. The dispenser allowed the blade to be slid out of the dispenser into the razor without danger of touching the sharp edge. It also had a compartment for holding used blades.
In 1960, Gillette introduced the Super Blue blade, the company's first coated blade, and the first significantly improved razor blade since the Blue Blade of the 1930s. The new blade was coated with silicone and in Gillette's laboratory testing produced much more comfortable and close shaves by reducing the blade's adhesion to whiskers. Super Blue was a success and sold more than the Blue Blade and Thin Blade combined. By the end of 1961, Gillette's double edge blade market share had risen to 90 percent and the company held a total razor blade market share of 70 percent.
The development of Gillette's first twin-blade razor began in early 1964 in the company's Reading laboratories in England when a new employee, Norman C. Welsh, experimented with tandem blades and discovered what he called the "hysteresis effect"; a blade pulling the whisker out of the hair follicle before cutting it, and enabling a second blade to cut the whisker even shorter before it retracted back into the follicle. For six years afterwards, Welsh and his colleagues worked on a means of utilizing the hysteresis effect, almost exclusively concentrating on what would later be known as the Atra twin-blade system. The Atra razor featured two blades set in a plastic cartridge with edges that faced each other. Using the razor required the user to move it in an up-and-down scrubbing motion, and whiskers were cut on both the up and down strokes. Another twin-blade system with blades set in tandem, codenamed "Rex", also existed, but it had too many technical problems and was behind Atra in development.
In 1974, the French Société Bic introduced the world's first disposable razor. The razor was first brought to the market in Greece, where it sold well, after which it was introduced to Italy and many other European countries. Gillette hurried to develop their own disposable before Bic could bring their razor to the United States. Gillette designed a single-blade razor similar to Bic's but soon abandoned the concept in favor of a razor that was essentially a Trac II cartridge molded into a blue plastic handle. Gillette introduced this disposable as the Good News in 1976, about a year before Bic's razor reached the United States, and managed to establish market leadership once Bic and other competitors came to market. Good News was released under various names in Europe and was equally and sometimes even more successful than Bic's razor. Gillette quickly brought its razor to markets Bic hadn't yet reached, such as Latin America where the razor was known as Prestobarba.
In 1990, Gillette attempted to purchase Wilkinson Sword's U.S. and non-European operations. The Department of Justice prevented the sale of Wilkinson's U.S. assets to prevent a significant reduction in competition by eliminating one of the top four blade suppliers when Gillette already controlled approximately half of the nation's razor market. Gillette launched the Series line of men's grooming products, including scented shaving gels, deodorants, and skin-care items, in 1992. The company's SensorExcel launched in Europe and Canada in 1993, followed by the United Kingdom and United States in 1994. In 1996, Gillette launched several new products for women and teenage boys, including the SensorExcel for Women, a moisturizer, a shaving gel, and a body spray.
The company launched the new shaving system Gillette Mach3 in 1998, challenging the twin-blade system which dominated the market by introducing a third blade. Gillette promoted the product, which took five years to develop and was protected by 35 patents, with a $300 million marketing campaign. The Mach3 and replacement cartridges cost 35 percent more than the SensorExcel razor. By 1999, Gillette was worth US$43 billion, and the brand value of Gillette was estimated to be worth US$16 billion. This equated to 37% of the company's value. In 2000, Gillette's board fired CEO Michael Hawley; he was replaced by former Nabisco CEO James M. Kilts in early 2001. In 2003, Schick-Wilkinson Sword introduced the Quattro, a four-blade shaving system, increasing the company's market share to 17 percent. Gillette claimed the Quattro infringed on the Mach3 patents. Gillette's efforts were unsuccessful, but the company maintained approximately two-thirds of the global wet-razor market as of mid-2005.
In 2019, the company partnered with TerraCycle to create a U.S. recycling program for blades, razors, and packaging for any brand. In 2020, Gillette announced a commitment to reduce the use of virgin (unrecycled) plastics by 50 percent by 2030 and maintain zero waste to landfill status across all plants. 781b155fdc