Male shaving has a long and varied global history, and primitive bronze razors have even been discovered in prehistoric evacuation sites. Over the centuries straight razors with open steel blades became the discerning tool of choice. However, these were known for their dangerous – or cut-throat – qualities, meaning men often had to pay their barber every time they needed to trim their beard.
Spotting a gap in the market, Marcel Bich, founder of the Bic company in France, decided to begin creating a completely disposable razor in the 1970s. In the second half of the 20th century Bich had focused his company on affordable products that simplify daily actions, so he decided to apply this same philosophy to the razor.
In 1975 the Bic one-piece polystyrene razor hit the market and instantly became a hit. For the first time, men did not have to worry about changing razor blades but could merely pick up a new and inexpensive model once the blades became blunt. By the late 80s, Bic’s shaving products achieved $52m in sales and held 22.4% of the market.
Several companies quickly sought to follow suit, most notably Gillette – a king in the shaving world - which launched its version of the disposable razor in the US in 1976.
Bic continues to produce disposable shaving products, which now account for 8% of its total revenue. Recent innovations include the Bic 3, the Bic Soleil for women, the Bic Comfort 3 and the very recent Bic Ecolutions – a shaver made from bioplastic materials – which hit the market this year.
However, in recent times the company has come under fire from green movements, who complain that disposable razors are not recycled.
In its defense, Bic argues that its razors are too small and lightweight to meet recycling criteria, as recycling is only justifiable for products at end of life when they offer significant potential in both weight and volume, or are easy to disassemble.
The company also says the razors are lightweight, meaning the products are designed on the principle of ‘just what’s necessary’, and that the packaging is optimised according to ‘ecodesign principles’. And customers should use their disposable razors for as long as possible, adds the firm.