Gillette is the brand known to have revolutionized the method of shaving generations ago, and still has a hold on the industry decades later. Gillette is synonymous with razors, but not many know the true story behind how this multimillion-dollar business came to life. As it is known, King Camp Gillette is the inventor of the first safety razor for men and also the founder of the brand which later developed into a colossal grooming corporation. However, this is not the case. There was someone else in the picture.
William Emery Nickerson, the partner of King C. Gillette, was the original mastermind behind the invention of the first safety razor. Back then, it was perceived that selling a product under the name of Nickerson might lower its brand value. After all, no one wants to nick their skin while shaving! In addition, the idea to invent such a tool for shaving was of King Gillette’s, and Nickerson only shaped his idea through innovation.
The story begins in 1895 when King C. Gillette conceived the idea of disposable blades and safety razors. Back then, portable shaving devices were used that were called “cut-throat razors” by traveling salesmen. The device was a wedge-like heavy metal blade with a top handle. When dull, the wedge was stropped by hand until it was completely sharpened. The device was very risky to be used in trains while traveling and thus it got such a name.
As King C. Gillette started his research on safety razors he met several metallurgical experts to find a way to shape his dream. He was told by these metallurgists that mass production of such a thin metal blade that will be disposable was not feasible. Thankfully, this could not deter King C. Gillette’s spirit as he was determined to revolutionize shaving. It was during this time King C. Gillette met William Emery Nickerson, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a trustee of Boston University. King Gillette partnered with Nickerson, and after 6 years, Nickerson invented a successful method to create disposable blades.
In 1901 the duo came up with all the necessary equipment to mass-produce the disposable razors and soon patented the invention. King C. Gillette started his company by the name American Safety Razor Company in the same year. The company was later renamed “Gillette Safety Razor Company” in 1904. The safety razor disrupted the market by replacing old shaving devices. The safety razor and disposable blades revolutionized shaving technology for future generations.
The blades and razors were sold with the picture and name of King C. Gillette, earning him stardom almost overnight. By 1910 King C. Gillette was already a millionaire. He even authored a few books on social advancement, besides devising killer marketing strategies for his brand “Gillette”. In 1926 King C. Gillette built his home on 588 acres of land in Calabasas, California. Presently, the property is a state park called King Gillette Ranch.
The story behind the world’s first safety razor and its company is a fascinating one, especially since Gillette razors are present in millions of stores across the United States. This is all thanks to the vision of King C. Gillette and his talented partner, William Emery Nickerson.