Why did King Gillette invent the safety razor?

In 1895, King Gillette, a traveling salesman, looked at his dull straight razor that had to be stropped, decided he didn’t want to do that again and invented the safety razor. He was entrepreneurial and had been searching for a product – one that had to be used and replaced – around which to build a business.

It was a truly disruptive innovation in that it almost destroyed the market for the straight razor. As with most disruptive innovations, there was already a safety razor on the market, the Star, but it required stropping.

Gillette envisioned a replaceable blade clamped in a handle and spent 6 years researching how to build one. Most scientists and toolmakers he talked to tried to discourage him but he finally found William Nickerson, an M.I.T.-educated machinist who could do the job.

The company grew rapidly and, during World War I, it sold 3.5 million razors and 36 million blades to the U.S. Army. The rest is history.

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