[Ed. note: caution, this post is image-heavy.] Known by collectors from a variety of names: Psycho, Prison, Asylum and the Security Razor (which was the name given by Gillette) is one of the most unique safety razors ever built. Even in it’s day most people never heard of the Security Razor. It was never sold to the public even though it was one of Gillette’s longest running models.
Distributed to mental hospitals, prisons and possibly the military, some of these razors may have lived very interesting past lives. Collectors have taken notice and recently Security Razors have seen an increase in interest and value.
Unfortunately, a simple web search may come up empty handed as there is little known about these rare and unique razors.I sought out for more information as I tend to use this razor more often this time of year for my Halloween based SOTDs (shave of the day).
According to the March 1955 edition of The Gillette Blade (courtesy of the Gillette Archives Department ) in 1949 the US Army approached Gillette looking for a razor with a “locked in blade” Gillette’s research department developed several models and came up with a hollow handled razor with a locking nut that required a special key to loosen and tighten the top cap. The nut was placed far up in the handle so it could not be tampered with or opened with another tool. When loosened, the nut would slide down to allow the top cap to be removed while still being retained in the handle. The end result was a razor very similar to the 49 cent 3 piece Tech that was widely produced by Gillette at the time.
The US Government accepted the design and decided to use them in other government entities such as hospitals and prisons. They were distributed by an attendant (who loaded the blade before giving them out), to the user who would shave and then give it back when finished.
Gillette claimed this helped in the rehabilitation process by allowing the patient/inmate to begin doing things for themselves giving them a sense of normalcy. Gillette also claimed it saved thousands of man hours by not having to shave inhabitants, so these hours could be utilized for more important duties.
In the 1971 edition of The Gillette Blade, The Security Razor was featured as being the razor that was unknown to the public.The article mentions that Gillette produced roughly 3000 units per month and how this was a small amount compared to other models. All of these razors were inspected and assembled by hand to ensure quality control. Still utilizing the Tech Style design from the 1950’s the Security Razor remained unchanged for over 25 years.
As previously mentioned, the Security Razor was never sold or distributed to the public (as far as I know). These razors came in sets of ten often with one security key (although there have been instances where there were more keys) and were packed individually in a large cardboard box. A rough estimate by doing the math from the 1971 article estimates around 36,000 razors were produced each year. Multiple that by an estimate of 30 years in production and you have just over 1 million Security Razors produced.
Although it’s unknown if there were different models, what is known is that some were made in England, USA, possibly in Brazil and Mexico. There is one possible prototype that has collectors asking a lot of questions and to my knowledge is the only example to exist.
I recently caught up with Greg from the Archive department at Gillette and he was kind enough to share some information . Although little is known about the Security Razor (other than the articles previously mentioned) he has in the Gillette vault a possible prototype that may predate the 1940’s.
The razor looks like an old type (single ring), with a case used on the older British models. It contains two blades from 1913 which were possibly French made and a key that has a notch in it to unlock the top cap.
The discovery of this razor may indicate that the information in the Gillette Blade publication may not be 100% accurate and that the design for the security razor may be much older. Greg mentioned that the British Gillette division was one of the major innovation contributors for the company and a key part of Gillette’s research and development.
Now if you ask me, I would say that in some form shape or another, Gillette did attempt to make a security razor prior to 1949. The original design may not have worked out and Gillette did not want to share this information in a company publication. The Gillette Blade was for employees and writing about a failure or rejected product probably wasn’t in the company’s interest.
We may never know the true beginnings of the security razor as the mystery lives on. But one thing’s for sure, we can still use the ones that are out there. Let’s take one for a test drive.
I currently own two Gillette Security razors and they always get a lot of use this time of year.
Date codes on these razors are J-4 and H-4.
Unlocking the blade is quite simple. Just put the key in and make sure it grips the nut, then turn counter clockwise (left) to unscrew the top cap and remove the blade and turn the key clockwise when tightening.
Shaving with the Security Razor is actually very similar to using a fat handled tech. The dimensions are virtually the same with the exception of the handle which is slightly lighter than the regular tech.
I found the Security razor to be very mild but extremely efficient. Shaving with the grain is effortless and requires little thought which is due to the design of the razor head with the larger gap and increased blade exposure. This is the reason why I love the Tech design. It has all the features of an aggressive razor with a mild touch.
Although the razor is efficient, the shave is a tad boring especially if you’re used to more modern razors. It’s a smooth shave, but requires very little thought. Changes in the blade angle or pressure doesn’t change the performance of the razor much, which makes it perfect for what it was designed to do. A consistent razor that was easy to use for all beard types in addition to being safe.
Replica Keys and Boxes
With popularity rising for Security Razors many have been obtaining razors without keys. Luckily there are several hacks online for opening and closing the razor without the original key and a few people making keys that are readily available.
This ebay seller out of France has created a key that gets the job done and is quite affordable at 13 Euros.
There are also some other hacks out there with people making their own makeshift keys such as the one in the picture below:
The folks at (Razor Emporium) who specializes in vintage Gillette sales and repair created a true to spec replica that looks and works just like the original. They even went as far as finding the company that produced the original chain out of Boston and have them specifically made for the handle as well offering a replica box and label. Retail for the key is $50 usd.
The Security Razor performs well and is an interesting addition to any razor collection. If you happen to find one with the original key, you’re in luck.
If you’re looking to purchase one, expect to pay anywhere from $40-$80 for the razor and add another $50-$75 with the original key according to my research. I found the razor to deliver favorable results, but lacked excitement as the shaves are very consistent with any approach you take. Performance wise it’s great for the beginner and ok for the more advanced shaver.
It’s unknown how many Security Razors survived to the present day. Likely, many of these razors could have been tossed when no longer needed rather than saved. I would have to put this razor on the relatively rare side for that reason alone.
Special thanks to
Greg McCoy of P&G
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