Press Release of the Week: Precision-styled facial hair

Some of the funniest -- and most frightening -- press releases are those put out by market research companies. There are market researchers for just about everything: what people think about cars, or clothes, or children, or dogs. Basically the job of a market researcher is to observe people's day-to-day behavior and translate that into big bling for corporations looking to tap into the counrty's collective zeitgeist.

Apparently, the current zeitgest for American males is a little ... well, girly:

"As the well-groomed male has arrived as a permanent fixture in an image-obsessed culture, the shaving market has opened its doors to a multitude of products featuring traditionally female benefits, such as anti-aging and natural ingredients, according to Market Trends: Shaving and Hair Removal Products, a new report from market research publisher Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com."

According to the report, men -- once content to shave every few days, whenever their wives or girlfriends forced them into it, or perhaps grow bushy Tom Selleck-style mustaches -- now are into something called "precision-styled facial hair."

"What we've found is that men are open to exploring the benefits of male-formulated, female-type products," says Don Montuori, the publisher of the study. Of course "male formulated" is code for "differently colored packaging."

Such products as "skin-rejuvenating, ultra-comfort shavers and depilitories," Montuori tells us, once marketed mostly to women "have come out of the closet, so to speak."

Apparently the only holdout in America's wussification is the "ethnic market." But not to worry: America's razor companies are certainly working on products to appeal specifically to them. And I'm sure they'll all be completely tasteful and non-offensive, like Mattel's famous Oreo Barbie.

I actually have to take my hat off to the shaving industry, which has managed to convince nearly the entire male population that cutting the hair from one's face requires NASA-like technology. Not even twenty years ago, men either owned straight razors or bought Bic disposables, and everyone seemed happy enough with that arrangement. But see, that was just because we were ignorant, and we needed America's corporations to teach us about the things that were missing from our tiny, empty lives.

So they did, and we listened. And now I pay almost $15 for a packet of blades to fit onto my snazzy Mach Turbo IV Hi-Powered Assault Shaver with optional Skin Saving Hydro-Moisturizing Pellet Dispenser.

Unfortunately, this press release doesn't explain what I find to be the most perplexing new trend in the shaving market, which is razors with batteries. I don't mean electric shavers, but razors -- like the Mach Turbo -- that are completely hand-powered but apparently use a battery for some effect. Does it vibrate? Because that's the only thing that seems to make any sense, and yet that doesn't really make sense either. What good is a vibrating razor? It seems like you'd just be upping the odds of injury.

Maybe the razor companies have just succumbed to their own marketing success. First we needed twin blades, then three blades, then four or five blades. Then they added "moisture strips" or platinum-coated blades, or racing stripes. Eventually, I guess, you run out of ways to fancy up what's basically a pretty simple device. So some marketing guru probably swaggered into a meeting one day and said "Batteries." And then when the other suits in the boardroom asked what the batteries would do, he said "Does it matter?" And they all agreed he was right, and had a good laugh.

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