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Cheap shaving cream just part of bigger issue

April 25, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

To get right to the point, I asked my wife to pick up some shaving cream at the store, and she came home with Barbasol.

I have nothing against Barbasol. Didn't know they still made it, but I have nothing against it. I used it. It's fine. Pretty much like any other shaving cream, I suppose. But there is a larger issue at work here, which I'll get to directly.

You have seen Barbasol, no doubt. It comes in a striped, circa 1918 can that is supposed to resemble a barber pole - which is part of the problem. Anyone younger than 30 would not know it is supposed to resemble a barber pole because they have never seen a barber pole, which went out of vogue shortly after the silk top hat.

The name comes from the Roman word for beard (barba) and "sol," short for solution. Thank you very much Al Gore for inventing the Internet.

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I imagine farmers use Barbasol. Or truckers. Or my brother who, unless you're talking about an automobile, is completely oblivious to branding. It has a fragrance, if you want to call it that, which is all business. Kind of like grandmother's ear medicine you might say, but hey, we're not buying scented candles here, we're buying shaving cream.

And it's cheap. As a matter of fact, that's why no one buys it. It's too cheap. We've been brought up to think you get what you pay for, so those exotic shaving creams from Gillette or that stuff that resembles transmission fluid on a cold morning have to be better because they're at least a buck more a can.

Now that I've tried Barbasol and found it to be just as good as the more expensive brands, I'll probably keep using it.

But that is not the point.

I don't know that the female equivalent of Barbasol is, but the point is that the Name Brand in High Heels would never be caught dead using it. If, for example, she sent me to the store for face cream and I came home with a bottle of Phil & Ernie's Face Cream, my life wouldn't be worth a plugged nickel.

It would have to be Klondike, or Clinique, or whatever that highbrow goo is that sets you back half a house payment.

So pretty soon, it started to bug me. Is it her opinion that she is worth the megabrands while I am not? Does she, being slightly younger than me, associate me with an aging product line? Finally, I had to "put out a feeler" to see what was up.

"So what's up with the Barbasol?"

"What about it? You asked for shaving cream. I got you shaving cream."

"But why Barbasol? Were they out of Burma Shave?"

"It was the cheapest."

"So you think enough of me to get the very cheapest."

"I got the one with conditioner in it. I upgraded you."

"I see, you didn't just get me any old Barbasol."

"That's right, I upgraded you to the high-test."

"OK, but think for a second. Suppose you sent me to the store for a skin-care product ..."

"Which I would never do."

"... And I got you the cheapest brand on the shelf, what would you say?"

"Go back."

"Exactly. So why would ..."

"What do you care about consumer products - you use Pepsodent."

I had to cut it off there because the girl had a point. Under normal circumstances, consumer products companies hate me because I have the brand loyalty of a cheetah. Whatever happens to be strolling by on the hoof at the time of need, I grab.

But I have grown grouchy about toothpaste. I don't want whiteners. I don't want brighteners. I don't want fluoride, gel, advanced gel, weird stripes, freckles, bottled stuff like the old Pearl Drops that inspired the chick in the commercial to start licking her teeth, enamel strengtheners, tarter control (if I wanted that, I'd brush my teeth with Milk Bones), anything with a name like "Luminious Paradise Total Max Fresh," baking soda, pancake batter or Silly Putty.

I just want plain old, white, Skoal-flavored, 50-cents-a-tube, it-was-the-hot-thing-back-in-1968 Pepsodent.

But for this, I get no respect. Just because when I squeeze my toothpaste out of the tube it doesn't stand up on the brush and dance the hoochy-coo, I am considered to be old-fashioned.

Which I guess is why I ended up with Barbasol in the first place. And by golly, now I'm going to stick with it. Barbasol has earned a customer for life. It works just as well as any of them and it saves money, so I urge all you men to do the same. Join the Barbasol revolution! And don't be too put off by the smell.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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