Vintage Gear Exploration: 1958 Gillette Flare-Tip Superspeed “TV Special”

Posted: September 21, 2016 in Shaving Articles
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I already knew that I liked Superspeeds when I found this razor. I had no real qualms in getting another one. At the same time, I suppose that I didn’t have any earthly reason to. Other than just for kicks. Which, it turns out, is one of my favorite reasons for doing anything.

When I found this fellow in the case at Jitterbut Antiques, I was looking for a Gillete Flare Tip that was all nickle-plated brass. I already had a 40’s era and a black anodized handle Superspeed from 1967 (also theoretically a Flare Tip).

There were several Flare Tips to choose from, but I liked the price on this one, and I liked the pattern of the knurling. It reminded me of my Aristocrat, a favorite razor.

Thus, I picked it up. It looked okay. Its finish was a little dull, but it was totally squared away mechanically. I was shocked when I did the first wash, because this razor began to shine and sparkle with no polish at all. It just needed a little grime brushed away. After polishing, it may be the brightest of the razors in my vintage stable. Except for a very small half-moon nick on one of the butterfly doors, it looks brand new.

It occurs to me that I haven’t done the historical background on this one that I usually do. Allow me to backtrack.

The “TV Special” Gillette Flare Tip Superspeed was produced only in 1958. It was sold as a promotional offer through a sports program called “Gillette’s Cavalcade of Sports”. It is mechanically the same as other Superspeeds of the era, except for the knurling pattern, which was arranged in vertical lines of knurling, seperated by small, deeper channels. The standard Flare Tip had rectangular segments of knurling, for reference. I think that the TV Special is prettier, but that’s a matter of individual aesthetics.

One thing I’ll vehemently defend is how great this thing shaves. I don’t know why, but I have had consistently superior shaves from this particular razor. Whenever I pick it up, it just feels right. It is currently my favorite of my Superspeeds. Not by a huge margin, but there it is. If I had to pare down my collection, this would be one of the last ones I’d let go. It’s a razor I could be perfectly happy to shave with exclusively.

As with all Superspeeds, it’s a fairly mild shaver, but will get the job done with a sharp blade. For my combination of beard/face/technique, it works great. My go-to with Superspeeds is the Astra SP blade, but any sharp blade will work. Very much a keeper. In this particular case, the “as seen on TV” stigma need not apply.

About the photos: I should note that the slight coppery tint seen in the pictures is just an artifact of the camera. The razor is a nickle plated device with a high sheen.

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Comments
  1. Jonathan says:

    Great writeup! I’m a huge fan of ALL of the Gillette Super Speeds. Just got finished shaving with a 1959 Red Tip and the shave is priceless and amazing! I also love the adjustables by Gillette, too. It’s amazing how old these razors actually are and how well they shave like they were just made today. Amazing…

    • Jonathan, yes, the old Gillettes are great shavers. My everyday shaver is a ’58 Fatboy that I’ve had replated in rhodium. I couldn’t ask for much more than it gives, even after all these years. It works and shaves perfectly.

      • Jonathan says:

        Hi,patrickmtracy, are you the one that wrote this Flare Tip Super Speed TV Special blog?

  2. Jonathan, yes. I am that person.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I just got done shaving with my 1970 Gillette Black Handle Super Speed, and it seems to leave more feedback while cutting the hair. Is that just my imagination or is the Black Handle SS, a fairly more aggressive Super Speed than the earlier Super Speeds? I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions 🙂

    • Jonathan, I have a ’67 Superspeed, and I find that it shaves very similarly to my 40’s style and my ’58 TV Special (another flaretip). My black handle seems just as mild as any other superspeed.

      • Jonathan says:

        Oh, I see. Just what I thought. I just got done shaving with a 40’s style Super Speed and the shave is quite the same as the Red Tip, Flare Tip, and Black Handle.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Patrickmtracy, do you like the Gillette Techs? I have a 1930’s nickel plated ball end Tech. I love it even though it’s very mild.

    • Jonathan, I have a tech (ball end), and I find that it doesn’t quite work for me. I tend to have better luck with slightly more aggressive razors. I have always found that the Superspeeds work better than the Techs for me. I think that the thicker/blunter head profile seems to work better for me.

      • Jonathan says:

        Can you write an article of your own personal experiences with the Gillette Super Speeds, the ones you’ve used? That would be nice to read. I’d be glad to read it. 🙂

  5. Jonathan, I believe I have written up an article for all the Superspeeds I’ve got. Let me see.

  6. Yes, Jonathan. If you just search for “superspeed” in the search bar, you’ll find all the articles, as well as some that relate to when I’ve used the razors, or otherwise mentioned them.

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