Vintage Gear Exploration: Gillette Super Adjustable

Posted: September 29, 2016 in Shaving Articles
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Time marches on. No matter how good or successful a product might be, it can’t stay on the market forever. Thus, the vaunted Gillette Slim Adjustable ended its run and passed the torch to the Super Adjustable, the last in the line of elite, tuneable razors Gillette would produce.

Unlike some of their non-adjustable stable mates, Gillette didn’t let dust grow too heavy on their Adjustable models. The original Fat Boy was only made for four years or so, giving way to the Slim Adjustable that soldiered on through the 60’s. In the late 60’s, though, styles were changing, and the Slim, perhaps, was deemed to be a little dated.

In comes the Super Adjustable, with its black, grooved handle. I’m told that no parts are shared between the Super and the Slim. That said, they certainly attempt to serve the same purpose. Same 1-9 blade gap setting, Same basic look to the head. With the coated black handle, the Super does have a different feel. It’s a different look, much more akin to the anodized Superspeeds of the era.

The Super Adjustable was made in a “Lady Adjustable” with a long handle, and a long handle male-branded razor, but the model I have, from ’72, is the standard length (same length as the Slim). While the “book” that many sites and pundits sold me when I started shaving was that long handled razors were the way to go, I have not found that to the case. I have large hands (I wear a 2XL glove), but they’re sufficiently adroit to grasp any razor I have. In fact, I find that shorter handles work better, as they feel more maneuverable, and don’t bump into my chest when I’m shaving low on my neck. Thus, the standard Gillette length suits me fine…and I’ve digressed, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

In my shaves, the Super seemed to perform about the same as the Slim. In a fit of bravery, I did do a full shave at “9”. That was okay, but not necessarily something I’d recommend or frequently do. I found that, with a sharp blade, “3” was probably about equal to a Superspeed, with “4” probably equaling my Aristocrat. For a three pass shave, anything more than a “5” verged on a little more aggression than necessary. As with the Slim, a one or two pass shave on a higher number is certainly possible for maintenance. My current theory is that, if I can shave a full three pass every day without making a mess of my face, that’s the winning strategy. Thus, I’ve been biased toward “just enough” in terms of aggression. It all depends on what you are trying to get out of the shaving experience. If you want to shave once or twice a week, just to keep stubble from becoming an actual beard, you may want a far more aggressive shave than a guy who’s shaving every day. Maybe you have moods, and sometimes go between these and other shaving routines. That’s what the little dial with the numbers there for.

I found a good reason for “9”, however, when I saw that my goatee had grown a bit out of control on my neck. On the highest setting, this razor can dig in and cut through thick beard hair with no clogging and no discomfort. It’s not at all bothered. If you need to do a shave-off after a long spell of beard growth, this thing is the cat’s meow. Just do the first pass with the aggression dial turned up, then back off to 3 or 4 for the successive passes. Says me. Everyone has different theories on the adjustables, it seems.

The Super Adjustable was gradually “modernized” as its run continued, ending up with a plastic adjustment under-tray in the 80’s, when it was unofficially called the “Black Beauty”. I haven’t heard any evidence that this razor shaved differently than that metal-tray earlier models. I prefer metal. Anyone who knows me can attest to this. (Look for a future article about the Black Beauty, by the way. Oops. Spoilers.)

Well, in the Adjustable game, I really am only missing the Fatboy now. (Further spoilers…expect another article about this one, too.) They’re in demand, so it’s a bit harder to lay hands to them now. I only wish that I’d known about the vintage razor deal years ago. Back several years ago, they were giving these things away. Ah, well. We can’t all be early to the party. Then again, it’s a good time to come in the doors to the wet shaving soiree. There are so many great products out there, great tutorials, a big online community…it’s a golden age right now, and your favorite song is playing on the stereo. Welcome, friend.

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