For men with hirsute backs, a day at the beach can be a nerve-racking experience. It is tough to enjoy the sand and surf while constantly worrying - perhaps needlessly, perhaps not - that passers-by are lampooning your furry shoulder blades.
Brett Marut is all too familiar with that sort of anxiety. "I have hair on my back to the point where - I don't know if you'd call me self-conscious or what - but I'm a little bit embarrassed," said Marut, who lives in the beach mecca of Santa Monica, California.
He tried waxing, but he couldn't tolerate the pain or the awkwardness of entering a salon full of female customers. So he resolved to create a less agonizing hair-removal option, one which men could use in private.
PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE
That option is the Mangroomer, an electric razor that resembles a futuristic kung fu weapon. Fully extended, the Mangroomer measures nearly half a meter from base to blade - long enough, according to Marut, to shave the human back's remotest corners.
Though he toyed with the concept for years, he didn't start designing the product in earnest until the summer of 2003. That is when he had an epiphany while waiting for a flight at Los Angeles International Airport. "I was actually on a trip to see my family in New Jersey," said Marut, who was working as a day trader at the time. "I was going back to see people I barely ever see, and I just knew I was going to have to take my shirt off."
While fretting over that prospect, he noticed several fellow travelers wheeling around suitcases with telescoping handles. A razor with a similarly designed handle, he realized, would be ideal for back shaving - the handle could be adjusted to reach various spots, both near and far.
Upon his return to Santa Monica, he started sketching out the Mangroomer. "It had to look cool, so if somebody saw it on my counter, they wouldn't say, 'What is this ridiculous thing?'" he said. He eventually settled on a razor that folds in two, much like a flip-top cell phone.
Thanks to a previous job as a buyer for May Department Stores, a retailer that merged with Federated Department Stores in 2005, Marut understood how prototypes are made. He contacted several dozen Chinese factories that specialize in nose-hair trimmers and other depilatory gadgets. After choosing a factory, he exchanged countless e-mail messages and phone calls with its staff while refining the design. They focused on finding the right angle for the razor's central joint, eventually settling on 135° - anything straighter tended to make the blade catch on folds of skin, Marut said, while smaller angles produced a coarser shave.
They also cut a thin line down the center of the joint. The cut made the joint less prone to cracking when considerable pressure is applied.
The first shipment of Mangroomers arrived from China last February. Marut says he has since sold 80,000 of the razors, primarily through retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.com. He also sells the product, priced at US$39.99, through his Web site, Mangroomer.com.
Given my utter lack of back hair - for which I am grateful to my genetic forebears - I was unable to conduct a full test on the Mangroomer. But the product's shape, at least, seems clever; the 135° angle, combined with the telescoping handle, enabled me to reach every nook and cranny on my back, without the slightest physical strain.
Perhaps I'll use it as a back scratcher.
Deaths, economic meltdown and a planet on lockdown: the coronavirus pandemic has brought us waves of bad news, but squint and you might just see a few bright spots. From better hygiene that has reduced other infectious diseases to people reaching out as they self-isolate, here are some slivers of silver linings during a bleak moment. WASH YOUR HANDS! The message from health professionals has been clear from the start of the outbreak: wash your hands. Everyone from celebrities to politicians has had a go at demonstrating correct technique — including singing Happy Birthday twice through to make sure you scrub long enough, and
Over a million people flooded Kenting National Park over two weeks in 1986 to see Halley’s Comet, massively boosting the area’s tourism industry March 30 to April 5 About 30,000 disappointed visitors lingered on the streets of Kenting National Park on the evening of March 28, 1986. Established just two years earlier, Taiwan’s first national park had never seen so many visitors — all hotels were full, hundreds of tents cramped the campgrounds and the latecomers slept in their cars. Most had traveled here just to catch a glimpse of Halley’s Comet, which only passes by the Earth every 76 years or so. That year, the comet was more visible the further to the south, and Kenting’s location at Taiwan’s southernmost tip made
Within 10 minutes of the train pulling into Chaojhou (潮州) in Pingtung County, I’d retrieved my bike from a paid-parking compound and initiated the fitness tracking app on my phone. Just one thing bothered me: The color of the sky. I cycled southeast, passing the shuttered Dashun General Hospital (大順醫院). Given everything that’s going on in the world, I couldn’t help but think: If the government needs extra facilities to handle the COVID-19 epidemic, this sizable building could perhaps be brought back into service. After crossing Highway 1 (台1線), I skirted a settlement established after 2009’s Typhoon Morakot disaster, during which
While those of us stuck in self-isolation or working from home watch TikTok videos and refresh liveblogs, a meme has been going around that claims Shakespeare made use of being quarantined during the plague to write King Lear. The Bard supposedly took advantage of the Globe’s lengthy closure to get on top of his writing in-tray — coming up with Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra to boot. If you weren’t panicky enough about how little you’ve achieved recently, this is surely a way to feel worse. Why aren’t you finally dusting off that novel or screenplay you’ve been itching to