Steel across my face


When I started this blog back in 2004, if you have told me I would one day have a post about shaving I’d have thought you were insane. So, since you’re not insane, here it is:

My father was an electric shaver dude. I remember his trusty Remington cordless’ distinctive sound in the morning – somewhere between a blender and small animal trapped in a lawnmower. As I grew older and began shaving as well, it was only natural that I start with electric, and a birthday present of a Philips shaver began my lifelong dissatisfaction with electric shaving. You go with what you know, and until my early 20’s, despite the really crappy job it did, that’s how I shaved.

I think it was a free razor promotion or a gift that got me to try wet shaving with a cartridge razor and shaving goo from a can. This was a much better result, and having a beard that didn’t need daily maintenance, this is pretty much how it stayed for about 20 years until this fall. Sure, I made the marketing-induced progression from 2 blades to 3, then 4, then 5 with a helicopter/sling shot/back massager attachment. One thing I realized though, is that the cost of those little cartridges was getting pretty much insane. With every new generation and additional blade, I wasn’t entirely convinced it was getting better either, I just knew it was costing more.

After doing some reading online, I decided to go in the other direction : 1 blade. Cost : Under $0.10.

Up to this point in my life, the only time I’d ever used a blade like this was to edit audio tape and film, and oh yeah that one time to get a sticker off a window. I knew I’d need a few things to get this going:  -some sort of razor to put this in, and learn a new (old) way to shave.

Now the prospect of shaving with a safety razor was kind of exciting as far as shaving can be exciting.  My father didn’t teach me how to shave with a blade, though I’m sure he and his father used these implements without thinking about it. Since I’m now the oldest man in my family, I didn’t exactly have anywhere to go for this information to be handed down to me. But hey, it’s 2010, if anyone’s into it, it’s available online.

Having used Youtube to find videos on how to properly filet freshly caught fish, I naturally went there first for my shaving lessons. There are a great series of videos by mantic59 that show all kinds of tips and techniques for “traditional shaving”. I found these very helpful in learning technique, and also for using shave soap with a brush to make my own lather as opposed to slathering plastic whipped-cream-goo on my face.

Interesting side effect of this “journey of learning” has been the discovery of a ritual that makes the whole shaving process less of a chore. From trying different shave soaps, brushes and blades, the whole ritual of shaving has become quite enjoyable. As a bonus, my face has never felt better!

So now I shave with a 1959 Gillette adjustable just like the ad above, it’s one of several I different razors I now own (RAD=Razor acquisition Disorder – it’s real), and I’ve bought razors and enough blades to last over a year for much less than a set of Mach3 replacement blades cost at the warehouse store.

Here’s the tie-in to this blog – there is a HUGE community devoted to wet shaving. I’m doing a lot of reading at the Badger & Blade forums. Never in my life I would have expected so much talk and community around shaving. They review razors, blades, soaps, brushes, etc… I subscribed to the forum’s RSS feed, and there are hundreds of messages a week. Incredible.

Shaving is one of those things I have to do, and now it’s more pleasant. I also feel that doing it “the old way” somehow connects me to previous generations, much in the same way my old radios do.

So there’s the post I didn’t want to put up during #movember, 🙂

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  1. Mark says:

    A 1959 Gillette. The way you wrote that and knowing your passion for music makes me think about a classic shaver with great tone and a worn finish, covetted by the shaving elite.

  2. julien says:

    i’ve always wanted to use one of those Merkur German razors with the big, heavy handle. Those things last forever.

    But then I was enticed by, of all things, disposable razors. Gillette, turns out, is horrible, and now I use Balea disposable razors (much to the environment’s chagrin). Not sure if I should just switch over though. Then again it is Xmas…

  3. Dave says:

    For me, shaving is up there with ironing clothes. Not much fun.
    Your post reminds me of one of the first Onion articles I read back in February 2004.
    Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades is a must read.,11056/

    The Onion article is hilarious and obviously pokes fun at how razor companies keep upping the ante with the number of blades they include in their products.

    So in September 2005, guess what happened? The Onion predicted the future.

    In April this year, ShaveMate also introduced a razor with SIX BLADES!

    This has all reminded me why I hate shaving. I think if I can find a razor with seven blades, I should be in good shape:

  4. Rob Lee says:

    My journey of shaving has been the opposite to yours, Bob. I started with wet shaving, though not with a safety razor like your Gillette. I believe my father used a safety razor at some point because I can clearly recall playing with one (without a blade, of course!!) and pretend-shaving with it as a child.

    I don’t have a heavy beard, even less so back then (what is it with hair growing less on the top of your head, and more everywhere else as you get older, anyway? 🙂 ) so shaving, for me, was mainly a pain in the rear – it hardly made a difference in my appearance and usually left my skin irritated (I’m such a sensitive flower, don’t you know? 😉 ).

    IIRC I never used the foam-from-a-can shave cream, just the foaming gel type (Edge brand, I think) which had been introduced around the time I started shaving. It seemed to offer better lubricating action to minimize the ravages to my face.

    I also took to shaving in the shower, rather than post-shower – it just seemed to make sense, being able to rinse down in the shower instead of trying to keep from getting it all over the counter around the sink.

    A friend of mine from University days started using a Philishaver and had good things to say about it, and at some point I (can’t remember exactly when) I got one as a present – Christmas, I think.

    And while I can agree that an electric shaver – even a good one, which the Philishavers are – can’t give you as close a shave as a good blade, for me the end result is more than good enough considering the other benefits I find in using an electric shaver.

    But then that’s what makes the world an interesting place – we have different experiences, and sharing them like this keeps the human connections alive.

    I do see some interesting parallels between the “cult of shaving” community and enthusiasm for other in vogue “collectibles” like watches and pens.

    I think each community has its share of snobs, seeking to one-up everyone with the specifications or provenance of their latest acquisition – not that it sounds like you’re doing that, just saying that for some the real experience is in the competition, and not the intrinsic satisfaction of using a good tool to do a good job.

    Your Mileage

    May Vary

    Burma Shave 🙂

  5. Grant says:

    See – I told you it would become an addiction. A very pleasant one a that, but an addiction none the less 🙂 Just scored myself a lovely British Gillette Rocket HD lately, along with a silver-plated Valet Autostrop in a monogrammed leather case (which looks to be almost unused). A few weeks before that I got a lovely Gillette Old Type. Welcome additions to my ever growing collection (around 40 DEs, SEs and 4 straights, with far too many creams, soaps, balms and aftershaves). Oops….

    Each one shaves like a dream. You really can’t beat the style & craftsmanship that went into these shaving classics.

  6. John Meadows says:

    As a current beard owner, I don’t quite have the same appreciation for the topic right now 🙂 However two things strike me: how a geek community can arise around pretty much anything, and how the razor companies keep having to over-complicate a simple idea, in order to churn product.

  7. mantic59 says:

    Thanks for the shout-out for my videos!

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