A few weeks ago I was standing at Target, looking at my options for razor blades. An eight-pack of Gillette Fusion Proglide Power cartridges cost $33.
There's gotta be a better way, I thought.
Then I remembered a conversation I once had with colleague Dave Begel about shaving with a straight razor. It was an intriguing notion, but with a several hundred dollar cost of entry, not to mention the very real possibility of slicing my face off, I decided that shaving with a straight razor wasn't for me.
Still, the PR machine that is the razor industry keeps conning me into buying fancier, multi-blade hardware that does actually work begetter than the previous generation, but costs an arm and a leg.
That's when I stumbled across some bloggers advocating something called the "wet shave," a slow, deliberate process involving a badger-hair brush and a double-edged "safety razor." Its proponents promise a closer shave than any new-fangled Gillette product and at a fraction of the price. A blade costs about 50 cents and lasts a week or so.
That is seriously cheap. Color me intrigued.
I watched a few YouTube videos from some of the pros who have practically fetishized this manly art, but my final affirmation came from my coworker, Sid, who started using a safety razor a few months ago. He advised me to take the most inexpensive route in, with a cheap, Egyptian "DE" safety razor called the Lord, which runs about $10 on Amazon. I also picked up a 10-pack of Feather blades from Japan for $7, which are described as "ninja sharp."
Hey, go big or go home, I say.
The final piece of the puzzle was a synthetic badger-hair brush for $8 (the idea of rubbing a dead animal on my face kind of freaks me out) and a $5 tube of fancy Italian mentholated shaving cream from Bath and Bodyworks. I also grabbed a styptic pencil, just in case.
Tools in place, I steadied my hand and started shaving, fully expecting to cut myself to pieces. One day one, I didn't cut myself at all, actually, but the process took about 15 minutes, compared to the two-minute job I can do in the shower without even looking in the mirror. As I was warned, the shave wasn't incredibly smooth at first -- because the blade doesn't pivot, the technique is all about making several passes and "beard reduction." I was warned not to attempt to shave against the grain right away, and I didn't.
On day two, I did a bit better but also sliced my upper lip and had to use the styptic pencil, which is not a pleasant sensation. The shave was closer and I realized that for someone who has been shaving for about 20 years, this isn't rocket science.
On the third day, I switched from the free blade that came with the Lord razor and loaded up the ninja sword from Feather. I noticed a big difference and even went against the grain on my third pass. It made for a very smooth shave, and while I did nick myself, I wasn't a bloody mess when I was done.
Granted, this process is slow and time-consuming and a little tricky before that first cup of coffee. So far, I still shave better with my Gillette Fusion, but something feels very John Wayne / Don Draper dragging a razor blade across my muzzle. I imagine that every component matters, and while I have good shaving cream and great blades, the cheapo brush and razor may be holding me back. Perhaps in time I'll upgrade to the $35 Merkur from Germany that the pros rave about.
Like any new endeavor, I expect I will continue to improve in both speed and accuracy, though I don't expect shaving to become a hobby like it is for those guys on YouTube. I find that sort of weird.
And, when I'm in a hurry, I expect to default back to that expensive cartridge razor hanging in my shower. But at least now I know that those pricey blades will last much, much longer as I learn how to shave like my grandfather did.
Which is pretty cool, even if it does make me a little late for work.
Wish all men who want to know how to shave could read this wonderful tip so that they would know that wet shaving is just as easy as 1-2-3! Thanks for sharing.
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