September 24, 2012
Traditional Wet Shaving. Seriously.
And now for something completely different (I'm getting sick of writing about pens). Today's entry is about another fascinating and extremely interesting topic: traditional wet shaving and related gear. I suppose that "wet shaving" could mean anything from "scraping your face with a wet Neanderthal spearhead" to "squirting some gel crap on your face and wiping it away with the current multiblade cartridge that costs $6.00 per unit." This is true. Accordingly, I use the term "traditional wet shaving" with reference to the act of shaving the old fashioned way with traditional style shaving cream or soap, a shaving brush, and a non-multiblade razor instrument (e.g., a straightedge razor, a safety razor, or the like). I am also willing to concede that the definition of "traditional wet shaving" may also include the use of alternative products and/or gear, as long as the essence of what I'm about to describe is fairly captured. What you see in the picture represents a very modest collection of shaving gear and products. What you don't see is the ridiculous amount of time I spent, wasted, and/or enjoyed getting to this point.
A good friend and coworker of mine is 100% responsible for this particular "hobby," and I don't know whether to thank him or kick his ass for it. One day a few years ago my friend mentioned that he switched to traditional wet shaving, showed me some shaving cream from a 150+ year old English company, and proclaimed that there is a huge online wet shaving community. Of course, I loled, wtfed, and called him a metrosexual. But deep down I was at least somewhat interested because at the time I was getting fed up with the less-than-acceptable shave I was getting from my electric razor. After this so-called friend sent me a safety razor as an unexpected gift, I decided to give wet shaving another try.
I said "another" try because my first whiskers (or fuzz) were cut via a wet shave technique. Like most guys, my dad taught me how to shave. At the time, Dad used a disposable Gillette Good News razor with some type of canned shaving foam or gel. Now, I do remember Dad using a safety razor, a shaving soap mug, and a brush, but he had decommissioned those items by the time I was ready to learn. Although shaving with a disposable double-bladed razor and an aerosol foam hardly qualifies as "traditional," it requires water and, therefore, I consider that technique to be wet shaving per se. As time passed, I stopped using disposable razors and graduated to the Gillette Sensor cartridge system, along with Edge shaving gel or Barbasol shaving foam in a can. I used this stuff for many years without really paying any attention to the quality, comfort, or feel of the shave. At some point, I switched from wet shaving to dry shaving with an electric razor. I used electric razors (Braun or Norelco) for many years and lived with the discomfort and generally poor results because I had convinced myself that I was saving money and time with the electrics. I always felt that my electric razor saved precious morning time at the expense of quality and comfort.
Coincidentally, I was in the process of researching modern electric razor offerings when my buddy planted the traditional wet shaving seed. Even though I had a brand new safety razor in hand, I wasn't completely sold on the idea. Moreover, it had been ages since I had used anything other than an electric razor, and I had never used a safety razor before. I was afraid. Very afraid. So I decided to ease back into the world of wet shaving rather than go all in at the outset. I put the new safety razor away in a safe place out of harm's way, and picked up two items from the local drugstore: a disposable Gillette Mach3 razor; and a tube of shaving cream (made by The Real Shaving Co.). After getting comfortable with that combo, I went back in time from a shaving gear perspective and bought a Gillette Sensor razor (yes, they still sell them), a Gillette Atra razor (yes, they still sell them), and a Gillette Trac II razor (yes, they still sell them), along with their respective cartridges. Eventually, I broke out the double edge safety razor and got the snowball rolling with vigor.
As the snowball rolled downhill it picked up other items, namely, shaving brushes, different razors, shaving soaps, shaving creams, pre-shave products, aftershave products, shaving mugs/bowls, double edge (DE) razor blades, etc. Yeah, the craziness took over very quickly. Keep in mind that almost all of the items listed above may have a related acquisition disorder. In fact, I learned the term "acquisition disorder" (AD) from the gents at Badger & Blade in various contexts (RAD = razor acquisition disorder; ASAD = aftershave acquisition disorder; and so on). That said, I am in a state of semi-recovery now, which is why my cabinet only includes a meager collection of shaving stuff. At this time, only the aftershave department (top shelf) is out of hand, which is odd because I've never liked cologne (still don't) and I don't like smelling like a 70's era disco.
Wow, this post is way too long. I'll end it with a contents callout. On the top shelf, from left to right: Old Spice Classic aftershave (I don't really like it, but there's a story behind it); Lucido aftershave (from Japan!); Proraso aftershave; D.R. Harris Arlington aftershave; Speick aftershave; 4711 aftershave; and Kiehl's Facial Fuel with SPF 15 sunscreen (not really sold as an aftershave product, but it works well in that role). On the bottom shelf, from left to right: a few boxes of DE razor blades; an Old Spice shave soap mug sitting atop a Pyrex container that is perfect for most pucks of shave soap; D.R. Harris Arlington shaving cream; Tabac shaving soap; and Arko shaving stick sitting atop the container of Tabac. The Old Spice mug contains an assortment of razors (from left to right): modern Gillette Sensor handle; modern Trac II style handle (sold under the Bump Fighter brand and available in most drug stores); modern Gillette Atra handle; my father's vintage Gillette Slim razor; and my daily DE razor, the Mühle R89 razor. The Mühle is an awesome implement, and I love the fact that the name includes an umlaut. Hey, I'm a big fan of Mötorhead and the use of röck döts in general.
I lied about the end of this post, and need to write one more paragraph to explain why I'm currently hooked on traditional wet shaving. I think it relates to the overall philosophy of "try to enjoy your everyday activities to the fullest extent possible." It's either that or "you are two cans short of a six pack," so I'll run with the former. Now, some wet shaving practitioners will toss around reasons such as "it's cheaper than using modern cartridges" or "it's good for the environment" or "I get the best results using my DE razor" or "chicks dig it" - those and other reasons may indeed be valid. In my case, the morning ritual of wet shaving is usually enjoyable, it gives me ample time to chill out and get mentally prepared for the day, and it's fun. Not as much fun as bowling or skeet shooting and not "funny ha ha" like a clown, but fun nonetheless. Actually, I sometimes look forward to a good shave in the morning, rather than dread what used to be a chore. So there you have it.