Razors and Blades

The right tool for the right job: an important life lesson, to be sure – but does it hold true for shaving? It’s easy to be cynical and suspicious, because technique matters more than anything where getting a good shave is concerned. The manufacturers don’t want you to know that, of course – they’d rather you continue to shave any old way, so they can sell you the next big expensive “improvement” in razor-blade design. There’s no money to be had in telling people how to shave well, but it’s easy to get stinking rich by selling people the dream that your latest-and-greatest product will make it happen.

Do razors really matter? Yes – up to a point.

The biggest crime the marketing of the modern cartridge razor has to offer is the elimination of choice: if you use a Fusion or a Quattro or whatever, you get the same “quality” of shave every time, which might be commendable – but if you’d prefer something different, you’re basically out of luck. One razor, one choice in blades, one kind of shave fits all. Or, rather, fails pretty damned dramatically to fit everybody.

It didn’t use to be that way, of course.

If you go all old-school and use a “safety razor“, you can get something that the big multinational corporations have tried to eliminate in shaving: choice. You can choose a razor and blades – and in some cases even the setting on the razor – that gives you the kind of shave you would like. Want a more aggressive shave? They used to make razors for that. Want a less aggressive shave? They used to make razors for that. Want a razor that can shave all the various parts of your and your partner’s (or partners’) bodies, with different settings as appropriate? They used to make one of those, too. And you can fine-tune the experience by choosing from – literally – dozens of brands of blades.

Think about it: At any given moment, there’s, what, fifty or so car models on the market in any given part of the world? There are a couple hundred cable television channels. There are hundreds of brands and models of MP3 player. Scores of running shoe models at any given moment. Hell, my local pharmacy has something like two-dozen sizes and styles of condoms on display behind the checkout counter.

…and there are, what, something like seven kinds of cartridge razor in the western world right now?

Enough, already. Choice is good. One size does not fit all.

If you like choice – if you think you’re a reasonably intelligent adult capable of figuring out on your own what best meets your own needs and wants – the classic safety razor is pretty much the only way to go. It may take you two or three tries to find the right combination of razor and blade to suit your preferences, sure – but shaving is something that most people do nearly every day. Life is too short to subject yourself to mediocrity every morning, isn’t it?

A safety razor and some blades (probably) won’t magically improve your daily shave all on their own, though that’s certainly possible. Technique really does matter – and my guess is that most of us have never been shown the right way to shave. Thankfully, there are websites that can help.

If you use a cartridge razor, do me – and yourself – a favor and take a look at the cartridge. Seriously, take a good look at it, and think about it a little bit. Then ask yourself whether you’re really so stupid that you need a colored indicator strip to tell you when the blade is dull. Ask yourself why the “lubrication strip” is behind the blades, where it will only ever contact freshly-shaved skin. Ask yourself why – if you’ve got one of the more “advanced” systems – there are fins and things in front of the blades, apparently designed to squeegee all the water/soap/shaving cream (i.e. lubrication) off your face ahead of the blades.

Those aren’t features – those are illogical, worse-than-useless marketing gimmicks.

Buy a safety razor for a couple bucks, buy blades at less than ten cents apiece, learn to use them well, and change your life for the better. Choice is good. Don’t you think it’s time you were allowed to make one?

Published in: Geekiness, General, Wetshaving | on November 16th, 2009| Comments Off on Razors and Blades

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