Wet Shaving Masochism

I shaved yesterday, for the first time in about eight months. I used to really loathe shaving, and would grow a beard every winter. Now that it’s demonstrably not winter, it was more than time for the great shaggy thing to come off.

I might never go back to a beard again.

For some time there’s been an increase in popularity in what’s being called “wet shaving” (or “wetshaving”) – the slightly retro grooming with a brush, soap, and a vintage (or vintage-style) straight or safety razor.

There are a lot of reasons for the popularity of this. Excellent double-edged razor blades can be had for around $0.20 apiece, which is a far cry from the $5 per blade I’ve seen Schick Quattro blades selling for. In fact, razor blade prices for today’s razors has gotten so ridiculous, the local Walgreens pharmacy keeps all their razor blades under lock and key, like cigarettes. So spending $0.25 per week on razor blades is definately attractive.

But screw frugality; we’re a society of conspicuous consumers. Bigger, newer, and more expensive is better, baby.

Um, no. Not where razors are concerned.

I used to use a Gilette Sensor. A couple years ago someone gave me a Mach3. Both ranked high on my suck-o-meter in terms of giving just generally bad shaves. Part of it was my fault – I’d never been taught how to shave properly, and never thought to try to find out.

A big part of it was the razors, though. The Sensor and the Mach3 clog like crazy, and gave me razor burn like nobody’s business. Time for a change.

So yesterday I got two old razors in the mail. A basic double-edged Gilette safety razor, and a Gem Micromatic single-edged razor. I cleaned them up, loaded them with drug-store blades, took a scissors to my beard, and set out to shave the remaining 1/2-3/4″ stubble.

I’m a crazy luddite masochist, so after a shower, I lathered up with my trusty Barbasol, and put the Micromatic to my face.

A word on this razor, if I may; Gem and Star single-edged razors date from the 1930’s to 1940’s, and are extremely common. They take single-edged razor blades, just like the ones in a lot of box cutters and window scrapers. Even among wet-shavers today, they’re viewed as dangerous and nearly impossible to get a good shave from without cutting yourself.

All you need to do is read the instructions, though; keep the head of the razor against the skin, and shave with as much of a lack of pressure as possible. The razor slid across my lathered face in silence, broken only by the quiet sound – I kid you not – of hair being cleanly separated from my face. Ahead of it, shaving cream and hair; behind it, perfectly naked skin blinking in the light.

Seriously; my best shave EVER, in more than a decade of shaving.

With a $3 razor and a $0.25 single-edged “GEM” blade.

I’d planned to shave half my face with the Micromatic, and half with the Gilette safety razor, but the Gem went thru my beard so well I gave up on that plan and did my whole face with it. In the end, I used the double-edged Gilette for a little touch-up on my neck and under my nose; it shaves a little closer, I think, but not nearly as smooth.

So, yeah, I’m hooked on this wet shaving thing. After all, who wants to pay a king’s ransom for a mediocre shave? I’ve seen the light – and I’m not going back!

Published in: Geekiness, General, Wetshaving | on June 17th, 2006| 2 Comments »

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  1. On 6/27/2007 at 12:15 pm » A Year of Shaving - Entropic Memes Said:

    […] It was a year ago this month that I first shaved with a low-tech safety razor, an event I wrote about at the time. In the intervening twelve months, I’ve learned a lot about what used to be a painful and unpleasant near-daily necessity for me, and which remains a burden for a lot of people. There can be no doubt that the aerosol foam and goo that comes in a can is quick and easy to apply, but I really think that manufacturers are competing in this field not to produce the most effective, highest-quality, best-performing product, but to produce products with purely marketable qualities intended to impress those who don’t know any better. The thickness and consistency of your foam, goo, gel, or lather has little to do with the quality of the shave you’re going to get. Hell, a bar of hand soap works better to lubricate the razor-skin interface than most things that squirt out of cans. […]

  2. On 6/10/2009 at 6:36 am Kara Said:

    Me and my boy friend have been using PrivaShave and PowerShave and it has done wonders for the razor burn and razor bumps caused by in grown hairs.

    They are inexpensive post shave treatments, something like $13 for a 4 oz bottle. You can read some more info at http://www.privashave.com