You might be sitting there asking yourself “Why on earth is Greg writing an article about something as mundane as shaving”? To a certain extent, I’ve asked myself that same exact question a few times as well, but bear with me. As an adolescent who started developing a scant mustache and a stubbly neck beard, shaving became a regular part of my life (and I’m assuming most of you who have gone through puberty could say the same as well). For a long time, I viewed shaving as a somewhat annoying task which was menial and had to be done, much like showering or taking out the trash. That is of course, until I discovered wet shaving.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with wet shaving, I’ll do my best to explain it succinctly. At its basic core, it’s shaving with water and some type of soap or cream instead of an electric razor. On the traditional outer shell, wet shaving utilizes a double-bladed safety razor and/or a straight edge razor as well as the use of a shaving brush and a bowl/mug to work up lather onto the area being shaved. This may all seem somewhat involved, and if you’re thinking that, well, you’re kind of right. You might also deem this process as somewhat antiquated or old-fashioned, and I suppose you might also be somewhat correct. Having said that, I have found joy in this ritual, and would like to expound upon that.
I first learned about wet shaving, not from my father (as is traditional), but instead from the internet. There was something about the extent to which these people loved quality self-care products which was fascinating yet simultaneously enchanting to me. At that age, I was just starting to become particular about the products I purchased, and these people shared my same belief that everything should be quality. A whole new world had opened up to me, one with millions of different products to try. To say that my curiousity got the best of me was an understatement. I would spend hours (and still sometimes do) peering over products on Amazon, as well as watching reviews of shaving products and reading forums about what people like and dislike.
This would go on for a couple of years until I finally bit the bullet and purchased my first ever safety razor, a vintage rhodium-plated Gilette Fatboy, circa 1952. It was so old and already had a lifetime of use, but here it was in front of me, ready to have another. Many people get their first safety razor passed down by their parents or grandparents, often giving these objects a heritage of sorts. This fascinated me to no end, but I still remember when I purchased it how my mom thought it was gross how I purchased someone else’s razor. “That’s gross” she said, “Why would you buy a used razor? Someone’s been shaving their armpits with that for the past 40 years”? Her judgements were fair, and I understand her skepticism, however I made sure to thoroughly sterilize it in isopropyl alcohol after I washed it with soap and water 5 times before shaving with it.
Safety razors are interesting (at least to me) because they produce much less waste than disposable cartridge razors, clog less, and produce closer shaves. With proper technique, you won’t cut yourself or get ingrown hairs either. There are different kinds of safety razors as well, from mild to aggressive, from open-combed to close-combed, from slanted to straight, long-handled to short-handled, adjustable to fixed, the list goes on and on. No two razors behave the same, none necessarily better than the other; It is all a matter of preference. Ultimately you need to do a bit of research to find which one works for you. If you’ve never used a safety razor before, try not to dump too much money into it and learn what you like and don’t like about it before dropping the big bucks on one.
But it’s not the razor which affects the shave. Oh, how that would be far too simple. Nearly every aspect of shaving affects how the final result will turn out. Certain blades are sharper than others, giving some a beautifully close shave, but could potentially give others with sensitive skin razor burn. There are different Brushes, the four main types being badger hair, boar hair, synthetic hair and horse hair. All of these different brushes affect how the soap/cream will lather onto your face/body and by extension affect how close of a shave you will get and the extent of razor burn which you will receive. For example, boar hair brushes are stiffer than badger hair brushes and absorb more water than their badger counterparts as well. Because of this, they often require a break-in period to feel soft and luxurious like badger hair brushes but are often much cheaper and just as preferred by serious wet shavers. Are you overwhelmed yet? If so, I’m sorry. If not, please continue reading.
I’ll try to be brief when talking about creams and soaps (Trust me, I could go on forever about soap). What most people are looking for in shaving soaps/creams is a stable, creamy lather which will allow the product to adhere to your body without the bubbles exploding and turning into useless sludge. There are too many different kinds of soaps and creams out there to name, or even think about for that matter. This also will require a lot of trial and error to what you like and what you don’t, from lather to scent, price and longevity and whatnot. As someone who makes soap, I find a certain appreciation in a quality soap. From handmade products to established brands, there is almost too much variety. If you keep looking, you will definitely find something you love. Having said that, if you shave with just water, do yourself a favor and use a cream or a soap. Your skin will thank you for it.
I won’t go on for five years about wet shaving products (although I probably could, and for the most part already have), but instead will now focus on what this all means and how I relate it to the world around me. Wet shaving turned a once menial task into an enjoyable experience which brings me a brief moment of nirvana in an otherwise hectic world. Having those minutes of simple happiness is important, and I feel not enough people schedule those in their daily lives. This doesn’t have to be wet shaving; it could be reading a book, taking a walk, meditating for a few minutes or eating a dessert which you enjoy.
Part of why I wet shave, is its one of the few moments in my day where I get to indulge in something entirely selfish. Having good quality shaving materials makes my skin feel happy, and by extension, makes me feel somewhat happier. I know that I’m worth more than disposable dollar store razors which don’t give good shaves, fill up landfills and market to people with gimmicks. Wet Shaving in a sense sort of reaffirms my self-worth, not that my self-worth comes from wet shaving, but it makes me feel important and cared-for, which are good things to feel.
I think that not enough men (and people of all gender orientations as well, for that matter) in today’s society grasp the concept of self-care. Using lotion is considered ‘gay’ or doing anything with any cosmetic benefit can automatically turn you into a pretty boy pariah. Shaving is something which many men either view as something either central to or outside of their identity as men, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be either. Wet shaving should be accessible to all people. Whether you’re shaving your face or your stomach, wet shaving can give you a moment of nirvana. That’s something that I think everyone should be able to experience on a regular basis. Nobody should be shamed for making self-care a priority.
One of the things which I really enjoy about wet shaving is the community of people which surround it. Basically, this boils down to a bunch of people online talking about how they love soaps, razors, blades, creams, etc., and are more than willing to share their opinions. I’ve always had a certain proclivity for quality products, and it’s enjoyable to talk with others who like the same things as I do. One of the people who got me into wet shaving was Nick of ‘Nick Shaves’ on Youtube. He has many, many videos about wet shaving, from basic educational tips and techniques on how to start wet shaving, to product reviews to tons of soaps, razors, brushes and blades. I’ve used his recommendations to purchase products and he hasn’t let me down yet.
One thing that I particularly like about wet shaving with double-edge safety razors is that it can potentially be much cheaper than standard cartridge razors. There are many subscription programs which will tout that they are cheaper than the latest and greatest Gillette or Shick razors, but even these razors are still much more expensive than using double-edged blades. For instance, a box of 100 Personna double-edge razor blades goes for about $13 USD on Amazon, for an average of about 13 cents per razor, which usually lasts for roughly a week (depending on how often you shave). Not only does this save you money in the long run, but it produces much less waste than cartridges and is fully recyclable. A decent safety razor sets you back like $35 USD on Amazon and can potentially last you for the rest of your life, not to mention that you can use any brand of blades that you want (and there are many, trust me).
Alternatively, you could go the route which I have chosen to go, which is the route of turning this activity into a hobby. I already have a wish list of different razors, blades, soaps and creams. If shaving is an experience, I want to try to have all of the different experiences that I can in the time that I have. From buying other vintage safety razors, to using traditional products from around the world, it’s all fun and exciting to me. Not only is it a chance for me to try different products, but it also encourages me to take better care of myself. What’s not to love?
I’ll end this post by saying a few brief things about this subject (I know that this article is fairly long, and if you’re still reading you are the real MVP). Not everyone enjoys wet shaving, and that’s okay. If your version of self-care looks more like taking a leisurely walk outside or watching your favorite TV show, do that. If it looks like baking a batch of cookies for yourself or reading a book, do that. This basically boils down to doing something which you enjoy, every day (or at least a few times a week). Having said all of this, if you are somewhat curious about shaving, trying it might turn an otherwise monotonous routine into a pleasant thing which you look forward to. Whether you don’t have a single hair on your body or you look like the spawn of Chewbacca, remember to prioritize self-care. You are worth it.
Those are my thoughts, What are yours?
For those interested in wet shaving:
West Coast Shaving (This is a website that sells shaving supplies. This isn’t an endorsement or a paid advertisement. Having said that, I have fun perusing their website)