Extract This

The first mention I ever saw of the venerable British shaving company Geo. F. Trumper’s “Extract of West Indian Limes” shaving cream was in the Ben Silver catalog, an upscale gentleman’s clothing catalog I like to treat with the proper reverence by reading it in the bathroom.

At the time, I was shaving with a Mach3 and Aramis Lab Series Maximum Comfort shaving cream, an expensive (30-some-odd bucks a tub!) brushless cream chock full o’ lidocaine, a topical numbing agent also found in the very tips of condoms with brand names like “Prolong”, “All-Nite”, and “Go-On-Hit-It-With-A-Hammer”. I thought I knew what I was doing but of course I did not.

Nestled amidst the photos of classic menswear like Alden cordovan loafers and Ben Silver’s own blazers with school crests on the buttons was a page devoted to Trumper’s old-fashioned shaving products, including the aforementioned West Indian Limes scented shaving cream. The catalog even had a neat tale about how Trumper used green labels before the “Great War”, but was forced to use pink labels due to rationing and then kept the pink labels once the war ended.

Years later when I got my first DE safety razor and began the switch to the good stuff, the first tube of quality English shaving cream I bought was a tube of Trumper’s Extract of Limes. Partly because of the Ben Silver catalog and that story about the pink label, but mainly because when I unscrewed the store’s tester tube for a sniff, the scent of limes was so startlingly wonderful that I kept sniffing and sniffing, long after it became inappropriate. I bought the tube on smell alone, though I also felt secure in the knowledge that Ben Silver, purveyor of all that is utmost when it comes to man-finery, wouldn’t carry crap.

So imagine my surprise when I got it home and it felt like a step backwards. Compared to the Lab Series and Art of Shaving lavender shaving creams I compared it with, the Trumper Limes cream dried my face out when I shaved with it, and left it feeling more raw than the others. Smelled amazing, but the shave seemed harder to bear, not nicer as I’d expected it to be.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t really know what I was doing at this point. I used way more cream than I needed, and I hadn’t yet learned how to properly soak a badger brush with hot water and mix it with the cream properly to make effective shaving lather. I just took a dry brush, squeezed some cream onto the tips, and mashed it around on my face till it covered it with an icing-like coating. Brilliant.

Still, I tried other creams and got much better results. Subbing Coate’s Lime cream gave me better lather and no rawness, and then Coate’s Lavender was even better, and then I was off and running with Taylor creams and the Trumper florals like Rose and Violet. Trumper’s Lime fell to the back of the lineup and never really got back into the batting order, until today.

See, I’ve been kind of second-guessing my wholesale leap into the floral category of wetshaving products. It’s one thing to embrace your feminine side, but maybe I’ve been hugging it a little too tight for a little too long. Discovering that I actually liked the smell of roses and violets after encountering them in excellent-smelling Trumper and Taylor shaving creams and colognes sent me on a sort of “Floral Pride Parade” this Spring. Which was lovely. Really, it was. And whenever I’d find myself wearing a pink polo and some violet cologne after shaving with rose cream with my pinky in the air as I bandied the razor about, I’d think, how secure I must be my pitcherness that I can wear all this catchery!

And yet…

So today I decided I needed some manly smells back in my rotation. And since I’ve always had this nagging feeling that I never really gave Trumper’s Limes its due, I decided to call it off the bench and give it another chance, only this time with more experience and better tools under my belt.

I also got in about ten minutes in the steam room at the Y today, after my workout and before a shower. The steam room is my new best friend. Not only is it relaxing, but it’s a killer shaving prep. Ten mins in the steam room and I’m soaking wet and pink from the heat. I’d take my dop kit and shave in there in a heartbeat, but the Y has up a sign on the door, “No Shaving in the Steam Room”, so I guess I’m not the first guy to notice how steam and shaving go together like Shields and Yarnell.

Standing at the locker room sink I squeezed off some Trumper’s lime into my palm and beat it into lather with a Vulfix #2234 badger brush. The smell of limes was phenomenal — what on Earth smells better than real limes?! The scent triggered all kinds of smell and taste memories — margaritas, gin and tonics, tequila shots, key lime pie, Green River soda, those green Manischewitz “fruit slices” candies you eat at Passover two at a time at Hour Three when nobody’s looking.

And the shave, with a vintage Injector loaded with a fresh Feather Pro Super disposable straight razor blade, was just as phenomenal for its comfort as it was for its closeness. I didn’t feel a trace of the drying effect or irritation I did when I first tried this stuff quite awhile ago, and after slapping on some of Trumper’s Limes Skin Food for the full-on West Indian Limes effect, my face felt and smelt amazing.

I am so happy about this I can’t begin to tell you. Because I love this Trumper Limes shaving cream, and I’ve avoided it for so long because I thought my skin didn’t take too well to it. I’m so glad that’s not the case, because Trumper’s Limes may be the classic traditional English shaving cream, and I’ve always wanted to be able to use it on a regular basis. Now that I know what I’m doing, I can and will, most definitely. Enough with the girlie scents already. It’s bad enough I cried during “Finding Nemo”. I’m back with the limes, baby!