Duty now for the Futur
June 13, 2005
The West German Merkur safety razors are far and away the finest DEs made today, and certain models have achieved cult status among hardcore shavegeeks. The top o’ the line $120 Vision is undoubtedly the most highly coveted Merkur — it’s not merely the most expensive DE you can buy, but it’s also, in the opinion of many hardened vets, the only DE that delivers a shave of the same quality and longevity as a straight razor’s.
At the other end of the foodchain, the $33 Hefty Classic (aka HD) non-adjustable DE has its own cult, probably because it’s the razor most newbies start with (I recommended the HD in my Today Show shaving segment), and it’s also the razor that most newbies wind up returning to after they’ve run the gamut and discovered, as I did, that nothing out there actually shaves better than the HD. And then there’s the $50 adjustable Progress, Merkur’s version of the classic Gillette adjustable DE, which just may be the best all-around safety razor being manufactured today.
With all the attention paid to these excellent razors, it’s no wonder Merkur’s $60 Futur gets lost in the shuffle. It’s half the price of the Vision, so it can’t possibly be as “good”. And it’s only ten bucks more than the Progress, which, frankly, looks a lot cooler, in that old-school, no-frills way that serious shavegeeks go for. The Futur looks, well, modern. Like something a young guy who spends a ton on young guy grooming aids that suck would buy. Look at it. It looks like the Silver Surfer’s organ, and I don’t mean a Wurlitzer.
Truth be told, I actually bought a Futur a week or so after I started shaving with a DE. I’d bought a Merkur HD on the advice of Lee at Lee’s Razors, and even though I was still nicking myself after a week into shaving with a DE for the first time, I thought I was ready to “upgrade”. I am such an idiot.
So I bought a Futur. And proceeded to BUTCHER my face with it. The very first time I swiped it across my cheek I got a gash the full length of the swipe. I tried another pass, and nicked myself something terrible. And again, and again, until I finally gave up — a sink fulla red will do that to you. Futur? Merkur should rename this razor the Butchur, to ward off all moronic newbies like me who think they’re ready for an aggressive adjustable DE before they’re even out of short pants.
This is not a razor for newbies. The Futur shows so much more blade than the HD and the other Merkur fixed-head razors that you really, really — I can’t stress this enough — really need to know what you’re doing before shaving with one. I made the universal rookie mistake of thinking that a “better” razor would help me get a better shave, when what I should’ve done was stick with the HD and get some experience and technique under my belt before jumping up to a much more aggressive shaving tool.
My first shave with the Futur was so bad I immediately put it on eBay, and got back most of what I paid for it. It ended up being a ten buck lesson, one of the best lessons I’ve gotten when it comes to wetshaving. Don’t try to run before you know how to walk.
A few months down the road, I’d become adept enough on the HD that I felt ready to try stepping up to an adjustable razor. This time, I chose the much gentler vintage Gillette adjustable, which I got on eBay. Niiiice! Then I got an adjustable Merkur Progress — niiiiiiice! Things were going so swimmingly that I decided, like G. Gordon Liddy, to face down my fear. Not by killing and eating a rat, but by getting another Futur and giving it another, more capable go.
This time, it was smooth sailing. Now that I know what I’m doing, the Futur kicks ass! It’s a world-class DE, and certainly no more difficult to shave with than the other adjustable Merkurs, the Vision and the Progress. In fact, I prefer the Futur to the Vision, even though it costs half the price. I like the smaller shave head better, and it gets under my nose easier than the Vision can. Plus I just like the way the Futur looks compared to the almost comically outsized, “Lost In Space” looking Vision — I’ll take the Silver Surfer’s ball-peen over Robbie the Robot’s any day, although I’m sure Dr. Smith wouldn’t agree.
As for the Futur versus the Progress, well, if push came to shove I’d go with the Progress. I like its style better, but I also think that the Progress’s screw-down shave head is a better and safer way to clamp down on the razor blade than the Futur’s flip-off top. I even cut my finger once when trying to adjust the Futur’s setting while a blade was in the razor — it’s not as idiot-proof as the Progress, and this idiot needs every bit of proofing he can get from a razor.
That said, I really like picking up the Futur every now and then and shaving with it, like I did this morning. It’s a quick, smooth, effortless shave, and like the Vision, the Futur makes a cool cutting sound when mowing down your whiskers, similar to the sound a straight razor makes. It’s instant audible feedback on whether you’ve still got stubble to shave, which lets you know in an instant whether you’re done with an area or not. I could be very happy if this were my only razor. But it’s not, so I don’t have to think about the Silver Surfer’s crotch every morning when I’m putting myself together.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that..