Knock me over with a Feather
June 9, 2005
Today I decided to go all the way to Crazy Town and take the feared Feather straight razor for a spin.
Thanks to the past week of monogamous shaving, my self-barberizing confidence is sky high. Shaving with the same rig for seven days in a row smoothed out my prowess so much I feel like I could shave with a bench saw. Massaging your baby smooth mug all day for a week straight will do that to a mind.
So this morning I felt like a hardened gambler fresh off a good night on the nickel slots, drunkenly stumbling over to the $500 table while the winner’s aura still draped on him like silk pajamas. I went all the way to the top of the shaving foodchain and got out the Feather disposable blade straight razor.
I’ve spoken of the Feather before. It’s a straight razor that uses disposable blades of its own unique design, so you don’t have to hone and strop the blade as you do a conventional cut throat. The very lack of routine futzing means that the hardcore vets on the straight razor forums, and yes there are such things, tend to dismiss the Feather as not the “real thing”, because it relieves the user of all the maintenace these guys regard as part and parcel of the whole trip. Some of these guys give props to the Feather and point out that its proprietary replaceable blades are the sharpest things outside of an emergency room, and that even the most skilled razor honers can’t equal the Feather’s sharpness on a conventional straight razor. Where the Feather seems to have found its niche is as the fabled brass ring which competitive wetshavers who think they’ve mastered the DE and want to move up to the varsity team aspire to.
Some are more successful than others in making the transition from a helluva lot more forgiving safety razor to the utterly unforgiving Feather.
I am one of those who was not more successful.
Oh, I can handle the Feather alright, and if you give me 30 minutes and an hour or two to wake up and down some black coffee, my mind and hand are sharp enough to shave with this unholy scalpel without so much as a nick. That said, the shaves I get with the Feather are all over the map, and it’s got nothing to do with the razor and everything to do with me. I get a teensy bit better with the Feather every time I pick it up, but I’m always left with the question of whether I have the right personality type to shave with the world’s sharpest straight razor.
I don’t believe that all men are created equal. I think some people have special innate talents, and while many of us can train ourselves to become better at certain skills, there’s Jimi Hendrix and then there’s every bar band guitarist you ever heard who covered “Hey Joe”, including me. I know guys who can ride a unicycle — I’ve tried, and couldn’t if you gave me a million years to practice.
I know what you’re thinking. Being an American, you’ve grown up with that oft-repeated tripe about how you can do anything if you just put your heart into it. Really? Anything? I can shrink down to atomic size and dance the rhumba with protons? Can I have a dialog with a bar napkin? There’s things we just can’t do, no matter how much we’d like to. And I think one of those things I’m not wired to do is shave as well with a straight razor as I can with a DE.
I just don’t have the patience, or the precise touch with my hands, or the mentality to sloooow my brain down and tunnel-vision for the time it takes to shave. This morning I shaved two downward passes with the Feather loaded with its sharpest Professional Super blade, and the resulting shave was just okay. I washed my face, relathered, and reached for my Gillette DE, which, in one easy, no-brainer, upward pass, shaved me baby butt smooth in a minute or two. I’ve gotten better shaves with the Feather, but that’s just it — I don’t have the mastery of this particular approach to shaving to get consistent, easy shaves with it, and I’m beginning to feel that I just don’t have the right stuff for this trip.
Now, there are definitely areas of my life where I take the longer, harder road because I know it yields sweeter meat. Barbeque is one of them — I’ll happily smoke ribs for six hours with hardwood charcoal and waterlogged hickory chunks and tend to them like a mother hen the whole time rather than throw a few slabs on a gas grill and come back in twenty minutes. But if I could get pork ribs that tasted better on a gas grill as they do in my Big Green Egg smoker, I’d go gas and never look back. It’s quicker, cleaner, and you can pick up the skill needed in about two or three cooking sessions.
That’s how I feel about a DE razor. It seems to strike that sweet spot between the brain-dead modern razors like the Mach3 and the “you either got it or you ain’t” dextrous touch needed to be a successful straight razor shaver.
I’m sure I’ll keep pulling out the Feather every now and then and see if I can get better at it. If that makes me less of a man, then so be it. Anyway, how much of a man can I be if I listen to Maria Callas and wear violet cologne? I just get on with the DE much better at this point in time.