Keep It Simple, Shavegeek
June 1, 2005
To get the best and most consisent shaves every day, you need to find a good routine and stick to it. Your face and hands become accustomed to it, and everything settles into a nice buttered groove.
But shavegeeks aren’t rational sorts. They — okay, I — bounce around between a collection of razors, blades, brushes, creams, and assorted poltices, never shaving with the same lineup twice in a row. So their — my — face gets beat up and ends up looking worse off than when I began using all this high-end stuff.
So today I decided to quit bouncing around all over the place — a Gillette one day, a Shavette straight razor the next, a Feather scalpel the day after that — and try shaving, for the first time in many, many months, with the same rig every day for a week.
I chose my trustiest go-to implements for this week of monogamous shaving. The Merkur Hefty Classic “HD” razor, Trumper Violet shaving cream, Vulfix 2235 shaving brush, and to finish, Trumper Skin Food.
The Merkur HD is the first DE razor I ever used, and it’s the one I keep coming back to. While I love the vintage Gillette adjustable DE, the Merkur appeals to me more because of its non-adjustability. You can’t crank it wide open for a skin-peeling shave, nor can you dial it too far down for an over-protective, ineffectual shave. It’s juuuust right. It’s like the Fender Telecaster of razors — its lack of variables and other funny business forces you to focus on your technique, so your shaves get better and better the longer you stick with it. Most guys sound miserable on the Telecaster, but Steve Cropper got maybe the best sound ever gotten out of an electric guitar, and he got it out of a Telecaster plugged straight into an old Fender amp. If you know what you’re doing, the Merkur HD is all the razor you’ll ever need for the perfect shave. 30 bucks.
With the exception of its West Indian Limes cream (too drying for my skin, though others love this stuff and it does smell fantastic), I’ve gotten great shaves with all of Geo F. Trumper’s shaving creams. They’re expensive, but worth it. But my favorite of all the Trumper creams is their Violet scented version — a deep purple wonder cream that lathers and lubes like a champ, and smells so intoxicating that you cry when you rinse it off. I hated floral scents till Trumper Violet set me straight, and now I can’t get enough of it. 25 bucks for a tub that lasts half a year.
Vulfix is the world’s largest manufacturer of shaving brushes, and they OEM most of the premium brushes you see at stores under different names (they do almost all of Trumper’s house brand brushes, as well as Taylor of Old Bond St., Savile Row, and quite a few other big names in high-end shaving brushes). I’ve got a bunch of Vulfixes and they’re all great — even the littlest Vulfix, their travel brush, does a great job turning a nickel-sized dollup of cream into mounds of thick, rich lather. Some of the more insecure shavegeeks go for the biggest brushes they can find, for the same reason short men smoke cigars the size of a Pringles can. Me, I find the really huge brushes make a mess of the lather and get it all over your bathroom when you’re lathering, not to mention wasting a lot of cream that’s left over at the end of the shave. I prefer the medium sized brushes myself, and my favorite is the Vulfix 2235 in silvertip badger hair. It’s got a classic handle shape that feels right in the hand, and the brush is plenty big enough to generate a huge amount of lather without the mess and waste of the oversized brushes. I don’t care how big your head is, this is all the brush you’ll ever need. $70.
Aftershaves are tricky. Most suck, because traditionally they’re mostly alcohol, which stings like a bitch, dries your skin out, and does more damage to your face than good. Witch hazel, particularly the better brands with higher purity like Thayer’s, is a far better aftershave — it’s cheap, easy to find, and great for soothing and settling your face down after a shave.
If you want something better and are willing to pay a bit more, Trumper’s Skin Food has been the choice of shaving obsessionals for many years. Mostly glycerine and rose water, with a tiny bit of menthol crystals mixed in for a cooling effect, Skin Food has a gum solution that dries to form a micro-thin barrier on your face, protecting the newly-shaved surface from the elements for a few hours while the skin cells heal. Comes in two scented versions, coral (rose) and lime, pink and green, pick your poison. I like them both. Seems expensive, but you only use a pea-size squirt to spread all over your face and neck, and a small bottle lasts a very long time. $25.
At this point I’ve tried just about everything when it comes to DE razors, blades, brushes, and creams, and this rig is the one that always delivers the best results, on the most consistent basis. My problem is, I get bored easy, and I like trying new things all the time, so I bounce back and forth between different razors, blades, creams, aftershaves, and what I get for my constant tweaking are wildly varying shaves and a perpetually put-upon puss. So I’m sticking to the go-to rig for a week, if for no other reason than this is how a grown-up should behave.