September 6, 2006
Since that Dutch researcher is theoretically paying me 343.873 guilders to deca-opine about modern man (Note to the Netherlands: I want it in stuivers and dubbeltjes, or else the deal’s OFF), I guess my job is to shamelessly work the words “modern man” in for nine more missives, whether it makes any sense or not.
Like I’m really going to stick to this plan — I can barely focus on finishing my breakfast, much less ride a theme for ten straight essays. But the Dutch researcher thing and the guilder joke still have a few drops of milk in their udders, so bear with me.
In our last visit, we examined that curious strain of modern man that battles the onset of comfort-waist pants by donning the cloak of online anonymity to play insert-era-here dress-up and boast of honor-upholding beatings doled out old-school. That’s too many hyphens, probably.
Today we look at the modern man — modern men, actually — who’ve been emailing me lately asking what they should buy for their first safety razor, brush, cream, etc. Before the advent of Cherished Offspring and the calming effect of sleep deprivation, the younger, feistier narrator would’ve hissed, “JFGI”, or at the very least, he would’ve directed his young and earnest supplicates to my original primer on wetshaving and answers most of the questions I get on a daily basis.
But part of being a modern man is getting as good as you give. Some of you pips have turned the tables and paid Miss Havisham back with interest, and for that I wouldn’t trade one or even thirty-seven of the daily “what’s better, an old Gillette DE or a new Merkur?” emails that have now raised a permanent welt on my thigh where the vibrate thingie in my Blackberry rests against it.
For without Young Petrovich’s help with fixing my WordPress template, I’d be just another cantankerous retiree with a laptop trying to force a USB cable into one of the ventilation slots. And The Outlaw Josey Garcia will forever be in the god column for hipping me to the shockingly excellent jammy bottoms at (Lord help me) Old Navy, a cosmic incongruity of such startling head-non-wrappable-around-it that all I can do is stare at the four walls of my office while hallucinatory numbers and equations and all kinds of hooded fleecey shit race by in neat Matrixy rows.
Okay, so what would I recommend for your first foray into proper wetshaving? This:
Merkur HD (aka “Heavy Duty”, #334) safety razor
Israeli Personna “Super+” (aka “no-name”) DE razor blades
Vulfix #2233 badger shaving brush
Nancy Boy shaving cream
Trumper’s Limes Skin Food aftershave
The Merkur fixed-head DEs can be a mite unforgiving with Merkur’s own blades, but the much smoother Israeli blades really calm these excellent DEs down and let even the newbie get an ungodly close shave without a bloodbath. And if you do get a few nicks, that’s what the alum block’s for. Shaveblog Insider Trading Tip #414: click on the “Buy Now to get a sample” at Encure’s site for a $25 box of 100 blades (2 yrs. worth) if you don’t quite feel like springing for the full 10,500.
The Vulfix brush is the biggest bang for the buck going in a handmade English deluxe-grade badger shaving brush. Most of the forum geeks go for the biggest brush they can hoist, but I’ve gone that route and come full circle to find smaller brushes far more useful and effective, no matter what cream you use. All the best English wetshaving houses from Trumper to Truefitt get their brushes made by Vulfix, and for good reason.
Shaving cream is where the true shavegeek goes nuts, as having a nice variety of pleasing scents to choose from is the pamperingest part of the whole trip. I keep a nice stable of old-school English creams from Trumper and Taylor on hand, but most days it’s Nancy Boy I reach for. Especially for a newbie, NB is much easier to nail the water/cream ratio to get a nice thick lather, and getting this issue out of the way so you can focus on blade technique and developing a lighter touch than when you’re using a Mach3 really shortens the DE learning curve something fierce.
Trumper’s Skin Food remains my favorite post-shave soother, and I usually recommend the Limes version over the original Coral (rose-scented) simply because most newbies, the younger guys especially, haven’t gotten over the whole rose/pink/floral = gay thing yet. Me, I love both versions, but since they’re identical save for the color and a few drops of lime oil, it’s your call. The scent disappears in a few minutes anyway, so you can’t go wrong either way.
The best part of all this is that you’ll start off with this rig, and then once you’re up to speed and feeling all modern mannish and whatnot, you’ll want to hunt the really big game, so you’ll go down all sorts of expensive paths snatching up adjustable DEs, gold-plated vintage Gillettes, scary-sharp extreme-geek blades, gigantic brushes of exotic bristle with more ludicrous backstory than Anderson Cooper, and when your adrenal gland finally gives out and you reach the end of what’s buyable and eBayable, you’ll realize that you never got a better shave than you did with your first Merkur HD and your little Vulfix brush.