Shave slow, act dumb, and look stupid

Some days I feel like puttin’ on the shaving ritz, and sometimes I just feel like who gives a damn? It’s just a shave.

Not that I don’t care about getting a great shave, or enjoying the experience. I just like stripping it down to the bare essentials, like Lee Marvin probably shaved with his DE. Lots of shavegeeks pine for that upper-crust British aristocracy trip when it comes to wetshaving — they want to make like Sir Winston, who had his driver deposit him at Truefitt & Hill’s for a straight razor shave, the barber taking special care not to get any shaving cream on Churchill’s Romeo y Julieta which he puffed on throughout. These guys want the ritual snapping of the hot towel, the squeak of the leather barber chair as it reclines, the dusting of talc at the end.

Me, I want to shave like Lee Marvin. Lee Marvin didn’t smoke Cuban cigars, he smoked Cubans. Real live Cubans, some of them soldiers in Castro’s army. And when Lee Marvin shaved, you can bet there was no overstuffed leather barber chair anywhere nearby. No talc. No niceties. There was a DE razor, a blade, and whatever lube to be found at arm’s length and no further. A bar of jail soap? Fine. Some spoiled catsup? Even better. Motor oil sopped off of a slick on the side of the road from a car that just rolled over six times and exploded because you shot the driver through the eyeball right before you stepped out of the path of the oncoming vehicle because he slapped a whore with a heart of gold who once saved your life back when you were a kid yeah a dumb stupid kid who still had laughter and dreams and a heart made of flesh and blood instead of rusty pig-iron? Now you’re spoiling me.

Today I wanted to shave like Lee Marvin so I did the unthinkable —

I lathered the Proraso cream in my hand, instead of doing it in a shaving mug.

Yes, the lather was not as thick’n’rich as it is when you beat it like egg-whites with a brush and a mug. I just squeezed off a dab of Proraso on the tips of my badger brush, and swirled it around in my left palm till it whipped up into a white lather. Then I lathered my face with the brush and shaved. No niceties, no top-o’-the-mornin’-Guv’nah, no tuppence flipped to the bootblack who spitshined my spats while I got my shave. I just made some quickie no-nonsense lather in my bare hand and got on with the task at hand.

The shave was perfect. I always hesitate to use that word, because there’s always room for improvement, but what do you call a shave that’s baby’s butt smooth, with no irritation whatsoever even at the base of my neck which is the most prone to such redness? It can’t be closer, it can’t be smoother, and it can’t have less irritation. It was perfect.

The “Dirty” part of the Dirty Dozen came from Lee Marvin telling them they couldn’t shave because one of them had the balls to complain about the fact that the water he had to shave with was too cold. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

I should start shaving with cold water from now on.

Feathers and Swords

Today we’re talking blades. Specifically, double-edge blades. The old-fashioned, 100 year-old blade type that some anachronistic idjuts still use to shave their pusses.

If you go visit your grandma, go into her bathroom and open up the medicine cabinet — dollars to donuts there’s a slot in the back of the cabinet that’s for disposing used DE blades when your grandpa put a new one in his razor every Monday morning.

Even though American manufacturers like Gillette haven’t sold safety razors for decades, millions of DE razors are still in use all over the world, and you can still buy DE blades in most drugstores and even on such modern mom’n’pops as Amazon.com .

But even though all DE blades will fit in any safety razor built in the last 100 years, there’s definitely a foodchain when it comes to DE blade quality. And the order of the names from best to god-awful may surprise you.

Gillette invented the safety razor over a hundred years ago, and for sixty years its own double-edge blades were the best a man could get. But then the British company Wilkinson got in the act and introduced a new DE blade, fully compatible with the Gillette razors, but of noticeably better quality, so cutting edge wetshavers switched over to the Wilkinson blades for their Gillette DE razors for the best of both worlds, setting the wheels in motion for Gillette to abandon the standardized razor format in favor of proprietary, patented “shaving systems” like the Atra, Sensor, and Mach3, which other companies were forbidden to make compatible blades for.

Fifty years ago, there were hundreds of different brands of DE blades to choose from. Today, the millions of men around the world who still shave with a DE have but a handful of blades to load their razors with, but the good news is that today’s best DE blades are eons better than anything that came before them.

I’ve shaved with all of the available blades you can purchase today, and they’re all noticeably different. By that I mean, once you know what these blades “feel” like, you could tell them apart blindfolded if you shaved with them.

The worst DE blade you can buy today? Surprisingly, it’s Gillette. Or maybe not so surprisingly — some shavegeeks have theorized that Gillette makes their DE blades ragged on purpose, to make their modern shaving systems like the Mach3 seem better by comparison. Either way, stay away from them — not only are they the most expensive DE blades on the market, but they’re the worst I’ve tried. Nicks and cuts are guaranteed, even if you’re an expert wetshaver. Just Say No.

A much better and cheaper choice is the 5-pack of Wilkinson DE blades for 79 cents. You don’t see these everywhere, but you can order them online here. The Wilkinsons are super sharp, reliably consistent blades which some shavegeeks prefer over all others, especially in old Gillette adjustable DE razors. I find the Wilkinsons shave a little raggedy the first day, then the next five or six days are really smooth, but you should definitely change them every week like clockwork if you don’t want to nick yourself. If you find Schick DE blades, these are the same blades as Wilkinsons — both brands are owned by Energizer.

By far the most widely available DE blades are made by American Safety Razor’s Personna division, and I find these blades to be of excellent quality. Most store brands like CVS and Rite Aid are really Personna Platinums, and you can bank on these blades as a reliably good shave. I bought 200 unlabeled “no-name” Israeli-made blades on eBay for thirty bucks which are clearly Personnas, and they’re truly excellent blades.
Smoother and more refined than the Wilkinsons, the Personnas shave close without irritation, and I always get great results with them in any of my DEs, whether they’re old Gillettes or new Merkurs.

The two high-end DE blades favored by the shavegeek elite are made by Germany’s Merkur and Japan’s Feather. Merkur’s DE blades, which typically sell for around five bucks for a 10-pack, are the smoothest, most consistently forgiving blades I’ve tried. These are the blades I always recommend to DE newbies, because they’re the least likely to nick and cut someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. But make no mistake — Merkur blades are precisely honed, and they deliver state-of-the-art shaves in any razor you load them in. Of all the blades I use, the Merkurs are my favorite.

But as good as the Merkurs are, there are some shavegeeks who want something mo’ better. The Japanese company Feather makes all kinds of surgical blades and barber supplies, and they also make a DE blade that’s by far the sharpest you can buy. Feather’s Platinum DE blades go for around six bucks a 10-pack, and let me tell you, they shave like no other blade I’ve every tried. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll get the closest shave you ever got in your life. If you don’t, you’ll wish you were never born, because your face will look like you went ten rounds with Tommy Hearns.

Shaving with a Feather blade in your DE means adjusting your entire technique to compensate for a much higher level of cutting sharpness, and I’ll be honest with you — I nearly always nick myself at least once when I shave with a Feather blade, even though the shaves I get with these blades are ungodly close. The Feathers are far and away the sharpest and closest-cutting DE blades you can buy today, but they’re not for everyone. My hats off to those guys who can use them routinely without drawing blood. I’m not one of them. But if you think you’ve got what it takes, the only place in the US you can get them is Classic Shaving.

This morning I popped the week-old no-name Israeli Personna blade out of my Merkur HD and loaded a minty new Merkur Platinum. The two blades shave so similarly I can’t really tell the difference — they’re both smooth, close, and consistent. Miles ahead of the Gillettes, more refined and longer-lasting than the Wilkinsons/Schicks, but not quite so ungodly sharp as the Feathers that I have to worry about what I’m doing. Like Mama Bear’s porridge, they’re juuust right.

I’se a’ Muggin’

The shaving mug is one of very few honored, old-as-the-@%#$-hills part’n’parcels of the old-school shaving routine that I find cheesy, for some reason. I mean, using an XXL mug to prepare your shaving lather in made a lot of sense in the days when gentlemen had nothing but a cheap bar of soap to make lather with — the mug served as an effective receptacle in which to store the hard soap, swirl a wet brush around and around on the soap till a thick lather formed, and then stow the brush after the shave was done.

But these days — and for the last several hundred years, since shaving cream first hit the scene — do you really need a mug? Unless you’re a hair-shirt anachronist and you won’t shave with anything but a traditional hard soap, shaving cream makes soooo much more sense — it’s creamier, latherier, and lubes your skin so much more effectively than any hard soap I’ve ever tried. Smells a lot better, too. And one of the nicest things about a good cream is that you don’t need a mug to build up a good head of lather — you just swirl the tips of a wet brush around a tub of cream, just enough to get the tips creamy, and then you can either build the lather right on your face, or swirl the brush around in your other hand’s palm for a bit till the lather explodes into a big white mound of meringe.

Still, there are some who claim that even if you use shaving cream, you should still build your lather in a mug. Mixing the cream and the hot water from your brush so that they create the optimim lather with which to shave is best done by beating your brush around and around, and pumping it up and down and up and down, in a goodly-sized shaving mug.

The minimalist in me says phooey to all this hackneyed jizzery. I routinely build shaving cream lather in the palm of my hand, and it’s always perfectly adequate. Ah HA! Is adequate good enough? By definition, it must be. But can a mug do better?

This morning I danced with what brung me. The Merkur HD safety razor (loaded with a no-name Israeli DE blade, most probably made by Personna in their factory there), Vulfix #377 shaving brush, and Proraso cream in the green tube.

But instead of sqeezing out a dollup of cream from the tube into my left hand and swirling the Vulfix brush around to build the lather, I pinched off some cream onto the tips of the drenched brush and shoved it into the pewter shaving mug pictured above, beating and mashing and pumping and stirring until the entire mug was filled to the brim with thick, rich, glistening lather. At least five times the volume and density of what I usually build in my palm using the same starter daub of Proraso. The brush was literally choked with lather all the way down to the handle, instead of just on the top of the bristles as it is usually.

And the shave? Perfect. Baby’s butt smooth. But then, it was perfect yesterday too, and I didn’t use the mug. Just my hand.

Maybe Proraso doesn’t need the sky high mashed potato trip to give good shave. It seems to shave equally well whether I lather in my palm, directly on my face, in a mug, or even when I forego the shaving brush entirely and just slather on the cream with my bare hands.

When I get bored with perfection every day and turn to the other umpteen creams in my on-deck circle, I’ll see if any of them work better when lathered in the mug versus in my hand. There’s no doubt that using a shaving mug makes for much thicker lather, and much more of it. Whether it actually shaves better is another story for another time.

By the way, I’d like to make a prediction on this day of our Lord June 23rd 2005. The psycho kid on shavemyface.com has just roped about twenty grown men into chipping in 100 bucks each for a custom group shaving brush made by the German firm Shavemac. After much Soviet style debate — i.e. “Here is only choice. You like? Good.” — the kid got all these hapless lonely hearts all ginned up over a wooden-handled shaving brush with each sap’s initials printed on the bottom of the handle, along with the date he officially joined the message board. It’s icky, but here’s my prediction: every single sap who sends this kid his $100 is going to cry bloody murder when the brushes finally come and they look nothing like the pretty, pretty JPG the kid posted on the site. As I write this, they’re probably 2-4 weeks away from getting the brushes, if the kid can actually deliver them at all. Want to watch the fur fly? Go here.

Hey, it beats nascar.

Heavy D

The theme for today was “retreat�?. Yesterday’s foreshortened straight razor shave, a sort of forced hybrid hydra with a Feather cut throat for a head and a Gillette DE for the hindquarters, didn’t really do it for me. Neither fish nor fowl. A good shave, all told, but not a great shave.

So today I scurried back to the one tried and true wetshaving rig that’s never let me down (of course, just tagging it as such now sets it up to let me down at some point down the road, but in blogging terms that’s great because it’s built-in fodder for plus-size navel-gaze) — the Merkur HD safety razor, the Vulfix #377 brush, and Proraso’s green eucalyptus cream in the tube.

There’s nothing cool or sexy or swank about these components. Being non-adjustable and cheap, the HD is considered nothing more than a beginner’s DE — everyone’s “first DE�?, the safety razor you graduate to from a Mach3, the loyal first wife you ditch just as soon as you start getting good shaves with it because you’re a dumbass just like the rest of us who started with an HD and you think spending some long green on an adjustable DE, whether one of Merkur’s upscale jobs or an old Gillette crusted over with some octogenarian’s ass whiskers you scored off eBay, is going to magically give you a better shave when you barely know how to use a DE in the first place.

The Vulfix 377 is a nice, big, soft-bristled super badger brush that’s more shaving brush than anyone, I don’t care who they are, will ever need. But it’s reasonably priced for a large, super grade badger brush (90 bucks if I’m not mistaken, or less than a fourth of what a similarly sized brush from Simpson costs), has a non-descript handle that doesn’t look like it came out of Churchill’s dop kit and is made of ivory-colored plastic instead of pre-ban Dumbo choppers.

Proraso shaving cream I’ve praise-sung previously. It’s cheap, it’s abundant, it’s 50 years old, and it kicks ass.

When I picked up a DE razor for the first time, it was a Merkur HD shaving on a bed of Proraso lather. It took me awhile to learn the difference between shaving with a modern pivoting catridge razor and shaving with a fixed-head DE, but once I did I was blown away by how much closer and smoother the Merkur shaved my face, and how all the red marks on my neck just suddenly went away for good once I retired the Mach3.

But of course the upgrade bug bit me, and I tried all the expensive razors — Merkur’s Futur, Vision and Progress, as well as the vintage Gillette adjustables I picked up on eBay. In every case, I started off getting a worse shave with each of these razors than I did with the humble HD, and even when I got used to them and became more adept, none of them ever shaved me “better�? than the HD. The adjustable Merkurs made more noise when slicing whiskers, which was cool, and the Gillette seemed to allow for much more slop factor without nicks and cuts, but in the end, I never pushed my shaves beyond what I routinely got from the HD.

And today was no different. The combination of the HD, Proraso, and the Vulfix brush is just unbeatable. It’s eleven hours after I shaved and my face still looks clean-shaven. Zero irritation, zero complications, zero effort. It’s basically everything the Mach3 Power promises you, except that the Merkur actually delivers.

Why I ever shave with anything else is beyond me.

Reality Check

I was all set to use the Feather straight razor again this morning. I had my Taylor’s Avocado shaving cream, my Vulfix #2235 badger brush, and nothing to bother me for the next hour’s worth of leisurely showering and shaving..

“Honey, remember we have to leave in 15 minutes to take the kids to the doctor!” came BOTO’s (Brains Of The Outfit’s) shout down the hall.

D’oh! Okay, fifteen minutes for everything — I can do this. In and out of the shower in five minutes flat. It wasn’t comprehensive, it wasn’t enjoyable, and it wasn’t pretty, but I can pull off a five minuter when it’s DefCon 4.

I took a hard look at the Feather razor. No time for a long, hard look, so just a hard look. You rush a shave with the scary-sharp Feather at your peril. My fastest shave ever with this thing was a sweat-poppin’ 20 minutes for two passes plus some touch-up under the chin. Could I break my own land speed record if I really, really had to?

I slopped on some lather and went to town. Cold, ruthless efficiency. I did a fairly quick N-S pass over my face and neck, and that’s when I heard another, shorter voice outside the bathroom door.

“Daddy? What are you doing in there?”

My three year-old. In an instant I knew the dream was over. I put the razor down. She’s the first reason it’s laughable to think I can shave every day with a straight razor. The second being, of course, my two year-old. He’s all over the place these days. I shouldn’t have a straight razor in the house with these two running around, much less in the bathroom cabinet.

I finished the shave with a 1961 Gillette safety razor, and then put the Feather back in its balsa wood box deep in the back of my shaving crap drawer, behind a row of cream tubs and brushes. I’m sure I’ll get it out every now and then to practice with, but right now, with two toddlers in the house who like sharing bathroom time with me and who don’t give us all that much time to throw ourselves together in the morning, I think a DE makes the most sense from all angles.

Scared Straight

The more I think about how badly the Mach3 Power mulched my neck, the madder I get. I still can’t believe that a single session with that vibrating egg of a razor left my neck with red marks and shave bumps three days later. How guys can shave with this thing and keep coming back for more is beyond me.

This morning I wanted a shave as far away as possible as the M3P. If the battery-powered Gillette is the future, than take me back, doo doo doo doooo, take me back. All the way back, to how man shaved in the days of yore. Before the multi-blade cartridge, before the Schick Injector, before the safety razor, before the straight razor. I wanted to tweeze each hair out one at a time with a pair of clam shells, just like the ancient Greeks used to.

Okay, that’s too far back.

The farthest away I could get from the Mach3 Power this morning was to whip out the almighty Feather straight razor — the instrument of death I swore I’d never go near again, at least until the next time I felt like futzing with it again out of curiosity. If the Mach3 Power is the razor of the masses, designed to compensate for the most extreme laziness and lack of concentration on the part of the user, the Feather straight razor is the exact opposite. Any laziness, any lack of focus, any day-dreaming while holding this scarily sharp blade to your face, you’re sashimi.

I was so mad at the Mach3 Power I wanted to avoid duplicating any part of the regimen I used along with it. I went and got some different cream, Taylor’s Rose, and spread some Pacific Shaving Oil on my dripping wet face and neck before brushing on the lather. I had my trusty printed copy of Dr. Chris Moss’s excellent step-by-step straight razor guide resting on top of the toilet tank, opened to the relevant chapter. It was time for a fresh coat of skin.

Whether it was boning up with Dr. Chris, or the magical properties of the Rose shaving cream, or the hyper-sharp Feather Super Professional blade having been dulled just a tad from the several previous shaves I’d had with it, I can’t say, but this was easily the best shave I’ve been able to muster from the Feather. I did one downward pass, relathered, and did my first mostly successful completely against-the-grain shave with the Feather ever. I say mostly because I did get some nicks here and there, mostly on my chin, which is the toughest area for me to shave with any straight, not just the Feather. For some reason my chin’s the easiest part of the shave when I use a DE, but the hardest to master when I’m using a straight.

But even with a few nicks, the shave was very nice and not irritating in the slightest. Afterward, my entire face had that same “just got a facial” feeling that I had when I got that Straight Razor Shave To End All Shaves at Truefitt & Hill’s shop in Vegas. I pretty much avoided the red marks left by the Mach3 Power, to give them some more time to heal, but the rest of my face and neck looked and felt great.

I’m going to try to stick with the Feather for awhile, to see if using this thing day in and day out will help me get over the newbie hump to where I can really start shaving with this thing as easily and confidently as I do with a DE. I know I said I was giving up on the straight after that unfortunate incident with the Dovo Shavette, but that was before the Mach3 Power kicked my ass. Now I must scrape off every trace of that experience that literally scarred me.

I saw in the news yesterday that Gillette gave shopping star David Beckham a diamond-encrusted Mach3 Power as a Father’s Day publicity stunt. They say the razor’s worth 50 grand. I say who’s the 25W bulb in Gillette’s PR dept. who chose a guy with perpetual glam-stubble as the poster boy for a shaving system? 20 bucks says those zirconias wind up on a belt buckle by Thanksgiving.

Seeing Red

Apologies to Frank

I’m still suffering from my bout with the Mach3 Power. My neck is raw hamburger meat, and I’ve got red bumps on either side of my adam’s apple where my skin’s the most sensitive. This is exactly the problem I used to have when I was shaving with the original Mach3, and I haven’t had it since I switched to using a double-edge razor. But one shave with the Mach3 Power, just to try it out, and now I’m back to square one.

It’s Father’s Day, so I treated myself to the swankiest shave rig I’ve got at my disposal — Merkur Vision razor, Trumper’s Violet shaving cream, and a custom bespoke brush made from real silvertip badger hair (a grade above what’s generally labelled “silvertip” or “super” by Vulfix et al).

I went extra soft with the shave, since I’m trying to recover from the beating I took from the Mach3 Power, but I may need a day or two of no shaving to let my neck heal. Even an extra-soft, extra-luxe DE shave hurts after the M3P debacle. I wish I’d never tried that stupid vibrating razor.

Happy Father’s Day to me. My neck looks like Zappa’s “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” cover.

The Day After

The Mach3 Power beat the hell out of my face, so I need a few days of TLC shaving to recupe. I’ve got red blotches on the base of my neck the likes of which I haven’t had since I switched from the original Mach3 to a double-edge safety razor. I’ve got shave bumps, too, on my cheeks and chin. How a razor can simultaneously cut so aggressively it tears your face up and still leave visible stubble even after two back to back shaves in the same morning, I don’t know. What I do know is this was the worst and most irritating shave I’ve had in a long, long time, and I need a few days of extra gentle shaving to let my skin heal.

So today I went back to the Merkur HD razor, loaded with a Personna DE blade, and lathered up with Taylor’s oh-so-gentle Avocado shaving cream. I went very, very lightly over my face, and barely touched my neck where the Mach3 Power wreaked most of its havoc.

I should never have tried the M3P. As my people say, never again.

Worst. Impulse purchase. Ever.

Hum Job

Puh-lease.

I remember when the Gillette Mach3 Power first came out. I had just started shaving with a double-edge safety razor, and thought the notion of a vibrating Mach3 was just about the dumbest idea I’d ever heard (NAMBLA’s Toys for Tots campaign notwithstanding). Because the whole reason I’d ditched the Mach3 in the first place was to finally get a good shave. Now they’ve stuck a vibrator inside the handle and raised the price of both the razor and the cartridges? Please.

I never thought guys — even American guys — could be so dumb as to fall for this kind of gimmick, but fall they did, like a ton of bricks. According to Gillette, the Mach3 Power is now its best selling razor! Think about that for a moment. Doctors, lawyers, the airline pilot on your next flight — all of them educated men, the best and the brightest. And they all ditched their old Mach3 to shell out ten bucks for a newer version that has a battery-powered vibrator which Gillette claims somehow does a snake charmer number on whiskers and coaxes them to stand up even higher than the one, two, three-blade tugging action that’s already assaulting your facial hair.

Then I started reading on the shavegeek forums that some of these guys were crowing about how the Mach3 Power was the best shave they’d ever had. One of the moderators of the MSN Wetshavers board is even a full-on Mach3 Power missionary, trying to sway newbies by claiming he gets a month’s worth of shaves out of each cartridge, and falling hook, line and sinker for the line that the M3P’s blades are somehow more advanced than the older Mach3 blades, justifying their higher price.

All of this just made me scratch my head, and dig my heels in even deeper. No way was I going to drop ten clams on this stupid scam, even if the gadget geek inside of me was kind of curious to see what all the fuss was about. What if it actually did shave better? What if the vibrating shave head really did somehow make for a closer, more comfortable shave? Even if Gillette’s marketing blovia was hooey, vibrating razors have been around since the 1940s. Maybe there’s something to this whole vibrating blade thing.

Yesterday I’m in the drugstore and lo and behold, the Mach3 Power’s on sale for eight bucks. For some reason, ten bucks is a ripoff in my mind, but knock two bucks off and it’s go time.

So I buy it. I feel like an idiot buying this ultra-modern piece of plastic junk when I’ve got dozens of high quality DE razors at home, but I tell myself I have a responsibility as a journalist to try it. If I’m going to get on my soapbox and talk up old-school DE razors as being superior to modern multi-blades, I should at least try whatever new modern razor comes along, just to stay current, right?

I go home, I cut open the hard plastic blister pack, and I observe the Mach3 Power close up. Ye gods this is an ugly razor. It’s lime green and fake metallic and looks like one of those awful futuristic Nike running shoes you see at the mall that makes you wonder who the hell buys such ugly, loud, offensive sneakers, until you look around and realize that’s what everyone in the mall is wearing, and if anyone’s the FREAK it’s you, old-timer, in your ten year-old Chuck Taylors. You might as well be Herbert Hoover.

I want to give the new Mach3 Power the benefit of the doubt, so I prep my face in the usual way — hot shower, Taylor’s shaving cream whipped up into a beautiful lather with my Vulfix #2235 silvertip badger brush, just like I do when I shave with my DE.

The Mach3 Power has a little power button on the handle that toggles the vibrator on and off. A light press and the whole razor starts humming and jiggling, moreso than I’d expected from a lone AAA battery Gillette claims lasts for months of daily shaves.

I bring the M3P to the top of my cheek and make the first downward pass. Smooth. Doesn’t even feel like I’m shaving, or even contacting the blades to my skin for that matter. Really, it doesn’t feel like I’m cutting any whiskers at all, except that I’m clearly leaving a shaved path in the razor’s wake. This new vibrating version definitely feels different than what I remember from the original Mach3.

I shave my entire face and neck, then rinse with hot water, relather, and do an against-the-grain pass. Gillette makes much hay of the claim that the M3P excels at against-the-grain shaving, because of the supposed hair-raising magic of the vibrations. I will say this — the Mach3 Power does indeed shave against the grain without the user feeling much of anything. It’s eerily not there, except it is.

I rinse with hot water, then rinse with cold water. And that’s when I feel my face for the first time since the start of the shave.

I’ve still got stubble.

So I splash my face with hot water again, relather, and do another whole shave — another North-to-South shave, rinse’n’relather, and then another S-N pass.

I’ve still got stubble. And what’s more, my face is seriously irritated. I’ve got red blotches on my neck (the same kind of blotches I used to get from the original Mach3, which led me to try to find a better way to shave in the first place), and lots of little shave bumps on my neck, jaw line, and cheeks. And I can still see and feel stubble on my face.

I am not going to go through the day with a crappy shave, even in the name of science. I grab my Merkur Progress DE, load a fresh Merkur Platinum blade, and after lathering up one more time with the Taylor cream, I do a quick, light against-the-grain pass, and all of the stubble the Mach3 Power couldn’t shave in two entire shaving cycles is gone. My face still shows the beating it took from the “smooth” M3P, but at least it feels good to the touch..

If you love the Mach3 Power and you’re screaming at your monitor that I should give this thing at least a week so my face can re-adjust back after using a DE all this time, you’re wasting your breath. I wouldn’t shave with this thing again if you paid me. It gave me a lousy shave.

I can’t believe guys love this thing, and are willing to pay a premium to make it a part of their daily regimen. If anything, I think the original Mach3 is better, at least in terms of leaving your face somewhat stubble-free, even if I never got the kind of glass-smooth shaves with it that I routinely get with a DE. And the older Sensor Excel leaves both the old and the new Mach3s in the dust. If I couldn’t use a DE, I’d use the Sensor Excel. It’s the only really good razor Gillette still makes. It doesn’t shave my quite as comfortably or as closely as a DE, but it comes a lot closer than any of the Mach3s, vibrating or not.

Fifty years ago Gillette teamed up with MIT to design its classic adjustable DE razor, which may be the greatest razor ever. If you’re lucky enough to get ahold of one, it’ll shave you as well or better than anything you can buy today, and that includes the high-quality Merkur DE razors. It’s a precision-made piece of solid stainless steel that cost guys a dollar when it was new and still shaves with the best of them half a century later.

Clearly, making Mach3 razors that force users into a cycle of buying expensive proprietary cartridges is a more lucrative business model than making a safety razor which consumers can load with any competitor’s standard double-edge blades, especially when everyone else these days makes far better DE blades than Gillette does anymore. But to hold the classic Gillette DE in one hand and the Mach3 Power in the other is to question so many things beyond mere shaving that words simply escape me.

Holy Guacamole

Big Bad Mama

It helps, when discussing a particular shaving cream, to consider the main ingredient’s celebrity spokesperson. Taylor’s oft-overlooked and widely misunderstood Avocado shaving cream takes its name from the only produce ever endorsed by Angie Dickinson.

Why did Sgt. Pepper Anderson choose to promote the avocado over all other vegetation? How did Big Bad Mama decide that the avocado, and not, say, the kumquat, was worth the 1982 print campaign that sent sales of avocados skyrocketing? After having had Burt Bacharach, JFK, and Sinatra, what was it about the avocado that entranced the woman who turned down the role of Krystal in “Dynasty” so?

Some fun facts about the avocado:

1. The avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable!

2. The Aztecs called it “ahuacatl”, and considered it a sexual stimulant and forbidden fruit!

3. Latin Americans wrap avocados up and give them as wedding gifts!

Taylor of Old Bond Street is the only company that offers an avocado-based shaving cream, and superb stuff it is. Even though it’s loaded with avocado oil for an extra slick, extra moisturizing lather, the Taylor cream doesn’t smell like guacamole the way I was kind of hoping it would, because I love guacamole. I used to eat it at practically every meal when I was in college in Texas, because every restaurant there, even the Magic Pan, serves guac and chips on auto-pilot, even if you don’t ask for it. They just bring it to your table, and who can resist guac and chips? I defy you to show me a man who can. Even if you were deathly allergic to avocados and eating just a trace amount would kill you, you’d still munch on the guac and chips like you hadn’t eaten in days. It’s one of the most delicious things, and maybe the most delicious thing, of all time. Especially when the chips are really salty.

No, the Taylor shaving cream smells more like cucumbers, or just fresh vegetables in general, than any kind of primary avocado scent. It’s a really excellent scent, fresh and pleasant, but would it kill Taylor to make this stuff smell like guacamole? Maybe it’s a good thing they don’t, because I know some early morning when I was half in a daze I’d probably eat it without even thinking.

And the shave? It’s the best of all the Taylor creams I’ve tried, and I’ve tried most of them, though not their cologne-based creams. I’m not a big fan of cologne-scented shaving creams, and half of Taylor’s line is scented to match their colognes, which are all excellent and smell like old British money, but for some reason my skin doesn’t react too well with cologne-based shaving creams — I do better with florals like rose, lavender, and violet scented creams.

Taylor’s rose, lavender, lemon&lime, and almond shaving creams are all as good as shaving cream ever gets — they all deliver a quality of lather that isn’t bettered by anything else at any price — except Taylor’s avocado. As great as its other creams are, the avocado is a cut above in my book. Every time I shave with it, I decide that I’m never going to shave with anything else ever again. Not Proraso, not Trumper violet, not even Taylor’s rose, which is one of the best scents to start the day with, and a great choice if you’ve beaten up your face a bit with an over-aggressive shave and you need a little tenderness. These are all creams at the top of my list, but if push came to shove and I had to choose just one shaving cream to use, I’d pick Taylor avocado. It’s just a bit better than anything else I’ve tried. The smoothness, the creaminess, the incredible moisturizing number this stuff does on your face, which you can clearly feel long after the shave is finished — these are just some of the reasons why I’d go with the avocado cream if I had to pick just one.

Yeah, it’s a weird “flavor” of shaving cream. Avocado doesn’t exactly scream Tarzan like some of the more macho creams like sandalwood, lime, and tobacco (yes, the Germans do a whole line of wetshaving products called Tabac!). And even if you like avocados, the Taylor doesn’t smell like them much at all. But trust me, buy a tub of this stuff and tell me it isn’t the best shaving cream you’ve ever used. Smells great, shaves great, and it makes you think about Angie Dickinson every time you shave. What’s not to like?