Ray Dupont, Traditional Shaving’s Guiding Light, Dies at 54

Ray Dupont, whose lifelong fascination with old-fashioned straight razors and safety razors changed the way legions of men shaved every morning and led to the creation of ClassicShaving.com, the Internet’s largest and most successful shaving goods store, died on Saturday, April 8th at his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 54.

The cause of death was cancer. Mr. Dupont had been a cancer survivor for eight years, having successfully undergone surgery when he was first diagnosed with the disease in 1998.

Mr. Dupont’s first exposure to traditional razors and men’s shaving products began as a teenager watching his father shave in the family bathroom with a single-blade safety razor. Despite the evolution of the men’s shaving market in the ensuing years and the appearance of multi-blade and electric razors, Mr. Dupont remained a straight razor stalwart his entire life, believing the old way was the best way. It was a belief that was only strengthened as the blade wars of the last decade led to twin, triple, quadruple, and even quintuple-bladed razors systems which Mr. Dupont felt delivered an inferior shave when compared with a classic straight or safety razor.

A cancer diagnosis in 1998 led Mr. Dupont to sell his first business, Capitol Marine, a Washington DC boat dealership, and after successful surgery he and his wife Laurie bought a new Airstream trailer and set out to travel the country in quiet retirement. But Mr. Dupont soon became restless, and began thinking about turning his vintage shaving collecting hobby into a business. At that time, devotees of old-fashioned straight and safety razors, shaving brushes, and other bygone shaving products had a difficult time finding supplies. Mr. Dupont decided to make it easier for them.

Mr. Dupont launched ClassicShaving.com as a small virtual store on eBay, and when sales outgrew that venue, he re-launched the store with its own web site and expanded offerings, selling everything from hard-to-find English shaving creams and badger-hair shaving brushes to German, French, and Japanese straight and safety razors. Any doubts that a virtual Internet shop could be successful selling old-fashioned men’s shaving products in the age of the Mach3 were dispelled when its first sale, of a $64 straight razor, clocked in at just eighteen minutes after the web site went live for the first time. During its first year, sales doubled each week, and it wasn’t long before Mr. Dupont’s Internet-only venture was bigger than his successful brick-and-mortar boat dealership had been.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Mr. Dupont also taught himself traditional soap-making in order to develop and manufacture his own house brand of traditional hard shaving soap, because as he put it, no cake of shaving soap should cost more than five dollars. So he made his own, and it too became an instant sensation with shaving enthusiasts around the world.

In recent years, Mr. Dupont was instrumental in furthering interest in traditional shaving among the online community, launching the influential Wetshavers discussion group on Microsoft’s MSN site, where legions of men learned how to shave with old fashioned razors and techniques.

In 2005, Mr. Dupont was responsible for successfully pitching a TV segment on traditional shaving to NBC’s “Today Show”, which aired the segment in January, 2005 to great acclaim. Viewer response was so overwhelming that the segment, which featured products Mr. Dupont supplied, caused a worldwide shortage of traditional shaving goods as ClassicShaving.com and its competitors around the globe did a year’s worth of business in just the week following the airing.

In the last year of his life, Mr. Dupont was able to reach millions of people and share his passion for taking a man’s shave as seriously as it used to be by generations past, and by doing so he was single-handedly responsible for the unprecedented boom in straight razor, safety razor, shaving brush, and traditional shaving cream sales which benefited all of these cottage industries, a far-flung community in which he was universally beloved and respected by manufacturer and competitor alike.

Ray Dupont was born in New England to working class parents. After leaving home to join the Army at age 17 he returned from duty in Viet Nam with a Purple Heart for wounds received. Ray met and married his wife Laurie in 1969 and raised his one daughter, Danielle. Other accomplishments include service as a District Commander in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, running a successful Marine Towing and Salvage company, creating and running Capitol Marine, one of the largest Mid-Atlantic bass boat dealerships, and serving on the board of the Accokeek Foundation. Visitors to this site will know him best for the creation and stewardship of ClassicShaving.com, which will continue on under the direction of his family.

Ray Dupont is survived by his wife Laurie, daughter Danielle, granddaughter Samantha, two sisters and three brothers.

Maine Vain


Shaveblog gets a lot of shaving products sent here for review, but Maine Shave is the first line of men’s shaving products that was actually inspired by me, which is more than a little weird, I have to say. Flattering, certainly, but still weird. Tom Jones inspired women to throw panties — I inspired a shaving cream? Doesn’t seem right, though we both love stuffing.

Maine Shave’s main man Herb Pressman says he got the idea to launch his new company after seeing my wetshaving segment last year on the “Today Show”. That same day he bought a shaving brush, a DE razor, and some of the other products I recommended on the show, and got such a bite from the wetshaving chigger he decided to launch his own line of 100-percent all-natural wetshaving products.

What’s Maine Shave cream got? Let’s get out our Romper Room magic mirror:

I see glycerin, and I see olive oil, and I see coconut oil, and I see castor oil, and I see grapefruit seed extract, and I see sea kelp, and I see shea butter, and I see Jojoba, and I see aloe, and I see lavender, and I see rosemary, and I see bentonite clay, and I see wheat germ extract.

What’s Maine Shave not got? Parabens, quaternay compounds, hydantions or ureas, according to Pressman. Parabens I’ve heard of. That other stuff? Beats me. I could Google them and spit wise but would you buy it? Probably not. Suffice it to say, Herb doesn’t like them, so Maine Shave doesn’t have them.

Maine Shave also doesn’t have much of a scent either, by design. Pressman wanted the shaving cream to be virtually unscented, with “only the subtle, non-lingering scent of its all-natural preservative system — no competition for your favorite cologne”. I did smell a very faint scent, sort of a buttery, puddingy kind of thing, but it’s subtle and goes bye-bye as soon as you rinse your face off, which is nice.

I’ve noticed that all of the cologne-scented shaving creams I’ve tried do tend to leave a lingering scent behind, though the florals like Taylor’s Rose, Trumper’s Violet, and Nancy Boy smell incredible during the shave but rinse away completely when you’re finished. Maine Shave seems tailor-made for guys who don’t care for floral-scented shaving creams but don’t want to go the cologne-based route either because they don’t want anything clashing with their spoor.

The Maine Shave cream comes in a 3.75 ounce jar for $20. The cream itself is very different from both the old-school English creams like Trumper/Taylor/Truefitt, and the new-school skin-friendlier creams like Nancy Boy and Cremo Cream. Maine Shave is more like a buttery paste than a fluffy soap-based cream, and you can’t really scoop out a fingerful and expect it to disappear into a thick, creamy lather with a few swirls of a water-logged badger brush. It wants to stay a glob of butter-paste, and doesn’t readily explode into a big mound of lather like the English creams. Pressman recommends swirling the tips of your shaving brush in the jar of Maine Shave till you get enough on there to start making lather on your puss.

But even then, don’t expect the same thick, meringue-like peaks you get with the English creams — the emphasis is on quality, not quantity. I was able to whip the Maine Shave up into a decent pile of lather in the new Moss Scuttle (more on this interesting product later this week), but once I began brushing it on my face, I got the same thin layer of lube I did when applying this cream with just my fingers.

I shaved with Maine Shave for several days in a row with my usual 1940’s Gillette Super Speed DE razor, “no-name” Israeli Personna blades, and a Simpson Wee Scot brush. Aside from the adjustment of shaving without any real scent to enhance the experience, I got some very close, very comfortable shaves with this cream. The thinner lather and near-total lack of scent take some getting used to if you’re coming off something like Nancy Boy cream, but once I got down to the shave itself I was very impressed with Maine Shave.

As you’d expect from a shaving cream with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, olive oil and Jojoba, Maine Shave left my skin feeling much smoother and more conditioned immediately after the shave than it does with the old-school English creams. I almost skipped applying my usual rosehip seed oil aftershave because the Maine Shave cream left my skin feeling so good. Guys with sensitive skin should definitely try Maine Shave — it’s one of the more skin-friendly shaving creams I’ve come across.

Now, I’m not convinced that a shaving cream has to be all-natural and free of things like parabens and fragrance in order to deliver a world-class shave and be nice to your skin. Many of the English creams are chock full of stuff you sort of don’t want to know about if you shop at health food stores and/or are named Ethan, yet they’ve been shaving generations of men superbly and without anyone’s cheeks falling off. Even the new-school, superbly skin-friendly Nancy Boy shaving cream has — gasp — parabens, and frankly, I’d kill or at least allow myself to be slowly killed by Bad Chemicals to have skin like the gay guys who mostly use this stuff.

I know lots of guys who can’t use this or that shaving cream because it gives them a burning sensation, irritates their skin, and just generally doesn’t do what a good shaving cream’s supposed to, which is lube and protect and leave your skin feeling great afterward. For these guys, Maine Shave will be a godsend. If you’ve ever wanted to try Kramer’s Butter Shave, this is probably the closet you’ll ever come without unwrapping a stick of Land o’ Lakes.

Rush

I was halfway out the front door in pre-workout Hobo Lite regalia — shorts (okay, so they’re bathing trunks from the Gap, but they have this netting inside that kinda sorta subs for a jock) , t-shirt, hadn’t shaved yet (saving that for the Y) — when friends of ours showed up at the appointed time for a visit I’d completely forgotten about, their car pulling up in front of the house just as I did a whiplash 180 and hauled ass back inside to throw on some pants and catch a rush-job shave.

You know the drill. No time to shave but no way you can go without one, so you pretend the fuse is lit and you’ve got thirty seconds to look presentable. To hell with “baby’s butt smooth” and all that shavegeek hoo-ha. If you don’t shave in under a minute, your boss will fire you/your wife will leave you/your puppy will die.

I know lots of guys who do this every morning — they sleep till the last possible second, then tear ass through their grooming before running out the door to work. I used to do it myself, back in the days when shaving meant scraping a wretched Good News! disposable razor across my face with nothing but a squirt of canned goo for lube.

As soon as I slammed the bathroom door behind me I flashed through my options —

1. Nancy Boy shaving cream
Pro: Excellent shave, even when applied by hand without a brush.
Con: No time to unscrew the tub lid! Next!

2. Hot water-only shave
Pro: I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again if I have to.
Con: Sucks unbelievably, lousy shave, beats up the face, I could go on. Think dammit think!

3. Ultra Shave
Pro: Excellent shave, no need for water, works as own aftershave.
Con: Now where did I put that can? I’m fucking hosed!

4. Just skip the shave
Pro: Saves 30 seconds I can apply toward expertly adjusting baseball cap that makes me look even more like a jackass than just walking around with bed-head.
Con: I would sooner greet guests wearing crotchless panties than skip shaving. On the other hand..

Then I remembered catching a shave once with Pacific Shaving Oil all by its lonesome, and you know something? It wasn’t half-bad. Not as good as a full-on brush’n’cream geekathon, but it was pretty good and more importantly, fast as hell.

I didn’t have a bottle of Pacific oil on hand but I did have some rosehip seed oil — I’ve been using this as an amazingly effective aftershave, so I grabbed the bottle and hoped for the best. All I had time for was one downward pass, so I quickly splashed my face with hot water, rubbed about 10 drops of rosehip seed oil all over my face and neck, and started in with my Gillette Super Speed DE razor.

Bad, bad move. If I’d had a few more seconds to actually think this one through, I would’ve realized that rosehip seed oil is very different from sunflower oil, avocado oil, and all the other lube-happy ingredients in the various shave and pre-shave oils. Rosehip seed oil absorbs into the skin very quickly, and what lube there is doesn’t last very long. So basically, I got a hot water-only shave after all.

And man, did it suck. The DE blade painfully tugged and pulled on every single whisker, like it was trying to yank them out by the roots instead of lop them off cleanly at skin level. And this was with an Israeli Personna blade in a 40s Super Speed, which isn’t an aggressive rig at all.

In fact, this horrible shave was like a flashback to the old days, when I used to hate shaving because it hurt while I was doing it and then my skin felt raw all day long. I’ve got it so good now with the brushes and the high-quality creams and the old-school safety razors that I forget how dreadful a shave can be without all this stuff I’ve grown so accustomed to.

I think the one thing that doesn’t really get spelled out to newbies in all the “How To Shave Old-School” essays on the Net, mine included, is that the whole drill of using hot water, a badger brush, and quality glycerine-based shaving cream on your face is all about softening your whiskers so the blade cuts through them like wet spaghetti. It’s not just about making your skin slippery.

Keep your face wet with hot water for at least 2 minutes and lather up with some good glycerine shaving cream, and you can get an easy, painless shave with pretty much anything above a Flicker. Most guys who try it for the first time wonder why the razor isn’t cutting anything, because all the hair-tugging and pain they’ve gotten used to is suddenly gone, forever.

My face looked like hell and stung all day long. I looked worse than if I hadn’t shaved and just joined our guests looking like a comfortable bum instead of a pained jackass in a baseball cap pulled low on his bed-head and wearing a pair of jeans over swimming trunks so the telltale bulge made it look like I was wearing adult diapers.

How am I married?

Oracle

I got an email this week from a guy at Microsoft who’s getting into wetshaving, lamenting the fact that he can’t find a 1940’s Super Speed razor for a decent price on eBay now that my comments have driven the market for vintage Gillettes to irrational exuberance.

“You’re the Alan Greenspan of shave,” he compl-imented/ained. “Say something nasty about these razors so prices’ll come down. Pretty soon there’ll be a shortage of rosehip seed oil.”

Thing is, I can’t help it. I find these things that work spectacularly well for my shaving and I blog about them. That’s the drill. Take that away and you’ve got just another whiny shavegeek forum like CutMySamwich and Beavis&Bladehead.

I will say one thing about all this eBay craziness, though. For some reason, the geeks seem to be under the impression that not only are two particular models of vintage Gillette DEs some kind of magic bullets, but that they’re actually rare and, gulp, investment grade.

That’s right — we’ve somehow reached the point where a crusty old razor some hobo probably stored up his ass while hopping the Central Pacific all the way from Colton to Salt Lake is the new yuppie hedge fund.

Hey, like I should talk. I’ve got enough old razors at this point to completely let myself go, get as fat as a whale and never work or bathe again. Just roam the neighborhood in dirty sweatpants that are too small for me, carelessly farting and barking orders at strangers while waving a gun around.

Beloved Wife knows the stash I’m sitting on, and that’s why she smiles sweetly and cuts my samwiches just the way I like them, diagonally, because there’s nothing sweeter than that first bite in the middle of a diagonal-cut samwich where all the meat bulges and no crust can be seen for miles.

But even I don’t possess the two “Fool’s Gold” Gillettes setting eBay on fire right now:

The “Toggle”

and the “195”

The shavegeeks worship these two models like no other and bid them up into the hundreds of dollars, and that should tell you all you need to know about their real worth. Because both of these razors are exactly, and I mean exactly the same from the neck up as any other 1960s Gillette adjustable DE you can still score on eBay for ten or fifteen bucks.

In fact, the Toggle is the exact same razor as the standard 60s Gillette, except it has a toggle lever instead of a TTO twist-to-open knob at the bottom. That’s it. Aside from that, it’s just another decent 60s adjustable, not quite as good as the 50s Gillettes and not nearly as good as the 40s models. Oh wait, it’s GOLD! Yippee!!

Same deal with the 195. Like the Toggle, it’s essentially a failed experiment to see what the standard adjustable DE would look like if the adjustment collar were moved to the bottom of the handle instead of the top. But the shaving head is exactly the same as any other 60s Gillette adjustable, and just like the Toggle, the shave is no different. If anything, it’s a step backward, as the adjustment collar, which stays nicely out of your way on the standard version, bulges right there in your hand where you grip the handle while shaving. So every time you rinse and shake the razor, “Did I jostle the adjustment? Am I about to slice my neck open?” is in the back of your mind.

Maybe it’s a good thing the geeks are chasing these two Fools Gold razors. It’s not like they’re taking any good DEs out of the pool for the rest of us who just want to catch a good shave. And a month from now, when the market corrects itself and the values of the Toggle and the 195 have plunged to where they should be, you can tell yourself you were there when the bubble finally popped and a new generation of hobos and their razors become fast friends.

Welcome New York Times Readers

 

boffoblog

 

Thank you, Peter Jaret, for the nice writeup in the New York Times. For Times readers checking Shaveblog out for the first time, here’s the updated version of my oft-linked wetshaving primer that started all of this — the Today Show segment, the MSNBC article, the old-school shaving revival, and this blog.

 

NBNM-shaving

 

THE PERFECT SHAVE

by Corey Greenberg

 

Ever since prehistoric man first scraped a seashell across his cheek so prehistoric woman would let him dance cheek-to-cheek, shaving has been a part of the male experience. But even with today’s high-tech razors, lots of men still get nicks, cuts, and razor burn. That’s why the latest trend in male grooming, “wetshaving”, promises a better shave by going back to the old school.

The perfect shave is what all men strive for every morning when they bring their razor up to their chin — an effortless shave that’s baby smooth, and without any of the usual skin irritation, redness, and that burning sensation most guys seem to feel is par for the course when it comes to shaving.

Why do so many guys find this so hard to achieve? Because proper shaving has become a lost art. Shaving is one of those glorious male traditions that used to be passed down from father to son, but somewhere along the line, shaving became more about cheap, disposable razors than a nice, precision-made metal tool in your hand. In a single generation, shaving went from a pleasant, contemplative exercise in good grooming to a brainless routine to slash through in the morning without even thinking about it.

A disposable or cartridge razor dragged across a layer of foam or gel on your dry cheek is a step backward from the past, not an improvement. Now that men of all ages are once again paying attention to their appearance, it’s no wonder that the hottest trend right now in male grooming is a return to the traditional wet shave. And those who try it are shocked to discover that the “old-fashioned” method of shaving they thought went out with the Hula Hoop is actually the best quality shave of them all.

Wetshaving is just what the term implies — keeping your face wet with plenty of hot water before and during the entire shave. In fact, you should always shave after a hot shower, not before (if you need to shave without taking a shower, try washing your face with hot water for a few minutes).

Believe it or not, but your whiskers are tougher than the edge of a razor blade, and shaving “dry”, or mostly dry as with the vast majority of shaving creams, foams, and gels on the market, means you’re literally tugging on each and every hair on your face instead of neatly slicing it at the skin’s surface and moving on without irritating your skin.

With a layer of hot water between your skin and the lather, the blade skims the surface instead of dragging on it, which is the main cause of irritation, redness, and “shave bumps”. Most men are astonished the first time they have a proper wet shave, because the razor no longer pulls, tugs, and otherwise fights the whiskers — it just glides over your skin leaving a clean path in its wake.

simpson-tulip

 THE SHAVING BRUSH

The perfect shave has three ingredients: a good razor, a good brush, and glycerin-based shaving cream. But the biggest difference between wetshaving and the way most guys shave today is the use of a shaving brush. A good badger-hair shaving brush is the single most important ingredient in getting the perfect shave — if you change no part of your shaving routine except to add a good shaving brush to the mix, you’ll be astounded at how much better and more enjoyable your shaves become.

Take it from a guy who used to use his fingers to smear cheap shaving gel on his face that smelled just like his deodorant — using a fine badger hair brush to lather high-end English shaving cream that smells like fresh-cut violets onto your face and neck isn’t just about treating yourself nicely after years of the ol’ slice’n’dice. It’s also the best possible way to prepare your skin and whiskers for the closest, most comfortable shave.

A shaving brush isn’t a paint brush for your face. A good brush — the best brushes are made of badger hair and start at $25 — absorbs hot water and then, after you dip the tip of the brush into your shaving cream, the brush releases and mixes the hot water with the cream as you swirl the brush around on your face and neck. The combination of hot water mixing with the cream and getting beaten by the brush all over your face delivers a thicker, richer, more emollient lather than you can get from a can, no matter what the brash young He-Men in the commercials with no hair on their chests wearing a bath towel being playfully tugged at by a gyrating tigress may tell you.

A shaving brush also gently exfoliates, or removes the dead skin, from your face before shaving, which gets rid of anything coming between the blade and your whiskers. Finally, the brush lifts your whiskers and suspends them standing upright in the thick lather, which exposes the maximum whisker length to your blade as it skims along your face. Never mind that using a shaving brush feels really, really good on your face right after a nice hot shower — it happens to be the very best way to prepare your face for the shave of your life.

High quality badger hair shaving brushes come in all sizes and hair types, costing anywhere from $25 for a basic “pure” or “fine” grade badger model to $550 for a monster-sized, high-end “silvertip” job. Do you need a $550 shaving brush? Unless you’re Mr. Burns, the answer is no. I’ve tried a lot of shaving brushes over the years, from the entry-level to the obscenely expensive, and I got no better lather or shave from the expensive brushes than I do with the reasonably priced brushes I finally settled on. Once you go above $75 or so, you’re paying for snob/collector appeal, not a better shave.

Most shavegeeks go for the biggest brush they can hoist, but I get the best results with the small-to-medium sized brushes like Simpson’s Tulip and Vulfix’s 2233. They’re a lot easier to use, you don’t get sloppy lather flying everywhere like you do with the bigger brushes, and you don’t wind up dumping a lot of unused lather down the drain. They’re also the perfect size to throw in your dopp kit for travel (no reason you have to shave like a heathen when you’re on the road).

 

Gillette-DE

 

THE SAFETY RAZOR

 

 
The next tool you need for wetshaving is a razor. And by razor, I mean whatever high-quality, non-disposable razor you feel most comfortable with. I know, I know, disposables are cool because that’s what they hand out in jail. But most disposables are extremely hard on your skin because the quality of the blades isn’t as good as a cartridge razor, or better yet, the kind of razor that serious wetshavers use: the classic double-edge safety razor.

 A DE razor is the kind that takes a single, disposable razor blade, and it’s the same type of razor that your father, your grandfather, Cary Grant, Lee Marvin, JFK, and John Wayne used. Take it from me — the classic DE wipes the floor with any modern razor, I don’t care how many blades it’s got or whether it buzzes like a vibrating egg. Ever since I switched to using a DE razor from a Mach3, I’ve gotten much closer and more comfortable shaves, my face doesn’t burn at all anymore, and all the red irritation on my neck I thought was there for good went away completely.

DE razors are also the best choice for African-American men, many of whom suffer from “shave bumps”, which occur when their tougher whiskers are cut too aggressively by modern multi-blade razors, causing them to grow back underneath the skin and turn into ingrown hairs. Switching to a DE and using a shaving brush to exfoliate the skin and prep the whiskers is good for men of all races, but African-American men in particular find that shaving with a safety razor clears up their skin and makes shaving a pleasure again.
The men’s grooming boom has created a huge resurgence of interest in vintage safety razors. Gillette’s fixed-head and adjustable DEs from the 1940s and 50s are the most highly-coveted safety razors, and with good reason — they shave like a dream, look impossibly cool, and last forever. Your best bet is eBay, but be forewarned that even if you find one for a good price ($10-20), you’ll most likely have to boil it for 10 mins and scrub it with a toothbrush and some Bar Keeper’s Friend cleanser before you raise it to your chin. I like the 40s Super Speed and 50s short-handled Adjustable Gillettes the best, and the older 3-piece Gillettes the least.

That said, some guys feel more comfortable using a brand new razor that’s never shaved another man’s puss. Personally, I think it’s cool to shave with a vintage all-metal razor that predates WWII and I do so every morning, but the fact is, a goodly number of eBay razors have been up a hobo’s ass in situations which you would not want something you’re planning to touch to your face to have been. I’m not saying you should avoid vintage razors on eBay, but if you do the math you have to accept that some of these vintage safety razors must have gone Papillon been kept in rather unhygienic conditions. The good news is that there are currently-manufactured safety razors available that are every bit as good as the vintage jobs.

The venerable German company Solingen offers a whole range of high-quality safety razors under the Merkur brand, the biggest bang for the buck being the HD “Hefty Classic”. It’s an excellent razor to start with if you’ve decided to take the DE plunge, and lots of guys love it so much they won’t shave with anything else. I love the HD and highly recommend it — it’s like the Telecaster of razors. There are a slew of cheap Asian and Indian DE razors that look cool and old-school but rattle like a paint can and don’t hold the blade as tightly as they should — do yourself a favor and stick with the Merkurs, they’re the higher quality descendants of the early Gillettes and built like a tank.

 

DE-blade

THE BLADE

A razor’s only as good as the blades you feed it. Unlike modern cartridge razors, DE razors offer you lots of choices when it comes to blades. Some DE blades are mild and forgiving, while others are scary-sharp and prone to nicks if you don’t know what you’re doing. There’s no “best” blade out there — your skin type and technique will tell you very quickly which blades work for you and which do not.
Merkur’s Platinum blades are sold by most vendors who sell their razors, but oddly enough, for a company that makes such great razors I’ve found its blades can be inconsistent and not terribly forgiving for the first-time wetshaver. Most new Merkur razors come with a few freebie blades, but I recommend tossing the freebies and getting something better to shave with.

Believe it or not but the generic “house brand” DE blades found in many drug stores and supermarkets these days are actually surprisingly okay. They’re usually relabeled US-made Personnas and give a perfectly good shave for about a buck a blade, which should last you a week. Even better are the Israeli-made Personna DE blades, aka the “no-name” eBay blades marked simply “Super+” which can be bought in boxes of 100 for $20-25. These are the blades I’ve shaved with for many years, and they’re the smoothest, most consistent blades I’ve found despite being some of the cheapest.

At the other end of the comfort spectrum are the Japanese Feather High Stainless Platinum blades. These are easily the sharpest, most unforgiving DE blades on the market. My skin can’t cope with the Feather blades without nicks galore — they can deliver a skin-peeling shave in the right hands, but I don’t recommend them for newbies or even seasoned wetshavers with sensitive skin like mine.

Ironically, the DE blades Gillette sells in the US are, quite literally, the worst a man can get — harsh, rough, and so bad you’d be forgiven for thinking they were made that way on purpose to get you to use a Fusion instead.
proraso

THE SHAVING CREAM

 

A high-quality, glycerin-based shaving cream or soap is the final ingredient in the perfect shave. If your shaving cream/gel comes in a can and costs less than a coffee at Starbucks, or even Dunkin’ Donuts for that matter (and their joe’s better besides), prepare to be astonished at what old-school shaving cream and soap lathers, shaves, and above all, smells like. If you’ve never lathered up in the morning with a fine English shaving cream that smells like fresh-cut limes, lavender, or even violet, then you are truly missing out on one of the great manly pleasures.

The Brits have been making this stuff for centuries, and they really do make some of the best shaving creams on the planet. At around $20 for a tub and $12 for a travel tube, they may seem a bit more expensive than the foams and gels at the drugstore, but since a little goes a long way when lathered with a shaving brush, these high-end creams are actually a good value and last for many months of daily shaving.

I like Taylor of Old Bond Street and Trumper shaving creams in both tubs for the bathroom and small tubes for travel. These shaving creams will spoil you rotten for anything else when lathered onto your face with hot water and a badger shaving brush. And the intoxicating scents of these top-shelf creams will make you actually look forward to shaving, probably for the first time in your life.

Perhaps my favorite shaving cream of them all is the one I first started with, the legendary Italian shaving cream called Proraso. This $9 wonder comes in a bright green toothpaste tube and has been the best-selling shaving product in Italy since the 1940s. Despite its budget price, Proraso actually shaves on a par with the fancy English creams, and it has the added benefit of eucalyptus oil, which gives your face an incredible cooling effect when you splash with cold water at the end of the shave.

You definitely want to avoid most of the boutique “upscale” shaving creams found marketed to young guys and hipsters. This stuff is oily, sticky, smells like ass and shaves like crap. None of this garbage is any better than commodity drugstore gel and most of it’s a lot worse. I’m not just being a stubborn traditionalist here — the shaving cream equation was solved a long, long time ago, and there’s just nothing new under the sun when it comes to shaving lather. If anyone tries telling you different, hold onto your wallet.

Two exceptions to this rule: Cremo Cream and Nancy Boy. These are the only two new-school creams I’d rank up there with the trad English brands. Nancy Boy, in particular, has a wonderful lavender, peppermint, and rosemary scent and is extremely skin-friendly.

paulie

HOW TO SHAVE LIKE A MAN

After you emerge from a nice, hot shower, fill the sink with hot water and let your shaving brush soak in it. Splash some more hot water on your face to keep it wet. The key to wetshaving is keeping your face wet throughout the shave, so the blade never comes in contact with dry skin.

 Remove your brush from the water, hold it bristles-down, and give it a slight shake to get rid of the excess water. You want some water in the brush to make good lather, but not so much water that your lather turns out thin and runny.

Open your tub of shaving cream, scoop out about a nickel-sized dollop of cream with your finger, and place it on the wet tips of your brush’s bristles. Some guys swirl the brush and cream in a mug or bowl to build up their lather, while others just cup their other hand and build up the lather in that. I like to cut to the chase and build the lather directly on my face by swirling the brush around on my neck, chin, and cheeks till I’ve got a nice, thick layer of opaque lather.

Once you’ve lathered your face and neck, stand your brush up on the counter and pick up your razor. The first thing you need to know is that a safety razor doesn’t have a pivoting head, so unlike a Mach3 or a Fusion, the blade doesn’t hug your face no matter how half-assed you are with the razor. So you’ll need to maintain the right blade angle yourself.

Sounds difficult, but after a shave or two, most guys grok it just fine. You want to shoot for a blade angle of approximately 30 degress — not so shallow the blade misses the whiskers, and not so high you scrape your skin instead of shave it clean. It may take a shave or seven before you get this down, but once you do you’ll be amazed at how close a single-blade razor can shave without pulling on your whiskers and burning your skin like modern multi-blades do.

At first, you want to shave downward on your face and neck, with the direction your whiskers grow. A North-to-South shave will get rid of most visible stubble without irritating your skin. If you want a shave that feels baby’s butt smooth to the touch, wet your face again, lather up again, and shave very lightly upward against the grain.

If you can’t shave against the grain without irritation, try a second N-S downward shave. In most cases, you’ll approach that baby’s butt smoothness without any of the razor burn that a S-N pass gives most guys. But I’m not going to lie to you — if you want baby’s butt, shave upward, young man. Just do it as lightly as possible and only do it for one pass, after you shave downward first to clear most of the bramble.

Once you’re done shaving, rinse your face with cold water to close the pores, and thoroughly rinse your razor and shaving brush of lather. Shake your brush a few times to dry it, wipe it gently on your towel, and stand it on its handle to finish drying. This will let the bristles air-dry without damaging them, so your brush will last 20 years or more.

Pat, don’t rub, your face dry with a clean towel, and finish up with a good non-alcohol-based after-shave or moisturizer — Trumper’s Skin Food is one of the best, but any good moisturizer will be better than that stinging alcohol-based stuff that we’ve all suffered with. Some guys swear by witch hazel, which is cheap, good, and perfect for closing your pores and soothing your face. Lately I’ve been using moisturizing oils like Jojoba and rosehip seed oil, and my skin has never been happier after a shave.

If you’ve been shaving with a disposable razor or one of the modern multi-blade cartridge systems like the Mach3, be aware that switching to a single-blade DE will require that you un-learn all the bad habits that modern razors are designed to let sleepy, lazy guys get away with. Mainly, that means slower, more careful strokes, and guiding the blade over your skin without pressing down too much.

If you’ve been shaving with a disposable razor or one of the modern multi-blade cartridge systems like the Mach3, be aware that switching to a single-blade DE will require that you un-learn all the bad habits that modern razors are designed to let sleepy, lazy guys get away with. Mainly, that means slower, more careful strokes, and guiding the blade over your skin without pressing down too much.

Let me say that again: without pressing down too much.

It’s really not a big deal — men have been shaving this way for over a hundred of years, well before plastic disposables and 5-blade razors were invented. Once you slow down and stop pressing the blade against your face so hard, you’ll find that not only do you get a closer, smoother shave, but all of that burning sensation and red marks all over your neck will start to go away immediately, and then disappear for good.

If you end up with a few nicks your first few shaves with a DE, don’t worry, it happened to all of us when we first picked up a safety razor — your grandpa, Lee Marvin, and me. It’s your face’s way of telling you to stop being a knucklehead. After a few shaves, you’ll figure it all out, and then you’ll wonder why you haven’t been shaving like this your whole life.

copyright 2005 Corey Greenberg

 

Blessed Art Shaveblog

Given the sheer number of “Jesus Shaves” t-shirts and posters, the parodic parochial mashup between wetshaving and Son-O’-God rivals the Darwin Fish as the most widely-deployed display of Rebellion Lite since the barbed-wire bicep tattoo.

But I say to you, woe be unto him who gets his yuks at His expense. For it is written in Isaiah 7:20:

“In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.”

Further, ask a deaf man to sign “minister” or “priest”, and he’ll make a shaving motion across his throat utilizing Frink’s famed Third Diagonal, the experienced wetshaver’s final clean-up pass:

You might think the gesture is meant to evoke a collar, but you’d be wrong — if he was trying to do that, he’d use both hands, like he was the Fonz flipping up the collar on his leather jacket. Haven’t you ever played Charades?

Verily, the full and sacred text of Shaveblog has been called the “shaving enthusiasts online bible”, and with good and just reason. For it has inspired both beatific worship among the enlightened, and blasphemic revulsion among the paynim.

But now the tongue of the ignoble jackal lies dormant and thick in its throat. For Shaveblog has just become part of the actual religious canon, used as a parable to teach young Christians about the proper moral values that will ensure them entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. Yes, a church full of innocent young children sat in hushed silence a few weeks ago to receive the word of the Lord, and that word was Shaveblog.

And it was Good.

Dr. Daniel Harrell is the Associate Minister of Boston’s evangelical Park Street Church, a member of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. Dr. Harrell is a man of deep Christian faith who has journeyed to the Phillippines, France, Benin, Bolivia and Nepal to carry the message of Jesus Christ and to save men’s souls from hellfire without respite, much in the same way I recommend the best razors, brushes, shaving creams, and techniques to those who would otherwise suffer eternal damnation.

We are kindred spirits, Dr. Harrell and I. So it should come as no surprise that his sermon on March 5th led off with a discussion of Shaveblog that segued nicely into a reading of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:10 which compares the Day of Judgement with — and I’m not making this up — a very close shave.

Listen, jackal and disciple alike, and go forth as a new man.

Rosehip

Back when I first started shaving as a kleen teen, I ended all my shaves the way every utha brutha on the planet did back in the day — with a bracing splash of alcoholic Old Spice on my freshly bloodied puss that stung so bad for those ten seconds of searing pain I saw acid tracers in front of my face even though the only thing I’d ever dropped was an entire bottle of boysenberry syrup down my gullet at IHOP on a dare (dollar won, early triumph).

Like all guys, I thought aftershave was basically cologne you put on your face. I didn’t know it was supposed to settle your skin down after a shave and moisturize it after the beating it took from the razor. I thought it was supposed to hurt like hell. And it did, for the next ten years or so till I discovered products like Clinique’s Post-Shave Healer that soothed instead of stung.

Amazing! What a concept! Your face is SENSITIVE after a SKINPEEL, so maybe ALCOHOL isn’t the best thing to slap on. It only took mankind a few thousand years to figure this out. The geniuses who put a man on the moon — the best and brightest minds of a generation — all screamed “Fuckin’ SHITBALLS!!” through clenched teeth on the morning of the launch when they hit their face with alcohol-based aftershave. Even the smart boys didn’t know what they were doing when it came to shaving.

But that was then and this is now. When I first delved into the old-school English wetshaving trip, I discovered all sorts of quaint, old-timey post-shave poultices like Trumper’s Skin Food, D. R. Harris’s Aftershave Milk, Proraso’s Soothing Cream, Colonel Reginald Felchingham’s Punim-Pamper, and other kinder, gentler aftershaves designed to calm your skin down and moisturize it nicely without the sting. They’re all much better for your face than traditional alcohol-based aftershaves, and any of them is a huge step up from Old Spice (it’s been reported, however, that Harris has changed its Aftershave Milk formula to meet new EU regulations, so the jury’s out on the new version — I like the old stuff quite a bit, but as it’s now an endangered species, I don’t recommend getting too fond of it, since it won’t be around much longer).

After trying all of the top shelf post-shave poultices, I settled on Trumper’s Skin Food as my favorite, and began using it every day after my shave. It was a huge step up from the Clinique lotion, and did much to reduce the red spots on my neck, as well as improve my skin’s overall appearance. I love the Skin Food in both versions, Lime and the original Coral (rose-scented), and recommend it highly. It’s expensive, but a little goes a long way — you only need a dime-sized amount to cover your face and neck, and it actually works better when used sparingly.

A more recent aftershave I like a lot is Nancy Boy’s Cooling Aftershave Gel. Forget drugstore aftershave “gels” for “sensitive skin” — the Nancy Boy’s the real deal, with aloe, glycerin, witch hazel, skin-friendly essential oils like lavender, peppermint and rosemary, and yes, a teensy bit of alcohol but at such a trace amount you don’t feel any sting at all. Like Trumper’s Skin Food, a little Nancy Boy goes a long way, and if you use the company’s mind-bending shaving cream, the aftershave has the same wonderful lavender/peppermint/rosemary scent.

But this winter has been especially dry here on the East Coast, and even these excellent aftershaves leave my skin drier than I like. They’re great in the summer months, but when the air’s particularly dry like it is now, I need something more moisturizing. Not because I’m a cream queen — trust me, if I could get by with a bar of Irish Spring and a crusty bath towel like I did when I was in my 20s, I’d ditch all my Man-Beauty products in a heartbeat. But I can’t no more. I’m old, so very, very old. Despite my oily skin, I’m drying up like an abandoned creek, or crick as the case may be. So I need to juice the ball.

Walk into any hippie store like Whole Foods (actually — and this is where I demonstrate that I really am old, with an unwanted and barely apropos anecdote just this side of germane to the discussion — I remember when Whole Foods really was a hippie store, back when I was going to school in Austin and there was only one Whole Foods in the world, and it was dirty, great, and run by hippies for hippies, long before it became Whole Paycheck, Home of the $5 Anjou Pear) (Disclosure: Beloved Wife buys most of our produce at Whole Foods) (Hey, I like my pears), and you’ll find shelves of skin-specific oils and lotions and essential oils, and among them will be Jojoba oil, which is not really an oil per se but the expeller-pressed ooze from the seeds of a Jojoba plant.

Jojoba “oil” is amazing stuff. It’s not an oil at all, but a liquid wax ester similar to the ester our skin produces naturally. There are oodles and Googles of info on why Jojoba is good for your skin, but I’ll cut to the chase — if your skin’s in need of high-end moisturizing and/or you want the very best aftershave you can buy, go get a bottle of Hobacare Jojoba for 12 bucks and prepare to be amazed. Tap 3-5 drops into your hand, rub your palms together, and rub them all over your shaven areas, and the rest of your puss too. Your skin shines for a moment or two and then the Jojoba sinks nicely into your skin, leaving it looking normal. What a difference this stuff makes after you use it for a few days. You’ll never go back to your old aftershave after you use it for a week.

I was crowing about what a difference Jojoba made to my winter-dry skin to the Fisher King, my higher skincare authority. I told him it was hands-down the most startlingly effective aftershave I’d ever tried.

“Ahh, that is all well and good, grasshopper,” he intoned, clacking his teeth on the stem of his opium pipe, “but have you tried Rosehip Seed Oil?”

So I did. And he’s right, in some ways it’s even better than the Jojoba. The finish is a bit shinier, which I’m not crazy about, and there’s also a bit of a scent happening as well, which is okay I guess but I added ten drops each of lavender, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils anyway just to give it a scent more to my liking.

But ye gods, does this stuff love your skin! Loves it long time, G.I. Joe. You finish your shave with 5 drops of Rosehip Seed Oil and pretty soon you’re going to start getting carded again at R-rated movies. I can’t believe how good this stuff is as an aftershave. It’s extraordinary. So simple and realtively inexpensive ($10-20 for an 8-ounce bottle that should last well over a year), yet so amazingly effective at both soothing your skin after a shave and moisturizing it for the long haul. I apply Rosehip Seed Oil twice a day, after my shave and then again at bedtime, and my skin looks and feels better now than it has in years.

Rosehip Seed Oil is a big-time shavegeek discovery, and once again I must pay fealty to the Fisher King for yet another mind-bending rec. All hail the Fisher King! May he live forever, surrounded by glorious fields of poppies and fine old razors of bygone quality.

The God of Shaving

Ever since I’ve been into this old-school wetshaving trip, Cary Grant has been my personal God of Shaving.

I mean, the man always had an Alpha Shave — his face was never less than perfectly smooth and hairless, like he’d never grown a whisker in his life. His skin was more alabastery than most of his leading ladies.

Few men have ever been photographed as much as Cary Grant, yet the only photos I’ve ever seen where he had even the slightest visible stubble were publicity stills for movies where his characters had beards. Aside from that, the man always had the Alpha Shave to end all Alpha Shaves.

And by Alpha I mean not just perfectly smooth, but without even the merest hint that he’d ever run a blade over his face. It’s one thing to get a close shave, that “baby’s butt” no-stubble smoothness all shavegeeks pant about. But to look like you’ve never shaved a day in your life because your beard zone is perfectly hairless? Not me, not the shavegeeks, and not anybody I ever met.

Man, what I wouldn’t give to get daily shaves like Cary Grant. Not a hint of razor burn, skin irritation, red bumps, or even just that faint shadow I always have even after I go to town with 3 passes and my face feels glassy smooth. I have white skin, and my whiskers are black — what the hell am I supposed to do, pull each one out by the root and tamp some powder down into each tiny hole so no cut-down whisker plugs are visible against my skin anymore?

No, that I cannot do. I simply have to accept that I am a mud person after all and that my face will never look perfectly shaven like Cary Grant’s unless I wear makeup, which I do on TV, but that doesn’t count because Cary Grant always said he never wore makeup in any of his movies because he hates the way it felt, so that means he looked perfectly shaven even without any makeup to smooth things over!

Truly, the God of Shaving.

So this weekend Beloved Wife and I were watching one of the few Cary Grant movies we haven’t seen, 1948’s “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House”. I’ll watch a Cary Grant movie anytime, especially the Hitchcocks, but I also like the fluff, and “Blandings” is practically a jar of marshamallow creme.

Now, I’ve always wondered what Cary Grant shaved with. He came of age when the safety razor had already been around for decades, but he could’ve also been using a straight razor as well. Was he really an expert at shaving, or was he just one of those lucky bastards that can shave with anything and their puss looks pristine?

For some reason, I’ve always felt that Cary Grant must have been a Schick Injector man. The oldest ones, I mean, with the big brass heads and the bakelite handles. I don’t know why, but this razor just seems to fit him. A straight razor’s too risky when your puss is your meal ticket. A DE is too mundane. But the Injector came along just as Cary Grant was starting out in movies, and its combination of ease of use and ungodly close shaves surely must’ve appealled to a movie star wanting to look his best at all times.

Shaving scenes in Cary Grant movies are few and far between. The only one I knew of was the famous scene in “North By Northwest” where he shaves with a tiny ladies razor in a public bathroom. And, of course, there’s Audrey Hepburn in “Charade” asking him about the cleft in his chin and how he shaves “in there”.

I always wanted to see Cary Grant shave like he really did in real life, just to see what he used and how he used it. I read bio after bio trying to glean some info, and came up dry.

Then I saw this.

Timeless Elegance

Yes, you too can own a lucite toilet seat embedded with real razor blades and barbed wire. For only $14.99 or fourteen-hundred and ninety-nine easy payments of just one penny, you can take a load off at the end of a busy day running a major corporation, competing in an Olympic athletic event, or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park with a beautiful woman, on this luxurious “King of Toilet Seats and Toilet Seat of Kings”!

The scary thing is, I know one guy who will absolutely buy this and install it in his bathroom. Doesn’t every blogger have his or her own fanboy/stalker in the Lambs of Osiris militia in Missouri who buys everything he’s “told” to and one day walks up to the blogger in a crowd wearing the exact same outfit and dreamily puts a .45 to his temple?

I’ve been thinking about razor blades lately. I’m very happy with the Swedish Gillettes I order from the UK, but recently I got some new razors in that I wasn’t sure about. So I did what I always do with a new score — I stick a “no-name” unlabeled Israeli Personna blade in it for a test shave. I figure these 15-cent blades (I buy them in boxes of 100 for 15 bucks on eBay) are good guinea pigs since they’re cheap, excellent, and very forgiving. If a razor shaves well with one of these Israeli blades, it’s a good bet things will get even better when I load it with a Swede.

The thing is, I got such a good shave with the Israeli blade I kept shaving with it all week. I get scary-close shaves with the Swedes, but in the this dry winter weather they can be a tad too much for my puss. The underside of my chin has been feeling kind of raw lately, but man, what faceturbatory shaves I get from these Swedes loaded in my 40’s Gillette Super Speeds. I play with myself all day long, stroking my chin and cheeks and marvelling at the total lack of feelable stubble.

The Israeli blades don’t give me this kind of shave. It looks exactly the same to the outside world, but if I rub my fingers against the grain on my neck I can feel the tiniest bit of stubble. Still, my neck actually looks and feels better after a shave with the no-name blades. So it’s a choice between a shave that feels so good to my own fingers I faceturbate, and a shave that leaves my face feeling and looking better to everyone else.

Was Fernando right after all? Is it really better to look good than to feel good?

Wee 3

I thought I was done scoring razors on eBay. I thought I’d seen it all. Gillette 50s fatboys, Eversharp bakelites, Schick magazine repeaters, and then finally 40s Super Speeds, my main razor these days. I yoinked ‘em in nickel and in gold, and always in multiples of at least three, for reasons I’m ashamed to go into. I’ve got problems. Big problems. But no matter. I did like Noah-and-a-half and got my mitts on three of each of these razors, and then I felt like I was, finally, over it all.

Then the Fisher King pounced.

“I just picked up a _______ and it’s the best razor yet,” he told me.

Sure it is, old boy. Every new thing you shavegeeks try is the “best yet”. That’s the whole trip in a nutshell, isn’t it? Well, I’m through, you follow? Through. I’m done. Finito. End of the line. Last stop. Stick a fork —

Er, what did that razor look like, anyway? (I said as I opened eBay in a new tab and searched “_______” as beads of sweat took little swan dives off my forehead and landed with a nice, tidy splish on the keyboard.

So now I have two of them. Fisher King Specials. Maybe I’ll spill, and maybe I won’t. Depends on whether I want to score a few more before letting loose the dogs of whore on them. Just let me get my beak wet and then I’ll let you dogs at the rest of the carcass. Maybe.

I will show you one of my other recent scores, though. The only shorty Super Speed I’ve even seen, in gold no less. That’s it at the top of the blog, alongside a Simpson Wee Scot brush and a tiny travel jar of Nancy Boy shaving cream.

As far as I can tell, it’s the only one-piece TTO (twist to open) travel razor Gillette ever made. The company’s 3-piece take-apart travel razors are much more common, and you can find these mediocre shavers on eBay for a song all day long. I get ‘em for peanuts and give ‘em to my kids to play with.

Not with a real blade in them! God, what kind of parent do you think I am?! I would never give my kids razors with sharp blades in them!!

I loaded them with Derbys.

So how small is this 1940’s Gillette? Look at the photo again — the razor’s shorter than the Wee Scot, for god’s sake! Don’t bother surfing over to Appleby’s site — you may as well eat at the man’s restaurants for all the info you’re going to get on this rare specimen. And in gold, in mint condition? Forget it. I’m not even sure it actually exists, and I shaved with it.

Speaking of which, the lather was courtesy of Taylor’s new Lavender shaving cream, which I like quite a bit. Like the venerable UK firm’s Avocado shaving cream, the Lavender has been modified slightly to meet new EU regulations going into effect in April. Taylor’s Barry Klein tells me the only changes made to the Lavender cream were a different colorant and the use of real lavender essential oil intead of the old version’s synthetic lavender fragrance.

The new Taylor Lavender looks a little lighter purple in color, but the real difference is the scent. The new cream’s aroma is pure lavender essential oil, nothing more, nothing less. I’ve got a vial of lavender EO from Body Time and the new Taylor cream smells exactly like it, as well as other EO-based Lavender shaving creams like The Art Of Shaving’s and Truefitt & Hill’s new Ultimate Comfort unscented.

Is this a good thing? Shavewise, yes, very much so. Lavender EO is very skin-friendly and a natural antiseptic. It also smells nice. I got a fantastic shave with the new Lavender cream, and its smoother, creamier consistency made building huge, thick, meaty lather almost comically easy, even with a tiny brush like my Wee Scot. If anything, I’d say the new Taylor is even better than the old version, and that’s saying something — Taylor’s Lavender has been a shavegeek fave for a long, long time.

Still, I have to admit to having a soft spot for the old version’s scent, fake though it may have been. I’ve still got some tubs and tubes of the stuff and I’m surprised to find that I’m more attached to its scent, which is sweeter and more its own thing than a straight-up lavender EO trip, than I’d thought I was. Like Taylor’s old Avocado scent, it’s entirely fake and entirely yummy, and while the new version’s all-natural essential oil scent is more pure and shave-beneficial, I’m sort of sad to see the old scent go. The new Taylor’s Lavender shaves better, but I’m going to hold onto my old tubs for when I want to catch a sniff of that old purple magic.