I’m sad today. I knew Steve Jobs was very ill but somehow I thought he’d pull another rabbit out of the hat. I’d been getting mixed signals from my SiVal sources, some saying he looked terrible and some saying he looked good, real good, and was just recharging his batteries.
Steve Jobs is one of my all-time heroes and I don’t have a lot of those. Obviously it’s sad he was taken so young despite such heroic accomplishments, but part of me also mourns the loss of a brief, shining exception to the truly terrible world in which I used to dwell. The world of consumer electronics is overwhelmingly peopled by utter human filth, and in fact the worse of a person you are the greater heights you tend to climb in CE.
But Jobs was different. One in a trillion. Even though he left Apple in extremely capable hands, let’s not kid ourselves. It won’t be the same. (Yes, that means sell all your AAPL, now, right this instant. Thank you.) Apple may still dominate hearts and minds and wallets but in many ways it was the knowledge that Steve was there obsessing over the details until he was ready to release products that instilled such confidence in the people who bought the stuff he created.
There are plenty of big brains left at Apple and maybe someone will rise up and be the dick at the end of the day who risks missing a 100mil holiday season because he doesn’t like the way the mute button protrudes. I want to be optimistic but it is a sad day and I feel the world lost something a lot bigger than just a guy who sold iPods. It lost one of the very damn few titans of industry that actually thinks, believes, and says genuinely, meaningfully humanistic things that indicate he or she is somehow, despite the exorbitant wealth, a Good Person, or even Great. The kind of leader capable of stepping outside the public message points that feed his whole corporate flow and pleases his directors and stockholders and absolutely nobody else. The kind of leader who somehow got there and became an even better and more inspiring person.
How many people do you know like that in public life?
When my sister graduated from Duke the commencement speaker was former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. His speech was steel-cut template, as canned as the corn he so legendarily fed upon as a small boy with preternaturally good hair and trustworthy mien. Open with self-deprecating joke, name drop university poobahs, fabricate hardscrabble upbringing and yes even mention the Greatest Generation if you’ve got a coffee table book coming out for the holidays, acknowledge the difficulties that await those who will soon enter the workforce of tending to the tedious tasks of the speaker’s life while he skis in Aspen, bring it all back home by telling graduates they too can be a Greatest Generation if they just go out there and do lots of great things, wave like an astronaut riding in the back of a parade Buick, collect the check, make brief appearance at private reception at college president’s home, tell car service to floor it back to the private airstrip while yelling in the back seat “Fuck it I don’t care how much they pay me I’m never doing one of the fucking things again I don’t care HOW many of my kids are graduating!!” It was the same $45K speech you heard at corporate retreats, AARP conventions, and local Rotary Club meetings in pancake restaurants all over the Midwest. It is, as they say, good work if you can get it.
I dredge up T-Braw because he typifies what most celebrities do when asked to come deliver a commencement speech. They smile the winner’s smile and Phone It In. The phony message of universal greatness possibility that they themselves clearly don’t believe at all except as useful canned auto-palaver for ginning up future peons and pool cleaners and lift chair operators and town car drivers.
The comparisons to great figures of the past have been flying fast and furious in the last 24 hours since reports of his passing. Edison, Lennon, Tony Stark, Newton. Whatever. I hate when people rush to be the first to bleat “He was our generation’s _______!!” I remember when Kurt Cobain actually blew his mind out with a gun and Kurt Loder gravely intoned on MTV News that Cobain was “this generation’s John Lennon.” No he wasn’t. Look, I like Nirvana, but let’s be real here. Kid was talented, could do a mean rewrite of Boston. But by no stretch of the imagination was he a John Lennon.
And Steve Jobs wasn’t either. He didn’t peak in his 20s and live on as an increasingly uninspiring figure generating lightweight irrelevance even his diehard fans had to choke back and keep telling themselves “Just Like Starting Over” was just as brain cleaving as “Strawberry Fields”. Jobs kept hitting them out of the park and then hitting them even farther and farther nearly every at bat until his last game where he somehow hit a grandslam with more than 3 men on base which is theoretically impossible but look it up in the record books it’s all there.
Forget MacIntosh. The iPod and the iTunes Music Store are lifetime achievements on so grand a scale as to be unthinkable for most tech luminaries, who would’ve ridden that one hit out for the rest of their career as the guy who did that one thing once. So what does Jobs do? Boom. iPhone. And as if that whole mobile-phone-industry’s-heart-pulled-out-of-its-chest-while-still-beating wasn’t enough, a few years later Steve Jobs delivered, at the very end of his life, his Pieta.
Only a couple of years ago “tablet” was PC-speak for dog shit. A horrendous million-dollar mistake never to be repeated by anyone who wanted to stay alive in CE. A failed concept given a half-hearted try by a few brands like Toshiba (remember them? They used to make computers, and now they’re mostly a RAM supplier for Apple). Tablet PCs were low-end laptops with swiveling EZ-break plastic hinges for people who wanted to scratch up their soft LCD laptop screens with little plastic sticks. Bill Gates got up at a CES launch to declare The Year Of The Tablet with a Windows Tablet Edition laptop he clearly had just been handed by some Dell rep right before he got onstage and it was like he was trying to make orange juice with a toilet brush. Tablets died as fast as they appeared and the category became a cautionary tale never to be spoken of again if you wanted a job in CE.
So of course Steve Jobs invents the iPad blah blah blah. The Jobsian cycle of everyone else taking crappy stabs at a concept and then Apple with its first try not only creates the one magical product everyone in the world must own and in multiples if possible but so dominates the category that nothing else can be reasonably considered a legitimate rival.
Look, I like competition. It spurs companies to greater heights, heights they wouldn’t normally have achieved without the fear of being beaten by someone else. But clearly Apple never needed a rival to smack its nuts till it ran faster than a horse should technically be able to for a quarter mile. It had Steve Jobs.
And that’s what’s left as the Big ? hanging over Apple now. Everyone, even little kids not even in pre-K yet, knows Tim Cook has been the real CEO for years, is the reason Apple’s trains run on time, both out of the Apple Stores and into the Chinese factories that need more more more aluminum shells, static RAM, and LED backlit IPS, is a genuine genius and not just some interchangeable SilVal execubrity like Meg Whitman or Jon Rubinstein or Dabney Coleman or Garrett Morris. Cook’s the real deal, the reason I’m sitting on my Apple stock with lead weights in my Man-Spanx.
But is Cook a nut smacker? Will he walk up to Jonny Ive and literally whack him in the testicles if iPad3 has some imperceptible surface curve that isn’t exactly what Dieter Rams would’ve done on a Braun 8-track player? I don’t work at Apple so I don’t know. I can only hope that he has this essential quality in him. Because without it, the greatest team of engineers, designers, coders, and supply chain Yodas is only capable of burping up a Zune a month before Xmas without someone screaming at them to get that godawful piece of shit out of his sight before he jerks his gun out of his desk again and everyone dives to the floor like the last hundred times they showed him what they thought was great but turned out to be only sanely so.
I started to write about my thoughts today on SJ’s passing and here I am mining my old crappy turf of ha-ha techyak with a picocule of actual useful data surrounded by a metric ass ton of EZ-read filler. Only Steve Jobs could get me to sit down and “write” again after swearing off it years ago as a pointless exercise in futility best left to the young and less embittered.
So yeah, I’m sad. He’s a big-time hero of mine. We won’t see the likes of him again. You’re not college grads and I’m not Tom Brokaw bullshitting you that the future is whatever you make it. Enjoy your harrowing, bleak ride, because you are not Steve Jobs and neither am I and there’s nothing about that to make a fellow toss his hat up in the air so his parents can miss the shot of him doing so because they’re holding a Sony piece of hammered shit they got free with AmEx points instead of an iPhone.
The Right Good Rev. Daniel Harrell has honored this Vile Wicked Blog yet again with another volley in what some are calling “the greatest game of Layer Tennis ever played”.
In our case, instead of two graphic design goofuses lazily farting Photoshop wankery back and forth on a slow Friday when they should be dodge’n’burning the new Kal Kan ad for the Thrifty Nickel, the Padre and I go back and forth with ye olde log-rolling, him using wet-shaving as a metaphor for spiritual renewal, me using his sermons as validation that I am nothing less than a prophet for our times — a seer, if you will — and that my word should be taken as Natural Law.
Speaking of Layer Tennis, my brother Mark did the music for this great short film about the making of Coudal’s new Field Notes. Me, I’m all about SimpleNote on the iPad these days but if you feel your “mind mapping” diagrams for that selvedge denim and used vinyl boutique you and your girlfriend want to open in that crack neighborhood where that guy was just killed requires the formal imprimatur of ink on pulp, maybe you want to treat yourself to a beautiful handmade artisanal notebook for ten bucks a trio. As the man says, this shit is the steeze yo.
Philip Bloom is a filmmaker and evangelist of “HDSLR” - shooting high-definition video on one of the new high-end digital SLR cameras instead of a traditional video camera. Ever since I got my GF1 and hacked its firmware for better video quality, I’ve leaned on Bloom’s blog and marveled at the technical and artistic quality of the short films he makes with little more than a DSLR and some time spent hunched over a Mac.
Bloom has a special obsession with shaving, as the above clip demonstrates. Out of respect for the man and his work I’ve holstered the snark for this post because mainly I just dig watching razor-sharp high-def footage of shaving, and especially the nutty 100mm macro lens closeups of his whiskers, which look like trees growing on a giant flaky croissant.
Bloom’s growing a mustache during the month of November for Movember, a charity project focusing on prostate cancer awareness. I support their efforts but will not be growing a stache of my own, it being little more than a symbolic gesture and I really, really can’t deal with the itchiness and ’70s porn actor look. Also, unlike Bloom, I enjoy shaving every day, which is sort of self-evident I guess if you’ve been reading this far. But the guy’s a genius, one of the few people online whose work I follow like a blushing fanboy, and the video’s a visual treat. Enjoy, and please go get your balls checked this month.
So I’m hunting the Intertubes for confirmation as to whether the kinda sorta grayish market GF1 camera I bought online locks shutter at 1/100 (Canadian version) or 1/120 (US market) in Flicker Reduction Mode when word comes from Young Petrovich that one of our jointly favorited sites, Rands in Repose, has kinda sorta grayishly mentioned this very site you are reading right now with an increasing sense of exasperation borne of not getting that immediate slug of tasty sugarmilk you’ve come to expect from this reporter.
Why can you not hazz your shaveburger already and get the hell out of here, you ask? Because all of the above — I’ll be honest with you — irks me just a little bit. No, a lot bit. Here’s my thinking on this.
I’m not a linkwhore. I don’t go jacking other D-listers off just to get linkrolled all over the faux-hipster blogosphere. It’s not why I do this (I know, I know, did is the more honest tense). I don’t write nice things about Gillette or King of Shaves just to get linkrolled by the mammoths. Couldn’t care less. I don’t ever think about this stuff, because I spent 20 years eating corporate-owned media shit and now I can’t even taste anything anymore. My tastebuds are permanently shell-shocked. It takes me a bottle of Habanero sauce in the morning just to get to normal.
So why am I irked by a nice mention by a blog I’m frankly honored to be to be on their radar? Because it’s a mention that isn’t really a mention. In fact, when Young Petrovich pointed me to the post, I reread the whole thing half a dozen times scratching my head because I couldn’t find the damned mention. Because there isn’t one. There’s not even a mention of the msnbc article which is where many people first became aware of Shaveblog, even though that article’s a watered down version of my original.
No, in order to even know why Shaveblog played any role at all in the Rands thing, you have to go read through their Twitter stream. And scroll, scroll, scroll, fuck me, I don’t have time for this — ahh, there it is, May 6th, thanks @rands (and by virtue of his retwatting, @johnwilliams713).
Fact is, I don’t know how to react to this stuff anymore. I should by all rights have sent Seth Godin, Titan of Industry, a box of Montes for his mentions. I haven’t done fuck-all lately to merit the barest periphery of his attention. And now Rands has blown a little bit of oxygen on the embers, keeping them glowing just a bit longer, and all I can respond with is wretched, miserly carping that they didn’t take their whole goddamn site down and replace it with a towering 72-pt link to Shaveblog on the center of the page and nothing else, and leave it like that, just walk away from the URL, find something else to do.
Seriously, Lifehacker, enough with the shaving tips. Between this and this and this, you keep reminding me why ever since Trapani left your site’s become the joke of the Intertubes, and considering this site is also in the running, that’s saying a lot.
Extra threw-up-just-a-little-bit-in-my-mouth points for casting the Colonel from Boogie Nights as the Shirtless Rotarian who’s somehow lived all these years without getting any smarter about shaving than your average 20 year-old Lifehacker editor.
I don’t usually like to argue semantics with naked seniors, but for fuck’s sake, if you’re gullible enough to think you can sharpen a razor cartridge with your FOREARM, and your only supportive data point is a naked old guy on YouTube, we need to talk.
Sheesh, where to begin.
It’s called a strop, not a strap. It’s made of leather (Horween shell cordovan in the good old days just like my favorite shoes, nowadays it’s mostly cowhide), and yeah, it looks like a strap, sort of. But it’s called a strop.
"Your grandfather" did not use a leather strop to sharpen his straight razor. Strop’s don’t sharpen blades. Sharpening stones (or “hones”) sharpen blades. “Your grandfather” lightly swiped his straight razor across a sharpening stone to hone and restore its sharp edge. A leather strop, on the other hand, is used between honings to realign the molecules on the very edge of the blade so it’s not curving to one side or the other, and here’s where Shirtless Rotarian’s claim falls apart:
You can’t strop a blade if you can only get to one side of it. Which is all you can get at with a cartridge like the Fusion he’s holding. Even setting aside the argument of whether he’s actually achieving anything at all by running the blade along his forearm (he’s not), even if he were achieving some level of stropitude, he’d only be rolling the blade edge over to one side instead of realigning it to point straight ahead as is the goal of straight razor stropping.
Your arm is not made of something like leather. Even Shirtless Rotarian’s arm isn’t made of something like leather. Leather is thick animal hide that’s been dried, cured, treated, coated, manipulated, and toughened to the point where it can withstand a great deal of abuse, such as forcing the edge of an extremely sharp steel blade to move back into shape. This is why they make strops out of leather instead of Shirtless Rotarian skin, which tends to either get cut by the blade if they meet head-on, or do nothing at all if the blade is stroked along the forearm as demonstrated in the video above.
My guess is Mrs. Shirtless Rotarian is secretly replacing his Fusion blade every week without telling him. I hope so, because I’d really like to think he’s not so out of it that he believes rubbing a Fusion cartridge on his arm keeps it shave-sharp for TWO YEARS, and that he believes this such an important discovery that he’s moved to shoot shirtless bathroom video of himself and post it on YouTube.
Hey, could be worse. He could be somebody’s doctor.
I’m tempted to switch to old school shaving, but have a question – would your methods/equipment change for a bald(ing) man who shaves his entire head 2/3 times/week?
Not being bald myself I can’t state for certain that what’s good for the puss is good for the pate, but feedback from some of my readers who do chop it all off seems to indicate that the bon temps definitely continue to roulet when you shave your head with an old-school safety razor.
You do need to be careful and take it slow when you first transition from a modern multi-blade to an old-school, single-blade DE (double-edge). You’re still swiping a blade-onna-stick across your skin, but beyond that it’s a whole different trip — how much pressure you apply, how much more attention you need to pay to your hand/razor/skin relationship to keep the blade angle right, the audio feedback from the cutting of the whiskers. It’s like learning how to shave all over again, although what it really is is learning how to shave right for the first time. Most guys (me included) need a week or so to get to the point where they can get through a DE shave without a nick.
If I was balding I’d definitely chop it all off. Because if I’m going to be bald I want to be bald, son. None of that Gallagher crap with the party in back — when this glorious Michael Landonesque Jew Mane starts falling out in clumps because of all that 1st-gen Blackberry phone RF I soaked up back in the day, that’s it, issue me my Player’s Club card and get out of this bald, virile man’s way.
And no modern multi-blade razor, be it the Fusion, Mach3, Quattro, Sensor, whatever, gives me as close or as long-lasting a shave as a good DE. Forget those little hand-grip “headshavers” on the drugstore shelves that take multi-blade Gillette cartridges — nobody who uses those things is getting as close a shave as they should be.
Back in the day, when balding guys went Full Monty they had their barber do it with a straight razor, and that’s why these guys looked absolutely clean, I’m talking “Mr. Clean” clean, not with that faint skinhead “rough trade” stubble that all modern cartridge-fed “head shavers” leave behind. Unless you’re trying to rock that look, which is a personal choice and also a wrong one, because for the life of me I can’t understand why a guy would want to look like the Commish when Michael Chicklis would be plenty happy if he looked like Eric Banna even when he was Chopper.
If you want to shave your head old-school, the same rules for face shaving apply up top. You need to soak your stubble in warm water for at least 2 minutes, to waterlog the hair so it’ll slice through neatly like wet noodles. Use a high quality glycerin-based shaving cream or shaving soap, and of course a good shaving brush is mandatory. Short, careful strokes, not those ridiculous eyebrow-to-Adam’s-apple glides you see on the Gillette commercials. I got news for you, there’s as much actual blade in those prop razors the male models are miming with as there is sexual interest in the towel-wrapped girls hugging them from behind.
If you’re shaving your head with a DE for the first time, I recommend laying down a protective layer of Jojoba oil to smooth the runway a bit for your first few forays. Five or six drops rubbed between your hands and spread over your skull should do it. A little Jojoba makes everything glide along just that much more smoothly, and it helps you get the hang of the much less forgiving nature of an old-school DE razor. When you’ve got your technique and touch down, you won’t need to use the Jojoba, although you may want to continue anyway as it’s really good for freshly-shaven skin and you may even find you won’t need to use moisturizer up on the dome anymore, as Jojoba does the job better and with less expense.
It’s been the Summer of Dunce, and with a bang and a whimper, it’s finally over. I mean, I knew this country was 75% Deliverance Boy but ye gods, after this summer I feel like there are eight sensate Americans left and seven of them are sterile.
Speaking of idiocracy, I freely admit that making fun of the “advice” found on such unpaid intern written sites as Lifehacker, Digg, and Instructables is only slightly North of shooting fish in a barrel, but when these clueless naifs who don’t even bother to shave more than once a month in the first place claim any kind of expertise in the Manly Ablutive Arts, it’s time to load the Glock for carp.
Let’s see…shaky video cam, check. Simpsons’s Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel accent, check. Wiping a 5-blade dung-razor on your jeans to get more shitty shaves out of each cartridge? Check and checkmate, Jonas Salk.
As Fake Steve would say, Namaste, Jake T. Robinson. Your corn liquor wisdom is only exceeded by the tidal wave of drool in your comments section.
Nope, no site reboot today, I’m afraid. There are still some kinks to be worked out with the new layout, and some of the old links and pics weren’t working right with Today’s Wordpress aka Blogger For Masochists (“Now With 10% Less Banging Your Against Your Desk!”), so give me a few more days of forehead bruising and I should have something a lot nicer and much more readable for you to look at and then say “Meh” about.
Meantime, here’s a little ditty to tide you over.
I stumbled onto Shaveblog and I am completely sucked in. I love doing things the right way, even if it means going back to the “old-fashioned” way of doing things. My husband loved the injector razors he had in the past, and after reading your recommendations, I’m sure he’ll love getting a better quality razor than even the one he was happy with. He’s also excited to start using a brush and cream like he always saw his dad use.
My question for you is regarding women’s shaving. Reading your blog, I started to get jealous that you guys have access to such quality shaving products. Is there anything out there for women? I saw in one of your blogs that your wife uses Cremo Cream and a Lady Sensor, but I couldn’t find the Lady Sensor anywhere online. Also, does your wife have any tips for getting a good shave? For example, I’m having a hard time picturing a woman using a brush to apply shaving cream to her legs, but has she found another option for “prepping” her legs and exfoliating? Any tips you can offer would be much appreciated. Thanks!
You women have always gotten the shaft from Big Shaving. Like tampons, lady razors suck because they’ve always been designed by men who’ve never had to use them.
I wouldn’t begin to lecture you on the proper gear for gam shaving. I’ve never done it myself, though I did shave my armpits once, in high school, while talking on the phone with my girlfriend who was simultaneously shaving her own — it was actually kind of thrilling and kinky and constituted the only time in my life I’ve engaged in something that could broadly be considered phone sex aside from calling Barney Greengrass to place an order to go.
So my resident gam shaving expert is Beloved Wife, whose legs are as easily nicked as my neck has always been. When I started getting better shaves with brushes and good creams, she ported them over to her gams and did her own research into the matter. Some things she found: a shaving brush isn’t really needed for a woman’s legs, and a single-blade DE or Injector razor takes ages to shave a pair of legs with and doesn’t really give better gamshave than a good twin-blade. But she did find that the better creams (her favorite is Cremo Cream) really did protect her skin better and let her shave more closely and comfortably without nicks. Fortunately for Cremo, she’s not as bothered by the pansy-ass Pina Colada scent as I am (memo to Cremo: when you come out with a shaving cream that smells like bacon, or Dogfish Head 120 Minute, or (dare I dream?) both of them as you chew a huge mouthful of beer and bacon, do a brother a solid and tweet me.)
More gamshave wisdom via the better half: Exfoliating is bullshit. Makes your skin feel softer for a few hours but does nothing for shaving, no matter what the sites selling “shaving loofas” say. What really matters — as always, whether you’re shaving your face or your legs, is softening the whiskers with water and using a good blade. Water is absorbed into the hair and changes its character from copper wire to wet noodle, and wet noodle is most certainly what you want when it comes to good shaving. It takes two minutes for human hair to absorb water and become soft enough to slice through cleanly and easily, so showering before you shave, not after, will do wonders for your legs.
According to Beloved Wife and every female I know, the twin-blade Sensor For Women is the best lady razor in current production. The 3 and 5-blade razors sold to Women under such names as Venus couldn’t possibly be less good for your legs if they had SARS virus built into the lubricating strips. I know men are stupid, buying this crap up by the hectare, but you women are too smart to fall for this nonsense. Avoid any razor with more than 2 blades. Loathe as I am to recommend anything Proctor and Gamble sells, Beloved Wife swears to me that the Sensor For Women is a good gam shaver, which doesn’t surprise me seeing as how the Sensor Excel for men, which uses the same blade carridges, is the only thing Gillette still makes these days that doesn’t wholly suck.
That said, here’s a dirty little secret: the men’s cartridges are better than what Gillette sells to women. A lot better. The white plastic Sensor For Women cartridges are markedly inferior to the grey plastic Sensor cartridges sold to men, even though they both fit all Sensor razors. Don’t believe me? Neither did Beloved Wife, until she tried a men’s Sensor blade in her razor and was shocked by the improvement. Those white Sensor cartridges are nasty business — wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they were seconds off the production line, marketed as gam shavers instead of the off-spec rejects they are. Fit your Lady Sensor with man blades and you’ll be much happier with the cut.
As Beloved Wife discovered, the really good creams like Cremo make all the difference, but maybe you don’t want to spend $20 a tube when you use so much more of this stuff per shave than us men do. So here’s another trick: an economical alternative to high-end shaving cream is plain old hair conditioner, which actually works crazily well as a shaving cream for women’s legs as long as you don’t expect thick, rich, foamy lather. It softens the whiskers and gives great lubrication. Doesn’t need to be the fancy stuff, either — Suave conditioner works just as well as anything else I’ve tried. After showering, apply a liberal amount of hair conditioner to your legs and leave it on for at least a minute before you start shaving. Works a treat as my British editor used to say, and even I hit the conditioner for a shower shave every once in awhile when I’m running late and don’t have time for my usual Little Lord Fountleroy joie de beauty routine that wows them at dropoff/pickup.
As for your husband and his Injector lust, I’ll have more to say once I get this @%#$ blog rebooted with a fresh new coat of paint. I gave up on the Injector a few years ago when Schick switched production of its blades to a new supplier and the quality dropped like a stone. But I just can’t quit this beautiful razor. More to say later.
“We keep a food pantry at our church for individuals who need it to get by. The other day one of our regulars asked for men’s toiletries, toothpaste soap and shaving stuff. Shaving stuff? How could I not have thought of stocking up this essential of human worth and dignity? Kraft Dinner and canned soup are good for your belly, but what about your soul? So my question…what low-cost shaving products could I solicit as donations?”
Excellent question, Padre. The most economical option would be Bic single-edge disposables “for sensitive skin”. Some drugstore chains carry their own house version that seems to be identical and even cheaper. I get the best shaves from any disposable from these BICs, but you need to make sure they’re the single-edge razors, not the twin-blades. Those are pretty rough.
For lather, a bar of Dove soap is cheap, long lasting, and surprisingly good as a shaving soap. Not all bath soaps are. If you want to go with real shaving cream, Palmolive shave cream in the tube is really cheap and very good. Look for the red tube, not the green “brushless” tube, it’s garbage. Red tube’s much better. The scent’s not wonderful but the shave is.
Follow the shave with some witch hazel — $2 a bottle at any drugstore. After trying every post-shave poultice on the market, I’ve come back to simple witch hazel. It Just Works.
Obviously, a straight razor shave using warm water as the only lube is a possibility, as this setup offers great shaving with zero operating costs moving forward. However, the upfront for a decent straight razor is considerable, and I also don’t think it’s wise for churches to be arming people who might be a little jumpy and anxious these days with free cut-throat razors. Love thy neighbor yada yada but it’s probably best we don’t go down that road, yes?
I ran across your blog “Hail Andy!” from almost 4 years ago and am thinking about trying those feather blades. You mention that the Pro Guard blades worked great, but the Professional didn’t. You said you were going to experiment a little more with the Professional and Professional Super, but I can’t seem to find the results.
Did you ever experiment with the other blades? Which would you recommend?
I don’t recommend Feather blades anymore. I experimented with them years ago when I was trying to get the closest shave possible, but I came to the conclusion that the Feathers were bad for my skin long-term. I know these blades have their fans, but I no longer use or recommend them.
Feather is a company that makes surgical blades for the medical industry, and they repurpose some of these blades for men’s shaving. I and many others find their shaving blades to be extremely sharp yet very unforgiving in the context of shaving. Your first few shaves with Feathers are amazing because your chin feels absolutely hairless, like a cue ball. But you’re also left with a lot more nicks and blood than usual, and that tingly feeling you feel for the rest of the day isn’t the mark of a great shave. It’s your skin telling you to back off, you overheated geek, you shaved off too much skin along with your whiskers. Keep using them day after day and your skin will eventually beg for mercy, if you have any left.
I’ve found that for the best shave long-term, you want a blade that’s sharp enough to cut whiskers but not the top layers of underlying skin. I know the hardcore shavegeeks chase the extremities — the sharpest blades, the strongest scent, the softest brush, the cheapest Cheese Whiz — but I think you’ll find that a gentler blade like the Israeli Personnas I use and recommend shaves just as closely as the Feathers without leaving your skin feeling numb and looking pretty beat-up.
For the past several years, no trip to Vegas has been complete without checking in on my pal Daphne Gastis who runs Truefitt & Hill’s shop at Caesar’s Palace. Beyond just the sheer amount of brushes, razors, creams, and assorted poultices to peruse, it’s always a treat talking with Daphne — for some reason, most of the men in this business are odd, cranky loners, but Daphne’s this hip, brainy woman who loves yakkin’ about shavegeekery between keeping the T&H barbers and staff on their toes and running back and forth to Steve “Classy" Wynn’s casino to service its high-end salons with T&H products.
Daphne’s one of the biggest boosters of old-school wetshaving I’ve come across, so I was surprised when she called me this summer to tell me she’d left Truefitt to help start a new company, and that she’d be in touch once they were ready to hit the market.
And so it was that a month ago some product samples showed up, which I’ve been testing and comparing to my usual standbys, waiting to spill the skinny when the brand officially went live. And today marks the launch of a unique new entrant in the high-end men’s wetshaving scene: The Gentlemens Refinery.
The guiding vision behind The Gentlemens Refinery happens to be Daphne’s son, Perry Gastis, who Truefitt-Vegas regulars will remember as one of its master barbers who wrapped their head in hot towels, wielded the Dovo Shavette, and on a bed of Lather-King’d T&H cream shaved them closer than they’d ever been before or ever would be again.
Perry’s been a professional barber for many years, well before his stint with Truefitt, and it’s the barber’s perspective he brings to TGR that sets the brand apart from other newcomers to the men’s grooming counter. Because it was barbers who started this whole trip more than two centuries ago, when all the great English wetshaving firms like Trumper, Taylor, D. R. Harris, and yes, Truefitt & Hill began as barbershops servicing London’s upper crust back when said crust wore top hats, monocles, and indulged itself in a bit of hard, cruel wilding before settling down to a fine tavern sup.
What’s really interesting about the Gastises’ latest move is how it plays against the backdrop of their former employer’s own recent developments. Truefitt’s revamping of its classic colognes and shaving creams, and its emphasis on a new line of more modern-styled grooming products targeted to a younger, trendier demographic point to a move away from the company’s roots as London’s oldest barbershop (est. 1805) and seemingly on a collision course with the more metroey likes of The Art Of Shaving.
Gastis sees things differently. By blending the best of the old ways (barbershop shaving techniques and disciplines) with the best of the new (all-natural ingredients), he’s developed a new line of men’s shaving products which isn’t simply just another minor variation on what’s already been done. And rather than just target the new line to consumers, Gastis always had professional barbers in mind as his true clientèle — so the shaving cream is formulated to work exceptionally well in a Lather-King hot lather machine, a fixture of any self-respecting barbershop. The Gentlemens Refinery’s credo seems to be “please the barber, and his customers will follow”.
TGR’s new line is made up of a shaving cream, a pre-shave oil, an aftershave balm, a moisturizer, and an eye gel. All of The Gentlemens Refinery’s products are made of 100% natural ingredients, with no parabens (widely used preservatives which have been alleged but not yet proven to be carcinogens) or skin-drying alcohol. While Gastis told me he decided to tone down the anti-paraben rhetoric on the final product packaging, he remains committed to keeping TGR’s products free of such ingredients.
Now, here’s the deal. I’m all about all-natural — the less crap we cram down our gullet and cake our pores with, the better. And I fully accept that the down-with-parabens brigade (Hi Chris) may have a point, and that while we may not notice any ill effects from a microgram here and a picoliter there, I’m not saying we may not someday look back on parabens the way we do lead paint chips, the binding of women’s feet, and men’s shaving forums.
I’m just saying that plenty of the very best shaving and grooming products on the market include parabens and alcohol. Nancy Boy, Trumper, Taylor, Truefitt, D. R. Harris — they’ve all got ‘em. George Burns smoked twenty parabens a day, ate a pastrami-and-parabens on rye at the Stage Deli every afternoon, slept on special paraben-coated bedsheets, and only died at 178 because he went swimming too soon after eating a paraben blintze.
I’ll level with you — since the blog started getting some media attention, I’ve started to get all manner of grooming products from all manner of companies sent to me in hopes I’ll blog it. Most of it is just plain forgettable, but unless the product smells like ass, I’ll try it at least once. I mean, you never know whether that unassuming little bottle of whatsis will turn out to be the next Cremo Cream, or the next bit of supporting evidence that we as a people are too fucking stupid to continue.
But The Gentlemens Refinery lineup impressed me right off the bat, and no matter what I threw up against it, I always seemed to come back to using it. Even the excellent eBay-scored Kent shaving soap (which is really Mitchell’s lanolin-tastic Wool Fat shaving soap) couldn’t keep me from reaching for the TGR when I wanted the best possible shave.
The Gentlemens Refinery shaving cream is definitely a New School cream, chock full of good, glisteny glycerin just like Truefitt & Hill’s Ultimate Comfort shaving cream. In fact, it’s so similar to the latter in appearance, consistency, and even scent that I went scurrying to the ingredients lists on both products just to make sure they weren’t the same. They aren’t. While both are made in Canada, the two creams do have different formulas and if you really jam your honker up close, TGR’s cream has a slightly stronger, more complex scent than the UC, which is marketed as an unscented product and has just a very slight lavender scent.
TGR lists a mixture of lavender, ylang ylang, and sandalwood oils as its scent agents, but it’ll take a more discerning schnozz than mine to tell you what “notes” this band’s playing. I can tell you it smells pleasant and subtle, lavendery with a sweeter thing also going on, but this cream is not at all the kind of olfactory sex bomb I’ve come to expect from my favorite English creams like Trumper’s Violet and Taylor’s Rose, and the stateside triple-threat of Nancy Boy’s lavender-peppermint-rosemary wakeup blast. There’s a scent happening, it’s nice and clean, but it doesn’t bowl you over like the heavily-scented creams I like to get off with.
As for the shave, TGR is in that upper tier of creams where ranking becomes a matter of splitting atoms, not hairs. In purely pragmatic terms, The Gentlemens Refinery cream lathers and shaves as well as the very best creams I’ve come to favor, and I’d have no problem using it as my only shaving cream. Its lather is superbly lubricating and protecting, and the extra cushion it provides between the blade and skin remind me very much of the shave I get from Nancy Boy’s cream, which has been my go-to for quite awhile now. Fans of Nancy Boy, and of Truefitt & Hill’s similar Ultimate Comfort shaving cream, now have another option for an upper-tier New School cream that falls somewhere in the middle between the other two on the scent intensity scale.
Being a man of a certain age now, I use moisturizer on my face before I go to bed. Am I proud of this? Of course I’m not. I find the whole thing depressing as hell. But I don’t eat Whoppers and onion rings for lunch anymore like I did all through my 20s, so I don’t have all that nice superfatted goodness coursing through my veins and keeping my skin looking its pasty best any longer. I need to compensate. So I moisturize.
I don’t do the full-on cucumber slices on the eyes and a turban to protect my perm, but I do squirt three drops of rosehip seed oil in my hands and rub them all over my face and neck, and this does keep my skin feeling and looking nice even in the dry winter months. The Fisher King hipped me to the magic of rosehip seed oil awhile back and it’s one of his best tips — it’s cheap, it’s all-natural, and it works crazily well for me.
The Gentlemens Refinery’s moisturizer is a blend of some of the most well-regarded, all-natural skin soothers available — aloe barbadensis leaf juice, Jojoba, shea butter, cocoa butter, glycerin, grapeseed oil, vitamin E, and some ylang ylang and sandalwood oils to carry the family scent across the product line.
This is a very, very effective moisturizer. While it mostly sinks into my skin nicely and doesn’t shine me up like so many other creamy moisturizers I’ve tried, it does leave a moist finish on my skin and keeps me moist till I wake up the next morning. This is serious stuff. I’ve been using a single squirt from the excellent pump applicator, but I could probably get by with half that amount. My skin is crazily sensitive and most moisturizers make me break out, but my skin likes the TGR and I haven’t had any issues at all.
But as good as the shaving cream and moisturizer are, I’ve saved the best for last. And it’s funny, because aftershave is such a, well, afterthought for most of us when it comes to shaving. Most guys I know don’t even bother with it — they just rinse the lather off their face and they’re good to go.
Me, I can’t get away with that. I need closure. I need something that’s going to soothe my freshly-shaven skin and re-moisturize it without leaving my face shiny, stinging, sticky, or smelling funny. Like, sadly enough, most of the even highly-touted aftershaves do.
I basically have three aftershaves that work best for my skin — Trumper’s Skin Food, Nancy Boy’s aftershave, or a few drops of either rosehip seed oil or Jojoba. Everything else I’ve tried that’s currently on the market falls well short of these three.
See? I said “currently on the market” — I gave myself an out. Because D. R. Harris’s wondrous Aftershave Milk, far and away the best aftershave I’ve ever tried, was discontinued earlier this year. Harris still sells something they call Aftershave Milk but it’s not the same stuff — bears no resemblance at all to the old formula, which was unique to the market. A thin, milky liquid, you poured a bit into your hands and wiped it all over your puss, and it sunk instantly and totally into your skin, leaving behind a wonderfully fresh cucumber scent and the feeling that you just had the greatest shave of your life. No shine, no stickiness, no nothing. Just perfectly soothed and settled skin.
The old Aftershave Milk was the perfect aftershave, which is why Harris had to kill it off. I mean, look, of course I don’t know why they did it — for all I know it had parabens out the ass and Harris fanboys were dropping like flies all up and down St. James Street. It was an old formula, I know that, so maybe there was some trouble sourcing some of the arcane ingredients. I don’t know. All the unfounded shavegeek speculation in the world isn’t going to bring it back. It’s gone.
Well, no, not really. Actually, it’s back, and even better than before. Only now it’s called The Gentlemens Refinery After Shave Balm. And believe me when I say this: as great as the original D. R. Harris Aftershave Milk was, the TGR is better. Noticeably better. Simply put, it’s the best aftershave I’ve yet tested. It’s not cheap at $40 a bottle, but like the equally expensive Trumper’s Skin Food, a little goes a very long way — a bottle should last well over a year’s worth of shaving.
The TGR After Shave Balm is thin and runny, and milky white just like the old Harris Milk. it doesn’t have that product’s cucumber scent, but it does have a fresh, earthy scent to it, veering a bit from the rest of the line, though in sixty seconds there isn’t a trace of scent left on your skin.
What’s in this stuff? Glycerin, Jojoba, shea butter, olive oil, allantoin, lime, geranium, and sandalwood oil, and a couple of gums, xantham and acacia, whose purpose I know not of. What I do know is that a squirt of TGR After Shave Balm is the closest I’ve come yet to aftershave nirvana. Like I said, it’s just like the old Harris Aftershave Milk, only moreso. Fans of the discontinued Milk (Hi Gordon) should be plenty happy with Perry Gastis’s take on the ultimate aftershave. I’ve been using this stuff for a month now and I don’t really want to use anything else, even the stuff that I’ve been very, very happy with. That’s how good this new stuff is. TGR’s shaving cream and moisturizer are world-class products, but the real star of this new line is the After Shave Balm.
Okay, so the prices. Yeah. This is expensive stuff. Not crazy expensive like the new Acqua di Parma shaving cream ($54!), but firmly in imported-from-the-UK Trumper territory. The cream is $28 and the After Shave Balm is $40, but TGR takes some of the sting out of it by throwing in free shipping to the lower 48. That’s not cheap, but it’s not as nutty as some of this stuff can get.
I like The Gentlemens Refinery shaving products a lot. They’ve definitely joined my short list of the top-tier products I use every day, and I have no problem recommending them highly to the fussiest shavegeek and newbie alike. It’s great to see a real professional barber like Perry Gastis bring such an impressive and unique line of wetshaving products to a scene that’s lately been overwhelmed by all kinds of me-too designer junk that smells funny and doesn’t really shave any better than drugstore goo. I welcome The Gentlemens Refinery to Planet Shavegeek, and I’ll say it again — TGR’s After Shave Balm is not to be missed. Best. Aftershave. Ever.
Since that Dutch researcher is theoretically paying me 343.873 guilders to deca-opine about modern man (Note to the Netherlands: I want it in stuivers and dubbeltjes, or else the deal’s OFF), I guess my job is to shamelessly work the words “modern man” in for nine more missives, whether it makes any sense or not.
Like I’m really going to stick to this plan — I can barely focus on finishing my breakfast, much less ride a theme for ten straight essays. But the Dutch researcher thing and the guilder joke still have a few drops of milk in their udders, so bear with me.
In our last visit, we examined that curious strain of modern man that battles the onset of comfort-waist pants by donning the cloak of online anonymity to play insert-era-here dress-up and boast of honor-upholding beatings doled out old-school. That’s too many hyphens, probably.
Today we look at the modern man — modern men, actually — who’ve been emailing me lately asking what they should buy for their first safety razor, brush, cream, etc. Before the advent of Cherished Offspring and the calming effect of sleep deprivation, the younger, feistier narrator would’ve hissed, “JFGI”, or at the very least, he would’ve directed his young and earnest supplicates to my original primer on wetshaving and answers most of the questions I get on a daily basis.
But part of being a modern man is getting as good as you give. Some of you pips have turned the tables and paid Miss Havisham back with interest, and for that I wouldn’t trade one or even thirty-seven of the daily “what’s better, an old Gillette DE or a new Merkur?” emails that have now raised a permanent welt on my thigh where the vibrate thingie in my Blackberry rests against it.
For without Young Petrovich’s help with fixing my WordPress template, I’d be just another cantankerous retiree with a laptop trying to force a USB cable into one of the ventilation slots. And The Outlaw Josey Garcia will forever be in the god column for hipping me to the shockingly excellent jammy bottoms at (Lord help me) Old Navy, a cosmic incongruity of such startling head-non-wrappable-around-it that all I can do is stare at the four walls of my office while hallucinatory numbers and equations and all kinds of hooded fleecey shit race by in neat Matrixy rows.
Okay, so what would I recommend for your first foray into proper wetshaving? This:
The Merkur fixed-head DEs can be a mite unforgiving with Merkur’s own blades, but the much smoother Israeli blades really calm these excellent DEs down and let even the newbie get an ungodly close shave without a bloodbath. And if you do get a few nicks, that’s what the alum block’s for. Shaveblog Insider Trading Tip #414: click on the “Buy Now to get a sample” at Encure’s site for a $25 box of 100 blades (2 yrs. worth) if you don’t quite feel like springing for the full 10,500.
The Vulfix brush is the biggest bang for the buck going in a handmade English deluxe-grade badger shaving brush. Most of the forum geeks go for the biggest brush they can hoist, but I’ve gone that route and come full circle to find smaller brushes far more useful and effective, no matter what cream you use. All the best English wetshaving houses from Trumper to Truefitt get their brushes made by Vulfix, and for good reason.
Shaving cream is where the true shavegeek goes nuts, as having a nice variety of pleasing scents to choose from is the pamperingest part of the whole trip. I keep a nice stable of old-school English creams from Trumper and Taylor on hand, but most days it’s Nancy Boy I reach for. Especially for a newbie, NB is much easier to nail the water/cream ratio to get a nice thick lather, and getting this issue out of the way so you can focus on blade technique and developing a lighter touch than when you’re using a Mach3 really shortens the DE learning curve something fierce.
Trumper’s Skin Food remains my favorite post-shave soother, and I usually recommend the Limes version over the original Coral (rose-scented) simply because most newbies, the younger guys especially, haven’t gotten over the whole rose/pink/floral = gay thing yet. Me, I love both versions, but since they’re identical save for the color and a few drops of lime oil, it’s your call. The scent disappears in a few minutes anyway, so you can’t go wrong either way.
The best part of all this is that you’ll start off with this rig, and then once you’re up to speed and feeling all modern mannish and whatnot, you’ll want to hunt the really big game, so you’ll go down all sorts of expensive paths snatching up adjustable DEs, gold-plated vintage Gillettes, scary-sharp extreme-geek blades, gigantic brushes of exotic bristle with more ludicrous backstory than Anderson Cooper, and when your adrenal gland finally gives out and you reach the end of what’s buyable and eBayable, you’ll realize that you never got a better shave than you did with your first Merkur HD and your little Vulfix brush.
Fantasy seems to be a constant theme with modern man (you’ll be seeing the term “modern man” a lot over the next ten Shaveblog installments, because some research study in the Netherlands asked me to do a series of essays on “modern man”, offering 200 bucks upon completion — shyah, like I’m ever going to see guilder one, but it’s a good excuse to get off my ass and write about a subject I know next to nothing about).
When Beloved Wife and I have finally put Cherished Offspring to bed and we’re sitting at our his ‘n’ her Macs winding down with a glass of wine and what-we-do-instead-of-watching-sitcoms, my guiltiest pleasure is checking out Grown Man Dress-Up sites. I thought I’d died and gone to guffaw heaven when I found The Fedora Lounge, a place where men dress up as 1940’s flyboys and dish about spats — TFL’s Matt Deckard has become a web-celeb of sorts, not quite an A-lister like Peter Pan Guy but certainly more of a household name than Mini Gene Simmons. Always in costume, never dropping character, generous with expert tips on how to cop the Elliot Ness look at Nordstrom, Deckard rarely disappoints the true connoisseur of self-immolative web loons. What, you thought real men don’t tuck their undershirts into their Underoos? You stand corrected.
And now, after having run the snooker table and sunk every web-yuk cliche in the book and then some, Planet Shavegeek has joined the ranks of online man-tasy. Specifically, the classic “98-lb. weakling beats up big bully” man-tasy.
First popularized by Charles Atlas on the back of every comic book I ever read growing up, the franchise grew to encompass escapist man-tasy films where scores of solitary milquetoasts rocked suppressed-rage boners as Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood kicked over rows of Harleys outside biker bars, threw much larger stuntmen than themselves around like Raggedy Andy, flipped the bird to anyone in a position of authority and basically made porn for pencil-necks.
The genre finally spent its nuclear fuel and collapsed like a white dwarf star after the Mitty Goin’ Medieval classic "Falling Down" set the bar so high dorks everywhere just sort of retaped the bridges on their nerdlinger glasses and went back to their cubicles, certain they’d witnessed the End of an Era.
When I first got hooked on shaving with old safety razors, I started out with the classic double-edge DE. And I loved this type of razor to death until my pal Gordon (not this Gordon — this Gordon) turned me onto the other classic safety razor from wetshaving’s golden era — the almighty Schick Injector.
At which point I went on a serious, serious bender with these things. Wouldn’t shave with anything else, yoinked as many off eBay as I could, and marveled at how a single-blade safety razor could have zero learning curve compared with a DE and yet shave just as well and maybe even better (actually, so ungodly close my face tingled for an hour and stayed stubble-free till well after I finally went to bed after staying up late to make bloggedy fun of guys who need to ask other guys how to get your face wet with water).
The Injector I love the most is the early version from the 1940’s, with the big brass head and the bakelite handle. These 40’s Injectors look cooler and show more blade than the later Schicks — feed them with modern Schick or Personna Injector blades, or better yet, cut-down Feather disposable straight razor blades and you’ll get a shave so close and so easy it almost takes the fun out of it.
By the mid-‘50’s, though, the Injector took a serious aesthetic nose-dive. The stylish brass shaving head was replaced by a generic stamped-metal assembly, and the cool-man bakelite handles gave way to plastic, and it’s that embarassingly cheap, low-rent plastic that doesn’t age well at all and never quite gets clean no matter how hard you scrub it, so there’s always that sinking feeling as you try not to think about who may have used that razor and where they might have shaved themselves before you wound up with it. I’ve tried boiling these things and they just melt like snowflakes. Hit ‘em with bleach and the cheap metal plating on the head corrodes. You can boil and scrub the hell out of an old Gillette DE till it looks brand spanking new, but funky Schick Injectors from the 50s/60s/70s/80s stay funky for life.
Gordon, our pal Andy and me all have our stashes of vintage Injectors and we swap interesting specimens back and forth for kicks, but we keep having the same conversation about how insanely great it would be if someone came out with a really upscale Injector, something along the lines of the luxurious chrome-plated DE razors Edwin-Jagger makes in the UK. Something really beefy and elegant, as nice to hold as it is to look at.
So imagine my surprise a few months ago when I learned that an outfit called Nationwide Campus was planning to sell newly-manufactured reissues of the 1965 Schick Adjustable Injector and the 1999 “Type O” non-adjustable Injector sold primarily in Japan for the last few years before Schick finally pulled the plug entirely. These razors are officially available today, for $15.99 and $14.99 respectively (plus $5.88 S/H). So for twenty clams you can have a brand new, mint condition Injector. Sounds good, yes?
Nationwide Campus didn’t ring any shavegeek bells, though. Frankly, I’d never heard of them till I caught wind of their planned reissues. I figured that if someone was going to come out with a new Injector, it would be one of the established high-end manufacturers like Jagger or Merkur. They certainly have the tooling in place — all they’d need to do would be to make an Injector-compatible head and screw it onto one of their thick brass handles, and then hold out a big net to catch all the shekels raining down on their heads from the four corners of Planet Shavegeek.
So who’s Nationwide Campus? Well, it’s not a high-end manufacturer of upscale shaving tools. This much I know. The rest is a little murky. From all outward appearances, Nationwide Campus is a kind of “jobber” web site that sells commodity-type items like NBA fan jerseys, batteries, disposable douches, bar stools, cheap perfume, and classy chairs. It’s sort of the online equivalent of a truck stop in Oklahoma that’s got shelf after shelf filled with driftwood Jesus clocks, or when you find yourself on the wrong side of town and there’s all these dollar stores that stretch for entire city blocks with Tazmanian Devil beach towels piled up on the sidewalks next to enormous oil paintings of naked black women lolling around with leopards like that one above Scatman Crother’s bed in “The Shining”. You know the drill.
I called Nationwide Campus a few weeks ago and spoke to Jay, the VP of Sales. Ordinarily I’d applaud a man’s gruff disinterest in shavegeekery and the fetishization of a grooming tool designed to remove facial hair, but jeez, I don’t know, I guess I was hoping for a little more zazz from a guy who was about to relaunch the Injector.
"So how did this project come about?" I asked him.
"I sent some razors to a factory and had them copy them," Jay replied.
"So where are they made?"
"So, China or India?"
And that was pretty much that. A man of few words, and many units to move. But I was curious, and a pathetic Injector fanboy, so I pre-ordered one of the non-adjustable razors and tried to keep an open mind about it.
I don’t mean to pick on Jay and Nationwide. He’s a warehouse jobber, after all, not a Kool-Aid chugging happytime shavegeek. And more power to him — there’s a hell of a lot more people in this world who need these than need quality razors. God knows Schick was never a high-end boutique brand, and neither was Gillette. Only a fool like me constructs elaborate fantasies about old Italian artisans hunched over workbenches of golden oak, holding a loupe to their good eye as they carve endless, perfect ridges into nickel-plated razor handles while Verdi hangs softly in the Florentine air.
So last week I got the new NatCamp Injector in, and took it for a few test shaves. But first, I want to show you something:
This is the lowliest non-adjustable Schick Injector I’ve got — it’s a “Type J1” from the early ’60s, with the rancid off-(i.e. once)-white plastic handle and the generic stamped-metal head that always jiggles loosely on these handles due to nobody giving a shit by this point. But despite all this, it shaves like a dream, like all the Injectors do, even the fugly ones. Because when it came to tooling the blade mechanism and exposure gap — where the rubber meets the road — Schick got it nuts-on. And it’s something you can feel no matter what Injector you shave with.
Now here’s the new Nationwide Campus reissue:
Tell me something: which razor would you rather load a sharp blade into and scrape across your face? The Schick looks straight as an arrow while the NatCamp’s got “cheap Chinese knock-off” written all over it. From the bent safety bar to the ragged metal edges to the cheap rubber handle insert to the unacceptably loose tolerances all around, it’s a disgrace. Only a callow, easily-impressed chump would be taken in by this kind of cheesy build quality. Even with a new Schick blade installed, the middle part of the head assembly moves side to side, taking the blade along with it.
Still, my Type J1 Injector isn’t a prize pig at the county fair either, and it shaves like a madman. Sometimes looks are deceiving.
Except when they’re an excellent indicator of the road ahead, which they definitely are in the case of this reissue. Right off the bat, despite my usual lather o’ the gods courtesy of Nancy Boy’s shaving cream and Simpson’s Wee Scot shaving brush, the NatCamp nicked me something fierce on my neck and left me with a nice red ingrown hair bump — my first in well over a year. It’s still there as I type this, and probably has a few more days to go. The next morning I decided to give the razor a second chance, and I got a second ingrown for a matched set. Lovely.
As far as the rest of the shave went, it reminded me less of a real Injector and more of how a Mach3 or a Quattro cuts. Like you’re scraping your face something fierce, but then after you rinse off at the end and feel your skin, you can still feel stubble. That’s the kind of shave I got from the reissue.
I’ve got dozens of genuine Schick Injectors, and even my least favorite of the bunch shaves circles around this Nationwide Campus razor. From the earliest all-brass “scissor handle” Injector to the gaggle of 40’s bakelite jobs to the alloy-handled “Type F” to the boring but shaveworthy “Type L” (I’ve even got a few “Lady Eversharp” gam’n’minge razors that to be quite honest are excellent men’s razors, pink handles and all), there’s a certain face-feel to the classic Schick Injector shave that carries over from version to version. Sadly, there isn’t even a hint of this quality in the knock-off.
Now, I don’t have a real “Type O” to compare it with, so it’s entirely possible that the Nationwide Campus reissue is simply a perfectly executed clone of a lousy razor. But if that’s the case, why choose a lousy razor to knock off in the first place? Why not reissue a good Injector like the ’40s bakelite model? My suspicion is that the Type O wasn’t the best-ever Injector, but neither was it as rough or cheaply manufactured as this Chinese knock-off.
It’s a real drag, because I was hoping against all odds that this new razor might be something I could recommend to guys who are itching to try an Injector without going the eBay route. But it doesn’t even come close to delivering the classic Injector shave. Honestly, I get better shaves from cheap Bic single-edge disposables. It’s fitting that Nationwide Campus’s reissue doesn’t actually have the name “Injector” anywhere on it. It’s not a worthy representative of the breed.
My advice is to avoid this thing at all costs. Until someone more quality-minded (Jagger! Jagger!) decides to take a stab at it, your $20 is better spent buying a real Injector on eBay and getting the shave you deserve.
The most amazing thing happened to me the other day.
Back when I hit my teens, I graduated from comic books to hifi magazines, partly because DC and Marvel started simultaneously sucking in the 80s but mainly because I wanted to build a stereo so loud it would drown out my dad’s screaming at me to turn that @%#$ music DOWN for @%#$’s sake.
Most of the guys who wrote for hifi magazines in those days were, as they are now, pussies, but there was one guy who towered above them all and who wrote with such a powerful, stripped-down elegance that I became kind of a fanboy and actually went looking in libraries for old back-issues just so I could read more of his stuff. His name was J. Gordon Holt, the best and most important audio writer of them all.
Gordon not only invented subjective (i.e. opinionated) hifi reviewing, but birthed the high-end audio industry itself. Before Gordon launched Stereophile Magazine in 1962, there was no such thing as specialty audio, or audiophiles. The “audio hobbyist” magazines of the 1950s assured their readers that everything sounded pretty much the same, i.e. “just fine”.
Gordon was the first person to say, “Wait a minute — some of this gear sounds like crap, and some of it sounds like live music, and here’s what I’d buy if I were you”. It was a radical stance at the time, and it sparked an upheaval that changed the audio industry on not just the publishing side but the manufacturing side as well.
As high-end audio grew into a billion-dollar industry, Gordon continued to burnish his position as the only rock star audio journalism has ever produced. And years later when I found myself writing for Stereophile and barely believing we shared a masthead, Gordon couldn’t have been more kind, generous, and supportive despite the fact that he was a classical music buff on first-name basis with conductors while I eschewed underpants and judged speakers based on how pristinely they conveyed the harmonic delicacy of the Sonics.
So anyway I got an email out of the blue recently from a fine young gentleman named Charles who introduced himself by saying we’d actually met fifteen years ago in Santa Fe when he was a kid and I was writing for a magazine there which had been founded thirty years earlier by his father — Gordon Holt!
Charles had come upon Shaveblog without knowing of my connection to his father — just another guy looking for a better shave. So we e-yakked about shaving and he caught me up on what his dad’s been up to since he “retired”, and now miracle of miracles, Gordon and me are emailing each other on our Macs after over a decade since we last spoke. I’m thinking god, how “Circle Of Life” is this? I’m a kid who went looking for info and found Gordon, and now his kid’s gone looking for info and found me, which led me back to Gordon.
So then Charles says he has something to send me. A few days ago I get a large package in the mail, and it’s a framed, signed print of an old cartoon that Gordon drew back in the ’50s for the Saturday Evening Post back when he thought he wanted to be a cartoonist.
Ahh, summer. Though it’s only 6/6/6 and we’ve still got two weeks and a day till the official start of summer, we’ve had a few days of searing, wavy-lines-off-the-sidewalk kind of heat here on the Forgotten Coast. And that can only mean one thing to inveterate Shaveblog readers:
It’s shaving season again!
Yes, Planet Shavegeek rejoices once more, as cruel, cruel winter recedes to her Stygian depths, taking with her the dry skin and the merely adequate shaves I’ve been putting up with lo these many months of frigid darkness, wondering, in private moments of despair, if the season-long string of partly crappy shaves meant that I’d— dare I even think it? — lost my way.
But today’s shave put that light-starved jibber-jabber to rest, because I finally got my ass in gear and made it over to the YMCA after, christ, a month at least of shameful torpor. It felt good to sweat like a pig again, to put in the hour of cardio and weights and then sit for awhile in the sauna, letting the sweat stream down from the top of my head and marinate my whiskers (that’s right — I always save my shave for the Y). I sit there in the steam room and rub my face, working the sweat into my beard, accelerating the process of softening up the hair for the kill. The other guys stare, sure, but out of awe, not discomfort. Definitely awe.
Proraso may be my favorite hot weather shaving cream. Chock full of skin-friendly eucalyptus oil and menthol, Proraso shaves as well as any of the high-end English creams like Taylor and Trumper, but it’s got this wicked-excellent ice cold smack at the end of the shave when you rinse your puss with cold water. Really, there’s nothing else like it on the market.
Today’s shave was the best I’ve had in months. Unless I’m dicking around with a new razor or cream and the whole thing goes out the window, my shaves have been consistently good since I started sticking to the Super Speed razor and the Israeli blades. This mild-mannered DE and these mild-mannered safety blades stand in stark contrast to the pinhead escapades on the shavegeek forums, where urinal cake salesemen from Modesto do that barking thing they do during Tim Allen concerts and wield manly, skin-peeling rigs like Merkur Slant Bars loaded with Feather Platinum blades, or Merkur adjustables cranked up all the way so you’re not shaving with a razor anymore, you’re shaving with a blade on a stick.
Hey, I play around with razors, too. In the last week alone I’ve shaved with the Merkur HD (still the best razor Merkur ever made), an all-metal Schick Injector I yoinked on eBay, a stick-shift knobbed Injector from the same yoinked lot, and even a hundred year-old Gillette DE Beloved Wife got me, which was sweet beyond words but kind of like Ferdinand giving Imelda another pair of shoes.
Shavetention Deficit Disorder keeps me from settling down with one true rig, but god help me, it’s the 40’s Super Speed — The Little DE That Could — that gives me the best, most consistent shaves. And no matter what other blades I try, I keep coming back to the Israelis as the best combination of closeness and comfort. If I’d known about these blades as a newbie, lots less blood would’ve been shed, let me tell you.
That said, there have been shaves these past few months that weren’t all that great. Good, but not great. Close, but not super close. Little patches of micro-stubble around the base of the neck I could feel with my fingertips, even if nobody else except Harvey could see it. I blamed myself, and lived with the shame, forgetting it was the winter blues that were limiting my shaves to those of a commoner.
Well, today marked the return of wetshaving as usual. A good workout to get the blood flowing and the face swelling, a nice sit in the sauna to open the pores and soften the whiskers, and that time-tested, money-in-the-bank combo of a Gillette DE, a Simpson brush, and Proraso shaving cream.
When it’s hot outside, I’m more than willing to put up with Proraso’s not-terribly-shavegeek-swooning scent (think Vick’s Vapo-Rub pulling a train with Noxzema and Hall’s Mentho-Lyptus) just to get that spectacular shave and the bracing cooldown at the end that lasts for a nice long while. Used to be you could only find Proraso at Italian markets, oronlinefromtheusualsuspects. Now Target (!) of all places stocks it, making it even easier to pick up a $10 tube of this insanely great Italian marvel.
Chasing the elusive 5-minute quickie shave lately, I’ve been revisiting some old favorite shaving creams that work especially well without a brush, just slathered on with your bare hands like a heathen. And it occurs to me that I’ve never really blogged about one of the very first high-quality shaving creams I tried back when I first picked up a Merkur safety razor to give this whole wetshaving trip a go: Musgo Real.
It was Lee Cantor of Lee’s Razors who first turned me onto Musgo. I’d put in an order for my first Merkur HD razor and a pack of blades, and Lee recommended I try a tube of Musgo — he said it was one of the best shaving creams in the world, and that it would leave my skin nice and moisturized. I figured it was worth a shot at only ten clams a tube, so I bit.
Musgo Real “Creme Para Barbear” has been around since the 1920s, and this Portuguese shaving cream has become so popular with old-school wetshavers around the world that pretty much every shop and online vendor that deals in shavegeekery sells it — I mean, you can get it here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and even here for god’s sake. I’ve had vendors tell me they wouldn’t dream of not carrying Musgo, because many of their longtime customers won’t shave with anything else.
The cream comes in a nice metal toothpaste-style tube, with a cap that’s got a recessed point to pierce the seal when you first crack open a tube. And when you do open one for the first time, that’s when Musgo’s heavenly, grassy scent makes you smile. It’s been described by more than one scentgeek as smelling like fresh-cut grass, and it’s one of my favorite scents in all of shavegeekdom.
Musgo’s secret ingredient is lanolin. It’s a glycerin-based cream like the English types and the new-school creams like Nancy Boy and Lush, but it’s also got a healthy dose of lanolin to keep your skin slick during the shave and moisturized afterward. And you can really feel the difference, both during a shave and after you rinse off, when you shave with Musgo. There’s an extra bit of lube and cushion there as compared to the English creams — in this respect, it’s more like Nancy Boy and Truefitt & Hill’s Ultimate Comfort than the classic Trumpers and Taylors.
Musgo works well with a brush, but I’ve found that the lanolin can gum up a badger brush’s bristles with extended use, so I don’t really recommend using it with a brush. The good news is I find Musgo works even better brushless, just using your hands. You don’t get quite as thick’n’puffy a bed of lather on your puss, but to me, the shave is better and a hell of a lot quicker to boot.
I’ve been catching some excellent haul-ass shaves with Musgo this past week, revisiting an old favorite to see how it fared as a quickie cream. I’d forgotten how much I like this cream, both for its shave and its scent — not every shaving cream works well as a quickie cream, but Musgo joins Nancy Boy on my short list of shaving creams that can haul ass when the chips are down yet sacrifice nothing when it comes to the quality of the shave and the sniffpleasure, however brief.
Musgo Real is one of those classic shavegeek creams every guy should have a tube of laying around. It’s cheap, easy to source, smells great, is good for your skin, and is particularly excellent when used brushless. Like Proraso, if you don’t have some already, go online and buy a tube, now.
Thanks go to Beloved Wife for reminding me that it was exactly one year ago today that I launched Shaveblog, and to young Petrovich for helping me put the icing on the birthday cake that is this blog’s move from Blogger to WordPress (the move also means Shaveblog’s RSS feed has changed, so you need to reset your subscription if you’ve been Atomizing).
It’s been a strange and interesting trip doing this blog. I started it on a dare to myself, to see if I could keep up a blog about a subject that couldn’t be less important, and now I find myself with 60,000 readers, profiles in the New York Times and London’s Financial Times, and just last week Women’s Wear Daily BeautyBiz named Shaveblog as the site with the largest readership in its list of the most popular “beauty blogs”.
So now I’m a beauty blogger.
"Daddy, what did you do during the war?"
"Well son, I was a beauty blogger."
So anyway, as befits a toddler who’s outgrown his onesies, I felt it was time to move Shaveblog over to WordPress. Got a blog and you’re still on Blogger? STAY THERE! What a pain in the ass this was. Sure, things are great now that I finally taught myself CSS and beat on a poor WP template with both my fists like some demented ape until it looked kinda sorta like my old Blogger site. So anyway I made the move and WordPress is really, really nice, seriously, I’m loving it. But I do apologize for taking the week off to get things moved over to the new platform.
Okay, so where were we? Ah yes, the quickie shave.
I’m on a quickie shave kick lately.
It goes against everything formal shavegeekery stands for, I know. The whole point of ditching the Mach3 and canned goo and upgrading to a safety razor, shaving brush, and traditional English-type shaving cream is to slow your shave down. You get a much closer shave, it makes your skin look and feel great, and the whole experience just gets richer and more pleasant.
But the keyword is slow. Like the Europeans with their "slow food" campaign to return the act of eating a meal to a pleasurable, healthy pace from the current trans-fattened speedchow America exports to the rest of the world, wetshaving demands a more leisurely pace for the best results. Instead of haphazardly smearing goo on your puss and then hauling ass with a tri-blade, old-school shaving wants a man with a slow hand. It wants a lover with an easy touch. A man who will spend some time, not come and go in an easy rush.
So why am I obsessed with the quickie shave?
I’ll tell you why. Because I’m a dawdler. I wait until the last possible minute before I have to be somewhere, and then I go on eBay and check my auctions. I go to Nancy Boy and read Eric’s latest blog. I go to YouTube and watch great moments in rock history.
I dawdle till there’s no possible way I’m going to be on time, and then I go into full-on Lance Kerwin mode, when my boy starred in 1977’s "The Loneliest Runner", a movie about a high school kid who grew up to be an Olympic marathoner because he wet his bed every night and his sadistic mom (a yeopersonlike DeAnn Mears) hung his sheets out of his bedroom window to dry so he had to run home every day after school to try to beat the school bus so he could rush upstairs and yank the sheets inside before the kids on the bus could see them (and let me just say this: I know this story was based on Michael Landon yes that Michael Landon’s real life, and I’m sorry his parents made him sleep in a crib till he was 15, but if a giant flaming meteor was screaming toward Earth and the only way to stop it was for my mom to hang urine-stained bedsheets out the front window of her HOME, well, sorry to break this to you but we’re all going to die).
This is my mindset when I’m behind the eightball but I need to shave. I become Lance Kerwin. If I don’t shave in under 5 mins, the car Beloved Wife and Treasured Offspring are driving home in is going to pull into our driveway and their eyes are going to slowly pan up to the sight of my pee-streaked bedsheets fluttering out the front window of our house, and that is when I run out the back door and keep running until I’m on a shrimp boat headed out to the Gulf with a new name (Wiley), a tweaker’s bony frame, and a dull roar between my ears.
That’s not going to happen, I tell myself. Not on this shave. Not today.
The first thing you have to do when you have to haul ass but still want a good shave is ditch the brush. Hey, it hurts me too — I love my shaving brush. Best part of the whole experience, bar none. But a shaving brush is the quickie shave’s worst enemy. So don’t even look at it. I don’t care if you just spent $65 on a Simpson Wee Scot or a Vulfix #2234. You’re in a whole other place right now. Your brush is dead to you.
And that means those delicious English old-school shaving creams like Trumper’s, Taylor’s, and Truefitt’s are dead to you as well. Because they don’t lather up nearly as well with just your fingers as they do with a brush. Since it’s fingers we’re dealing with when launching into a quickie shave, all those otherwise superb English creams are out (except for Truefitt’s new Ultimate Comfort shaving cream, which happens to lather really well without a brush and doesn’t really count as an English cream since it’s made in Canada).
The key to a really good quickie shave is the cream. It’s got to lather up quickly and thickly with just your hands smearing it all over your wet puss, and it also has to buffer your skin from the sped-up bladework you need to do if you’re going to get your two (okay, sigh, three) passes in under the 5-minute mark without some serious razor burn.
For awhile there, I always reached for Beloved Wife’s shower tube of Cremo Cream when I need to haul ass with a shave. She loves it for gam-shaving, and it’s excellent stuff for when you need to shave really quickly with a safety razor and still get that shavegeek-approved smoothness. I’m not crazy about Cremo’s Pina Colada scent, but ye gods does this stuff shave like a madman. With a brush or without, this is hands-down the slickest shaving cream I’ve ever tried. You forgive its fruity scent because it lets you haul ass and still look good.
Or at least you try to, anyway. I’m good with Cremo for a shave here and there, but I can’t use this stuff all the time. I just don’t care for that Pina Colada smell. Great product, wish the scent was different. So I’ve kind of taken Cremo off my quickie shave list. The older I get the more crotchety and picky I become. I need speed and good smell.
The Lush shaving creams are fantastic for quickie shaves, but I find they gunk up my razors quite a bit, and it takes longer than usual to rinse the blade clean after a shave. These wacky, tacky UK creams shave like nobody’s business, but since they take longer to clean off your blade, I don’t consider them quickie-approved.
I’ve gotten some amazing quickie shaves with the two budget-priced Euro creams I recommend every shavegeek own at least a tube each of — Proraso and Musgo Real. Italy’s Proraso, especially, just comes into its own when you squirt an inch into your palm and rub your hands all over your face — and its eucalyptus oil really wakes you up at the end of the shave when you rinse with cold water. I love Proraso to death and shave with it all the time, quickie shave or not.
Lately, though, I find myself wanting the best of both worlds. A quickie shave with the fewest compromises, scent-wise and otherwise. But mostly scent-wise. I love Proraso like a dog, but it smells more like something men used half a century ago when they weren’t supposed to enjoy the way their toiletries smelled.
It occured to me recently that Nancy Boy, currently my favorite shaving cream and the one I use most mornings, is one of those new-school, inherently wetter and creamier shaving creams that was meant to be used brushless, even though it lathers really nicely with a brush. Funnily enough, I’d never tried it with just my hands, because it worked so amazingly with a brush the first time I tried it that I just kept using it that way.
And so it was that on one fine morning not too long ago, I dipped my fingers into a tub of Nancy Boy for my first brushless quickie shave with this stuff. And let me tell you something, man and boy — it was awesome. Stupendous. Why haven’t I been using Nancy Boy for all my quickie shaves? It’s right there in the medicine cabinet, with my little Simpson Wee Scot brush and Gillette Super Speed sitting on top of it — my lean, mean, minimalist shavegeek rig.
I know it sounds stupid, but this is who I am — I consider it a major triumph that I finally grokked that Nancy Boy shaves just as well when you need to haul ass and just smear it on with your hands as it does when you take the time to fill your Moss Scuttle with hot water, let your badger brush soak in it, and then whip up the finest lather possible for a slow, languid, me-time wetshave.
Some days I don’t even need to rush my shave and I still like to ditch the brush, slap on some Nancy Boy, and Edward Scissorhands it. Perhaps, like Michael Landon, I will develop the kind of muscle memory that takes a humiliated bedwetter and turns him into a world-class beauty blogger.
Philips and Norelco aren’t brands known for edgy bathroom humor. The last time I attended the IFA show in Berlin, about the farthest out Philips was willing to go was dressing up several hundred German youth in orange lederhosen and matching Raggedy Ann and Andy wigs and making them all do Up With People style dance numbers — to introduce the company’s new line of DVD players.
Norelco, well — they make electric shavers. Is there anything more boring than an electric shaver? I’ve tried the best from Braun, Panasonic, and yes, Norelco, and got mediocre shaves that left my neck sore and red. My friend Mark swears by his electric, and damned if he doesn’t get a good shave from it. But I’ve had terrible luck with them.
That said, I admit I’m a total sucker for great advertising. And this viral video for Norelco’s new Bodygroom has me, inconceivably, teetering on the precipice of actually buying this @%#$ thing.
Click on everything, especially the music video. I can’t believe Philips and Norelco went along with this, but kudos, gentlemen. Please give us more.
Of course, like many girlie brands these days, Lush has a handful of men’s shaving products, I guess for girlies to buy their boyfriends in the spirit of Queer Eyetc. and so they’ll quit leaving Edge can rust rings on the bathroom counter. With names like “Razorantium”, “Ambrosia”, and (I swear I’m not making this up) “Prince Triple Orange Blossom”, though, I’m guessing a girlie had better be hot and I’m talking about center of the Sun hot for a guy to drink a tub of that bathwater. It’s like when I bought Journey’s “Evolution” because my junior prom date liked them and I felt sure I could choke back the bile if that record could get me some lovin’, touchin’, and/or squeezin’ (no dice, and later I wound up hucking that vinyl so hard against a tree in our backyard I think Steve Perry felt a disturbance in the Suck Force).
Anyway, my friend Andy in the UK told me I needed to check Lush out, that their shaving creams were amazing. Normally, I’ll try anything Andy tells me is amazing — he is, after all, the coolest guy in England, as well as the man who invented the almighty Featherjector. Whereas the forum geeks’ love for a new product is usually a reliable sign it actually sucks, Andy’s one of a handful of guys whose opinion on matters of shavegeekery I take seriously. So I perused Lush’s US web site and called in some of their products to try.
I’m pretty sure I’m not quite the right demographic for the company’s bath bombs and fast-dissolving $7 bath soaps — the former fizzed up a storm in the kids’ bath (“Daddy, there’s ants in the tub!” my daughter squealed as the Golden Slumbers bath bomb left a bunch of little lavender twigs in the bathwater and made the whole house smell like candy), while the latter (Gratuitous Violets) literally dissolved in my hands within the space of two showers, leaving behind a spoor the likes of which no other scented product has ever marked my bathroom’s territory. Hey, my bad — I’m 2o years too old and one Y-chromosome too many for this kind of trip.
But the shaving creams…
First off, these Lush creams are totally different than anything else I’ve ever tried. They’re more like an aftershave balm you shave with than a traditional glycerine-based shaving cream. Both the Razorantium and the (I can’t even type this with a straight face) Prince Triple Orange Blossom come in 8-ounce tubs for $17-and-change. Which is good, because you use a lot more of this stuff per shave than you would an English cream.
Both Lushes are brushless, and I do mean brushless. The creams don’t lather at all, and they just sank into my Simpson Wee Scot brush like it was a black hole. You just wet your puss with warm water after a shower and then slather these Lushes on with your fingers, covering your face and neck. Then you shave.
And when you do shave, you will find something very curious indeed. Because these Lush creams, unlike every other shaving lube on the planet, don’t lube. In fact, they leave kind of a sticky surface on your skin and stubble. At first I thought I did something wrong, so I rinsed off the Razorantium and applied some PTOB. Same deal.
Because this stuff works. I mean, it works like a goddamn miracle. I shaved with this stuff for a week and got a perfect, effortless shave every time. Shaving with a brushless, non-lathering cream that leaves a clear, tacky coating on your face takes some getting used to, but these Lush creams are, as Andy said they were, freakin’ amazing.
In keeping with the overall Lush trip of skin-friendliness/essential oils/etc., the Lush shaving creams are loaded with good stuff like almond oil, rose water, glycerine, and shea butter. But their secret ingredient is linseed mucilage, which is also a, um, laxative. Beyond its stickiness, linseed mucilage is said to have the curious ability to swell when it comes into contact with water, which may have something to do with why it gives the Lush shaving creams their crazy-excellent shavability.
Because of its brushless nature and amazing shave, Lush has become my new favorite quickie shaving cream, for when I absolutely have to shave in a minute flat without hating my crappy shave for the rest of the day. This stuff shaves like you also applied pre-shave oil, so even a rushed shave doesn’t irritate my skin. It’s the best quickie shave I’ve been able to pull off, by a long shot.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really notice a difference in the shave between Razorantium and the Prince Triple Orange Blossom, and oddly enough, they smell so similarly that I don’t think I could tell them apart blindfolded. I prefer the Razorantium by sheer dint of its less asinine name, but you can’t go wrong with either of these Lush creams. They may be weird, wacky, and completely different from anything else you’ve ever shaved with, but they shave like nobody’s business, too, and serve notice that there’s more than one way to shave a puss.
Part of the problem with shavegeeks is that most of the guys who’re into this trip don’t understand the difference between “classic” and “olde-timey”: Classic = using a hand-cranked churn and elbow grease to turn ice and rock salt into the kind of ice cream that makes you spit “feh!” the next time you taste store-bought. Olde-Timey = ordering the Pig’s Trough at Farrell’s and thinking that you’re somehow kickin’ your butterfat dollar old-school by patronizing a genuine turn-o’-the-century “Ice Cream Parlour” despite the fact that you’re eating Sysco instutional ice cream (same as inmates get) in a Japanese-owned chain restaurant that’s only been around since the mid-1960s.
Another straw—sorry, styrofoam boater-based example: Classic = King Oliver. Olde-Timey = every local “Dixieland” band, everywhere (extra points awarded for one or more members with round-rimmed glasses and if the banjo player’s got an electric pickup running into a Peavey Bandit and/or Roland Cube amp, and triple double bonus if (if?) the entire band also works at Farrell’s and in fact met there while running Pig’s Troughs out to the 8-tops while humming “Who Let The Dawgs Out?” on kazoos).
Which brings me to shaving mugs. Those cool-man Old Spice mugs from the ’50s aside, I’ve always felt icky about shaving mugs. They served a purpose and served it admirably back when lather meant whipping a wet brush over a cake of hard soap, but it’s 2006, and most men, even hardcore shavegeeks, use soft shaving cream. And if you shave with cream, you don’t need a mug.
What you do need is hot lather. Oh man do you need hot lather! Hot lather is why men fight wars, son. Not for democracy. Not for oil. We fight wars to decide who gets to shave with hot lather and who doesn’t. If you’ve never shaved with hot lather you won’t understand, and if you have, you do. Hot lather can only be had with a heater of some sort — no matter how hot the water is when you soak your brush, it cools off almost instantly the moment you start lathering cream on your face. Companies like Con-Air have been doing electric hot lather machines for use with canned foams and gels for ages now, but you know better than to shave out of a can, right?
The classic Lather King hot lather dispenser works with high quality shaving creams, but I hunted down one of these beasts to try and I have to say it’s not really worth the rigmarole. Yes, it makes hot lather, but the quality isn’t all it could be, plus you have to smear it on your face with your fingers, not a brush, and the heat disappears the moment the cream touches your skin. It’s there for a fraction of a second, and then it’s gone. You go to all that trouble and leave the @%#$ machine plugged in and running 24/7, and all you get is a few picoseconds of hot lather. Barbers use these things because they spew lather all day long on a tankful of cream, but for home use, they suck.
Recently, in an attempt to finally solve the problem of long-lasting hot lather, noted shavegeek Dr. Christopher Moss of Novia Scotia, Canada came up with a novel spin on the age-old “shaving scuttle” used with hard soaps:
A traditional shaving scuttle like the one pictured above has a shallow holder at the top for a cake of shaving soap, and a wide-mouth spout on the side for water and brush access. Men used to fill these scuttles with boiling water from a tea kettle, and then periodically dunk their shaving brush into the spout to heat it up before swirling it around on the soap resting in the receptacle on top. Works great with soap, not at all with shaving cream, because of the little drain holes beneath the soap that keep it dry between shaves. Use cream with a traditional scuttle and all the lather drips down into the hot water.
But what if there were no drain holes? And what if the front spout was done away with entirely, replaced with a mere slit of an opening for the hot water, to keep the cool air from cooling off the hot water inside the scuttle? Dr. Moss drew up some diagrams, faxed them to his friend the noted potter Sara Bonnyman, and the Moss Scuttle was born.
Now, I’m not a mug guy — I think I’ve made that abundantly clear at this point. But after using this thing for a week, I never want to shave without one again. It’s that simple. And here’s why you should buy one, too, immediately: warm lather. For the entire shave. Every time you raise brush to puss, the lather warms your skin and stays warm, and your last lathering is just as warm as the first. It feels so good I add an extra pass or two to my shave, which I don’t even need but who the hell cares — like Pia Zadora said in “Butterfly”, if it’s right, it’s good.
Here’s how you use the Moss Scuttle:
First you fill both the inner chamber (note the small spout) and the cup with hot tap water, as hot as your tap will get.
Then you let your brush sit in the water while you Q-tip your ears, slather your pits, splash warm water on your face, put your nipple rings back in, etc.
Dump the water out of the scuttle and refill only the inner chamber with hot water. The hot water inside the Moss Scuttle surrounds the cup and heats it for the entire shave.
Dap a small bit of shaving cream on the tips of your wet brush, and begin swirling it around in the Moss Scuttle — you should get an instant eruption of thick, rich lather that covers your brush.
That’s it. Lather your face and neck, and then return your brush to rest in the Moss Scuttle as shown, so the hot water inside the chamber keeps your brush and lather heated.
I love this thing — at $40 Canadian (about $35 USD), the Moss Scuttle’s a steal. Unlike the traditional scuttles which frankly look like a medieval precursor to the Pocket Pal, the Moss Scuttle is a beautiful piece of hand-crafted pottery (comes in brown or cobalt blue) that looks great on a bathroom counter. And once you try it, you won’t want to shave without it again.
In terms of keeping shaving cream lather heated (and when I say heated, I mean warm, not “hot” — the lather is noticeably warmer and feels much nicer on your face than room-temp lather, but it is not burning hot) for the entire shave, the Moss Scuttle works even better than I expected it would, albeit with a few adjustments I needed to make to get the best out of it.
For starters, my favored Simpson Wee Scot brush was just too small for the Moss Scuttle, even though Sara sent me the small Scuttle (she makes two sizes, small and large, same price) — the handle on the Wee is so wee I ended up with lather up to my wrist. Subbing a longer-handled brush like the Vulfix #2234 worked a lot better, and in fact this brush and the small Moss Scuttle are a match made in heaven.
I also found that certain shaving creams worked better with the Moss Scuttle than others. All of the old-school English creams from Taylor and Trumper worked fantastically well, better in fact than I’ve ever experienced with these creams. But the more modern-type shaving creams I like to use like Nancy Boy, Acqua di Parma, and Maine Shave didn’t lather as well in the Scuttle as they do when I lather up straight from the jar to my face. The English creams were a much better match with the Moss Scuttle, and the combination gave me a new appreciation for creams like Taylor’s Rose and Trumper’s Violet, which I thought I knew about as intimately as you can know a shaving cream. But the sustained heat raised these creams’ performance to new heights I didn’t know they were capable of.
Ever since I got into all this shavegeekery, I’ve read about guys who came up with all sorts of crazy kludges to get hot lather. Microwaving glass bowls. Floating metal dog dishes in a sink of hot water. There’s even a shavegeek subset that, sigh, actually keeps an electric kettle in the bathroom to pour scalding hot water onto the brush before lathering (is it right to call it “skewering” when the dumb beasts throw themselves onto your pointy stick?)
None of these schemes works. The Moss Scuttle, on the other hand, works like a charm, is easy to use, looks gorgeous, and is priced right. Who’d have thought someone could reinvent the shaving mug and actually make it better? If you shave with English creams, you need the Moss Scuttle. You can order the Moss Scuttle here.
Saving You Hours and Hours Throughout the Lifetime
The Internet has long been a place where the “You Must Be This Sane To Ride This Ride” sign is a mere ha’-proton above the floor. Only fools are forgiven for being shocked anymore that someone tetched enough to have a hankering deep inside for some good old-fashioned Photoshop conjoined porn has the Webwithal to actually quiet the shrieking voices inside his head or at least organize them into a tuneful choir long enough to register a domain, buy a hosting plan, BitTorrent Dreamweaver and throw his slab up on the counter alongside Amazon, eBay, and Taquitos. (Best. Use of bandwidth. Ever.)
Planet Shavegeek has its fair share of awe-inspiring depthplum, what with the door-to-door urinal cake salesmen from Modesto posing as landed gentry on the chat boards, but for the most part, the online wetshaving corn-munity is the same stupefyingly boring cookie cutter male hobbyist black hole of slo-mo entropy as any Ham radio chat room, audiophile usenet group, or Chrysler P.T. Cruiser “Krewzerz Korner” — it couldn’t be more typical of a genre that already had a fork in it back when Compuserve at 2400-baud was the shit.
But then there are those giants who suddenly appear, their genius fully-formed, to breathe new life into the shavegeek rock opera. Towering futuremen with eyes lit as from behind like Rasputin’s, who spelunk vast, uncharted caverns the rest of us can’t even see. King Gillette was one such dreamer, as were the Brothers Kampfe before him. And then, for a hundred years, the giants stopped coming.
But lo, it may be time to dust off the mantle and make room for a new face on Mt. Shavemore! Gentlemen, I give you Vivek Baptiwale.
Did I say $810? Even though that was the winning bid, ForestFace — a family and emergency medicine physician in Houston who would prefer to remain anonymous — explained in an email after the auction ended that he’d seen first-hand the difference hospice makes to the process we’ll all have to face someday, so instead of $810, he was sending a check to the VNA for $900!
Words don’t often fail me, but I just don’t know what else to say except jeez louise, wotta guy! Really, I don’t even know where to begin, so just read what the good doctor told me in his email:
"I only wish I had more to give to worthwhile causes such as hospice. Most individuals don’t really appreciate all that they have in this grand country and in their lives. I lived in Bolivia for a few years when I was younger, as an LDS (Mormon) missionary from 1986-88. What I found is that we indeed have much in our existence to be grateful for — but I was even more impressed with the lesson I learned from seeing just how happy individuals who were living in a two room adobe structure with a tin or thatched roof and 2 bare light bulb could be. They somehow seemed to usually have a smile on their faces. I was also impressed with their generous nature. I came to realize the relationship between giving and happiness, and I enjoy sharing what I have been given if it really will help others — hence my interest in really jumping in when you posted this auction."
I’m blown away by this man’s generosity and spirit, and honored to know him. On behalf of the Dupont family, Lee Cantor of Lee’s Razors, and the VNA Hospice, I want to thank ForestFace for his extraordinarily generous donation, and the other bidders for their support of a worthy cause. Thank you!
Shaveblog has teamed with Lee Cantor of Lee’s Razors to auction off a brand new Simpson Chubby #3 Super Badger shaving brush to benefit the hospice which helped care for our friend Ray Dupont of Classic Shaving, who passed away on Saturday, April 8th.
As all card-carrying shavegeeks know, Simpson is the most respected name in high-end shaving brushes, and the hand-made Chubby #3 in Super Badger is the largest and most expensive Simpson brush of them all. Retailing for $385, the CH3 Super is a true classic, considered by many experts and collectors to be the finest shaving brush ever created.
Aw hell, it’s late, I’ve been hitting the Chianti, and I’m in a misty-eyed mood — I’ll also throw in a Merkur Vision DE razor (retail value: $100) a 10-pack of Merkur Platinum DE blades, and two cakes of Classic Shaving shave soap! That brings the retail value of this state-of-the-art wetshaving rig to a whopping $500!
This is what they call a “win-win” — you get to own and enjoy Simpson’s biggest and most expensive brush, Merkur’s biggest and most expensive DE razor, plus a few month’s worth of blades and Ray’s own superior hard shaving soap, and the wonderful folks who gave our friend comfort and care get a generous donation in your name.
No PayPal on this one, kids, and no S/H fee either — I want every penny going to the hospice, and I’ll eat the shipping. The winning bidder must send a check made out to “VNA of the Inland Counties”, and they’ll receive an acknowledgement of their donation for tax purposes.
I miss you, Ray. We all do. Rest in peace, friend.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Thank you, Peter Jaret, for the nice writeup in today’s Times! For Times readers checking Shaveblog out for the first time, I thought it might be good to repost the oft-linked wetshaving primer I wrote last year that started all of this — the Today Show segment, the MSNBC article, the old-school shaving boom, and this blog. I’ve updated the text with new tips and links I’ve picked up since the original article ran, so if you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, read on:
The Perfect Shave
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.
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 the $55 Vulfix #2233 and Simpson’s almost comically small $65 Wee Scot. 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 (hey, why shave like a heathen when you’re on the road?).
I recommend the English-made Vulfix brushes as the best bang for the buck. They’re much more reasonably priced than a lot of high-end British shaving brushes, and they lather right up there with the best of them. The brush shown above is Vulfix’s #2233, which is a medium-sized “super” grade brush that hits the sweet spot for size, price, and performance — at just $55, the Vulfix puts far more expensive brushes to shame when it comes to building world-class lather.
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.
Another great safety razor to be on the lookout for is the classic Schick Injector. While Schick stopped making these single-edge razors awhile back, they still make the blades (I buy mine at Amazon.com!). The Schick Injector is an interesting safety razor, because it’s’ the “missing link” between the old-school DE and the modern multi-blade. It’s a single-blade razor, but its shaving head is angled more like a cartridge razor, and most newbies find it much easier to immediately grok when coming over from a Mach3, etc.
Like a DE, Injectors shave circles around modern razors. In fact, Injector blades are noticeably thicker than a DE’s, so they shave almost like a mini straight razor — amazingly close, yet much more comfortably than a multi-blade. I’ve got a few vintage bakelite-handled Shick/Eversharp Injectors from the ’40s that shave as well as any razor I own, not to mention the fact that they look infinitely mo’ bitchin’ than some faux-metallic plastic stick with bright neon-colored rubber nubbies.
As cool as these vintage razors are, some guys feel more comfortable using a brand new razor that’s never stroked another fella’s puss. Personally, I think it would be cool to shave with an old razor that used to belong to, say, Cary Grant, but the fact is, a goodly number of eBay razors have been at one time or another up a hobo’s ass. I’m not saying all of them were, or even that most of them were, but you have to accept that some of these vintage safety razors must have gone Papillon at some point. So if you absolutely positively want to avoid going there, the good news is that there are new safety razors available that are every bit as good as many vintage models.
The German company Merkur offers a whole range of extremely high-quality safety razors, with their 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 a simple, no-nonsense, astonishingly effective DE that shaves me as close as anything else I’ve tried, price be damned.
A razor’s only as good as the blade you feed it. Unlike modern cartridge razors, though, DE razors offer you lots of choices when it comes to blades. Some DE blades are mild and forgiving, others are scary-sharp and prone to nicks if you don’t know what you’re doing.
The German Merkur Platinum blades are sold by most vendors who sell Merkur’s razors and they’re of good quality, but I find these blades can be inconsistent and not terribly forgiving for the first-time wetshaver, so I don’t recommend them if you’re just starting out.
A much better choice would be the American Personna relabeled “house brand” blades you find in drugstores, which are inexpensive and much smoother than the Merkurs. Even better are the $25/100 Personna blades made in Israel, aka the “no-name” marked simply “Super+” which can be bought in boxes of 100 for $25 on eBay or here.
The Israeli “no-names” are my favorite DE blades of all, because they’re incredibly smooth, forgiving, and easy on the face, yet in a good vintage Gillette or new Merkur they can deliver that perfect, baby’s butt shave at the very heart of the shavegeek trip. I wish I’d known about these blades when I first picked up a DE, because they would’ve saved me a lot of time and claret.
At the other end of the 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, but I know shavegeeks who won’t feed their DEs any other blade. The Feather Platinums 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.
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 ditch the DE and use a Fusion instead.
The Shaving Cream
A high-quality, glycerin-based shaving cream 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 lathers, shaves, and above all, smells like. Yes, I said smells like! If you’ve never lathered up in the morning with a fine English shaving cream that smells like fresh-cut violets, limes, or lavender, 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 use and recommend Geo F. Trumper’s and Taylor of Old Bond Street’s shaving creams in both tubs for the bathroom and small tubes for travel. My personal favorites are Trumper’s Violet, and Taylor’s Avocado and Rose creams — 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.
The Art of Shaving makes a nice shaving cream as well, in the old-school English style. I especially like their Lavender cream, made with real lavender essential oil. AOS has shops all over the country and its products can be found in many mall’s men’s departments, where it’s usually the only good shaving cream in the display case.
I also recommend the legendary eucalyptus shaving cream from Italy called Proraso. This $7 wonder comes in a large, 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. Like the Trumper and Taylor shaving creams, you can buy Proraso online, but you might also check your local Target, as the chain recently began carrying Proraso’s entire line of old-school shaving products.
While most of the boutique “upscale” shaving creams marketed to young guys and metrosexuals are crap, two “new-school” shaving creams recently hit the market that give the best English creams a run for their money. London’s Truefitt & Hill has been around since 1805 (a full century before King Gillette invented the safety razor!), andwhile the venerated English firm’s traditional shaving creams are excellent, their new Ultimate Comfort unscented shaving cream is their best yet. Creamier and kinder to sensitive skin, the Ultimate Comfort is an easy recommendation.
My favorite shaving cream these days is Nancy Boy’s amazing lavender, peppermint, and rosemary scented cream. It’s extremely skin-friendly and chock full of beneficial ingredients like avocado oil, aloe, allantoin, cucumber extract, Vitamin E, and genuine lavender, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils, with no harsh soaps or artificial fragrance. The Nancy Boy shaving cream also works well brushless, if you’re in a hurry. But lather this stuff up with a good badger brush and it just doesn’t get any better – my skin feels much more moisturized after a shave with Nancy Boy than with any other shaving cream I’ve used. If I could only shave with one cream, this would be it.
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.
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 — your grandpa, Lee Marvin, and me — when we first picked up a safety razor. 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
As reported here last week, Taylor of Old Bond Street has updated some of its classic English shaving creams, to meet both new EU regulations over there, and FDA regulations over here. So I had Taylor send me some tubs of the new versions of Taylor’s Avocado and Lavender creams to compare with the old versions.
The new Avocado cream’s green logo appears on a clear sticker on the jar’s lid, replacing the bronze-inked logo that used to be printed directly on the lid. As you can see from the photo, the old Avocado’s inked logo had a tendency to smear off over time, a problem the new stickers should eliminate.
But the real differences reveal themselves when you crack open the tub. The new Avocado is creamier and smoother than the old version, and its surface has little of that glisteny shine I always assumed was the skin-friendly avocado oil that set Avocado apart from all other Taylors, even though the new version still has avocado oil.
In fact, Taylor’s Barry Klein tells me the cream itself is largely unchanged, but that the company had to turn to different fragrance ingredients to comply with new EU regulations going into effect in April. The new scent includes citronellol, an oily liquid with a sweet, floral odor that’s a naturally-occurring substance in black currants, certain fruits, edible plants, wines, beer, and black tea, and geraniol, another oily liquid with a sweet rose-like scent found naturally in flowering plants including geraniums and roses.
Sure enough, the new Avocado smells quite different than the old. It’s a greener, lighter, fresher scent, more of an outright floral than the woodier scent of the old version. It reminds me a bit of the “Fern” type scents from Trumper and Penhaligon. That said, neither the new or the old Avocado cream smells anything remotely like a real avocado, but I never considered this Taylor a “sniffer” anyway — the old version certainly smelled pleasant enough, but it was the extra comfy and moisturizing shave that set this cream apart from the rest of Taylor’s line, not the scent.
One of the things Taylor’s doing differently now is allowing its cream to settle for a week after it’s been mixed, and then for another week after it’s poured into the tub. These extra stages are said to make for a creamier, less dense product that resists forming a thin, dry crust on top that’s led some shavegeeks to think their tubs of Taylor have dried out and otherwise gone bad. The new Taylors have the consistency of Philly Cream Cheese, while the old version of Avocado was a looser, goopier glop, and the other Taylor creams have been as thick as cake icing at times. The extra settling time is designed to standardize the creams’ consistency across the board, and I can report that the new Avocado and Lavender creams have exactly the same consistency, which I could never say about the old versions.
Using a Simpson Wee Scot and plenty of hot water, the new Avocado cream lathered up big and beefy in no time flat. I’ve rarely been able to get the old version of Taylor’s Avocado to whip up into that really thick, meringue-like lather — it’s a looser, oilier cream than my other old-school faves like Trumper’s Violet and Taylor’s own Rose and Lavender creams, but the new Avocado quickly lathers up into that dense, peaked lather the English creams are noted for. Even with a teeny tiny brush like the Wee Scot, the new Taylor made a ridiculously large amount of lather from just a schmear of cream on the brush tips.
Shaving with the new Avocado cream was a pleasure. My 1940’s Gillette Super Speed DE razor glided over my skin smoothly and without a hint of skip or drag, never once leaving a dry patch for the blade to scrape over. Even though the new version doesn’t glisten as much as the old, it feels and shaves exactly the same, and after an exceptionally close and comfortable shave my face felt perfectly smooth and moisturized, even in this dry winter weather. New scent aside, this new Avocado cream shaves just like the old version, which is a very, very good thing.
Fans of Taylor’s Avocado shaving cream can rest easy — the new version shaves just as superbly and lathers even better than the original. As for the new scent, it’s a greener, fresher, more floral trip, and to be perfectly honest I find it no better or worse than the old version, just different. I’m just happy Taylor kept its Avocado cream as special and unique as it’s always been, and I’ll be happy to switch over to the new formula once I run out of the old stuff.
See? I didn’t make fun of shavegeeks once this time, not even the guy who got so hysterical about the new scent he almost stopped taking photos of himself and sending them to other men so they could see what nice skin he has.
The Shavegeeks Are Falling! The Shavegeeks Are Falling!
It’s not even the second week of February and I’m already breaking my New Year’s resolution to stop making fun of the hapless flailers on the shavegeek forums.
I want to be good and leave the geeks alone, really I do. But 30,000 Shaveblog readers can’t be wrong. You people want me to make fun of shavegeeks. You need me to make fun of shavegeeks. You demand that fun be made of guys who think up stuff like “International Shave Day” where they all use the same shaving cream one morning in a show of jeez, I dunno, capacity to ick the rest of us out?
This past week the geeks all lost their shit over Taylor of Old Bond Street, one of the UK’s oldest and most well-respected manufacturers of traditional English shaving cream. A longtime shavegeek fave, Taylor makes some of the very best old-school shaving creams available, and they’re priced at less than half what most of the other top-shelf English shaving cream brands cost.
But last week, a forum geek thought he saw a piece of the sky falling, and before you could say “lemmings”, suddenly there were Rooskies under every doily.
Seems one of these guys was eyeballing his tub of Taylor’s Avocado shaving cream and was startled to discover (mistakenly, as it turns out) that skin-friendly avocado oil wasn’t listed in the ingredients anymore. Rather than simply ask Taylor about it with the same lack of hesitation these geeks show when demanding the company send them free samples from the UK of a shaving cream that costs ten bucks a tube, he posted his observation on a forum.
A warehouse full of children’s fire-retardant Barney jammies couldn’t go up in flames faster. Angry hands grabbed torches and pitchforks, and the wholly uninformed accusations began to fly. One geek cried the “new” Avocado doesn’t shave as well as the “old” formula! Another geek opined about the beginning of the end for Taylor (a week ago, these same geeks were loving this brand, but now it was DEAD to them).
One particularly pedantic geek began immediately doom-spewing — if Taylor was changing its formulas, it had to be for the worse, because change is always bad, and then what if all the other English shaving cream brands might change theirs, too?! Panting and out of breath, he finally fell to his knees and shrieked like a girl, his pale, outstretched arms raised above his head as if to both implore God to hear him in this time of need and to shield him from pieces of the heavens which were surely falling toward him at frightening speed.
"WHAT WILL BECOME OF XANAXDU?!!!"
Me, I like getting my facts straight before I smear the reputation of a company whose products have served me fantastically well over the years. So I emailed Barry Klein at Taylor, and he called me shortly thereafter to answer my questions about what, if anything, was going on with Taylor’s shaving creams.
Turns out the geeks were all wrong. Taylor didn’t remove the avocado oil from its Avocado shaving cream. It’s still there. It’s just that six months ago, Taylor brought its creams into compliance with new EU regulations that take effect in April, and that entailed making some slight changes to a few of the scented creams. The changes are as follows:
1. Taylor’s Avocado still has just as much avocado oil as before (it’s listed in the ingredients as persea gratissima) — the only change to the formula was a different scent. You can tell the new Avocado by its new green-colored label, which, like all of the Taylor creams from now on, is a decal stuck on the tub lids instead of the inked lids the company used to use. The old Avocado tubs have a brown label that’s printed right on the lid. The new labeling system was designed to let Taylor use the same generic lid for any of its creams, thus speeding up the company’s ability to deliver whatever creams its customers want, instead of running out of inked lids for a certain type of cream and having to wait while new ones are made.
2. Taylor’s Lavender is now a slightly different color due to FDA regulations regarding certain coloring agents, but the real difference is in its scent — Taylor now uses real lavender oil to scent its Lavender shaving cream, replacing the synthetic lavender scent used in the old version.
3. All of the Taylor creams are now allowed to settle for a week after they’ve been mixed and whipped, and the company now fills its 150-gram tubs with 160 grams of cream and lets them settle for another week, to eliminate the “shrinkage” which has caused complaints in the past when shavegeeks cracked open a new tub of Taylor’s to find it seemingly half-full.
In addition, Klein says these extra stages of settling before the creams are shipped to dealers make for a creamier product that doesn’t “crystallize” on top and make the cream seem dried-out or hard (Klein advises that any such “dried-out” tub of Taylor’s can simply be stirred to restore it to normal consistency, as it’s only a thin layer on top of the older creams which had a tendency to crystallize if it sat unused for a long time.
I took the opportunity to ask Klein some questions about Taylor I’ve always wondered about.
Q: Why do Taylor shaving creams cost less than half what Trumper, Truefitt & Hill, and D. R. Harris creams cost?
A: Even though all four brands have their shaving creams made by the same source, the UK toiletry maker Creightons, the hard plastic tubs are one of the most expensive components, and Taylor buys its plastic tubs in bulk orders of over 100K/year, so it pays less for each tub and can charge less for its creams.
Q: Why does the Avocado cream come in a metal tube while all the other Taylor creams come in plastic tubes?
A: All of Taylor’s creams used to come in metal tubes, because that’s what the much larger toothpaste industry used at the time. As toothpaste manufacturers began switching to plastic tubes, Taylor phased out the metal tubes as well, but since Avocado has always been its slowest seller, the metal tubes of this particular cream have still been available long after the other creams began shipping in plastic tubes. New tubes of Avocado will be plastic just like the other Taylor creams.
Since all of my tub’n’tubes of Taylor’s Avocado and Lavender are the old versions, Klein offered to send me some tubs of the new versions to compare them with. I look forward to getting in the new batch and seeing how the updates to this venerable company’s shaving creams fare.
Now I feel bad for making fun of the geeks again. I promised myself I wouldn’t. It’s a new year, I said to myself. Live and let live, I said to myself. They’re people too, I said to myself. People who eat Crunchwrap Supremes —