The Gentleman’s Art of Wet Shaving.
For those of us who steadfastly refuse to follow the beard trend (like it or not, beards are trendy — thanks hipster scum), shaving is an everyday routine that, at times, feels like a chore rather than a pleasurable experience. It doesn’t need to be this way. With a small investment of $40.00 – $50.00 you can turn your daily shave into a pleasurable ritual that takes you back to a simpler time, when gentlemen prided themselves on a clean, close shave. If this interests you, throw your disposable multi-blade razor and chemical filled shaving cream in the trash and embrace the gentleman’s art of wet shaving.
Wet shaving can best be described as “the kind of shaving your grandfather did.” It involves the use of a safety razor, a shaving brush, shaving soap, and a handful of other supplies.
GATHER YOUR TOOLS
The safety razor is the most important part of your shaving arsenal. Sadly when most think of them, the first thing that comes to mind is a bloody, nick filled face. I assure you this preconception is not true, and with proper technique using a safety razor is just as safe as shaving with the razor you are using now.
Safety razors are beautiful works of art crafted from a wide variety of metals and plastics, and choosing the one that’s right for you is simply a matter of personal choice. If you’re new to wet shaving, a great razor to begin with is the Edwin Jagger DE89811BL, it’s a gorgeous chrome plated razor that is weighty, easy to maneuver and not terribly aggressive.
Safety razors use a double-edged blade that fits into a receiver. The receiver allows only a small amount of the blade to protrude through it. That’s where the “safety” part of the razor comes into play. The blades cost about 10 cents a piece — far cheaper than those multi blade cartridges that you pay big bucks for, and range in sharpness from mild to deadly. For beginners, the Derby Extra is an excellent choice. For the more adventurous, the Feather is considered by many to be the king of the hill in sharpness.
Once you’ve chosen your razor and blades, it’s time to find the right brush and soap. Ideally, a badger hair shaving brush should be chosen because it balances stiffness and softness perfectly. A good brush is critical in helping you build a nice lather as well as raising your whiskers for a close shave, so choose wisely.
Choosing a shaving soap is a matter of personal choice, and there are literally hundreds of them in the market. Even the cheapest ones will be better than the chemically laced mass market shaving cream you’re using now. Most shaving soaps come in a tin, but if the one you choose doesn’t, you’ll have to purchase a shaving mug. I use a wide variety of soaps, depending on my mood in the morning. If you want an invigorating menthol zing to your face, try Proraso Green Label, if you want a spicy and warm feeling, try The Blades Grim “Smolder” (my personal favorite).
TIME TO SHAVE
Once you have your weapons together, it’s time for your first wet shave. Remember, if you savor the experience and embrace the ritual, you’ll never go back to modern day shaving again.
Step one: Wash your face with warm water — this helps open your pores, soften your whiskers and prepare your face for shaving. If you really want to go old school, put a warm damp towel on your face for a few minutes.
Step two: Wet your shaving brush thoroughly with warm water, shake it out and begin building lather with your soap. Using a light touch, go in a clockwise direction with the brush until it is coated with some lather. If you don’t have enough lather, wet the brush a little more. Once you have a nice lather, take the brush cover the entire shaving area of your face by using a circular motion. This will help increase lather as well as lift your whiskers. Let the lather sit on your face for a minute before proceeding to step three.
Step Three: Now it’s time to shave. You’ll want to hold the razor against your face at a 30-degree angle from the floor. This angle should just allow the edge of the blade to touch your skin.
When applying pressure, forget everything you know about using a disposable razor. Most of these use sub-standard blades that are grouped together, and you’re probably used to pushing against your skin. With wet shaving, little or no pressure is needed to achieve optimal results; you simply hold the razor gently against your skin and let the weight of the razor do the work for you.
In short, slow strokes, do a single pass with the grain of your hair growth. If you’re able to, pull the area you are shaving taught in order to get a truly close shave. Once you complete this first pass, re-lather with your brush and do a second pass against the grain. Patience is the key — take your time, and as stated before, enjoy the experience.
Step Four: Once you’re done, rinse your face with cold water to cool and tighten your skin. Don’t’ forget to clean your shaving gear thoroughly as well. If you like, follow up with a nice aftershave (not a cologne). If you want to stay in old school mode, try Pinaud Clubman. It smells absolutely hideous out of the bottle, but once it mixes it with your skin’s oils, you’ll instantly smell like a real man, not an effeminate metrosexual — think Patton, Eisenhower and Humprey Bogart here….you get the picture. As an added bonus, the Pinaud also cools your skin nicely.
The whole wet shaving process takes about 15 minutes, but in the end you’ll be richly rewarded with a superior shave, great skin and a new relaxing ritual that will certainly make your day a little bit brighter.
Once you’ve mastered the art of using a safety razor, you can really step up your game and try a straight razor. That’s where the serious fun begins.
Tags: beards, facial hair, grooming, razor, razors, shaving, wet shaving
22 thoughts on “For those of us who steadfastly refuse to follow the beard trend”
All those fifty dollar razors are pot metal garbage. I’d rather have the plastic Feather “Popular” one that costs under ten bucks as it least it doesn’t have blade alignment issues.
You can also skip the building a lather and just use the Barbasol with the lanolin in it, the yellow can one. That’s the best canned shaving soap and is way better than the garbage CVS and Wal-Mart blocks.
People who are beyond modernity tend to like ritual in all they do. Thus cleaning and loading a pen, or filling and tamping a pipe, are as important to the atmosphere of the event as the act itself. Somehow the noise of a spray can might not quite be compatible! Would you fill your pipe with a spray can? I can see a new product now, named Bacc-Wiz (after “Cheez Wiz”) which would of course be an aromatic.
Yeah but if you’re out of shaving soap or cream or traveling, the yellow can Barbasol with the lanolin is infinitely better than the Williams or Van Der Hagen pucks you can find in a non-specialty shaving store. Most people can’t do a proper three pass shave anyway so it would be better to teach them how to do it with Barbasol, then how to make a proper lather, and finally how to use a straight razor. Multibladed crap and electric razors have wrecked this aspect of traditional male knowledge and left us with decades of irritated skin.
Daniel, I actually have a cheap Feather that I bring on the road. For the price it is a good tool, but I don’t particularly like the design or feel of it.
However, if you buy a good quality safety razor such as an Edwin Jagger, Parker or Merkur, they are most definitely not pot metal garbage and suffer zero alignment issues (at least in my experience). That being said, I do agree that there are a lot of overpriced safety razors out there. Personally, my favorite razor is my 1964 Gillette Flair tip, which is built like a tank.
As for the Barbasol, yes, you can use that, you probably can use Gillette Foamy too, but that defeats the ritual aspect of the experience, which is something that I personally really enjoy.
I did mention the Pinaud, which you can still get at CVS for $4.00 and it rules.
They’re effective tools but the Merkur heads that many models use tend to have blade alignment issues due to them using the pre World War I method of holding the blade in place and not having the best quality control. The problem with pot metal is once the chrome plating wears off, it’s donezo and you have to toss that piece of the razor as it’s structurally suspect. They’re not one fourth as good as a solid stainless razor that costs 100 to 200 bucks like the Feather AS-DS2 (this will outlast you), they’re not half as good as the old old chrome plated copper or brass Gilletes that also outlasted their owners . At their best the modern pot metal razors are slightly more aggressive than the plastic and metal Feather Popular with more weight at the expense of long term structural soundness but they’re not five times as good or even twice as good. It would be much more economical for first time wet shavers to just buy the Feather for under 10 bucks, learn to do a proper three pass shave, and upgrade to a stainless steel razor later on.
The Gillete and edge gel stuff mostly isn’t real soap. That’s the difference. The white foams are mostly just soap propelled through a sieve. Barbasol doesn’t have too much crap in it, is widely available, and the yellow can has lanolin which is very useful and puts it above all the Gilette and Pinaud crap. The Williams and Van der Hagen soaps are total fucking garbage. If you have hard water, you might as well just kill yourself.
Well, I will certainly agree that “they don’t make em like they used to.” Like I said before my ’64 Gillette Flair Tip crushes any of the other razors I have.
The reason I mentioned using something other than the low-cost Feather is that one misses out on the whole aesthetic part of the ritual. You may not like the modern safety razors but some of them are beautifully designed and feel great in your hand. That in itself is part of the ritual — the experience so to speak.
Of course from a practical standpoint, you are correct to say use a cheaper one then upgrade, but that’s not the point I was going for. I hope you understand that.
Van der Hagen. I agree, it’s crap, but I would use it over any foam, except in a pinch. I guess I just don’t like foam and don’t have hard water. Never tried the Williams stuff. Pinaud, I only like their talc and aftershave lotion.
You know a great deal. I’d live to know your setup!
What the fuck it’s like the day my dad taught me how to shave, but on deathmetal.org
Have I entered some sort of bizarro world?
This question is difficult to answer, but in two parts:
(1) The modern world is bizarro world. Anything outside of it is sanity, but will seem bizarre. In the same way, our concept of “good” is so twisted that the only good comes from what is labeled “evil,” and most of what is labeled the opposite is in fact evil.
(2) This is DeathMetal.org… bizarro world is what we do man.
Well, I guess you’re right. Fatherlessness is a growing trend in the West and the postmodern male really doesn’t know how to act masculine anymore. I guess it’s because I live in the shitty part of the world that I don’t see the same shit that’s happening in today’s so-called advanced societies (more like they’re in an advanced state of mental illness).
Despite using clippers and never having smoked a cigar, I am greatly enjoying reading these lifestyle articles. I saw you in Maryland poking out of the crowd at Suffocation smoking a cigar, clearly enjoying your experience.
Ara, I am glad you like these articles. I definitely enjoy writing them. And I definitely enjoy my cigars.
There are also shaving soap sticks, which kinda look like deodorant sticks. I`ve been using one (aptly named Tabac, which is kind of a theme here lately) for a while and never knew that I also had to use a brush.
Tabac is good stuff; smells awesome and works well. I have a few “pucks” of the shaving soap. I don’t have the stick. The soap definitely needs a brush. I am sure the stick does as well, but don’t quote me on it.
You should always have a brush, even when shaving with canned crap.
Being a faggot is trendy, so be a different type of faggot.
This is what Deathmetal.org has become? Reactionary butthurt articles about shaving as to not be associated with current trends or some garbage. And know why your grandfather had to shave? Same reason structure firefighters shave, to create a seal when wearing a
gas mask. You probably work in an office.
This also applies if you’re in a war metal band, or trying to rip some mad bong hits.
What about us bearded men who had their beards before it became a trend among hipsters? Must we cede the hall to poseurs? Beards and long hair are symbols of virility and strength among nordic-germanic peoples. Thralls were shaved to symbolize their castration. A fitting metaphor for modern cubicle slaves.
I think the article was pretty clear in damning the hipster scum who made beards trendy, but this trend goes deeper than that (as I think you know). In my view, beards have become a symbol of pseudo virility – a truly pathetic attempt to cover up the shortcomings of many males. I don’t condemn all who wear beards, I am just pointing out the fact that it is a trend, and that fact cannot be denied.
There is no reason to cede to all poseurs – never do that! – but then again one cannot easily separate the wheat from the chaff these days.
I tend to go against the grain with most things, and I tend to romanticize the period between the 1930s-1940. This little article was meant to provoke a bit (mission: accomplished) as well as highlight something I find truly enjoyable.
I have been meaning to switch over to shaving with a safety razor for a while now. Having read this article I finally rounded up the recommended supplies and gave it a try for the first time last night. Much more enjoyable and calming than the dreaded “time to shave again” routine. It took a second to adapt a new technique but once I got the hang of it things went well. No nicks or cuts – just took my good old time and enjoyed the experience. Big fan of the “smolder” shave soap – thank you for recommendation.
Awesome! I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed the experience. And a great choice on the Smolder. Stuff is fantastic. I just got in a new soap my by Raz-O-Rock called “Tobacco No.2”, which smells just as good, if not better, and gives a much better razor glide experience than the smolder.
May I ask: What blades did you use, and what type of safety razor?
Once again, really glad you tried it!
Just realized you said you took the recommendations. So disregard my questions on razor and blades; unless of course you used something different.
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