My personal devolution in shaving

Back in ye olden days, when peo­ple still used the word “ye” in a non-ironic fash­ion, folks shaved with knives.  That is, when they shaved at all.  Archeologists have found shav­ing blades dat­ing back to at least 3000 BC.  In the late 1700s a Frenchman was look­ing at a car­pen­ters’ plane — that thing used for shav­ing down wood — and got the crazy idea that a smaller ver­sion of that would work on your face.  Those crazy Frenchmen.  That was when the safety razor was born.  In 1901 Gillette came up with the idea of dis­pos­able blades.  The blades, of course, were the iconic double-edged blades that every­one rec­og­nizes and few peo­ple use these days.  For the most part, all razors and all blades were inter­change­able.  Yeay for open stan­dards!  In the 1960s, com­pa­nies intro­duced blade car­tridges.  Under the guise of being great for con­sumers — you are less prone to cut­ting your­self when swap­ping a plas­tic car­tridge ver­sus naked blades — they allowed the razor com­pa­nies to patent pro­pri­etary handle-to-blade inter­faces.  Yeay for con­sumer lock-in!  Er, I mean, boo!  Then came the dis­pos­able razors.  Next came the ludi­crous blade wars.  And this his­toric nar­ra­tive does not even get into the modern-by-comparison elec­tric razors.

When I started shav­ing reg­u­larly, it was with an elec­tric razor.  I tried not to shave often, because, hey, what bet­ter what to broad­cast a tran­si­tion into puberty than a scruffy cater­pil­lar under your nose?!  The elec­tric razor was easy to use, and more impor­tantly, easy for my dad to explain how to use.  And he has a big beard and mus­tache, and only uses an elec­tric trim­mer, so that was that.

In my early– to mid-20s, a girl­friend showed me how to use dis­pos­able razors, for which I am extremely grate­ful.  Disposable and car­tridge razors not only gave a great shave, but allowed me to stay in the shower an extra few min­utes every morn­ing.  (My weak spot is the morn­ing shower.  That and cof­fee are my power-up to get me through the rest of the day.  Anything I can do to lengthen the shower is a win.)  So screw that “shaves as close as a blade” elec­tric razor junk.  Even the fancy elec­tric razors did not shave as close as a cheap blade.

Last week­end, I picked up a safety razor from that cut­lery shop on Hawthorne.  Past the racks of (SCA-approved) Medieval swords, beyond the Japanese swords (and his prized Japanese blun­der­buss), and around the cor­ner from the tac­ti­cal knives (black blades pre­vent the acci­den­tal glint of reflec­tion), was a lit­tle glass case of shav­ing razors.  Because I am quite attached to my jugu­lar, I opted to pass over the straight razors.  I was unsure if I would like using a safety razor, but knew I wanted a brush, stand, and shav­ing soap because I could still use those with my exist­ing razor.  I opted for a basic model, as opposed to one of the $80 razors with adjustable blade angle.

For the first cou­ple of shaves, I used it very dain­tily.  I did not want to slash my face (although I did already have a facial lac­er­a­tion that could have been mis­taken for a shav­ing cut due to a cat rebound­ing off of my face one evening).  As I learned and my con­fi­dence grew, I was able to shave more effi­ciently.  Now, it’s no big deal.  Well, except I am cur­rently exper­i­ment­ing with using it to shave “against the grain” (or per­pen­dic­u­lar to the grain) to see if I can get an even closer shave.  Against the grain is a lit­tle more per­ilous with this razor ver­sus the four blade car­tridge I have typ­i­cally used, so there has been a lit­tle blood­shed in the past cou­ple of days.

I have now shaved every day for a week.  This is prob­a­bly a record for me, as I can­not remem­ber the last time I did that.  I expect that as the nov­elty of this new razor wears off, I will go back to my usual twice-weekly rou­tine.  It has been a great exper­i­ment, and I fully expect to stick with this razor for the long-term.  The price and longevity of the blades is great, and I really like the close­ness of the shave.  Specifically: $6 for ten blades (double-edged, so it is effec­tively 20 blades) is hard to beat.

Electric to car­tridge to safety.  That has been my devo­lu­tion in shav­ing.  Check back in a few years and maybe I will have a straight razors.  A few years more, per­haps a sharp­ened chunk of flint.

✻ ✼ ✻

My shower cylin­ders: loofah, stand with razor and brush, soap, shav­ing soap

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Brian Enigma

Brian Enigma is a Portlander, manipulator of atoms & bits, minor-league blogger, and all-around great guy. He typically writes about the interesting “maker” projects he's working on, but sometimes veers off into puzzles, software, games, local news, and current events.

5 thoughts on “My personal devolution in shaving”

    1. I have some inter­est­ing facial geom­e­try, myself, and found that I didn’t need to shave as gin­gerly as I expected with the safety razor — at least, when shav­ing with the grain. I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out how to best get a closer shave by going vary­ing degrees off-axis, and that is not going as well as planned.

  1. Excellent move to go with the safety razor...the ben­e­fits are count­less, and the process is a won­der­ful morn­ing rit­ual. Definitely get a blade sam­pler pack that has mul­ti­ple brands — Amazon and WCShaving has them for $15–20 for 50–100 blades. This is a nice one: Each blade has a dif­fer­ent shav­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic and can really make the dif­fer­ence between a great shave and a mediocre one. Once you find the right blade, you can order that brand by the 100 lot for $.10-.25 cents a year or more for the same price as 8 Fusion blades 😉

    Shave well and pros­per!


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