Adapted from a post made to reddit.com/r/wicked_edge, a community dedicated to old-style shaving.
Let’s preface this with a bit of context. I don’t shave as often as some. My facial hair grows pretty slowly, and seems to stop after about 2 weeks, at a mid-way point between stubble and a beard. Sometimes, I keep it unshaved, depending on how long my hair is (Medium length curly hair and beard makes me look like a hobo. It’s one or the other).
This puts my average shave frequency at about once a week to once per fortnight. I’m nearly 22, and have only really needed to shave on a regular schedule since I was about 17, so for the past 5 years, I’ve been using cartridge razors, mostly Gillette and not that often.
However, after discovering r/wicked_edge, and remembering some things i’ve read elsewhere about the beauty of a proper old-style shave, i thought I’d give it a try. However, I’m a relatively poor student, so the initial outlay for a nice Merkur razor, a badger brush and some high-quality shave cream was a little too much for something I was only really trying.
By way of compromise, I went out and picked up a Wilkinson Sword Classic, a shave-soap stick, a cheapish brush and a styptic stick. Total outlay for that was about £10, all from Boots (a popular high-street pharmacy chain here in the UK). Considering I planned on using it until I have used all 5 blades before deciding whether to switch back to cartridges or not, it seems an alright outlay to try out a new method. Plus the razor has some pretty favourable reviews. Why not? I already had some half-decent aftershave balm as well.
Tonight, with a 4-day stubble on (I told you, it’s pretty slow-growing.), I bit the bullet, watched a few youtube videos on the subject, and went for my first proper wetshave. Here’s what I observed and learned:
- I learned there is most definitely a knack to using a proper razor. What everybody says about getting the right angle, and using the handle’s natural weight instead of putting any pressure on the blade at all is unbelievably true. More on that one later.
- I learned that putting some time, thought and effort into a shave can be a beautifully simple, yet ultimately rewarding way of taking a deserved moment to focus on nothing but yourself and your shave. I’ve been having a lot of trouble recently with getting horribly caught up in my thoughts (about a certain female, every waking thought for the past 2 months), and during the 15-minutes I dedicated to a mindful activity like wetshaving, I was able to put them to the side and focus on something completely different.
- I learned that cartridge shaving instills some awful habits. Two things in particular caught my attention;
- How often you rinse the razor; I was tempted out of habit to shave, rinse, shave, rinse. Shaving with one side of the razor, turning and shaving with the other before rinsing will take a bit of getting used to, but I can immediately see how much more efficient and intuitive it is.
- Putting any pressure at all on the razor in the direction of your face. I used to put a level of gentle pressure with a cartridge razor. I learned very quickly why you don’t with a proper blade.
- I learned that styptic stings like a bitch, but does it’s job and does it bloody well. Best purchase ever.
- I learned that shaving with a double-edged safety razor is to shaving with a cartridge razor as driving a manual is to driving an automatic. (Simple extrapolation tells me that a straight edge will be like driving a manual without power steering, in the scheme of this analogy. Science!). I felt like I was in full and complete control of the shave. Any successes and any failures weren’t the equipment’s fault – they were mine.
- I learned that double-edged razors are a dream to clean and maintain. Screw those fancy cartridge designs and their constant clogging!
- I learned that I have a hell of a lot to learn and practice, but if I get the hang of it, it’ll be a skill I will be proud of, and one I will eventually teach my children.
- I learned that the nice, even coat of minute stubble left behind by my new shave method looks fan-bloody-tastic on my face. I no longer feel like I look like a 12-year-old after a shave.
I still have plenty of time left in my trial with a double-edged razor, with which to learn more, get cut more, enjoy more, and thank my fellow chemists for their ingenious use of aluminium sulfate to stop bleeding.
Can I see myself shaving like this for life from now on? Definitely. I got results from the most basic of DE shave setups and no experience whatsoever that were comparable to most cartridge shaves I’ve had (albeit with a little more bleeding, but that’s a matter of practice). My birthday is coming up soon. Maybe if I enjoy the next few shaves I have between now and then, I’ll have a new entry on my wishlist!