Shaving has always been a point of fascination for me. My interest wasn’t in the act of shaving itself, but rather, with the result shaving yielded. If you’re going to go through the trouble of shaving, don’t you want to look and feel your best afterwards?
I’ve tried every shaving method out there. From electric shavers of various makes and cutting apparatuses to razors with two or even five blades and on which the head tilts in every direction possible. I was always the first to buy every new cartridge razor that hit the market, hoping to improve my results.
For slickness, I have used a plethora of creams, gels, serums and liquid soaps to try and get the best shave. I’ve used shaving supplies formulated for sensitive skin, dry skin, oily skin, normal skin and tough beards, whether they came in cans, tubes or pump action dispensers. Trust me, if it’s out there, I’ve tried it.
The result, however, was always the same: a hurried shave in the morning, racing against the clock, yielding a decent shave at best, with razor burn on my right cheek, where I have a swirl of beard growth, and several bloody weepers on my very sensitive neck. It was also not perfectly smooth, and I had a ‘five o’clock shadow’ by noon.
I can’t really tell you how frustrating this was. I remember a day when I had a presentation to give while I was in the army, shortly before I was promoted to Captain. I took extra care that day with my shave, and asked a friend before the presentation how it looked. His answer was “as usual, you know, you have a shadow”. Talk about frustration.
Then, about six years ago, I came across a video on Youtube extolling the benefits of traditional wet shaving, which entails using a brush to create a lather from soap or cream, and the use of a razor with a single blade (be it a double edged razor, a single edge, or a straight razor). This seemed really arcane to me, but hey, I tried everything else, so why not this?
I ordered a double edge razor, a boar brush, soap, and thirty assorted blades. I’ll admit, there was a learning curve: breaking in the brush, getting the soap to lather, finding the right soap for me, finding the right blade for this razor, being patient enough to work up a lather to the right consistency, and getting my razor technique and hand pressure down pat.
My shave quality became better, indeed. I shaved with more attention, more care, and more mindfulness. I was learning and discovering, which I love, and was seeing my skill improving daily. Soon, I was competing with myself on getting rid of the razor burn, shaving without weepers, and seeing how long it was before the shadow appeared. I found myself finishing my morning grooming routine relaxed and ready to go.
At that point, shaving became a bona fide hobby, practiced for its own sake, not as a task to be performed de rigueur just to get my face ready for the upcoming day. Not only have I curated over the years a small collection of carefully selected equipment (both “hardware” like razors and brushes and “software” like soaps and aftershaves), I have also found an online and offline community devoted to this beautiful, yet practical, pastime. Many of the wonderful people and artisans in this community have become personal friends of mine.
I’m proud to have been asked by the editor to share some of this journey over the pages of Sand Magazine, and want to hear your thoughts in the comments.