Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Shaving (again)

I thought that I would return to the subject of shaving, and do a bit more of an inventory of what I have collected over the last year. Please take a look at blog posts from last summer if you are interested to see what I was up to, as I began my trek into what has been called "wet shaving." As a very quick primer, wet shaving is the term used for (primarily) male face shaving, using either a "safety razor" (or DE, that is, double-edged, razor) or straight razor (a jump that I have not yet made). Some suggest that the multi-blade cartridge razors which are very popular in contemporary Western society are very expensive, and provide a more irritating shave. Also, such modern conveniences remove the ritual and pleasure associated with male grooming.

There are a few reasons for the popularity of DE shaving, I think. One is a sense of nostalgia, that by participating in the activity of shaving using a safety or straight razor, one is entering into a sort of community, not only one that transgresses space, but also time. In a way, this mode of shaving allows one to enter a ritual akin to one of religion: these rituals are performed by others in an "imagined community" at the same time, in the present space and in the past. Another reason is the breakdown of traditional modes of masculinity, and the rise of effeminate masculinities (consider "metrosexual," or a term that I recently came across--and I'm unsure of all of its complexities--"retrosexual").

In any case, I approached the activity of wet shaving because I was not satisfied with the prices of multi-blade cartridges. I have now found a bit of a ritual that I enjoy partaking in on most mornings. So, without any further commentary (except for whatever commentary I might inject below), here are the tools that went into this morning's ritual.

I began by using Proraso "green" shaving cream from the tube and applying it to a wet brush that had been sitting in hot water in the cup for a couple of minutes. I then proceeded to make a lather in the cup (which is always fun).

The shaving cream is easily purchased at the drug store (I bought this tube at Shoppers Drug Mart for about $10). The same cream can be purchased at Bath & Body Works, but under a different name (Bigelow, perhaps). It smells really nice, though some have suggested that it is too "cool," that is, menthol-y.

The brush is a boar-bristle brush that my wife bought me for Father's Day in 2013 from Anointment Skin Care, a Canadian company that makes soaps and so forth. The brush is not branded, and the handle is plastic. I know there are better brushes available, but this one has been functional from the start. The little blue thread around the handle is a loop so that I can hang the brush on a small bottle that I have, as I do not yet have a proper brush/razor stand. I used to use a gin bottle, but now I use a (very small) Italian bitter bottle, which is much more rare, though shorter. I'll showcase that later on, perhaps.

The scuttle, as these things are called, is hand-made by Right Off the Bat Pottery in Prince Edward Island. It was part of a kit that included the brush and some home-made shaving soaps. I didn't find that the soaps worked well for me. The Proraso cream is excellent at making it easy to make a lather.

I then used the first DE razor I ever bought, the Merkur Futur adjustable razor, set on 3, with an Astra blade.

I bought the Futur online, with 200, or 4 years worth, of Feather blades. The initial investment, around $160 or so, was a bit steep, and I would suggest anyone considering getting in to DE shaving to NOT spend that much initially. It is not hard at all to get a cheap razor (for well under $10 on ebay, for instance) and go forward that way.

These were the second set of blades that I bought, 100 for about $16 or so online, because I thought the Feathers were too aggressive for me. I'm not sure how I feel now (as I'm more used to using Feathers now), but I don't mind these blades.

After 2 passes with the razor, I was pretty much done. I cleaned my face with hot water using a nice new towel I got through Bespoke Post, applied some Alum, wiped my face again with cold water, and then put on some cheap aftershave.

Really, this is nothing more than a cotton washcloth or hand towel, easily obtainable wherever washcloths or hand towels are sold. There is nothing special about it; it is 100% cotton and made in India.

This Alum bar is used to help heal any nicks or cuts, and lessen any irritation that might have happened. I'm generally not that careful when I shave, so I have returned to using this on my face regularly. These sorts of things can last years; I've dropped mine a few times and it is clear that it has been damaged. I have a brand new one ready to use should this one fail me.

I bought Aqua Velva at the local drug store here in the village where I live. It isn't the smell that I thought it was, but it works and it fades quickly. I'm using it now because I don't have to go into the office regularly, and I don't want to be wasteful. There are so many options available for aftershave (including Proraso, which I like quite a bit).

Finally, I rinsed and/or wiped all of my gear and cleaned up my "work space" using a little towel that I bought at Walt Disney World back in 2001.

I will continue this series which fewer photos (as I use some of this equipment all the time). As I mentioned, I would like this to be a bit of a catalogue of what I've got, rather than simply a rehashing of the exciting events of my daily shave. But I'll also provide a few words of comment throughout. Watch for a different razor in the next post!

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