While we’re coming up with some ideas of who to cover and why, I thought I’d come up with a topic of discussion to get the ball rolling. What does wet shaving mean to you and why?
I was into wet shaving way before I had to. When I was a boy growing up in Santa Cruz, California, I remember my Dad getting me a plastic shaving kit because I was interested in seeing him shave so much he wanted me in the fun as well.
I don’t exactly remember when I started shaving, but I remember also when I was noticing stubble coming in more and that was when I was in high school. My oldest brother had an electric razor and I tried it but I didn’t like it at all. I preferred using a razor and shaving cream or gel. At that time, it was the Trac II razor that I believe I started with then I transitioned to the Atra Plus. Remember those? They had those lubricating strips that would help the razor glide through the stubble with ease. I later would get a Sensor Excel razor where microfins were added to the cartridge.
When the Mach 3 Turbo came out – I thought, wow, this is great. I would get the feeling of an electric but be using a manual razor instead. High end razor! I also jumped right on board when the revamped Gillete Fusion 5 blade razor was released and shaved with it for quite a few years.
Meanwhile, I used various shaving creams and gels throughout the early days of my shaving. This was because I was using whatever my Dad had. I remember Barbasol of course, but I also remember the change to using shave gel, which foamed when lathered, The popular shave gel at the time was Edge. It smelled great when applied and it felt wonderful on the skin. Shave gel always seemed to feel better to me than shaving cream. Then, I discovered a shaving cream and other products in a shop called Origins that would redefine my shaves.
The name of the shaving cream that still exists today is called Blade Runner. Back then, it came in a large tub and I believe it cost about 25 bucks or so. It has a pleasing scent infused with Kukui Nut Oil, Soybean Oil, Coriander, Australian Eucalyptus, French Peppermint and much more. I really enjoyed using this cream as well as their Checks & Balances and Firefighter products a lot. I remember their shaving set was a great deal and I got that a couple of times.
I had a girlfriend who bought me some Sandalwood balm that was made by an artisan in the Palo Alto area. It was smooth and silky, and I wish I knew who made it now because I am generally not a balm kind of guy but this one was extremely fragrant and pleasing to my nose.
Throughout my shaving years though, I had skin issues. In the teen years, I would struggle with breakouts and oily skin. My earliest interest in skin care was when in high school, I picked up my ordered copy of Face Fitness: A Man’s Guide to Looking His Best by Daniel Eastman and I tried the various recipes for masks and scrubs. I remember products that I really enjoyed using by St. Ives- particularly the mud mask formula and the apricot scrub. The mud mask always helped me with those oily areas where I would get these really bad spots on my face, deep and irritating pimples that would not go away quick. They were awful to deal with.
One of my brothers doesn’t remember this but I believe he got me into a facial bar called Redken for Men Cleanse. That thing worked wonders for my face and I always remember how clean my face felt after using it. The scent of it was amazing as well.
After getting irritated with the cost of razors from Sam’s Club, I started looking into alternatives. I found Harry’s who sells special razors, 5 blades at a fraction of a cost I was paying for Gillette. I did this for a few months and then it happened. I started experimenting with a variety of creams.
My first cream that I really liked was the Proraso made version of CO Bigelow’s Premium Shaving Cream. It is known also as the “Green” formula – a Eucalyptus and Menthol cream that is truly amazing. This really got me loving shaving again- as it was a dream to use in the hot summer.
I avoided using double edge razors as long as I could but when I got irritation from using a 5 blade, I had to make a choice. I decided to use Mach 3 razors again and did that for a little while but it still was not pleasing to me, so I graduated to a Merkur 180 and I started seeing a difference. Blade choice was initially Derby, but I found those to be rough so I tried Astra and I really like those razor blades. I will try a variety of blades just because I’m curious but I really have great shaves with Astra so I may not to need to go to anything else.
Since the Merkur, I have tried a few other DE razors. I bought a vintage Aristocrat razor for my birthday but I soon sold that because it wasn’t as wonderful to me as the modern made Merkur I had. I then won a Standard razor from a giveaway by Traditional Shaving Evangelist Christopher Bailey and really liked it. In fact, I got two of them. Douglas Smythe from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements then changed the wet shaving game when he re-introduced the Double Edge Open Comb called the Phoenix – a model based on the Self Lubricating Grand Razor, and as soon as I could, I sold off my two Standard Razors and have used my trusty Phoenix ever since. I also have a Fatip Grande and Ambroley Butterfly but I don’t use those as much as the Phoenix. I have some interest in using a Single Edge but it’s a little on the higher end side for my budget. This may change with the RazoRock Hawk currently being planned for production in the future.
With all that said, what wet shaving means to me is having a little time to myself, preparing for the day and enjoying what it has to offer. I use a Plisson made synthetic brush that was branded by L’Occitane and I love it. The popular brushes are made from badger and boar but I prefer this brush the most. It feels so good when I lather up the soap or cream on my face. It is a wonderful process- and it does take a little more preparation time but the payoff is worth it.
I feel refreshed and ready for the day and I know it’s great for my skin to use these soaps and creams as opposed to using the canned goo of my youth and early 20’s. Shaving with a Double Edge razor has given me a little more confidence. I avoided it because I thought it was going to be really harsh on my skin. I feared cuts on my face but that didn’t happen much at all, thanks to the countless videos and articles I read about applying the razor to my face correctly. It is what’s called facial hair elimination, where you use more than one pass to do the job. I like that- and the second pass is always the more comfortable one.
What wet shaving means to me is a lot more than that. This group of people I have met from all over the world is like a brotherhood, although there are a lot of women that love it as well. We banter about various products and artisans, who is using what, who likes what, who likes one artisan over the other because of various opinions and it’s fun. I really like these people and I enjoy talking about this much more than say, sports or movies. This is a process that anyone who shaves can enjoy.
The products are being released at an alarming rate by artisans weekly. I am amazed by their output and their dedication to their craft. There is so much left to sample from the choices. Back in the earlier days of shaving there was much less of a choice but now you can go online and find any kind of shaving soap and cream under the sun. If you can’t find it, it’s likely that one of the many artisans out there is working on it.
Wet shaving is progressive- it’s changing as we’re changing. The artisans are feeding off each other just like players in sports push each other to excel at their gifts.
Wet shaving, the process itself is peaceful. I love the process from beginning to end. The payoff is a clean, fresh feeling and it feels great.
If you currently feel like shaving is a chore then you might want to try wet shaving and slow down a little bit with the process. Take a little time for yourself and dive into it. You will really start to realize what a difference it does make.
What does wet shaving mean to me? It means I am no longer that young kid going with whatever is pushed to me by the advertising of major manufacturers. It means I am supporting the underdogs in the shaving industry and I’m meeting some great people who love what they do.
I can’t imagine shaving any other way now.