Why hasn't he shaved?
-- Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson, talking about Dan Rather in Afghanistan, in Charlie Wilson's War
I suppose most men at some time or other have had to shave, and I think most see it at best as a bothersome chore. How many beards are grown more from a dislike of shaving than for aesthetic reasons? There is a web page devoted to the history of shaving, from prehistoric times to the Quick Shave razor of 2003.
The last forty years has seen a number of technological chanages in shaving: disposable razors, razors with two blades, three blades, and now five blades. Some have speculated that if current mathematical trends continue razors of the future may have 20 blades!
And of course there are the electric razors, all the way from simple beard trimmers to exotic self-cleaning models with tanks of cleaning fluid that have to be replaced.
And in addition to that there is shaving cream of all kinds, disposable cans of lather, gel that turns into lather, and so on.
I think it is fair to say that in recent decades the history of shaving has been largely the history of the marketing of disposable shaving products. A visitor from another planet might conclude that shaving has more to do with generating trash than cutting hair, with neither being very pleasant.
People accuse me of never throwing anything away, and they are correct. Thus it was no surprise that my father's razor would appear, thirty-four years after he passed away.
Double-edge safety razors are no longer manufactured in the U.S., but are available on the internet. They are also available used on Ebay, in antique stores, and at estate sales.
Under the assumption that anything that can be collected is collected, and that anything that is collected will show up on the internet, I did a little research on the razor and discovered that it was manufactured in the early 1950s, around the time when I was born. Though almost sixty years old the razor was in excellent condition. I decided to try it out.
But first I needed double-edge razor blades, and I had no idea if they were still available. It turns out that they are, $3.00 for a ten-pack at the local grocery store.
My first shave was . . . terrific. With a safety razor the weight of the razor itself does the job, and almost no additional pressure is required.
Further research on the internet revealed, to my surprise, that for some men shaving is a almost a personal religious ritual, a spiritual journey in search of "BBS" -- Baby Bottom Smooth shaves. I decided to join the religion.
The first thing was to purchase a shaving brush. There are many grades of brushes. At the low end are those made with artificial bristles. Up from that are brushes with boar bristles. A step up from those finds "pure badger" bristles. Another step up involves "best badger" bristles, taken from a different part of the badger. And at the top of the shaving brush taxonomy are brushes with "silvertip" badger bristles, often going for $100 or more. I settled for "best badger" grade.
I then added a tube of Proraso shaving cream, from Italy, in addition to Proraso after-shave lotion and after-shave splash. A silver nut bowl was pressed into service as a shaving bowl, used to combine the shave cream and hot water.
And in a fit of religious devotion I made my own pre-shave oil, mixing grape seed oil, glycerin, and eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemon essential oils. You know you've become a fanatic when you start mixing your own pre-shave oil. Completing the pre-shave experience is Jack Black facial wash, a mild soap that does not dry the skin.
Using the above with copious quantities of hot and cold water at appropriate times results in a shave that is remarkable, both for smoothness and lack of skin irritation. The post-shave lotion completes the process by remoisturizing the skin, and the after-shave splash, applied after I rinse the sink and the various utensils, refreshes, and supplies a pleasant but subtle and short-lasting scent.
For those of you who wish to accompany me on the profound journey to the Baby Bottom Smooth shave, I offer the following resources. I have no connection to these companies and sources other than as a satisfied customer and reader:
News Flash! Check out Matt Paust's new post on shaving: Close Shave
This is the second in a series that I call "the good life." It is about things, experiences, and people that I enjoy. The first post, about haircuts, you can read here.