How to shave
16 August 05. |
Really now, have you thought about this much in the last decade? Admit it: you learned to shave when the time came, and then never thought about it again. But I overintellectualize everything, and my parents divorced when I was an infant, so I had no manly father figure to teach me these things, and had to derive the following after years of different attempted methods which I won't bore you with. [Mostly a Braun electric razor which wasn't so effective.]
a tea cup (a nickel from the Salvation Army)
a shaving brush (about twenty bucks)
a cardboard box ($4, cereal included)
a straight razor ($50, perhaps more but no less)
witch hazel ($4/bottle)
attractive pal in eveningwear (market rates)
Unlike much of the below, this is a quality-vs-cheapness thing: apparently twenty bucks worth of shaving cream will last you twenty years. However, anyone I could find who has tried both insists that the can of foam is just a hollow imitation of the real thing.
Most brushes are made from either badger hair or bison hair. “Look, that badger is already dead,” the salesman informed me, but I'm still walking away. The only synthetic shaving brush I could find was $50 from the creepily named Men-ü, but if you check very carefully, you can find `natural bristle' brushes, which are plant-derived. Here's one now.
Once you've got the brush and the tea cup, you're set for shaving cream forever more. If you're like me and make your own soap as well, you'll want to include a lot of coconut oil in the soap (get it from an Indian food market), which causes better lather. Tea tree oil may also be a good idea. I've found that the lather itself is best kept to a minimum anyway, since if it's too thick you can't see where you're going.
Somebody gave me shaving cream in a tub--no faux foaming action, just a little pump to get a daub in the tea cup. It produces much thicker lather and smells pleasant, but my internal jury is out as to whether it's giving me a better shave than plain soap. Many people online also swear by hair conditioner, which is also supposed to soften human hairs. Conditioner didn't work well for me, but you may find that it works for you.
A lot of folks like the Mach 3 disposable-head Razor. Let's see: two f.ing dollars per blade, useful for about four shaves, so if you're shaving daily, that's about $180/year. Or, crappy single-use disposables, 30 cents per and chuck `em out: $110/year. A straight razor will cost you at least fifty dollars (I bought a Dovo; there are about two other brands which one could trust to shave with), but you can see it pays for itself pretty quickly. Only problem is that you'll need a few spare safety razors in case you travel via airplane.
Then there's the precision. That little hair between your nostril and that, um, blemish on your upper lip--you wanna try getting it with one (and only one) of the three blades on your disposable cartridge? Are you sure you know where the plastic housing ends and the blades begin? Given that the head does that little wiggly thing, how hard will you have to press to get the hair but not your lip? In short, with a disposable razor, that hair ain't going away, and with a straight razor, it's trivial.
Any blade you'll see is double-hollowed, which means that the both sides of the blade are curved such that if you lay the back and edge of the blade against the strop, then you're at the perfect stropping angle. Just shows how the stropping is really an essential part of the blade use process. By the way, even with the cardboard strop, a good blade will still make those movie-effect noises that the Foley artists always put in when anybody draws a knife.
straight razor how to. One note which makes itself very apparent when dealing with a supremely sharp blade: shaving down is an easy, safe process which gives you no chance of ingrown hairs and which leaves a quarter millimeter of fuzz on your skin no matter how deft you are, while shaving up raises the chance of nicks and other misery exponentially but leaves you totally hairless. It's up to you and the attractive pal who comes in and caresses your hairless parts after you shave as to the risk/reward level you're willing to take; though if you've just bought the straight razor, spend a week or two just going down before trying anything riskier.
Sorry if that was blatantly obvious to the rest of you, but due to my early abandonment, left alone in a cruel world which I had to rederive from scratch, this is all new to me. And anyway, if you didn't have an economist writing about shaving, who else would be out there describing the process as a set of risk/return schedules?
Using a straight razor actually requires some modicum of manual dexterity. Perhaps this is why safety razors have won out in the market: there's no learning curve. It's been interesting to see the progress on my own hairs, as each shave brought me a tenth of a millimeter closer along, until I was able to do the upward shave without drawing blood. I didn't learn much of anything in a `here's a fact I didn't know before' way, but my hands got better. That's an experience which is somewhat lacking in a world where everything is mouse and keyboard operated.
[The OED traces the name back to 1541, referring to the shrub from which the astringent is derived, thus the hazel half of the name; it has a few quotes from a little later which indicate that its branches were used for divining, which may be where the witch half came from. (1778 J. CARVER Trav. N. Amer. xix. 508: “The Witch Hazle... It has been said, that it is possessed of the power of attracting gold or silver, and that twigs of it are made use of to discover where the veins of these metals lie hid.”)]
As for the attractive pal in eveningwear who caresses your face after
you're done shaving, can I point out how completely unsexy a safety
razor is? Its entire design, be it entirely disposable plastic or durable
plastic with a disposable head, just screams of practical necessity. The
fact that they are sold as x-treme and sexy is an amazing feat of image
over reality. Simply put, disposable is never sexy. Non-disposable--and
therefore cheaper but more reliable--alternatives exist, which we've
been sold into forgetting.
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