Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Razor blades and shaving brushes

The seed was planted when one of my closest friends gave me a shaving mug, soap and brush as a gift for being in his wedding party. Up until that point, when I shaved, it was in the shower. Sometimes I would lather up my face with inexpensive shaving cream and scrape off the whiskers with expensive, modern razor cartridges. My beard tends to be heavy and I found shaving to be a chore. Besides that, the cartridges, though giving a close shave (assuming I let the stubble grow out at least a day) are very expensive (over $2/per.)

The novelty of having the shaving soap and brush wore off after a week or two. For awhile during both the summer and fall, I would wear either a full or stubble beard to avoid shaving. I look and feel younger without facial hair, but the time and expense of shaving made me avoid the process.

Something hit me a few weeks back. I just got sick of burning through modern cartridges and considered going with an old school straight razor. I tried to get that kind of shave this fall, but even barbers no longer want to spend the time and energy necessary to give a guy a clean shave with a straight razor. I figured, though, I'd learn to be my own barber and, heck, I already had the brush, soap and mug.

So what do you do when you want opinions? You ask others on Facebook. I asked if any of my friends could tell me about shaving with a straight razor. None of them could, but I was given a few helpful links on shaving with vintage safety razors.

My first razor was one of my pop's Gillette safety razors, probably from the late 70's or early 80's. I eventually moved to disposable cartridge razors and had replaced the old safety razor with a Mach 3 years ago. But I figured that if I could find my first razor, I'd get new blades and be ready to go.

I couldn't find it, but I did find my old blades (still in pristine condition.) The next task was to find an old, cool safety razor from one of the local antique stores. To make a long story much shorter, in the last two weeks, I've purchased a Gillette plastic-handled double-edged safety razor (probably from the 50's), a solid brass Gem Micromatic single-edged razor (probably from the 30's) and a Shaeffer solid-brass double-edged shaver (also from the 30's.)

Shaving has been fun the last few week. I do it at home if I get bored or restless. I like the hot towel, the brush, the lather and the hot blade across my cheeks and around my chin.

But there had to be more to it than that. Why am I suddenly interested in shaving so much? Two months ago I was shaving 3 times a month and now I'm shaving every night. What gives? Two words: Dad, Pop.

My dad was born in 1948 and was the quintessential child of the 60's. He was, politically and spiritually, something like a hippie. Dad was old school in some ways. I never saw him without a mustache or with a beard, and he always had a mug and shaving brush on his sink whenever I visited. He used straight-up Listerine. No Scope. No minty crap. Listerine in the tan-mustard yellow bottle. I could be wrong, but I think Dad liked Old Spice.

Pop used a safety razor. He would take the blade out of his shaver and make his mustache pencil-thin by hand. He was born in the 1930's and was almost a full generation ahead of my Dad. He was also born elsewhere, but he did things the old fashioned way. He was a man of the 50's. After he shaved, he splashed his face with Brut which, to me, has always smelled cheap, awful.

Those are the reasons why, at 40, I now care to shave and am doing it old school. I didn't realize it until earlier this afternoon, but I've must've decided, subconsciously, that the way they took care of themselves -- at least superficially -- were methods to be followed. I think I've stopped seeing myself as a kid and now embrace being a man; a man who tends to like the way things were more than the way things are.

The mug and brush -- Dad. The safety razor and the razor blades -- Pop. Shaving. Me. Them. Memories. Smells. Mourning. Honor. Remembrance. Love.