Electric razors may be convenient, but there’s something very appealing about indulging in a leisurely grooming session with a shaving brush, sharp blades, and sybaritic shaving creams and soaps.
As you can see in the video, the pure bliss of getting the “full treatment” at the hands of a master barber is just one of the benefits of traditional wet shaving.
The Tradition of Shaving
In medieval Europe, barbers were respected members of society whose speciality were to groom, cut, and shave men's beards and hair. They also gave enemas, prepared ointments, and pulled teeth.
Barber shops were social places where all the men went to debate public and contemporary issues, and the “barber surgeon” was a recognised medical practitioner who commonly conducted surgeries with his sharp-bladed razor.
Barbers looked after the health of their community and also looked after soldiers in battle, and they routinely got to cut off almost anything from too-long hair to non-viable battle-damaged limbs.
Apparently, this explains the origin of the traditional red and white ‘barber’s pole,' which icon is believed to represent blood and bandages to advertise the surgical side of the profession.
Barbers nowadays specialise mostly in styling men's scalp hair, not traditional wet shaving. Sadly, we have to get along without the pleasure of a regular visit to a traditional barber shop. We miss out on the luxury of lying back in a custom-built chair and having an expert administer a nourishing pre-shave oil, then a thick shaving cream applied with a brush, and a clean shave followed by a soothing lotion.
Types of Razor
Razors are not just for whipping off your beautiful beard when you decide you need a change. Most proud beard-owners use a razor to selectively tidy up and groom their pride and joy. These razors will be familiar to everyone:
- Safety Razor
Long or short-handled, ranging from polished steel to polished hardwood and other exotic finishes. Once you have a decent razor that suits your needs, replacement blades are economical and readily available.
- Cartridge Razor
You hang on to the handle and replace snap-on blades as necessary. Unfortunately, these only last for 4 to 6 shaves, and can cause significant razor burn once they lose their edge.
- Disposable Razors
Cheap and handy while travelling or camping – and who has not had secretly used a girlfriend’s pink razor in a pinch?
- Electric Razors
Convenient and long-lasting. Choose from hundreds of multi-use and specialized trimmers and razors.
- Straight Razors
Join the gentleman’s club for a super-smooth finish without razor burn.
Traditional Wet Shaving Remains Popular
Traditional shaving is quite economical, although it can turn into an expensive hobby if you regularly dip into high-end brushes, premium razors and luxurious soaps and skincare products. If your aim is to save money you can certainly maintain your smooth mug at a reasonable price with lower cost safety razors, or even cartridge razors.
However, here’s some food for thought: many men exceed the average of 4-6 shaves per cartridge, and as a result, they suffer from irritated skin in the interest of saving money.
The tugging, pain and irritation of shaving with a blunt blade can cause some men to skip the occasional shave. By the time they get to it, the beard is too long for shaving with a cartridge razor anyway, which leads to more tugging, more passes over each patch, and even more irritation – the perfect reason to skip another shave.
The Downside of Traditional Shaving
Most men learn to shave using a multi-blade razor and canned gel. However, did you know that many commercial mass-market shaving products contain numbing agents such as Lidocaine?
Canned shaving preparations which just mask the discomfort of an abrasive shave can cause severe irritation, redness, drying and even premature aging.
Why rely on razor bump ointments and irritating chemicals from aerosol cans to limit the damage? Or worse, why simply accept that rough, dry skin on your face and neck just comes with the shaving territory? Luckily, it is not too late to experience a little pampering while we shave.
Cost Options of Traditional Shaving
Multi-blade (mass-market) cartridge refills will cost you around $55 per year if you replace your blades as often as you should. Double Edged (DE) safety razor blades will cost you from $35 to around $75 per year. However, there is a third option, which requires an upfront cost but no further monthly cost.
We’ll have a look at straight edge razor blades in a minute. It may be beneficial to consider the bigger picture, and include the health of your skin and the quality of your shave when you calculate the costs. It’s also wise to keep in mind how your grooming habits affect your self-esteem, your career, and your relationships.
Straight Up Benefits Of A Straight Razor: An Elegant Contender
While safety razors are popular and stylish, you can add a touch of elegance to your grooming with a straight razor, and enjoy some additional benefits:
- Low long-term Cost
You do need to invest in proper tools, but you start saving money immediately. Unlike cartridge or safety razors, a good straight razor is an investment that will last for years, as will a good shaving brush.
Keep in mind that straight razor users generally prefer better quality shaving soaps which cost more than the average mass-market cans of gels and shaving creams. However, these choice products deliver a direct and visible benefit to your skin. In fact, it may be beneficial to use the purer products even if you use a safety or cartridge razor.
- Great Results
Dare we say “smooth, healthy skin” and the closest possible shave? The luxurious foam creates a gentle, protective layer on your skin. Once you have the knack, shaving becomes really easy, and your skin will thank you for reducing superficial skin damage by minimizing friction and tugging.
Applying a high-quality shaving cream with a traditional badger-hair brush softens and lifts hairs to the perfect cutting position. A finely honed blade then cleanly slices the hairs, with no pulling or tugging. And for the perfect ending; a gentle aftershave or lotion soothes, purifies and rejuvenates your skin. The result is cheeks as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
- The Right Stuff
There’s something just slightly heroic about a man who doesn’t blink at holding a sharp blade very close to his vulnerable parts. Traditional wisdom holds that a good shave removes facial hair but also builds character.
Best of all, it gives every man the opportunity to use timeless, classic gear to indulge in a uniquely male – and gentlemanly – tradition. It’s hard to put a monetary value on being a member of an exclusive centuries-old club. Besides, it is a lot of fun to use a strop to hone your blade to a fine edge!
Getting Set Up For Traditional Wet Shaving
It is probably easiest to get a starting kit which contains everything you need. Whether you prefer a safety razor kit or a kit containing a straight razor there are some beauty kits to establish your presence in the bathroom.
For those of us who learned our shaving from a convenient and good-smelling can of gel, it is very easy to miss the real function of a brush and its importance in the overall experience. The brush has two primary functions:
It is a mixing tool to create a high-quality creamy lather which it moisturizes, softens and protects skin from the friction of the blade.
- It is used to apply foam to the hair. Correct use of the shaving brush coats and softens the hair and gently lifts the whiskers in preparation for the shave. This allows for a super-close shave which is achieved with fewer passes of the blade.
Manipulating that soap brush to whip up a good shaving soap into a foamy lather is a skill you will always need, no matter what razor you use. Your shaving results will always be better after an application of moisturizing cream or soap and warm water regardless of your preference in razors.
A starter brush costs from around $10 - $50. A luxury Best Badger grade brush may cost a few bucks extra but is great value for money and will provide consistent results.
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- Ceramic Shaving Mug. Large enough for 2 or 3 pucks (Microwave to melt pucks to fit).
While you can certainly use commercial shaving solutions, it’s a superb feeling to mix up your own perfect shaving soap. You’ll need a round shaving mug or bowl, not too deep, to whip up your mix. Make a bold statement with an accessory that represents your side of the bathroom sink perfectly.
Facial contours, hair density and texture and even the products you use for shaving will have a significant influence on your choice of razor. The variety is quite astounding, and you may need to experiment a little to get the correct blade for your purpose.
Mastering the big shave with a straight razor is a highly satisfactory accomplishment, but using a rigid safety razor also requires a little skill. It can’t hurt to go back to basics with a fixed-blade razor before you move on to an adjustable razor.
It teaches proper technique, and will produce maximum results as you learn to apply the correct grip, angle and pressure to obtain a smooth shave.
Once you have the perfect technique, you can move on to an adjustable razor or the ultimate challenge: a straight razor. You’ll have no trouble finding a blade to match every preference and budget. Traditional wet shaving remains popular, and shaving vendors import a vast range of blades.
It may take you a while to find the perfect blade for your beard and a little trial and error is likely. Generally, most men do well with platinum coated blades since they provide a sharp and durable edge for shaving.
Fresh all-in-one skincare
Canned foams and gels are convenient and fast, but now you can really extend your side of the bathroom sink with some top quality cosmetic treats. It is not necessary to settle for shaving products loaded with damaging substances such as propellants, stabilizing substances and numbing agents.
You can now explore the vast variety of traditional pre-shaving lotions soft shaving creams and soaps. Hard-milled soaps are regarded as producing the most protective lather for shaving. Working up a good lather in your shaving cup may depend on getting the water/soap ratio just perfect and may require a little more technique than using glycerin-based soaps.
The addition of a little glycerin to the soap make glycerin-based soaps easier to start with and they generally offer more fragrances.
PRO TIP: Set your significant other to exploring natural soap and skincare ranges that smell great and may even compliment the look they want in the bathroom to prevent a tussle over who needs more space in the bathroom cabinet.
The little extras
Even if you use a state-of-the-art vacuum trimmer and don’t need to keep traditional shaving equipment, there is a huge appeal to fixing your side of the basin with some quality gear. Besides, the ladies love a neat, elegant display of luxury manly things.
Once you have your core products, start looking out for classy stands, display cases or travel bags to keep your new investment organized.
PRO TIP: Get your significant other involved when choosing a smart travel bag or display stand to make sure they love it as much as you do. You will find accessories in materials such as buffalo horn, canvas, hand stitched leather, polished wood, brushed chrome or glass. A shaving stand is great for displaying your gear neatly and will add sophistication to any modern bathroom, and will also allow your brush to dry properly between uses.
And Finally, Practice That Wrist
Don’t expect immaculate shaving results on the first day, even if you purchased top-of-the-line gear. You do need to pick up the knack of running a sharp blade evenly along the contours of your face without taking off a piece of your skin.
Like any skill worth acquiring, dig in for that learning curve. A steady hand and some practice will bring it all together for your own special technique and the best results. If you use a straight razor, you may need to dig a little deeper to master that blade!
If you would like to relive the charm of using old-school products, it is well worth exploring traditional wet shaving. Add a touch of indulgence to your routine. There’s nothing wrong with a little pampering before you go out to conquer the concrete jungle!
Loved the article? Why not check out more of our shaving articles
Last update on 2018-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API