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Ruminations on the Act of Shaving

While not growing beards to spite The Man™, those of us of the XY variant must adhere to a regiment of shaving. Up till about a month ago, I’d always used an electric shaver. (How they work is beyond me. You can take the thing apart and there’s not one sharp object in it. It’s as if they just vibrate the hair to death, perhaps combining that a verbal threat or two, all of which seems little better than rubbing an electric dildo along one’s face.)

About a month ago, then, I switched to a double-edged safety razor, modeled after Gillette’s 1901 invention.

My purchase consisted of a Merkur “Classic” Safety Razor (closed comb), Vulfix Pure Badger Shaving Brush, and a 10-pack of Merkur “Double-Edge” SS Platinum Blades.

Initially, I also went with an unscented soap cake, but the back of the packaging listed ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce (never a good sign), so I switched that out for a bar of locally made goat milk soap. It doesn’t provide such a thick lather as the shaving soap did, but seems to work just as well in all other respects.

I was worried about cuts and burns a good deal at first, having heard many horror stories from those who switch between electric shavers and the new-fangled-triple-bladed-cheap-plastic-crap razors. To my surprise, there was none of that. My skin has not complained, nor have I managed to place a cut.

The process, detailed below, takes me roughly 20 minutes. Certainly much longer than an electric shave, but adds to the act a sort of timelessness — though the double edged razor was only invented a century ago — and elevates it to ritual. It is an act of meditation, an escape from the mundane — the repetitive, brain-dead, electronic processes of our time. It is moment unto itself, not merely a pause or interlude till the next scene. Instead, something to be planned for, to be appreciated, and to look forward to, and that, in the end, is what truly matters.

Ruminations on the Act of Shaving

Procedures for the Operation of a Double Edged Safety Razor

(It is assumed that the following is completed after stepping out of the shower, as a face soaked in warm water is the first requirement.)

  1. Fully dampen your badger hair brush by holding it under a stream of warm-to-mildly-hot water, perpendicular to the flow, and slowly twisting it. After it seems to be fully soaked, remove the brush from the water and turn it parallel to the stream, so that the bristles are pointed down. Allow excess moisture to drip out, taking care not to flick or otherwise encourage any additional water to drip than the brush is willing to give on its own.
  2. Now that the brush is only dripping the occasional, non-continuous drop, move it to your soap dish/mug. Gently move the brush about atop the soap, in a circular motion, applying little pressure and taking care to not circle too vigorously and flick off any additional moisture. The objective here is not to generate a lather on the soap, but to gather soap in the brush’s hairs. If a lather does begin to develop within the dish, the brush has enough soap. I circle for about 30 seconds.
  3. Bring the brush to your face and begin to circle in a wide motion around the area to be shaved. Apply only gentle pressure. Here, you are attempting to build up a lather, but patience is required: it may take up to 2 minutes for a sufficient lather to develop. (It usually takes me about a minute). After the lather has achieved the desired covering and consistency, place the brush into the soap dish.
  4. Now, bring the razor to your face. The objective is to run the razor down the lather-covered area (from top to bottom, or north to south), applying no pressure, whilst maintaining a 30° angle to the skin. I prefer long strokes along the face, but resort to short strokes around the contours of the neck and chin. To start, it is easiest to place the razor’s safety bar perpendicular to the skin and raise it slowly till the desired 30° angle is achieved. Then, begin the stroke.
  5. The first pass having now been completed, it is likely that a second is wanting. A second lathering may be required, though I omit this step. On this second pass, the stroke should be from bottom to top, or south to north.
  6. With these two passes complete, any remaining patches of stubble may be removed with a diagonal stroke
  7. The shave now being complete, I finish up with a splash of cold water on the face, which, I’m told, closes the pores (and provides opportunity to remove any excess soap), and pat my face dry.
  8. As an aftershave, I only splash my face with a bit of Witch Hazel in liquid form.
  9. For the clean up, the badger hair brush should be thoroughly rinsed and dried. The razor gets a rinse, though a complete disassembly is only required once a week when the blade is changed.