I’m sure a lot of people think I’m nuts because I use a straight razor. I can definitely understand why they might think that. It’s not like I just woke up one day and started using one though. Let me explain what exactly happened. Maybe my story will sway you to join me.
I didn’t enjoy my shaves.
Prior to December, 2008, shaving was not only a chore, but I flat out hated doing it. I used to use some “Edge” canned chemical goo, and a Gillette Mach 3 razor. On the days I shaved at the sink, I would take a few swipes on my face, and then have to bang the head of the razor on the sink in order to get all the little bits of hair out of the cartridge. Rinse, and repeat. Eventually, I started shaving IN the shower, because it was faster, and I could let the shower head water pressure clean out the cartridge a bit easier than having to bang it on the sink. I don’t think I ever enjoyed shaving with my Mach3. Ever.
I was annoyed with rising prices
At the time, Mach3 blades were about $23.00 for 8 cartridges, or approximately $3.00 per cartridge. I was such a cheap ass, I would use one cartridge for 30+ shaves, even though after about 10-12, they started to become even more unpleasant than usual. I was still throwing $3/month away for chemical canned goo. I can confidently say, I was spending about $5.00/month to shave – and thats being a complete cheap skate!!! If I were to replace my cartridges at more appropriate times, I could have easily spent $8-9/month.
So, as if $3/cartridge wasn’t enough, Gillette decides to go and do this:
Yes, thats right. $33.00 for 8 blades. If you replaced your cartridge every 12 shaves, and shaved 260 times a year (5 times a week), that would be a grand total of $90.00 a year. Add some Gillette canned gel, and your annual shaving bill is closer to $125.00 / year. Add in a second shaver in the house (Ladies?), and the annual shaving expense doubles to $250.
I didn’t feel like I was getting good shaves
Along with the chore of shaving, I felt like, even with new cartridges, my shaves weren’t great. They were just OK. Plus, if I shaved daily, I would get some pretty bad irritation. I thought…there must be a better way….
A desire for something different
I had always heard that a straight razor was supposed to give the best shave. I never really expected to get into them. I did, however, put a bug in my wifes ear a couple times that I wanted to try a straight razor shave some day. Another spark in my interested happened while surfing the Internet. A digg.com link sent me to a blog post about “Shaving like your grandpa.” It was quite an interesting blog article, introducing me to the Double Edge Safety Razor. The blog recommended a new Merkur DE razor, but mentioned vintage ones as well. I was quite interested in the entire article, but, at the time, put it on a back burner.
For christmas 2008, my wife gave me a badger brush, a soap puck, and what is commonly referred to as a “Shavette” – a straight razor with replaceable blades. What an amazing gift. That’s what got me started – she has only her self to blame for my hobby now!
The Double Edge Safety Razor
Soon after trying a few shaves with my new shavette, I joined some online forums, and I decided to purchase a DE razor. I found a few in some local antique shops, and cleaned them up. Lets run down some facts that make DE razors superior to a Gillette Fusion:
- A DE Razor costs between $5 and 50, will last you your whole life, and is a one-time expense
- Blades for a DE Razor cost approximately $0.15-0.25 each, depending on brand, and last from 5-10 shaves
- DE Razors do not clog up like cartridge razors do
- Shaves are just as close, and less irritating
Here is a perfect example - a Gillette Fat Handle Tech from the 1930s/1940s:
These razors are available on E-bay for $5-15, and antique shops for as little as $2, if you’re lucky enough to find them.
and then pick up some of these:
Which are available at Wal-Mart for about $1.75
Add some VDH Shaving Soap, also available at Wal-mart for $1.50:
And then all you’re left needing is a brush. There are SEVERAL available cheap brushes out there, that work fantastic. One is the Tweezerman Badger brush, available for about $10.00:
Or the VDH Badger Brush, available for around $20.00:
With these items, and a little bit of reading, maybe a little bit of youtubing, you can begin your adventure in hobby shaving.
Reasons for making the change
Cost – Each shave with a Fusion razor costs you around 48 cents. Each shave with a DE (not including the original investment) costs you around 2 cents. Over the course of a year, the Fusion with shave gel will cost you around $125, and the DE with soap pucks will cost you around $9.00. Of course, if you turn it into a full blown hobby and start collecting razors, this cost gap will close
Environmental – The packaging from constant throw-away products like canned gel can add up. With DEs and soap pucks, there is considerably less waste. Straight razors generate zero waste, only soap puck packaging.
The Challenge – Shaving with a DE razor can be a challenge. You might finish your shave the first week with your old Fusion — but, soon enough (over a couple months), you will master the DE. A sense of accomplishment can come from this feat. Although at first, it may take you 4-5 times longer to achieve a shave because of the learning curve, I got to the point where I was SAVING time with the DE – because it clogs less often and needs to be rinsed out less often than a cartridge razor.
The Shave - Shaving with a DE is not only rewarding, but your shaves will be as-smooth-if-not-smoother than your old Fusion. You also have more control, since the blades are not forced at a particular angle for the entire shave like a cartridge razor. This can be good for trouble spots, to increase or decrease cutting angle at-will.
Less Irritation – passing 5 blades across your face 3-4 times (like what happens with a Fusion) can create some serious irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin. Cutting down the amount of times a razor’s edge passes across any given spot on your face can leave you with less irritation. As your technique and angles improve, the shave will be that much better.
Nostalgia – Many DE and straight razor shavers reminisce about being a child watching their father shave with a DE or Straight – and starting to shave with one sometimes makes us feel connected to those moments, and connected to their relative in some way. Some people are lucky enough to have a razor passed down from a relative. I myself have a DE razor that was my grandfather’s. He passed away in 2010, and I remember him every time I pull out that razor and shave with it. Some DE and straight shavers also just like to feel connected to the past — to know that you’re following the same ritual that men have been doing for the last 200 years. Pulling out a 50, 100 or 200 year old razor makes you think about who used it, and how many lives it has been a part of.
That feeling that you get – there is an odd, satisfying feeling of holding a nice, hefty piece of metal in your hand while you shave, as opposed to a cheap piece of plastic. It just feels right.
From chore to hobby – combine the things above, and you turn what was once a chore into something you look forward to every day. Maybe, you decide to pick up a second or 3rd razor, and you get to rotate them. Maybe you try a different scent of shaving soap / cream. Many times, when a coworker or family member finds out you are into vintage shaving stuff, they give you “some stuff they found in the basement” Its happened to me a few times! Heck, my dad has even been buying stuff at garage sales for me! Haha! Going hunting for stuff at flea markets and antique shops is a lot of fun as well. It doesn’t always have to cost you money, either – Sometimes you can pick up a few cheap items at a flea market, try them out for a bit and decide what you like, and offload the ones that you didn’t like as much on e-bay. Probably make a few bucks in the process!
Limitless possibilities – depending on how deep you get, there is always something new to try in the wet shaving world. Custom razors, fancy brushes, exotic sharpening stones and manly scents by the dozens keep you coming back, and can always keep the hobby fresh. Like any hobby, you can spend as much as you want to. Sure, you can go buy a $1,000 custom straight razor. Guess what, I bet you can also find a $1,000 golf club, or $1,000 bicycle frame, or $1,000 radio controlled car, or $1,000 snow board. Yep, they are out there. That doesn’t mean you have to get one to enjoy something that the Gillette marketing team has been working harder and harder to make you totally unaware of.
Before you are spoon-fed the next battery-powered ionized-moisture stripping 6-bladed Gillette cartridge razor product that costs $39.99 for 8 blades, I strongly urge you to re-examine what shaving is all about. Its about some sharp metal getting scraped across your face. If you have any hint of interest in this post — or you’ve actually made it this far and haven’t clicked the “Back” button, you’re a perfect candidate. For me, money savings was the lure into what became a rewarding daily ritual. For you, maybe it will be the better shave, or the connections to the past – or maybe you just think it looks interesting. Whatever the reason — Give it a shot! I doubt you will be disappointed.