September 22, 2020

Weird Shaving

Having noticed that cartridge shaving has a significant total cost of ownership, and that people seem to enjoy the alternatives, I decided to switch to the safety razor, or double edge (DE) system. DE razors have those interchangable blades that look like your classic image of a razor blade, so you buy 100 blades (a couple of years’ supply) for a handful of pounds, rather than four disposable plastic cartridges (a couple of months at best) for quite a few pounds. Hoo boy, was I in for a wild ride.

You see, for a bit of research (both into the good products, and the technique), I decided to turn to the internet. And I accidentally ended up in the manternet. There are a couple of places I knew would be OK at describing safety razor systems: Bill Bumgarner reviewed blades back in 2009, Gentleman’s Gazette has a good section on grooming and shaving. But then there’s the manternet.

As Steven says, “Any place where mostly men gather around a shared interest eventually descends into bullying, harassment, etc.”. And the shaving internet is definitely one of those places. There are no links from here, but a lot of this is hardly dark net: it’s a subreddit, youtube channels, and successful blogs with tens of thousands of subscribers.

Because the further you get from disposable razors, the closer you get to “how real men shave”. Plenty of tutorials and reviews on DE razors talk about “shaving like your grandpa”. But here’s the thing: if your grandpa shaved with a DE razor, it was because that was the innovative new product at the time. It was the latest invention that made shaving significantly more convenient than the single blade system, which necessitated visiting a cutler every so often to finesse the blade (you could probably strop the blade yourself).

Admittedly, if you’re American, “your grandpa” may not have chosen the DE system themselves: they would’ve been issued it in the military, then allowed to keep it when they demobilised. Gillette (for it was he) got a deal to supply the whole army with safety razors. If Frank Sinatra shaves with a DE razor in a movie, it’s not because he’s cool, it’s because he got it for free.

Ah yes, King Camp Gillette. Much of the manternet is incensed at Gillette for their “The best a man can be?” ad; they cannot handle that their razor cartridges are telling them not to be misogynist bullies. So they switch to another Gillette system, to stick it to the man.

© Graham Lee