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So, just about a year ago, I shunned the 17-blade, nuclear powered, vibrating monster from Gillette. The Power Fusion was banished to the cabinet under the sink, along with the can of aerosol-propelled goop that I used to slather on my face. In search of a better shave (I used to have 5 o’clock shadow at 11am), I decided to kick it old school, and opted for a double-edge safety razor. My first razor was a Merkur 180 long handle. Nice razor. I ended up passing it on to my friend John, who is still using it.
It took a bit of time & learning the intricacies of a proper blade angle, etc., but I am not master of my facial hair. Part of my initial problem was the manly man inside winning out and choosing the sharpest blade I could get my hands on – a Feather. The Feather is a wonderful blade, which is super thin, flexible and is unbelievably sharp. Starting with Feather was a huge mistake. I eventually moved on to Astra SP blades, which were considerably more forgiving. These days, I can manage a Feather easily enough.
Along the way, I’ve tried several razors, each with its subtle variations. I’ve had:
- Merkur 180
- 1972 Gillette Super Speed (currently on loan to a friend)
- 1972 Gillette Super Adjustable (the “black beauty”) – my “birth year razor”
- Weber Polished with Bulldog Handle
- Merkur Futur (loaner from a friend that I gave back – it gave me hamburger neck more than once! For me – adjustments range from super-aggressive to “machete”.)
- 1960 Gillette 195 (aka the Fatboy) – I had this one re-plated in rhodium, and it’s gorgeous
Currently, my stand has 3 razors in it – the Fatboy, the Beauty and the Weber. I’m also trying out a 1956 Super Speed Red Tip and a 1963 Slim Adjustable that I got as a gifts for friends, and am going to have restored/re-plated soon. The Red Tip has a reputation for being very aggressive, but I find it’s unwarranted. I will say that I keep coming back to the Fatboy. It’s a smooth piece of engineering.
So, that covers razor and blade. What about shaving cream? After all, I did mention that I cast aside aerosol-propelled goo. What did I opt for? Despite having a coarse beard, my skin is a bit sensitive, so I opted for Taylor of Old Bond Street’s Jermyn Street cream & aftershave. Those prices look high, and they are a bit. Mostly, because US retailers have to import the stuff from the UK. Happily, for me, I pick the stuff up for a fair bit less in London at the TOBS shop. While more expensive than crappy canned goo, the stuff lasts a very long time, and is of extremely high quality. My face is much happier with the gentler, more natural products I’ve been using.
Sometimes, I also use Proraso Red for a change of pace. It’s a fairly mild cream as well. It’s quite a bit cheaper too – $10 for a tube that lasts several months.
That cream goes onto the end of a badger brush, and gets swirled around in a cappucino mug with hot water to product a nice, smooth lather. I do two passes on my face, one with the grain (WTG), and another across the grain (XTG). I’ll do a few touchups and that’s it.