Nerd Incognito

The Dad Who Says N.I.

The Song of Carbon Steel: Why I Wet Shave

Any time that I tell people I used a double-edge razor (yes, like your grandfather probably used) they look at me like Iím a little crazy. Telling them that I also shave with a straight razor seems to confirm their belief. How could I possibly choose the scrape of an open, naked blade down my face over the seemingly safe and gentle alternative of a 14-blade, aloe infused razor with a manly name?

I guess they must be right: I must be crazy. But Iím not alone.

There is a small, but strong movement that advocates a move away from the consumer-driven market of commercial razors and back toward the old-school, beautiful simplicity of straight and double edge razors. We embrace the old-school shaving soaps and brushes, enjoy the classic feel of a single blade on our skins, and seek to turn the everyday chore of shaving into moments of solitude, contemplation, and self-indulgence.

Edwin Jagger Brush

Why? Economics can play a part in it. My double-edge razor cost only $40 new, and each blade averages about $0.05óa far cry from the $3-5 per cartridge of most commercial razors. Razors can also be had second hand for far cheaper (or far more expensive, depending on the type and conditionóstraights are quite often more). A serviceable badger brush like the one pictured will set you back about $40 (though they can be as expensive as several hundred dollars) and a good shaving soap will cost about $15, but both should outlast more than 20 cans of shaving goop, and be far better for your skin.

Edwin Jagger Razor

Aesthetics certainly factor in, as well. There is a simple beauty and refinement to razors and their associated supplies that simply isnít available in a throwaway market like consumer razors. My everyday razor is simple, yet elegant: chrome and ebony. Most straight razors are the sameósimple, yet perfect.

For those of you interested in history or family, you may even be able to enjoy shaving with the same razor that your grandfather or great-grandfather used; perhaps youíll even go farther backómy oldest razor is a W. Greaves & Sons from somewhere between 1826 and 1858 (as close as I can tell).

Greaves & Sons Razor

Above all, I wet shave for the feel of it. My old razor, a Gillette Sensor Excel II, and my shave goop used to leave me with terrible razor burn. I tried a triple-blade razor, thinking that might help, but it actually made it worse.

Starting with a double-edge razor was surprisingly trouble free; the motions were exactly the same as I had always used. The only extra thing to remember was not to use too much pressure. And the single blade made all the difference for razor burn--which makes sense, when you really think about it.

The brush and soap were divine, particularly after either a hot shower or a hot towel wrap. The scent was much nicer, and my skin felt moisturized and firm after, not dry and flaky.

And the alum block and witch hazel that I learned to finish my shave with were at once refreshing and soothing, with a sharp scent (and tasteódonít get it on your lips if you can avoid it). It felt like returning home.

Wostenholm Razor

For those of you interested in trying out wet shaving, there are a number of resources on the web. Specifically, I found to be quite helpful, if a little prickly at times. Start small. A brush and a good soap (Mitchellís Wool Fatóalso called Kentóis great for colder weather, or any Dr. Harris soap is a pleasure) are a great place to start, even if you stick with your old cartridge razor.

Look for further details in future articles, or feel free to email with any questions you may have.

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