Student Journalist Interview

I recently received an email from a journalism student in Calgary, Canada.  He was writing an article on the resurgence of traditional shaving methods and wanted to ask me a few questions about it.  What do you think about my answers?

Why are people switching to traditional shaving methods?

I find there are three main reasons for people switching to traditional shaving products: cost savings, shaving problems, and connecting with a previous generation.  The cost aspect is fairly obvious, with multi-blade razor cartridges reaching a price-point people just don’t want to pay so they start looking around for less expensive alternatives.  Some change to address chronic shaving problems like nicks, cuts, and razor burn.  Finally, some try it because they came across their father’s (or grandfather’s) shaving gear and want to make that historical or family connection.  Whatever the reason they generally discover that they can make a painful or unpleasant chore into a pleasing ritual.

What makes traditional methods better?

The “ritual” aspect can be important: shaving done more carefully usually results in a better shave.  That aside, being able to learn the simple skills associated with shaving, along with the lower return-on-investment, usually provides superior results.

What advice would you give to someone looking at switching to traditional methods?

Taking the time to learn to shave properly is important.  It’s a skill–not a difficult one but a skill nonetheless–so there is going to be a learning curve which may be different for everyone.  Like learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument.  Some of the concepts that are important include the idea of beard reduction instead of beard elimination, the importance of pre-shave preparation, understanding the way the beard grows, and how to use the right pressure and direction on the razor.

What are some common concerns new users often have?

Most have a fear of really cutting themself up.  And there is a certain amount of truth to that: as a skill is being learned there are always chances for making an error.  But most find the issue is not as serious as they were worried about.  And after learning correct techniques a major nick or cut is rare.

What do you enjoy most about helping people switch to traditional methods?

For myself, it’s sort of a vicarious “father and son” kind of thing.  I don’t have any children so it is fulfilling to me to pass skills along to another generation.

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  1. Paul Frazier says

    I agree. For me it is a combination or price and connecting with the previous generation. I have grown up with multi-blade razors ($$) and foam in the can. This and other sites have introduced me to shaving routines I did not know existed. Now I can appreciate the art of shaving and take care of my face in a whole new way. As a bonus, my brother-n-law found a Gillette Adjustable razor from his uncle and gave it to me yesterday.

  2. Dr. K says

    Well done. I think the last sentence in your first answer is reason number 4 in and of itself. “Whatever the reason they generally discover that they can make a painful or unpleasant chore into a pleasing ritual.” Even men who don’t think that they are having any problems (they may realize they were after the switch) may find cartridge shaving to be tedious and irksome. Experimenting with new techniques and equipment makes it more enjoyable, and then people will stick with it once they discover the other benefits. You could also add a better shave as reason number 5. I think it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get as close a shave with cartridges without causing major skin problems. With traditional techniques, exceptionally close shaves with minimal irritation become routine.

  3. Steveareno says

    Great answers, all of which apply to me. At first I just wanted a way to avoid the ever-increasing cartridge prices, and while the traditional aspect of it certainly appealed to me, I was hesitant to make the change because I didn’t want to have to relearn how to shave. I have always used shave soap and a brush, so that part of traditional shaving was already there. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I got the hang of using a DE razor, and even more impressed with the quality of the shave once I did. There were areas of my neck that were chronically irritated (I would go so far as to say scarred) by cartridge shaving for decades. Now those areas have almost completely cleared up. Everything about DE shaving is more enjoyable, but I especially love the heft of the razor. It feels like the precision instrument it is; a cartridge razor feels like a toy to me now.

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