Every year around this time Sharpologist offers holiday gift advice, either ideas for giving to your favorite wet shaver or for your own list. Here is a look back at this year’s reviews for the best stuff, plus some personal favorites, for the 2016 Holiday Season Gift Guide.
- Have a young boy in the family? I Thought I’d Teach Myself To Shave* by Sam Blake & AT Davidson is a cute read and only US $0.99 as a Kindle ebook.
- A perennial Sharpologist recommendation is Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving,* the Alpha and Omega of traditional wet shaving gear and technique in written form. If you do not have this book already it should be on your wish list. Highly recommended.
- The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man* is a good gift for essential life skills, including grooming.
- Two other books, A Closer Shave: Man’s Daily Search for Perfection and A Stiff Drink & Close Shave The Lost Arts of Manliness, offer a more leisurely, “coffee table” look at shaving (both are no longer available new but are readily available on the used market).
- The new Stirling badger shaving brush was reviewed earlier this year on Sharpologist and is still a great deal, even though the price has risen a bit.
- The “Monarch” High Mountain White Silvertip Badger Shaving Brush* from Wet Shaving Products is a also terrific value for the quality of badger hair that is in the brush.
- If you are looking for one of the new generation of synthetic hair shaving brushes, take a look at the Muhle 31M89.* The Frank Shaving Synthetic* is a good (albeit not as deluxe) alternative.
- Looking for something at the high end? The Kent BK8* and his big brother the Kent BLK12* in silvertip are regarded as some of the finest luxury shaving brushes on the market. The Simpson Chubby 3* in super badger is considered by many as the classic luxury shaving brush.
- If you are looking for something really deluxe and “gift-worthy” look at the OneBlade single-edge razor! Yes, it’s expensive and uses single-edge blades that are not quite as common as their double-edge brothers, but ohhh, what a shave.
- Or consider the Above The Tie 7 Piece Solid Bar Stainless Steel Safety Razor Sets (available in open comb or safety bar).
- Something more affordable but still luxurious is the Feather All Stainless Steel Double Edge Shaving Razor.* Known as a very “mild” razor, pair it with a Feather blade* for the best experience in my opinion.
- Check out the brand-new line of razors from West Coast Shaving! Available in Stainless Steel, Black Stainless Steel, and Natural Wood, these razors are well-built and perform well too, at a really good price point. The safety bar versions are “middle of the road” while the open comb versions are a bit more aggressive. A more thorough review coming to Sharpologist very shortly, stay tuned….
- For something “different” consider a Parker 65R* with it’s unique, attractive handle or the Merkur 40* with it’s unusual “barrel” handle.
- If you are considering an adjustable razor there is the Merkur Progress Adjustable Double Edge Safety Razor.* Also consider the Rockwell 6S* “adjustable” razor with six base plate settings.
- Blades Grim Shave Scents have come out of crowd funding and into regular production. Their “Alchemy” kit lets you “mix-and-match” scent oils with their (unscented) shaving soap to create your own scent profiles. Available in the full set of 12 scents, a pack of six scents, or individually.
- Castle Forbes shave creams (in Lime Oil, Lavender Oil, or Cedar/Sandalwood)* are luxurious and superior performers.
- DR Harris shaving soaps* come in a wide variety of scents and form factors. I think the Arlington and Windsor shave soaps in particular are two popular Harris scents that would make an excellent gift but the performance of the entire shave soap line is excellent.
- I’ve described St. James of London* shaving creams as “classic with a twist.” They lather well (even in hard water) and the performance is right up there with the classics. Their aftershave gel would be a good addition to a cream as well.
Other Shaving/Grooming Stuff
- The Beau Brummell line of men’s grooming products were reviewed recently on Sharpologist. The quality and performance is excellent across the line.
- Consider a Shaving Mug Or Scuttle* for that little “guilty pleasure” of warm lather throughout the shave.
- Check out the mustache and beard grooming line from Draebel. Reviewed on Sharpologist this year it includes a number of products to maintain facial hair.
- For something a little whimsical but still excellent quality take a look at Caveman Care. Their Facial Cleanser is now on my “short list” of pre-shave facial cleaning products that perform really well for me. It’s got an “oceanic” scent and a blue color that makes me think of water. Their Facial Moisturizer is excellent too.
I asked frequent Sharpologist contributor and fragrance guru Craig K. to offer some men’s cologne and EDT suggestions for the holidays. His suggestions and comments:
2016 continued to be a disappointing year in terms of new masculine fragrances. But there were a few breaths of pleasantly fresh scents nonetheless…
The big launch from one of the biggest houses, Sauvage by Dior,* ended up having a flashy ad campaign with Johnny Depp, and little else of merit. The scent had nothing in common with Eau Sauvage,* the classic and excellent frag still sold by Dior, and instead ended up being a mix of under-powered bergamot, highly synthetic smelling “woods”, and some mild fruitiness. Given its usual new release price point, everyone should ignore this, and even when the inevitable discounts come along sometime in 2017, this is still not worth spending even $25 on. (Eau Sauvage now, that’s a classic, and usually nicely discounted, to about half the price ($50 or so) of its newer and dumber relative…)
A far more affordable and interesting set of fragrance alternatives were offered in 2016 by Art of Shaving. AoS, formerly known for selling other fragrance brands in their stores, finally made the move into their own interesting line of colognes, the “Intense” line. These are fairly clever and competent scent designs, though only at a cologne concentration, so if you want more projection / longevity, use a few more squirts. My favorite scents in the line are Coriander and Cardamom (a relatively rare combination of SW Asian spices in an appealing and complex mix) and Sandalwood & Cypress, which takes the distinctive and beloved high quality sandalwood scent used by AoS in their popular shave cream and integrates it with a blend of other woods and spices. At roughly $60, the scents are relatively expensive for an EDC concentration, but still cheaper than a mainline release from a big fragrance house would cost. NOTE: Take $20 Off a 5oz Shaving Cream with Purchase of a 30ml Fragrance (no code required) at TheArtOfShaving.com! Ends 12.31*
For the bargain hunters, an absolute steal is the 2016 re-release of “Bowling Green” from Geoffrey Beene.* This companion to eternally popular violet scented fougere “Grey Flannel,*” also sells for less than $20, like its stablemate, but unlike the somber, moody fougere, Bowling Green is a complex mix of green and citrus scents, with a neat frankincense and patchouli base. Bowling Green is the very essence of Spring, while Grey Flannel is the epitome of a Fall scent. Given that both of them can be had for less than the price of a bad video game, there’s no reason not to own both.
Also for parsimonious shoppers, and well suited for those who want some utility with their scents, is the new for 2016 “Barrister Reserve” line from one of my favorite shave artisans, Barrister & Mann. These are aftershaves that are really quite close to cologne strength, so a vigorous application can give you some decent lasting power, more than most aftershaves.
The Reserve line offers pretty advanced post shave skin care, and can relieve redness and irritation very effectively. The fragrance buff in me respects the scent design concept of the Reserve offerings, which is to recreate discontinued male cologne fragrances of yesteryear. The “Cool” scent is a mentholated scent derived from Floid Blue, while “Spice” is a recreation of the aldehyde heavy Shilton blend of Old Spice from the early 20th Century. (Though Old Spice still survives, the sweeter more citrusy version available today is widely held to be much different from the stranger vintage of yesteryear.) At $25 for a 4 ounce bottle that will soothe your face as well as making it smell good, the Reserve offerings are unique, useful, and affordable.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the $325/bottle Bracken Man from Amouage is a fascinating break from the Arabian perfume tradition that Vladimir Putin’s favorite scent making house is best known for. Normally using Asian and African aroma chemicals in their compositions, Amouage is aiming at a more European feel with Bracken, offering a very French mix of lavender, nutmeg, and clove as prominent top notes, with a geranium cinnamon middle, and a base of woods and musk. The floral and herbal elements are balanced by a strong citrus top, and Amouage, as always, uses premium quality ingredients. The company claims this as a fougere, and it’s not, at least not in the traditional sense (no oakmoss, no coumarin), but it is a great change of pace for one of the most interesting of fragrance makers. (And if you want to try before spending that $325, samples are available at the above link for $5 for a 0.7 ml vial.)
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