Being a middle-aged man, I have been shaving for quite a few decades. Since my adolescent days, I think I have shaved with every instrument offered to mankind.
Shaving Like Dad?
I can honestly say that my first attempt at shaving was with my father’s Gillette Fat boy when I was two years old. Being so young, I don’t remember the incident, but I am guessing I had seen Dad shave, and I guess I thought, “I want to be like Daddy.”
My mother used to tell the story of how I pulled a stool up to the bathroom sink, and when she came in the bathroom, she said I was covered in shaving cream from head to foot wearing nothing but a big smile and a steady stream of blood trailing down my cheek. (I still have a scar on my cheek from that event. After this time, I was given a bladeless razor to play with.)
Sometime during my childhood, my father decided he was tired of using his double-edged razor and asked for a cordless Norelco razor for Christmas. He would see that commercial come on television, the one where Santa Claus was riding the Norelco through the snow instead of his sleigh and would grumble “Even Santa has a Norelco, but I don’t.”
I never saw him as happy as he was on that Christmas morning when he unwrapped his very own cordless electric razor. Thinking about it he reminds me of Ralphie from the Christmas Story movie when he unwrapped his rifle. I think he liked it even better than the carton of unfiltered Camel cigarettes us kids got him. (It was the seventies, don’t judge me!) From that day on that razor rode in the glove box of his car with a bottle of Aqua Velva aftershave.
Learning To Shave
When it came time for me to learn to shave, I was kinda on my own. I tried Dad’s prized electric razor, but I hated it! To me, the circular blades never seemed to shave my face! I would continually rub the razor over my face until it was raw. So, I knew I had to find my own way.
With Dad’s double edge razor long gone, I had to resort to the newly invented disposable razors. A cheap, throwaway razor and a can of Barbasol was the instruments I used as a shaving apprentice.
These razors were awful! They would constantly clog with shaving cream and stubble to the point I used to bang them on the side of the sink to knock the residue out of it so I could finish the shave.
I hated these razors! They hurt my face, they tugged and pulled my beard in a struggle between myself and the plastic razor to see who would ultimately win. When the last of the Barbasol slowly swirled down the drain, I had a shave which could at best be considered “good enough.” I was bloodied and sported the redness of razor burn but I made it through the ordeal alive (with the help of a styptic pencil)!
I endured the pain and suffering of these terrible razors for all my teenage years, through most of my twenties. I even grew a mustache because I could never get the “knack” of shaving under my nose down to the point I was proficient.
During those years I spent a ton of money on those terrible torture devices until around 1995 when I heard the personalities on a radio show I listened to begin to sing the praises of a new razor they discovered: The Mach III.
The Mach III
Given the conversation, I don’t think they were doing an ad for the razor. It was just a razor they discovered and was discussing how much they liked it versus the disposables they had been using. That’s how the Gillette Mach III came into my life.
So for nearly two and a half decades, this became my shaving instrument of choice. Sure, the cartridges were expensive, but I had figured out if you continued to purchase the starter set (a handle and two disposable cartridges) It was much cheaper than buying a replacement pack of multiple cartridges. I also discovered the Dollar General clones of the Mach III would fit one of my many handles.
Besides, I got a nice comfortable shave that had eluded me my entire adult life. I had even tried newer razors with even more blades, and they didn’t work as well as my beloved Mach III. I thought it was the difference between driving a broken down Yugo versus a Cadillac. The difference in price was worth the shave I got.
A New Beginning?
Over the last few years, especially since the invention of social media, I have noticed lots of younger men (younger than me) begin to adopt some of the basic everyday ways of grooming of my father and Grandfathers. Several of them encouraged me to adopt the practice of using a straight razor for my daily shave.
I said, no way! Even though I have had straight razor shaves from a professional barber, I just knew if I tried to use one myself, I would be found in my bathroom in a pool of my blood with a throat cut from ear to ear.
One day I was researching something on YouTube, and I happened onto a wet shaving video by a man who calls himself “Sinatra Lennon.” I must admit I laughed out loud at the antics of self-described “Bob Ross of shaving.” Not only does he shave but puts on a great performance, so I had to investigate this “wet shaving” a bit more.
I began my search for more information in the group’s section on Facebook. I joined several of these groups, and I asked where I should start out, what type of razor should I get, the best type of shaving soap…all the typical newbie questions.
I was a bit shocked when I received a private message from one of the group members asking for my mailing address. Needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive given today’s online environment. My first question seemed obvious “How much will this cost?” He replied, “Nothing, it is just something we do for new guys to help them start out. I gave him my address and hoped for the best.
A few days later, I received a package in the mail. Inside was a Razorock Tech II razor, several shave soaps, and a bunch of different razor blades. I felt like my dad with his Norelco on that Christmas morning so long ago.
I looked at the many blades the gentlemen had sent me and tried to decide which blade to try first. I decided to try the Gillette 7’Oclock Black bade first. Mostly because I had heard of Gillette of course and I thought the packaging of the blades looked cool. (Seemed as good as way as any on how to choose a blade) and began to try to load the blade to the razor.
I must admit I was a bit confused when I tried to load the blade into the Tech II. I had never seen a three piece razor before, and it took me a while fumbling with the plates of the razor without cutting my fingers on the blade. After about twenty minutes of trying, I could not get the blade, plate, and razor to play nice and fit all the pieces together. I gave up in frustration.
Several days later, after my temper had cooled, I finally realized I had the bottom plate upside down. I felt a chill of excitement go up to my spine as the blade clicked into place.
I ran into the kitchen and got my coffee mug and began to bloom a soap sample and wet my brush before getting into the shower. I rushed through my shower in anticipation of starting my new journey.
Now, I’m not naïve. I knew I might get a couple of cuts while trying to use this new razor. I figured with a styptic pencil in hand I could take on the worst the wet shaving God’s could throw at me. That day I gave myself many more scars to match the one I got as a toddler. I looked like I had been visited by Freddie Kreuger the night before.
I guess in hindsight I shouldn’t have chosen the day I was going to have some medical tests done to embark on my new wet shaving journey. When my lady got home to pick me up to take me to the doctor’s office, she looked at me with fright in her eye. “Her first question was “What in the world did you do to yourself?” Her eyes were as wide as saucers. I said, “I decided to try wet shaving for the first time!” I could see in her eyes she wasn’t too impressed with my decision (Not like it was the first time for such a reaction to one of my decisions) Her only reply was “Don’t try it again until you heal.”
I must say my first attempt did discourage me a little. I put the razor away and went back to my Mach III thinking maybe a safety razor wasn’t “safe enough” for the likes of me. Even though I was still using a cartridge, I still watched the shaving videos on YouTube.
After several months of watching these videos, I paid close attention to the techniques of these “Shaving stars of the screen,” and I thought I would give it one more try.
I noticed my shaving Hero; Sinatra Lennon used a Rockwell razor, and a Gillette Fat boy like my dad had. With the prices of the Fat boys on the various website and online auction, there was no way I would invest that much into something I wasn’t sure would work out, but I noticed that I could buy a Rockwell R-1 for less than twenty dollars. So I thought what the heck.
The day the Rockwell came, I was excited. It was a beautiful razor. Chrome plated, and the mechanisms worked well. Best of all, it was a barn door type of razor like my dad’s fat boy! I took one of the Rockwell Swedish steel blades and began to shave!
I won’t say it went perfectly. Even with all my research into various techniques by various shavers, I still got a few nicks but nothing like my previous attempt.
What’s Going On Now
That was several months ago, and my technique has greatly improved, and I have begun to experiment with the different double edge blades offered, and as many different shaving soaps, my lady will allow me to buy. I’m just lucky she is very supportive of all my crazy antics.
I guess the old adage may not always be true; Sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks!
About The Author:
Bill is a freelance writer and a “newish” wet shaver. Some of Bill’s previous works have been published in the “Journal of the Masonic Society” and the “Midnight Freemasons” online journal and other various other publications.
Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana Bill now makes his home in Ardmore, Oklahoma with his partner Tammi and their dog named Happy.