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The 5-4-3-2-1 Challenge (Mantic59’s Favorite Products) – With Video

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The “Nick Shaves” Youtube channel recently did a video about favorite products and “tagged” me to list mine.  It’s been a while since I have discussed my favorites so I took up the “challenge.”

The List

The “5-4-3-2-1 challenge” is to list your five favorite shave soaps, four favorite aftershaves, three favorite shave brushes, two favorite safety razors, and one favorite double edge razor blade.  As someone who is constantly testing new products it’s nice to reflect on what I still grab off the shelf when I’m shaving just for the pleasure of it.  Here are my picks.

Note: Amazon, OneBlade, PAA, and West Coast Shaving links are affiliate.

5 Shave Soaps

I generally gravitate towards stronger scents (my sense of smell is frustratingly insensitive) with effervescent, citrus, or spice components.  In alphabetical order:

DR Harris Arlington – described as “…a subtle blend of citrus and fern, created to be refreshing and stimulating, whilst not overwhelming. Notes of Lemon, Bergamot, Orange, Neroli, Rose and Musk.”

I get scent notes of mostly citrus and musk, myself.

As I’ve said in the past, I think DR Harris shave soaps may be the last of the “old school” British soaps that are still of decent quality.  The “3 T’s” of British wet shaving have steadily reformulated their shave soaps into inferior products–particularly compared to the many artisan choices these days.

Fine Accoutrements American Blend “Inspired by Rive Gauche Pour Homme (2003) by Yves Saint Laurent…”

I avoided Fine American Blend after it first came out because people kept comparing it to Tabac…and I hate the scent of Tabac.  When it finally dawned on me that they were comparing the two on performance instead of scent I finally gave American Blend a try.  Some of the artisan crowd are beginning to surpass Fine’s base formulation but I still turn to American Blend on a fairly regular basis.

Italian Barber Don Marcoa refreshing blend of Neroli and Bergamot, with a unique ‘twang’ that will put a zip in your step!”

I’ve been using Don Marco for ages.  Scent-wise I think it shares many of the same attributes as DR Harris Arlington mentioned earlier…at a much friendlier price point.  Italian Barber reformulated the base so I imagine it performs even better than earlier versions but I’m still working on a puck of the original version and I think it’s quite solid.

Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum Shaving Soap“A stronger than usual Bay Rum with distinctive tones. A traditional ‘old-time’ product, which is as good a performer as it was years ago.”

I like Bay Rum scents (particularly “pure” versions close to Bay Rum’s baseline, St. John’s Bay Rum Cologne).  The performance of the Ogallala soaps may not be up to the level of the best artisans (and I’ve read some fairly recent reviews that indicate the consistency of production runs may be a little uneven) but it works well enough for me to be satisfied with it.

PAA Atomic Age Bay Rum…true West Indian Bay on it’s own, already smells swell, it just has so much untapped scent potential that really needs to be worked and tweaked into a harmonious blend…. Being the star of the show Bay needs a good cast of supporting actors to lift it up and diffuse some of it’s rougher qualities…[s]elect West Indian Herbs, Spices & Citrus Notes….”

While I said earlier that I prefer pure Bay Rum scents, one “riff” I do like is PAA’s Atomic Age Bay Rum.  The addition of more spices gives PAA’s version a nice little “zip” that I really enjoy, and PAA’s Crown King base formulation works really well for me both in shave performance and after-the-shave moisturization.

Special Mentions

I know I’m limited to five shave soaps but I would like to give a nod to a few products that I use seasonally:

In the Summer, Caties Bubbles Waterlyptus – Here is my review of Waterlyptus.

In  the Winter, Barrister And Mann Nordost – Here is my review of Nordost.

But, all that said, to tell you the truth I’m more of a shave cream guy than a shave soap guy.  My favorite shave creams:

Castle Forbes Limes – I like to say the scent is “like getting smacked in the face with a key lime pie.”  And of course performance is outstanding.

Nancy Boy Replenishing – A fairly recent addition to my favorites.  The scent is “meh” for me but if I get the hydration just right the results are astonishing.

Oneblade Black Tie – Although it comes in only a single fragrance (a moderately-strong lavender) that I like–I wish they offered more–the performance is right up there with the best of the top shelf shave creams.

St. James Of London Black Pepper And Lime – To me it’s more of a spicy citrus scent than anything specific.  Nevertheless I love the smell and the performance.

Truefitt & Hill Trafalgar – Probably my oldest “favorite” as I got my first tube very early in my wet shaving interest.  The performance of T&H shave creams may not be quite up to the level of other premium shave creams but the scent more than makes up for it to me.

Special mention: Cremo Cooling shave cream during the Summer months on those hot, humid Texas days when I decide to go brushless for some reason.

4 Aftershaves

My home in southern Texas tends to get very hot and humid in the Summer, and very dry in the Winter. So my favorite products tend to wax and wane with the weather and the seasons.  I prefer aftershave balms with little or no alcohol–I’m definitely not one of those guys who wants to “feel the burn.”

Castle Forbes – Easily the strongest-scented aftershave balms I have and could clash with a cologne or EdT, but since I usually don’t wear fragrances anyway it’s not a problem for me.  This balm’s consistency is something I can use year-round but it’s still very nourishing to my skin and it deals with irritation without drama.  I usually reach for the Limes scent but go with 1445 when I want to smell classy for a while.  🙂

Cremo “Cooling” Post Shave Balm – One of the few mass-market balms that I like (Nivea Sensitive is another), I like using Cremo’s “Cooling” balm in the summer months.  It has just enough menthol for me for a mild cooling effect without going overboard about it.

Taconic Aftershave Splash – A relatively light aftershave splash that comes in a number of mild scents (I prefer Excaliber). Like Cremo, I like Taconic’s lighter consistency and mild cooling effect in the hot, humid time of year here.

Village Barber – Basically unscented and a bit too heavy for me in the hot, humid Texas summers but otherwise it’s tough to be this balm’s performance. Exceptionally good for me at healing shave irritation and skin moisturization (Burke Avenue is another balm that I find similar performance with).

Special mention: Lucky Tiger Aftershave And Face Tonic – I mostly use it as a post-shave cleansing and toner product: I’ll soak a cotton round with it and wipe down my face to get rid of any shaving lather residue that still may be on my face, helping to avoid ingrown hairs and toning my face, too. Then I’ll rinse with cool water and apply a balm/moisturizer, though sometimes in the summer months I keep it on as a refreshing splash that is “good enough.”

3 Shaving Brushes

I admit to still preferring badger hair brushes for their performance but it’s clear that the new generation of synthetic fibers have pretty much caught up with all but the very highest-end badgers.  Right now I reach for:

Stirling badger – A terrific value for a badger brush: it works really well for me.  I can “abuse” this one (if I have to) without feeling bad about it.

OneBlade “Tuxedo” – Although it’s not marketed that way this is my travel brush.  It’s relatively small so it’s easy to pack, it performs well, and it dries quickly.

Wet Shaving Products (WSP) Monarch HMW – Another good value for the quality of hair it has.  I’ve seen similar brushes go for much more.

Special mention: I have an original Shavemac “Variable Loft Brush” (VLB).  In terms of hair quality the best badger brush I have ever used…and I’ve tried a lot.  Unfortunately I broke the mechanism but I hold out hope Bernd at Shavemac will make them again sometime in the future!

2 Safety Razors

It won’t come as a surprise to those who have followed me for any length of time that I really like adjustable double edge razors.  The Merkur Progress was my original “pry it out of my cold, dead hand” razor but now?

I often turn to my Rex Ambassador for its performance and pure “sexiness” of design.  But sometime I wonder if I’m using just to justify paying the price for it.  🙂

Most of the rest of the time I pick up my Parker Variant.  It reminds me a lot of the Merkur Progress, without the little annoyances I had with the Progress (like the lined but otherwise smooth handle!).

I should mention though that I’m assuming the “challenge” applies to double edge razors.  If it’s opened up to any safety razor I would immediately choose my OneBlade Genesis.  Yeah, yeah, I know some folks have “issues” with it: some have an problem with the relative lack of blade choice.  Others say the shave is too mild.  Some think a razor isn’t a razor if it has a pivot (*snort*).  Then there’s the price.  And some give me the stink eye because Sharpologist gets a small advertising fee for referrals. Butfor methe Genesis gives me consistently outstanding shaves.

1 Double Edge Blade

If I had to choose just one double edge blade to use it would be the Parker.  I find it the best “compromise” for me between sharpness, smoothness, and durability.  Of course with blades “your mileage may vary” so consider my preference accordingly.

What is your “5-4-3-2-1” list?  Leave a comment below.


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts


15 thoughts on “The 5-4-3-2-1 Challenge (Mantic59’s Favorite Products) – With Video”

  1. Soap: Taconic lavender, Toobs sandalwood, C.O. Bigelow Premium Shave Cream, Arco, Barbasol in a hurry.
    A/S: English Leather, any of the Pinauds, Stephan Lilac, Black Suede
    Brushes: Je&Co Luxury Synthetic, H&S Co. synthetic, Omega Pro 48, bore bristle.
    Razors: VIKINGS BLADE The Crusader Ltd., Rockwell 6S plate 5/6
    Blade: Gillette 7 o’clock yellow.

  2. 5 Soaps/Creams: Wholly Kaw Bare Sierro, RR Don Marco, Cremo Original, Stirling Orange Chill, Black Ship Grooming Thomas Tew
    4 Aftershaves: RR Don Marco, Lather & Wood Barbershop Scent Balm, Nivia Sensitive, Prorasso White
    3 Brushes: AP Shave Co. SynBad knot, PC Woodcraft Super Silvertip w/ Burl Handle, RR Chrome Silvertip Plissoft
    2 Razors: OneBlade Hybrid, RR Wunderbar Slant
    1 Blade: Feather FHS-10 (SE) / Viking’s Sword Stainless (DE)

  3. Favorite soaps/creams: Pre De Provence #63 – really good performance with great scent. My wife much prefers this scent to all the other creams/soaps I have used. Added bonus is lower cost. Others on my list are already mentioned (I agree about the Tabac scent). Honorable mentions: Emms’ Place (great value, light scent) & the Body Shop shave cream.

    After shave: Pre De Provence #63, Pacific Shaving Caffeinated After Shave, the Art of Shaving Sandalwood, The Body Shop Macca (most soothing I own, scent is okay).

    Shave Brushes: A hand turned handle badger hair brush with “best” quality plug, Vie Long 13066 horsehair, Supply Co. artificial brush (durable, right weight, dries quickly, great for travel)

    Razors: Rockwell 6C w/ plates R2 or R3 depending on blade, don’t have a 2nd favorite although considering the Gamechanger .68 or eventually a Rockwell 6S

    Blade: This depends on mood and how sensitive my face is. Astra Superior Platinum for daily use (Rockwell plate R3), Feather (Rockwell plate R2). The Feather with the more less aggressive plate setting works really well. They are very different blades with the Astra being more forgiving.

  4. the blade is Rapira. Russian MFG but swedish stainless steel. and SHARP! great blade for me…. i have even used those dollar general blades from vietnam. adequate is about all i can say for them. they are ok in a pinch.

  5. let me chime in a bit. i am really liking Central Texas shave soaps, all that i have tried: Mr.Pepper, Grandpa’s Barbershop, and Cherry Pipe. there used to be a shave cream i really liked from eastern europe called Limon{?} i can’t seem to find it anywhere anymore. TOBS Mr. Taylor’s shave cream i thought was excellent. after shaves? I like old school stuff. Aqua Velva and the Aqua Velva Balm is excellent , Clubman’s Lilac Vegetal is a new favorite as well as Clubman’s Original. Clubman’s Bay Rum is good. I also like Osage Rub. that is extra good during the summer. Razor? my Parker 24L { i think… gun metal one} is a new favorite, as well as my Schick Krona and my Gillette 1954 TV Special Superspeed. blades? i have used/use a bunch so far. right now i have a russian blade i like{ not voshkod} whose name i cannot remember at the moment.

  6. I usually like your soap reviews but this one leaves me in a kerfuffle. It seems that none of your top 5 soaps are any good, performance-wise. You seem to be saying they’re “almost as good” as the well known artisan products. Are you judging them exclusively by scent? I have long maintained that fragrance is not only subjective but almost irrelevant. You may enjoy it for the eleven minutes that you shave but if you can still smell it later it means that you haven’t washed it all off. I can tolerate anything that isn’t toxic or offensive (I’m looking at you, Arko).
    I will not pay for a 11 minutes fragrance burst. Performance is the name of my game. That’s my 3 cents.

  7. I’m just going to address the bottom of the challenge.
    Favorite safety razor: Gillette NEW Open Comb(Short) manufactured 1932-40 loaded with a Gillette Silver Blue. This would be my desert island razor/blade combo. Second favorite, 1971 Gillette Super Adjustable 109 loaded with a Voskhod. All time favorite A/S, Clubman Virgin Island Bay Rum. Closely followed by Clubman and Proraso Green. I can’t really list favorite soaps/creams. But if I was on that island it would more then likely be Mitchell’s Wool Fat.
    Have a great weekend!

  8. Favorite razor: Rockwell 6S with #4 plate. I have no second, third, or forth choice, After using my Rockwell for six months I sold all of my other razors – Feather, Above the Tie, Merkur, – and bought a second Rockwell 6S as a backup. Brush: Stirling Kong or Yaqi 26 mm tuxedo knot with Infinite Space handle. I have sold all of my badger and boar brushes. Soap: Stirling Baker Street, or DR Harris Lavender or Barrister and Mann 42. Blade: Gillette Platinum or Polsilver Super Iridium which seems to be out of production.

    1. I’m impressed with the Yaqi synth brushes too. And the Polsilver Super Iridium was my favorite blade until they went out of (or at least changed) production. Give the Parker a try. 🙂

      1. I recently bought a Parker 26C, and am quite impressed with the blades they included. Impressed enough that I’m somewhat regretting the recent purchase of 100 Gillette Platinum blades.

    2. If you like Polsilver Super Iridium, try KAI blades. I found the KAI to be slightly sharper and smoother. at least with my ATT S1.

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