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How to Build a Shave Den Part Deux (Four) (Just Kidding!)

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It’s really the second in a series. I just thought I would play with you!  Building a shave den, as I outlined in my earlier article, can take as little or as much time, money, energy and desire as you want. Well, maybe not. My father-in-law emailed me a picture of his “shave den.” I would love to play the game of “what’s wrong with this picture” with the wet shaving crowd, but out of the deepest respect for him, I won’t. But I will post!

Jon's Shave Den
I’m doing this not to embarrass him, because he’s cool with how he shaves and the equipment he uses, but to illustrate where many of us have come from. If I still had a working electric razor, I could post that. We all came from different starting points and we’re heading, mostly, in the same direction. When I look at a picture of a Gillette throwaway and a can of Barbasol, I remember that was me years ago. Now? I would rather spend more time and yes, more money to have, what is to me, a better shave and a better experience. That’s where the shave den comes in.
I think some would argue that one razor, brush and cream/soap would make a shave den. I say that at the very least, it’s about the smallest shave den you can have. Having a huge selection of brushes, razors, soaps, creams, balms and aftershave makes an impressive collection. That, to me, is easier to assemble…than a shave den. Why? Because a shave den is filled with only the products that you consider essential.
Anyone who’s had a spouse, loved one or friend say “you know, you could sell some of that stuff” can really understands what’s essential. It’s ALL essential. That’s why I have it! Yes, there’s six or sixteen or sixty creams or soaps. We can tell you, specifically and in eye-rolling and yawn-inducing detail, how each one is different from the other, how each is used for a different lathering effect, and why just because they may smell similar, they’re not the same! (Try telling someone who loves Mike’s Natural Soaps Bay Rum that it’s the same as Col. Conk’s or Ogallala Bay Rum soap. Them’s fighting words in the world of wet-shaving!)
To me, that’s why a shave den is more than a collection. You find what you like and build and grow on that. In my shave den, you’ll find that I have a majority of creams.  I do have some soaps, Mike’s, a RazoRock Bay Rum and a couple of Queen Charlotte Shave scents. But I’m too impatient. “Swirl my brush for HOW many seconds? Good lord!” Plus I also don’t like the unknown aspect of a soap. “Hmmm. Is my brush too wet for this triple-milled puck? Crap, now it’s too dry. Now my lather and my shave both suck.” I’m a “stick that damp brush in that cream, swirl and lather, baby!”
When I started wet shaving years ago, I began with Proraso. That’s what I think of as a “gateway” cream. It’s cheap, but so much better than canned goo. After about a week of that eucalyptus and menthol, I was ready to try out new creams and even some soaps. That’s where having a healthy case of OCD is a good, if not great thing! I live in Kansas and I couldn’t find a store that sold anything other than canned goo. Thanks to the sweet baby Jesus for the internets!
From West Coast Shaving to Shoebox Shave Shop, to Bullgoose Shaving Supplies I sank a decent amount of cash into trying different brands, smells and styles. As I said earlier, I am 90% a cream guy. This was a decision I had made after doing a small comparison between Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Shop cream and soap. Then I did the same with a couple of other brands and I found that: #1 I like having my lather consistent and #2 I enjoy the actual shaving part of my shave the most, not the making lather part. Am I impatient? Yep. But I still own the soaps that I love. Those are for when I’m in the right frame of mind. (no, I won’t say that I’m in the mood. Too many strange connotations!)
So after buying and selling literally dozens of creams and soaps, with it slowly being selling more soaps to buy more creams, I now have the collection in my shave den and have made my shave den into what I want it to be. What those years of experimentation have taught me is that I love lather. Big, thick, rich lather. Lather that makes it look like you stuck your face in a meringue pie that was about six inches of meringue. Have I had a cream/soap that produces lots of lather but isn’t slick or doesn’t provide protection from the razor? Yes, there are a couple, but they are the rarity. I’ve found that when you get big, rich lather, you’ve more often than not got the whole package of slickness, protection and it doesn’t dry out your face or leave it feeling tacky.
When I talk about shaving to people who don’t automatically start scanning for the nearest exit, the topic usually turns to “what’s your favorite?” While I don’t have one, I have several because my choice of what cream/soap and aftershave depends on how I feel. And since I feel lots of different ways…bingo! Different favs.
I gravitate more towards English creams in my shave den. Taylor of Old Bond Street was first after I decided to spread my wings after Proraso. I found that I really liked the creams more than the soaps and I also found that the lather was what I was starting to really like and want from a cream or soap. Plus the scents were like nothing I had ever smelled. Eton College? Shaving Shop? Mr. Taylors? What the heck are these? I didn’t know what it smelled like, but I knew I liked it. And after I invested in some of the aftershave splash, I got compliments at my work. Why? Not only because the scents smelled good, but my friends at work, male and female, hadn’t ever smelled anything like it.
After that, I wanted to figure out what the rest of the shaving cream world held. I got very lucky and took a trip to Chicago in 2011. There I visited the Truefitt & Hill store. Wow. I picked up some samples and talked to a few of the employees. Very cool people who understood the language! They shaved actual people there! With straight razors! While I didn’t have time for that, the time did open to my eyes to another brand. And after that, it was time to look at D.R Harris (Windsor is the bomb!) and then Trumpers and then Art of Shaving and eShave. Then, I went through a big Bay Rum kick for about six months. Ogallala Bay Rum was my first addition, then Mike’s, then Barclay Crocker’s cream (wonderful!) and then RazoRock came out with Captain’s Choice (now discontinued). Hallelujah and pass the rum! And the bay rum while you’re at it! So of course I had to have the appropriate aftershave splashes to go with the different creams and soap…and before I knew it, about a quarter of my den was bay rum. Woo-hoo! (Homer Simpson voice!)
Do that with about three to six more manufacturers and by the time you’ve weeded out what you like and don’t and can’t live without, you’ll find yourself with a well-stocked shave den. I can look over what I have and see how my tastes have changed over the years. Lavender phase? Check. Bay Rum? Check. Brit phase? Check. American phase? Check. Heck, I have some decent stuff from Eastern Europe. Former Commie phase? Check. And it’s all what makes up my shave den.
I have people ask me all the time (well, maybe sometimes) what is my favorite shave cream. I have to answer that it’s the one I’m in the mood for. Sunday was Eton College. Monday was Shave My Face Patchouli. While I love D.R. Harris Windsor, I only use it about once a week at most. My hankering knows no bounds, but I do know that whatever I’m hankering for…is in my shave den.

Jay Harrell

Jay Harrell

8 thoughts on “How to Build a Shave Den Part Deux (Four) (Just Kidding!)”

  1. Jay, being an Army vet, are you per chance in Manhattan? Lord knows I could’ve used a straight razor shaving mentor while I was at Ft. Riley

    1. Luis,
      Sorry, no, I’m in Wichita or Doo-Dah as we call it down here. Don’t look to me for straight razor stuff, you’ll end up looking worse than Edwards Scissorhands with palsy! I’m a safety razor guy. But if you’re ever down Wichita way, give me a shout. I know a cool little store that stocks some decent stuff.

  2. Bruce,
    You’re welcome! I have to say that I like C&E as well. It lathers well and they have unique scents. As for creams, I would give Kiss My Face a try. They’ve got some good lathering creams that are fairly cheap and easy to find in organic stores like Whole Foods. The Body Shop cream is fantastic and I’ve got two tubs just to make sure I don’t run out.
    Thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks for this very helpful review of your shaving den. As a recent wet shaver I have been trying out various creams and soaps and am slowly (now a little faster) coming to the same conclusion that perhaps I should just focus on creams such as TOBS, Trumper, Crabtree & Evelyn and Macca Root (The Body Shop). It is very tempting however with so many artisan soap makers that provide excellent soaps not to keep trying them. But cost does play its part and frankly if I am honest with myself I really do have as comfortable a shave with creams as with soaps. So I may have to bite the bullet and limit soaps to one or two and the rest creams. Thanks again for helping me to recognize what I have been hesitant to accept.

  4. My affinity lies more towards soaps. For me, the lathering process is just enjoyable as the shave. But I do have DR Harris Windsor soap along with the Aftershave Skin Milk (which is the BOMBS) and I have Taylor of Bond Street Coconut cream! I do find that those big British companies shave soap pucks suck for lathering. Except for Czech and Speake, their soaps are the slickest and nicest I have tried quite possibly.I have it in the 88 which a weird rose scent that I don’t care all that much for really but the performance is amazing. I got some of the Trumper Eucris shave soap in the black wooden bowl and I wished I’d have done my research first. It doesn’t lather. So I got the cream of the same flavor and mix the two to get a nice lather. I love that scent! I didn’t like bay rum scent at first but now I really like it as well. I watch vids regularly on YouTube of reviews from the likes of Nick Shaves, TSE, The Stallion, Geo Fat Boy, etc… The failed Eucris soap taught me a lesson to seek out opinions of items on youtube and various forums before purchasing now.

    1. I read up a lot on the Eucris experiment and when I saw it was the only item on sale by Trumper one time, I knew I wasn’t going to buy. Everything else they make is awesome. I love their lime and their sandalwood.

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