Trying to Not Cut My Ties to the Past

By Jason Menard

When it comes to shaving, I avoid the cutting edge. My experience has been that the classics never go out of style.

In my case, that’s literally a classic — a Wilkinson Sword Classic double-edged blade.

Unfortunately, my grip on tradition is loosening, not because of a change in preference, but rather due to a lack of availability. Simply put, I’m having a hard time finding what I need for the shave I prefer.

It seems I can’t turn on my TV without seeing an ad for the next latest and greatest advance in shaving technology (what a horrible term — they’re razors, not advanced medical diagnostic machinery.) Ads featuring ripped icons of virility having their perfectly groomed visages caressed by any assortment of buxom young vixens who apparently melt at the sight of quintuple-blade, self-lubricating, ergonomically designed disposable razors.

Me? I prefer my tried-and-true safety razor.

That, in itself is a misnomer. In fact, few who have used my style of blade would consider them safe at all. A few years back, my wife bought me a beautiful titanium-coated razor as a gift. I’ve used it faithfully ever since and have been enamoured with its simplicity of design, quality, and — most importantly — performance.

I’ve run the gamut of shaving implements (I refuse to use the term ‘shaving system’). I started out with the old disposables, spent a couple of unfortunate weeks with an electric razor, gave the old Schick-style cartridges a run, and finally found my razor of choice — the safety razor.

I’ve had plenty of practice shaving. I started very young — I think the first time was during my pre-teen years prior to a friend’s birthday party. I’ve never been a fan of those greasy, weaselly looking Fisher Price My First Mustaches that are all the rage amongst pubescent boys far and wide. And, like any moronic pre-teen, I thought shaving early was cool.

Two-and-a-half decades later, I realize how dumb I actually was. While it’s true that shaving doesn’t cause your hair to grow in thicker or faster (heck, if that was the case there would be a lot of follicularly challenged men out there going bald in the hopes of growing a thicker, lusher mane), but it does come in coarser. What started as a once-a-week activity now is a daily activity, which — if I was being honest — could be a twice-daily adventure. My five o’clock shadow generally arrives a few hours earlier, but that’s not for lack of trying.

Since I have to shave, I try to enjoy it — and that’s why the safety razor’s my tool of choice.

Most men that I know hate shaving. It can be annoying, it can be irritating — both literally and figuratively, and it’s a must-do activity for men who want to present themselves in a certain way. Fortunately I have a wife who prefers me to wear facial hair, so I can cut out at least half of the face on a daily basis — more during times, like now, where I’m giving the ol’ full beard a go!

But what I’ve discovered is that shaving can be annoying only if you let it. If you treat it as the art it can be, then shaving can become a welcomed ritual. And that’s where the safety razor comes in.

A few times a year, I try to indulge myself in a straight-razor shave. You know the one — the heated towel, the potentially lethal razor sharp straight blade whetted before your eyes (at least until they cover your face with that aforementioned heated towel. For a few moments you resign yourself to the fact that this person (I’m a stickler for barber poles — so it’s generally a man, but I have had a few women perform the task) holds your life in his or her hands. Some experiences are wonderful (see my Scenes from an Albanian Barbershop photo series taken by my eight-year-old daughter during a recent visit to Montreal), whilst others are cause for a little more trepidation (a day-before-Christmas shave by my then-barber in Montreal, a Greek man named Christos, who insisted we do a few celebratory shots of Ouzo before he started — at 10 in the morning!)

That is the pinnacle of shaving. If you haven’t done it, go out and do it. You’ll be hooked. The straight razor is the closest thing that I’ve found at home. And that’s part of the allure. In addition, I’ve found that no matter how many blades you add to a disposable, nothing’s been as smooth or effective as what I’ve experienced from my razor.

Of course, as with most things, family plays a big role in one’s preference — and this is no different for me. My father also shaves with a safety razor and he introduced me to the process with his. He taught me the proper way to shave (especially important considering the fact that he once shared his razor with a co-worker on a business trip — and the guy carved a significant gash down the side of his neck with the blade. May I remind you that this was back in the 80’s pre-AIDS and Hep scares) and if you prodded into my sub-conscious, I’m sure you’d find that filial attachment plays a major role in my preference.

There are days I go for the full experience — using multiple products like a scrub, a shaving gel, an after-shave balm, and a couple of other miscellaneous products — and then there are days when I dry shave in a rush on my way out the door. But no matter when or how I shave, the one constant for the better part of 25 years has been that safety razor.

Unfortunately, technology and the passage of time may be conspiring to take that away from me. Today’s youth seem enamoured with the soulless disposable options available to them. The barbershop experience is fast fading into the misty past that’s enveloped malt shops and drive-in theatres. Finding double-edged blades is becoming an increasingly challenging task — and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to hold on.

It’s an experience from another time whose time appears to be running out. In the end, it may just be a shave — but it doesn’t have to be. It can be so much more.

2 thoughts on “Trying to Not Cut My Ties to the Past

  1. Scott Pinard

    There are TONS of websites just doing a generic Google search for safety razor blades. You can order packs of double edged blades for pretty reasonable Prices.

    Might wanna start ordering in Bulk. hehe

    I will bookmark your Blog for future reading. Feel free to reciprocate though I must say I’ve been pretty lazy for quite a while. Blogged the heck out of my 2 Bathroom Renos, but I’ve found it hard to find the time to sit down and write.


  2. Dino Baskovic

    I liken disposable razors to vacuum filters and ink cartridges. For manufacturers, the real money is in the refill.

    I was happy with the Gilette Mach3 when it first came out. Alas, they came out with the Mach3 Turbo, then the M3 Power extension, followed by the Fusion line and all its iterations. Unless I go through mail order, I have zero luck buying blades for my perfectly good Mach3 shaver, the same one my wife bought me years ago. Kinda frustrating.

    And these gel-form creams? They’re fine I guess, but you can’t heat them in a standard cream warmer as you would with a basic can of Barbersol–which, by the way, is precisely what most barbers still use.

    Of course, I have my electric days, and for those I turn to my trusty Braun. I’ve owned two in my life, a testament to their longetivity. A tad pricey but worth every penny.

    Great post, Jay. In full disclosure, I am one week into growing my first-ever beard, though I still need to trim it. And I too have gone to the barber for the traditional chair shave and have been met with wafts of alcohol, and not the rubbing kind. It’s great to be a guy. I think.


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