We men are told today that modern, disposable-blade razors give us, in terms of a shave, 'the best a man can get' to borrow one maker's slogan. Is this really true and are we selling ourselves short in terms of exchanging speed for skill? This article looks at the fors and againsts of different shaving methods.
The modern disposable-blade shaving razor is quite a feat, both of engineering and marketing. The marketing side began way back with the first of King Gillette's safety razors that were fitted with the new double-edged and -most importantly - disposable blade.
There were many safety razors around at the time but they were all fitted with single-edged blades. These were removable, certainly, but they were removed to be re-sharpened and honed ready for further use, with elaborate systems for honing supplied with them.
Compared to Gillette's invention, they were clumsy, time-consuming and, despite the normally high level of workmanship, quite crude in their results, never (in my opinion) bettering the shave of the straight razor they replaced. However, it was Gillette's marketing masterstroke that really tolled the bell for other types of safety razor - and almost for the straight razor too.
Put simply, it was this: sell the razor cheaply - so cheaply that anyone could afford one, unlike some of the other makers whose razors, with their re-usable blades and complex sharpening systems, were beyond the financial reach of many men at the time. Then - and this was the really clever bit - make the blades cheaply but sell them at a huge profit margin. The trick here for Gillette was to make the blades cheap enough so that ordinary guys could afford them easily whilst still making good profit. Did he succeed? Did he!
The evolution of the modern, throwaway-blade razor has now culminated in the four- and five-blade creations we see today, the replacement blade packs for which are in no sense any longer cheap. Makers have been driven to this extreme since the advent of the twin-blade razor - after all if two blades are good, surely three are better? Or maybe four? Five? Hey, we'll put one on the back for detail work (or maybe we should have two?) - and so it goes on.
The problem here is that shaver heads are now so wide that they are becoming awkward to handle (hence the single 'detail' blade on the reverse) and just don't give any better a shave than a twin-blade - or even a single blade, for that matter.
Maybe that is why many men are beginning to question just how good these modern marvels are - and how expensive they are becoming. Maybe that is why many men are also turning the clock back in terms of equipment but looking forward to getting a more satisfactory shave. That's right - they are returning to the straight razor.
Not too many years ago - maybe ten or even less - any man using a straight razor would have been looked at a little askance. Eccentric or Luddite? Old-fashioned certainly and a bit, well - odd. Not so today. So many men are now returning to using the straight razor for their daily shave that they're fast becoming the cool must-have in men's grooming. Sure, they take a little skill and patience to master and they use a little more of your day up. So what?
In the opinion of many of today's men, they deserve to relax when they're about their shaving. Why treat it like a chore to be barely tolerated when it can be an enjoyable, laid-back event? The shave you get when using a straight razor is different, too; as is the sense of satisfaction. Don't believe me? Try it and see - you'll know what I mean soon enough.
To cap it all, shaving with a straight razor is - cheap. Only one blade, right? You never throw it away and, treated with a little care, it will last you the rest of your life. How many packs of throwaway blades does that equate to? Try adding it up for yourself! Moreover, you're making a change - albeit a relatively small one - to your lifestyle: slowing it down a little, giving yourself some 'me time' that surely you deserve.
At the end, it's up to you. I'm not trying to pretend that using a straight razor for shaving will stop you from getting frenetic-lifestyle ulcers - but it might just help to show you that there may be a better way to start your day. And surely that's worth having?