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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Shave and a Haircut....

Go on, say it. You know you want to.

Actually, I didn't get a haircut, although I need one. I did have a very interesting shave tonight, though.

A couple of months ago, I saw a link to this article on shaving on either Digg or Reddit. It hung around the front page for a day or two before I finally decided to check it out. I was intrigued, to say the least. The whole concept sounded like a cool retro, macho thing.

So I went over to Classic Shaving and looked at their wares. Old school shaving is expensive! Far too expensive to try on a lark, and I had the feeling that cheaping out wouldn't really give the correct impression, so I set the idea aside.

While we were down for Father's Day, though, I happened to mention it to my dad, and I asked about an old Gillette safety razor I remembered being around there. It turned out the one I was thinking of was a lady's razor, but he did have a really nice adjustable Gillette safety razor similar to this one. As it happened, there also happened to be a practically unused shaving brush around their house, and he told me I could have them both if I'd actually try to use them.

And I think he smirked as he said that. Not a good omen.

Another trip to Classic Shaving, and I had a new set of blades and a tube of Proraso Shaving Cream, the best-selling shaving cream in Italy for something like the past 60 years. All that was left was to lather up and shave.

Going in, I was fully-prepared to completely debunk the original article. Yes, it was true that this was the type of razor used by my father and grandfathers, but I also know that all three of them stopped using them in favor of more modern devices. To my surprise, though, the actual experience wasn't quite so clear-cut.

First the brush and foam. Wow! There's a reason Proraso is a perennial favorite! It's cool and tingly, and after I got the hang of the correct cream-water mixture, lathering up with the brush and a nice cream was a really fantastic experience. Very soothing and relaxing.

So there I stood before the mirror, my face dripping with expensive Italian lather, staring at a very big, sharp blade. Through my head were running memories of every famous person I could think of who died from an infected shaving cut. Those were suddenly looking like far less embarrassing deaths than I'd previously considered them to be. I took a deep breath, put the blade to my cheek, and...

...it wasn't half bad! Oh, don't get me wrong, I cut the hell out of myself in several places, but fortunately the soothing quality of the Proraso was such that I hardly noticed. (I did begin to regret not getting any styptic powder, though.)

The razor actually did a great job, for the most part. The biggest problem was trying to get the small, sensitive areas around my nose and mouth, just because of the size of the razor. The other thing that struck me was the weight of the razor. It really wasn't necessary to use any pressure at all, since the razor itself could do most of the work. I did have some trouble getting around my throat and jawline, though, without the pivoting head I'd become accustomed to. Suddenly the stereotypical contorted faces that we all jokingly associated with shaving during the 50s and 60s became not only non-humorous, but necessary.

In fairness to tradition and the designs of our forefathers, I feel like I ought to stick with the razor for a couple of weeks to give myself a chance to really get the hang of it, by my Gillette Fusion Power 5-blade Hummer H2 of a razor is sitting on the bathroom counter calling my name.

In my final analysis, I think I'd have to say that the entire experience was really nice, though. The old style equipment forced me to take my time and relax more than I have in a long time, and it actually helped me rediscover one of the lost rituals of manhood, which was good because -- let's face it, guys -- we don't have too many socially-acceptable rituals left.

So if you have access to the gear, I'd recommend giving it a try. Even if you don't rediscover a classic way of shaving, you may at least rediscover a lost piece of masculine mystique.

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