"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
-Henry David Thoreau
Six months ago, I woke up and decided it was time to be a man.
It sounds silly. In fact, it's also slightly embarrassing to admit to a group of people who you're not related to. But after a little research I found a good deal of men felt the same way I did. There is a growing movement that suggests the the ideals of masculinity are in trouble. Young men have so few positive roles models, no rites of passage and are often discouraged from being aggressive and competitive. Who feels the need to dig deep when everybody gets a trophy?
So, In december of last year I began sitting down and carefully, methodically examining my life and evaluating what was important to me. To throw out all of the old prohibitions, the old attitudes and expectations. I came up with a lot of things. I stopped playing video games. I stopped watching television. I stopped doing almost all the things that caused me to waste time and money. But one of the most visible changes was this:
Robert Duvall: Straight razor.
BOOM. It don't get more
manly than that.
Cartridge razors, in my opinion, are the single greatest lie marketed to men. When I picked up my straight razor for the first time, I was nearly certain I was going to die. It took me nearly a hour to shave. But now, it takes no more time to shave than with a cartridge razor. And time aside, when I started shaving with a straight, something drastically changed.
I began to actually enjoy shaving.
I'm a fan of precision. I like it when things do as they are supposed to. I also like simplicity. Straight razor shaving embodies all of that. So far, this is what it looks like:
This is where the magic happens.
Note the ever-present cup of tea on the counter
It takes some getting used to, but with a little practice you can get the absolute closest shave you have ever experienced. I mean nothing but skin, in any direction. And come 5:00? No 5:00 shadow. The hair hides in fear…
Gentlemen choose your weapon.
This is my razor collection. From the bottom up, a Theirs Issard extra hollow 6/8 round tip. Next up, a George Wostenholm 5/8 quarter hollow, "Pipe razor" with square point. Above those two are razors that are being restored. An unknown 7/8 extra hollow square point made in Sheffield England around 1860. A Wade and Butcher 7/8 wedge with a square point and full smile. At the top a Tally-Ho razor, 7/8 square point wedge with a full smile. The two vertical razors on the side are both 5/8 that I use to practice sharpening. Speaking of which..
For that "extra sharp taste"
according to the translation on the packaging
These are my sharpening stones. The grey stone up top is a diamond plate used to flatten the stones below. From the top down the grits are 325 for the lapping plate, then 1,000, 5,000, 8,000 and 12,000. The little stone is a vintage barber hone and sits probably around 8-10k which I use for touch ups. The round stick is chromium oxide paste which I use on a leather strop for finishing. What's a strop you ask? Oh ho:
Got more leather in my shave den than
a Dominatrix has in her closet. Then again…
A strop is used to keep the blade ready for shaving. It's basically a long piece of treated leather that the blade is rubbed on prior to shaving. I have two. One that is pasted with the green stick above and one that is used plain.
So why the fuss? Because some things are better when you take the time to do them right. Lemonade tastes better when you make it from real lemons: not from a plastic jug. Bread is better when it's heavy and baked at home. Furniture wears better when it's actually made out of wood. Not chips of wood and glue.
Yes these things cost more. all in all I can say I've spent nearly $500 for everything in the pictures above. $700 if you count the stones (which were a gift). I've spent that much because I like it. I have real fondness for these things. But you could get a solid working kit for under $100 easily.
So expensive right? Here's a little math for you.
Let's say you're a man who shaves. You're not really fond of shaving, but you're not real fond of looking like a homeless man either. So you shave every other day during the week and not at all on the weekends. That's 3 days per week. You use a disposable cartridge razor, say a Mach 3. You're not stupid and you sure as hell aren't going to switch those cartridges every day so what, every 2 weeks? Three if your pushing it? For the sake of argument, we'll say every three weeks. Wallmart sells 10 blades for $35.00. If you're changing blades every three weeks, that means 10 cartridges lasts you 30 weeks.
I had to start shaving regularly when I joined the workforce. I started working full time at around 18. The average American man lives to be 75. That's roughly 57 years of shaving. Granted you're not going to shave until the day you die (at some point, you'll probably "experiment" with facial hair). So let's say 50 years. 50 years of regular shaving with a regular, middle priced razor, changing the cartridge every 3 weeks. Do you know what that works out to be in razors alone in your lifetime?
$3,033. Spent on razors. Which you probably hate.
Let's say you hate waiting that long to change razors. And change them every two weeks.
That's crazy talk. nearly $10,000 dollars spent on razors just so I don't have to feel as though Satan is pulling my hair out at the root?
Here's a real mind boggler…
Wade and Butcher.
One of the finest manufacturers of razors pretty much ever.
This is the Wade and Butcher I showed you earlier. I bought it from an antique dealer for $40. It needs some work, it's dull, has some chips and broken scales. It will take roughly $150 to restore it to it's original condition. It was manufactured in England somewhere between 1840 and 1850. That makes this razor, give or take, 165 years old.
It is very possible to shave every day with this razor. In fact Wade and Butcher made razors for barbers use. Barbers who probably shaved 10-20 customers a day. If you replace your razor every two weeks, that's 6 shaves. As I said before, this razor is 165 years old, what the equivalent cost in Mach 3 blades?
With care this razor could easily last another 300 years.
Don't even talk to me about electric blades either. Comparing the shave off an electric and a straight is like comparing the blast radius of a rock and ballistic missile. And I guarantee your electric will not last 465 years. Besides, when the zombie apocalypse comes, I won't have to plug my straight razor in...
Like a Boss
Disposable Blades = disposable men.