Ready to Shave

Shaving your face (should that be a thing you need/choose to do) is one of those perfect activities to ritualize, because the criteria for success are so simple:

  1. Have less hair on your face than when you started
  2. Don't bleed too much or for too long.

That's it! Success is defined solely by those two metrics. No matter how well or poorly you do the job, you're going to do it again before too long. So you can safely obsess about all the various methods and accouterments, safe in the knowledge that they make very, very little difference.

So I'm going to!

But before we start, we need to get into the right frame of mind. Go listen to the amazing and amazingly weird song Ready to Shave on Bandcamp, and read along in the lyrics.

The Chowder Man Everything about this cover is amazing.

Okay, now we're there. We are in the right frame of mind.

One more reminder: it does not matter how you choose to shave. There are people who say that you have to do it like this or you're not doing it “correctly”. Feel free to ignore those people. They are having their own fun time with the ritual of shaving and to them it's important that there be a right way. As near as I can tell there is exactly 1 (one) wrong way to shave.

The Wrong Way ☠️ ⚠️ ☠️

The wrong way is using an old fashioned straight razor.

Death Blade The death blade. This can kill you dead. It's not even hard.

This is the only common method of shaving that Can kill you.

Many years ago I worked at a store that sold knives, and we sold these death weapons as well. One of my co-workers, whose name was Adam but who I'm going to call “Dr. Genius” to protect his identity, was showing a straight razor to a customer. When he was putting the straight razor back into the display case, he dropped it. Instead of following the first rule of working in a store that sells knives (”Rule 1: Just let it hit the floor. We have this big thick mat specifically for that purpose”) he caught it. 14 Stitches and a lot of carpet cleaning later, Dr. Genius learned the importance of Rule 1.

Straight razors are dangerous. They are verified murder weapons. I don't know about you, but I don't feel comfortable operating a murder weapon around my own throat early in the morning when I'm not all the way awake.

The Easiest Way

The easiest way to shave is to buy an electric shaver. These cannot kill you, unless you try to use one in the bathtub and go out of your way to electrocute yourself.

Electric Safety! This is specifically designed to not kill you dead. At all. Ever.

These come in a few styles but they all have one thing in common: the blades are kept from touching your face by a thin layer of metal. You really can't cut yourself with them unless you are very dedicated to cutting yourself. The downside, if there is one, is that you can't actually cut the hair right next to your skin. It will always be as long as that guard is thick, meaning not very long at all. Thus the amount of time until you need to shave again is reduced. Some people prefer the look you get with an electric shaver, like Jay Harrington in the tragically overlooked classic Better Off Ted:

Ted. fig. 1: Ted

So an electric shaver is a perfectly acceptable way to shave your face. but it doesn't provide you with a whole lot of opportunity ritualize the shaving process. We can take this to crazier levels, and to do that we need to go to wet shaving.

The Many Many Parts Way

Wet shaving means you do the following:

  1. Get your face wet (hence the name)
  2. apply some sort of lubricant to your face
  3. Shave off your whiskers.

The fun thing is that there is an entire industry built up around giving you choices about how to do each of these steps.

Sure, you can just splash water on your face, but what if you could also apply a pre-shave lotion? If you want to do that go for it.

The first huge and controversial choice is in the lubricant you apply to your face. The inexpensive and easy option is shaving cream. It comes in cans that last about a month. Press the button on top and cream comes out, usually as a foam. Put this on your face.

In a Can! Press the top, shaving cream comes out.

But you can make this step more interesting! Shaving soaps generally come in small disks or solid blocks of some sort, and require a shaving brush to apply. This means you get to add a bunch of sub-steps:

  1. Apply Shave Soap To your Face
    1. Get a shave brush wet
    2. Whip up a good lather of shaving soap using the shaving brush
    3. Apply the lather to your face
    4. rinse out the shaving brush

And you also get to buy a bunch of neat shaving supplies like the aforementioned shaving brush (boar's hair or badger hair? Or synthetic?), a brush stand (plastic? Stainless Steel? What design?) a shaving bowl for the soap (countless designs and materials) and all of this is before we get to choosing your razor.

Using a bowl and a brush This person has chosen to use a bowl, a stainless steel stand, and is showing the camera that they are using a silver-tip badger hair shaving brush.

Ah, now you get to pick your razor. As long as you avoid the death blade as mentioned above, you can choose from a variety of razors. Safety Razors are so named because they are more safe than death blades, but you can still cut yourself badly while you put a new blade into them roughly once a month.

A safety razor This razor is unlikely to kill you dead, but you might cut your face and/or fingers at some point while using it.

Proponents of safety razors will tell you that you can get a very good, very close shave with them, and they are right, you can. You are very unlikely to injure yourself doing so.

Razor companies have come up with a newer way to sell you blades, which is in a cartridge. In a cartridge system you get one or more blades already affixed so that you are unlikely to cut yourself, all packaged up for you to use and throw away roughly twice a month.

Because these are a huge marketing item for the companies that make them, they will have exciting features for you to choose from, like the number of blades (common variables are 2, 3, 5, and 7. Not sure why they are mostly prime numbers.) and weird little “moisturizing strips” or weird rubber things that are meant to stretch your skin to get a closer shave.

five blades! Gillette would very much like to sell you five blades at a time.

Because there are more choices in cartridge shavers, these give you a greater opportunity to obsess and play with different systems.

And You Have Shaved!

Whichever method you use, you can always apply an after-shave lotion. This not only contains alcohol to close up nicks and cuts in a quick and painful way, but gives you another chance to choose an individual scent that lets everyone around you know that you have shaved recently.

Conclusion

If you choose to shave your face, you will probably be doing so for many years. This gives you a lot of time to try different combinations of razors, shaving creams, brushes, and what have you. Be sure to obsess about each choice as if it were critical, instead of a minor convenience. All kidding aside, I find the act of shaving in the morning to be a nice quiet time to reflect as I go through the ritual, and it is genuinely fun to compare all the different parts of the experience.

So go forth friend. You've got the razor. You're ready to shave.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100 Days To Offload.

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