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What I've learned so far...

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 5:08 pm
by Bargepole
Having been only intermittently checking in here for a while, I found myself wondering, during my absence, what I've learned about wet shaving since I started hanging out here.

-- An awful lot of stuff I thought I knew about wet shaving before I found this place -- that's getting on for forty years' experience (I'm 54) turns out to be true. That's pretty refreshing.

-- An awful lot of stuff I thought I knew about wet shaving before I found this place, on the other hand, turns out to be piffle, balderdash and balls. That, too, is refreshing; learning to do something better -- however basic that something may be -- is one of life's enduring pleasures. Enduring, because there's always *something* one can't do very well, and always someone prepared to show you the ropes.

-- I am not a collector. I love novelty; but novelty wears off fast and the joy of that new purchase seldom lasts. The feeling -- the *certainty* -- that "Just this one more brush/razor/cream/soap/fountain pen/suit/watch/woman and I will finally be all right and happy and at ease in the world," well . . . it's a snare. And a delusion. And both.

-- I am not a collector. I don't like things sitting there unused. It makes me feel oddly and irrationally sorry for them. Poor brush, unloved. Poor razor. Perhaps I should use THIS cream today, poor thing. And so it goes on. The guilt. The overladen, inspissated feeling.

-- I don't like using and possibly "spoiling" rare and pristine things. Nor do I get any pleasure from just having them. That's why I sold things like my Sticky and my mint, unused Toggle. Whether their new owners are using them or keeping them to gloat over is up to them; they'll be doing whatever it is that gives them pleasure. Me, I couldn't reconcile the urge not to leave things unused and the urge not to spoil them. There's no happiness in that, just anxiety. I am not a collector.

-- Fidelity works. It used to be my Chubby #2, Trumper's Violet Cream and, before I returned to DE razors, my Trumper-handled M3. Now it's Penhaligon's English Fern soap, my #10 Plisson and my barber-pole Merkur with a Derby blade. The rest is fiddling about. Nothing wrong with fiddling about, but that's all it is.

-- Wet-shavers are generally polite, affable, clubable sorts. Why would that be?

-- Heresy: the brush matters a lot less than we brushisti might like to kid ourselves. You don't want one which scrubs your face to shreds. You don't want one which flops around like the "Before" half of a peach melbas ad. Other than that, it's purely subjective.

-- I like luxury. But too much luxury can be worse than not enough. I love my big Plisson and my Rooney large. But if you nailed me down to one, it would be my relatively small Plisson #10 High Mountain white.

-- If it doesn't stop shedding after a dozen shaves, it'll never stop. And you'll never stop being annoyed. Return it, replace it or just throw it away. Why start the morning cross?

-- Big brushes throw lather all over the mirror and your chest. They do it all by themselves, on purpose.

-- Don't obsess about brush care. Those things are robust. Rinse out the soap, shake off the water and leave it to dry.

-- Only EVER dry your brush upside-down in a stand.

-- Or, equally effective, just stand your brush on its base to dry.

-- Some men think we're crazy; that this is all a lot of unecessary hooey about one of life's necessities. Ask them if they have children. If they say "yes", ask them if they begat those children by making love to their wife. If they say "yes", ask them why they just didn't get the man to come round with his turkey-baster; a much more efficient way of dealing with one of life's necessities.

-- And if that doesn't work, ask them about their car. Ask them about their clothes. Ask them . . . well, you get the point.

-- The choice of cream/soap makes a lot of difference. Much more than the brush. Much more than the -- heresy again -- razor. Canned goop doesn't work. Trumper (and all the other "not reformulated" Creighton slops) don't work any more. Floris, Penhaligon, Castle Forbes and Musgo Real work. I don't know why, but that's how it is.

-- If you find a cream/soap which doesn't work, give it another go. If it doesn't work second time out, sell it, trade it or bin it because it'll never work.

-- There's too much mystique about lathering altogether. Get your cake of soap, your tub or tube of cream. Wet your brush. Shake the excess water off. Get some soap or cream on your brush. Apply to the face. Lather. Too dry? Dip the brush briefly in the basin to get more water in the lather. Too wet? Bit more cream or soap will see you right. Adjust as you go. Don't fret.

-- Face lathering is the only way to go. Building the lather on your face is worth any amount of "prep" unless you go the whole hog with 5 minutes of hot -- HOT -- towels. Do you have a hot towel machine? Me neither.

-- "My barber says the secret of a good shave is to lather for seven minutes. That's what he says." -- Philip Larkin, Jill. Larkin was right.

-- You don't need a bowl.

-- You do need a Moss scuttle.

-- Tried it all. Skin Food, hair conditioner, hair shampoo, hot flannels etc. Doesn't make any difference beyond the simple wash-your-face-in-hot-water method.

-- The razor makes less difference than one would think. Like so much in life, the answer lies in the angle of attack and the action of the wrist. (No, I don't mean *that*. I mean things like playing the violin.)

-- Adjustable razors are fun to futz about with but add nothing at all to the shave.

-- The straight razor is only scary for the first half dozen shaves. Then -- hey presto! -- it changes from a blood-drenched kamikaze exercise in raw testosterone into . . . well, into a razor.

-- But strop the bugger, okay? STROP it.

-- You can shave one-handed with a straight. People who are ambidextrous tell you you have to be ambidextrous but that's just because they are. If you aren't, shave with one hand or be prepared for blood.

-- Blades make more difference than anything else except the cream/soap lather. And it's blades, more than anything else, where YMMV.

-- If you don't get on with a blade after three or four attempts, you'll never get on with it. Doesn't matter if everyone else says "Merkur/Feather/Gillette/Whatever are the BEST;" if they're not the best for you, then give them a miss.

-- I know that Feather and Gillette are the "best" blades. And you know what? I use Derbys. I like the fact that they're made by Turks. I also like the fact that I get the best shave with them. Never mind that most people think they're mediocre. It's my face.

-- You Will Know When It's Time To Change Your Blade. This is TRUE. Don;t bother with numbering the sides and edges or ticking off the days on a special little calendar taped to the shaving-mirror, unless you are OCD (hi, everyone!) and it gives you pleasure.

-- Leaving a bit of shaving cream residue on the face and towelling it in is as good as anything.

-- Department-store products -- Clinique, Anthony Logistics (why "Logistics", for heaven's sake? "Logistics" means trucking), Aramis, Lancome... none of them are worth the money.

-- "Never EVER use an alcohol-based after-shave." Nuts to that.

-- Trumper's much-vaunted aftershaves -- and probably many others -- are simple colognes with more water and less alcohol. Buy cologne. Add water. The end.


-- It takes years to build up a great brand reputation but only months to lose it. (Hello Trumper, Truefitt, Taylor, Harris...)

-- Women just. Do. Not. Get. It.

-- I was talking to a gay friend about sex. "The thing is," I said, "I just don't understand how you can... well. All that stubble business. And the chest hair business. And the body hair in general business. And the---" "Hold it right there," he said. "I think I've identified your problem. You think that homosexuality is a terrible dispiriting business but someone's got to do it. You think we're sort of heroic, soldiering on against all odds, gritting our teeth and ignoring the stubble and so on." "I suppose so," I said. "Aha," he said, "I thought as much. Well, the thing is, we don't go in for homosexuality despite the fact that they're men. It's BECAUSE they're men. It's their being men that we LIKE." It was an illuminating moment. Why do I mention it?

-- Because the BBS is for US. Women, on the whole, either don't care or actively don't like it. They like us being men. They don't want our faces to feel like a baby's bottom or any other part of a baby or a women. They want our faces to feel like MEN'S faces. The moral of this? Two passes, then stop. (That's two passes with the razor, not two passes at the woman.)

-- (Though the same rule applies to women: two passes, then stop.)


-- YMMV. (Why? What did you think I was going to say?)

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 5:24 pm
by Chaps


Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 5:54 pm
by Big Swifty
That was a great post!!
quite enjoyable to read also. Thanx Mike. 8)

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 6:20 pm
by Sam
Michael: My take exactly on having things sit there unused. I buy a cologne and save it for 'special' occassions and alas, I get alarmed to use it just because I want to. Same with special shirts. Then, as I get more, what was once special is now pedestrian. I wear it and somehow, I wish I had preserved its specialness. Alas, all is vanity.


Re: What I've learned so far...

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 6:23 pm
by Sam
[quote="Bargepole"] -- ask them why they just didn't get the man to come round with his turkey-baster; a much more efficient way of dealing with one of life's necessities.

In America, we call him the milkman, or the postman, LOL


Re: What I've learned so far...

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 6:27 pm
by Bargepole
Sam wrote: In America, we call him the milkman, or the postman, LOL

Round here they all call that guy "Dad"...

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 6:34 pm
by prism
"Never EVER use an alcohol-based after-shave." Nuts to that indeed!! Gotta hand it to you michael, that was a great post! =D> =D> =D> =D> =D>

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 6:42 pm
by drumana
Nice post. You remind me of how much of a novice I am. :shock: oh well.

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 7:38 pm
by Mr. Igg
That was a great read! Thanks!

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 7:45 pm
by bbqncigars
Well written, Michael!
That's one that ought to be stickied for future reference. A single masterful summation of wet shaving.


Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 7:59 pm
by Straight Arrow
Great post! Definitely food for thought. I wholeheartedly agree with your observations on BBS. I almost always do two passes but when I occasionally succumb to the BBS temptation I inevitably kick myself and swear never to do it again.

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:00 pm
by Trumperman
My God man, what a brilliant post. Been saving that up what? Reading that has given me happy feet. I just want to dance with glee.............Whopeee
(click on picture for full effect)


Back with a vengeance. The batteries have been charged. Damn the creams, full speed ahead.

Bravo to you Sir!



Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:03 pm
by rustyblade
There is nothing to disagree with here...damn it, every point is spot on.

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:10 pm
by Nitrox
Michael, I have great admiration for you telling it like it is. I agree about the Derbys too, no matter how much others say this blade or that blade, the Derby works great for me.

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:15 pm
by bleedingface
Illuminating post! Succinctly put together and a good read. So much so that my natural instinct to pick it apart and start a discussion on the details is suppressed. In other words, you successfully shut me up, which is a difficult thing to do. :)

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 8:57 pm
by Rich53
I love reading your posts. Have so since you first showed up. I deeply envy your ability with the written word as I have so little talent(and know it). Your eloquence is delightful. Please try to post more, you're missed when away.


Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 9:05 pm
by GQGuy
Great post. I really enjoyed it and found it helpful.

One question for you guys. I keep seeing all these posts about the reformulations of all of these creams from the 3 T's. Are they really that bad??? As in I should probably not buy them as they are not worth a damn anymore? What happened to them?

Re: What I've learned so far...

Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 9:34 pm
by Chaps
Sam wrote:
Bargepole wrote: -- ask them why they just didn't get the man to come round with his turkey-baster; a much more efficient way of dealing with one of life's necessities.

In America, we call him the milkman, or the postman, LOL

Or the cable guy :D


Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 10:08 pm
by Lionhearted
This post shows just how subjective this whole business is. Sunday I shaved with my best stuff and used my best method — hot towels, good soap lather, Simpson brush, Gillette NEW, etc. Yesterday I shaved with canned aerosol foam and a black-handled SuperSpeed and splashed on a little Old Spice, just what I did for 30 plus years. That was about four times quicker. Today I shaved with my Norelco SmartTouchXL and splashed on some cheap blue stuff from Family Dollar. It took less than two minutes. Guess which shave my wife liked best?

The electric.

And which did I like best?

The foam... but then I've been in lazy mode for a day or two.

We don't have cable, our mailman is a woman, and I haven't seen milk delivered in 50 years. Another efficient way is to marry a pregnant woman. Let someone else do all the work. :lol:


Posted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 10:48 pm
by CMur12
What a treatise, Michael! I thoroughly loved it!

Thanks for taking the time to put that all together, and to do so in such entertaining form.

- Murray