Escaping from the dark side. A road map

Due to being brainwashed by marketing there are tens of millions of men in the world who use multibladed system razors with patent protected cartridges that you can only buy from the one monopoly supplier. This is very expensive, does not give the best shave and ends up being a chore. Yet there is the fantastic alternative of traditional shaving where you can buy 100 blades for as little as £10, and enjoy a shave that is not only better but which is also an enjoyable and luxurious experience.

So why don’t more men throw away the absurdly expensive system razor and move over to something far better in every way? The answer is partially that they have been brainwashed by billions of dollars worth of advertising featuring famous sports stars. Then there is the fact that most know nothing about traditional shaving. And finally those that do can often be intimidated by the change to new equipment. So I thought I would write a road map to enable people who have trepidations to escape the dark side and enter a new world where everything is better!

Step 1. Throw away all those aerosol cans that you get your lather out of and replace them with a lather you make yourself with a brush (keep using the system razor for the moment). This sort of lather has several advantages:

  • The brushing action lifts the stubble into the lather making it easier for the blade to cut.
  • The brushing action exfoliates your face, helping your complexion.
  • You can use far more luxurious soaps and creams.
  • More active ingredient goes on your face.
  • The quality of ingredients is usually much higher.
  • The time taken to brush the lather on softens your stubble by as much as 80%.
  • This is a genuinely enjoyable experience.

For a brush I would suggest a Vulfix 404 badger/boar mix, a Frank Shaving finest badger bought from China on eBay or the incredible value Turkish horse hair brush. All three of these are low in cost and do an excellent job. They are widely used and praised by real shaving enthusiasts.

Then you have the option of a cream or a soap. Basically a cream is just a soap with water already mixed into it to make it easier to use, so a soap is better because it is more concentrated. The soaps I would recommend are Palmolive shaving sticks, Mitchell’s Wool Fat and, my favourite, Otoko Organics. If you must go down the cream route then Taylor’s of Old Bond Street have a great range, their Avocado being particularly lush.

Only once you are settled into and happy with this new regime should you consider moving to step 2.

Step 2. Move to two pass shaving. So lather up as normal and shave with your multibladed system razor. Then lather up a second time and shave with a Wilkinson Sword Classic or a Weishi razor from eBay (do not try anything else) and a razor blade from the supermarket. Watch the Mantic59 videos on YouTube first to get a leap up the learning curve. Both these low cost razors are incredible mild and are less likely to bite than a multibladed system razor, so you will come to no harm as you learn to use no pressure and to get the angle right using short strokes.

Now you are enjoying the better shave that a DE razor gives you whilst getting used to the idea of multiple passes. Your significant other will also be enjoying your smoother face.

Once again get settled into this before moving on.

Step 3. Now is the time to upgrade your double edged razor for something far more effective, whilst still using the multibladed system razor for the first pass. You need to buy an Edwin Jagger razor (do not try anything else) for about £20, or sometimes £15 on Amazon. The model I have is the DE89L. This is a fantastic piece of kit and all that you really need for shaving for the rest of your life. It is very easy to use and will not bite unless you really abuse it, which by now you will know how not to. And it is mightily effective at chomping through the stubble.

This will not take you very long to adapt to, so soon you will be ready for the next step.

Step 4. Now throw away your multibladed system razor and use the Edwin Jagger for the first pass. You can go to a two pass or a three pass shave, whatever gives you the result that you want. And one very good trick is to use the Wilkinson Sword Classic or Weishi for the last pass, being milder it can shave closer.

So now you are set for life, you are having really enjoyable shaves whilst saving yourself a lot of money. But there is more!

Step 5. Upgrade and experiment. When you are on the dark side you only have one supplier, but when you escape you suddenly find infinite choice so you can personalise every single shave to be exactly what you want. Buy a blade sample pack from Connaught to see which one works for you. Look at top end razors such as the Mergress, the iKon and the Feather All Stainless. And maybe buy a top end brush like a Simpson’s or, my favourite, a Morris & Forndran.

Step 6. Enjoy.

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15 comments ↓

#1 Jamie on 03.09.11 at 11:49 pm

Another brilliant article Bruce – Traditional shaving can be a daunting idea for newbies. There is such a huge volume of information available when looking and personal bias often clouds the blogs and posts of seasoned DE shavers. Not to mention trying to learn the hardcore shavers shorthand lol. Your quick guide is insightful and easy to understand.

#2 Ales on 04.04.11 at 9:25 am

Quick question:
I have just started my research in this area, since my drugstore discontinued Gillete ContourPlus blades and I am not willing to “upgrade” to the ridiculously expensive Machs or Fusions.

BUT..
I only shave twice a week, sometimes even less (shortening my beard with hair trimmer first): My profession does not require smooth shave at all times.

Is it possible to reach sufficient level of proficiency with a DE blade with such a scarce practising (twice a week tops)?

Is it efective to use DE blades for such a long stubble?

#3 Maxwell C. on 04.24.11 at 9:46 pm

Yes Ales, it is possible to reach sufficient proficiency with such scarce practising (though once you start *really* shaving, you might find that you enjoy it so much that you shave more often, just for the fun of it). I am currently unemployed and shaving once a day just because I enjoy it (and I don’t even have super-fast beard growth). I am reminded of the Roman Emperor when asked by a Barbarian “Why do you bathe once a day?”, who then replied “Because I lack the time to bathe twice a day”. I feel the same about shaving :-).

And I think that it is much *better* to use DE blades for longer stubble as they are much less likely to clog than a multi-bladed, monopolist monstrosity is (infinite space behind the blade compared to what one gets in a double-bladed razor). I am looking forward to being able to cut my hair (growing it out for cancer wigs) and shave my head again. Head shaving is a bitch with a double-bladed razor as they clog up SO quickly.

Happy Shaving!

#4 John on 05.21.11 at 9:22 pm

I love your articles, Bruce, and I am an enthusiastic user of the Edwin Jagger DE86! Wonderful razor.

I was ‘halfway there’ I guess, using brush and mug for over a decade, doing a two-pass shave in the shower with a multi-blade cartridge. Got the EJ and took to it like a duck to water!

Great blog, thank you for your efforts, sir!

#5 Felix on 05.23.11 at 6:57 am

Bruce, my escape from disposable n-blade shavers is a bit different, but i wouldn’t have started down this path if it weren’t for you …

the first step is recognizing that lather is never too good. older shaving techniques might (!) require better lather, but using newer shaving technology shouldn’t change the way we prepare to shave.

(also, anyone using aerosol creams [oxymoron?] should try Kiss My Face “moisture shave.” this is slimy compared to other brands, and expensive outside the US, but it’s a good first step off the beaten path.)

anyway, after buying two of those cheap Turkish brushes, i had five Zorrik blades and i lost my mind …

sometimes, i claim to be as American as anyone else because i was born in Chicago. but instead of junking the cheap Indian blades, i returned to this blog to find a handle for them. (my parents were Asian … the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)

based on information published here (and elsewhere), i bought a Feather Popular, and stupidly ignoring what i learned here, i skipped to step 4 (!) with this handle and my Zorrik blades.

my whiskers don’t look tough, but they kill disposable shavers. there were times when i wanted a good shave, and i’d resort to using two disposable shavers. so i was astonished to discover that … this old-school shit works.

i was nervous during the first shave, but it was safe. the second one was better, so i was more confident. #3 seemed a bit rougher, but i decided to reuse the blade anyway. after #4, i blithely ignored Zorrik’s instructions and stropped the blade on a mirror. #5 required more effort, but it was ok …

maybe shaving would be less adventurous if i just bought the latest Gillette product, maybe i was lucky, maybe i’m having too much fun? i gave away the other Turkish brush, bought three more for friends, ordered 100 Dorco blades, want to buy a Weishi for a friend … but i’d have to try it and am guessing that i’ll buy another one for myself :-)

by the way, there’s a great deal of variation in those horsehair brushes. aromatically, some are relatively neutral when they arrive, but most demand a little tolerance. as far as i can tell, bleaching doesn’t help. just use them …

though my favorite brush (so far) is probably an older boar bristle brush, the Turk ish brushes are very cool. when they smell horsey, they remind us that we’re not (just?) post-modern repositories of genetic material.

Bruce, thank you so much for everything you’ve done here. you aren’t just shaving, you’re changing lives. best wishes …

#6 ASR on 05.27.11 at 7:41 pm

Bruce,
Very inspiring.

My own journey started similarly. It all started with a dull razor. Those cartridges just dulled too quickly. I couldn’t understand it. Plus the cost! It was murder on my face trying to save money by lengthening the life of the double bladed monstrosity they had back then. Not to mention those five-bladed behemoths they make today.

I needed something sharper that lasted longer. Probably should have tried DE razors, but when the salesperson suggested it, I said **** it, I’m going to just hone my own razor, it’ll be cheaper in the end. So far its worked perfectly!

Soon after I found the joys of the brush and soap. Then my morning ritual became a real ritual; meditation of sorts. I’m not truly awake until I shave and wash my face.

It may take longer than just squirting out some goop, but the mental health benefit is worth every minute.

#7 rodrigo on 06.15.11 at 4:28 pm

Bruce, i’m from Brasil and i’m looking for a cheap kit to “escape of the dark side” on ebay. it would be easier for me to buy all together, os at least from onde seller, but the most important thing is: it cannot exceed $50 (price + shipping). there’s just a few kits, what can you tell me about this one: http://cgi.ebay.com/250821317577
maybe you could mount a kit for me, please, e-mail me! thanks, and congratulations!

#8 Bruce on 06.19.11 at 9:40 am

@rodrigo

That’s just fine to start with. If you put “Lord” into the search here it will tell you about the razor.
Omega brushes are good as are Shark blades.
All you need to add is a soap or cream.

#9 Tim Barrow on 07.14.11 at 6:00 am

It is interesting that you say Edwin Jagger razors are ones to try first, when upgrading from the Wilkinson Sword Classic. We British may not have had a tennis player reach the Wimbledon Final for decades, but we do have The Beatles, Harry Potter, and now Edwin Jagger – oh, not to mention Mick as well.

#10 Matthew on 09.05.11 at 12:16 am

Well, of course Mick came from England, but he left to avoid the taxes. Since England doesn’t tax expats, I suppose he’s still technically English, but he can’t live there.

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/1989/1002/154_print.html

#11 Maxime D. on 03.01.12 at 11:23 pm

Today in the UTC-05:00 time zone, somewhere In Canada, an unknown brave postman delivered to a citizen, his very first double edge razor. This man did a 3 pass shaving with a Merkur 34C, a Dorco ST-301 blade and a Cella ”crema da barba all’olio di mandorla” soap. The man cut himself more than usual but at the end of the day, he was in the manliness.

#12 Pete on 03.25.12 at 6:06 am

Bruce,
Thanks for enlightening me! I’d been privately frustrated by the major razor companies ripping us off with ever-upgraded razor systems that seem to cost more and more. They also nastily make your old razor blades obsolete, which then means you have to buy ever more costly blades and shavers. Like most Brits, Australians (well Anglo-Celt ones anyway) have strong, hard bristles and can’t get away without a daily shave: but I’m going to try the old method, ditch the ripoff blades and try the old way.
Thanks

#13 Rayner on 04.13.12 at 4:13 pm

Bruce,

Always great insight. You are spot on about ‘the dark side’ that mainstream marketing has pushed on men in our society. You might find this article interesting… http://www.kindshaving.com/the-perfect-shave-really/ I switched to shave oil and have drastically reduced the amount of time that I spend in front of the mirror, and saved money!

#14 Rex on 06.26.12 at 4:47 am

Instead of brush and soap, which do not lift the stubble (nothing can), buy shave oil and/or shave creams. The ingreidents are superior to any shave soap, cost less, and leave your face smelling like a million bucks. And why buy an expensive new razor, when there are plenty of vintage adjustables out there, ready to go for a newbie? Go classic. Go 1950s and 60s when men were men.

#15 Paul Christian on 09.10.13 at 9:51 am

Awesome article Bruce….evergreen content :), Dutch television had a huge item on this a few weeks back… I didn’t even know the cartriges were pattented so much no one else is even capable of even entering the market…. not a good thing. I’m gonna look into this traditional shave!

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