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%.
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!
Kate Somerville is a famous brand in women’s skincare. She has a range of skin products, has a clinic in Los Angeles and looks after the skin of many Hollywood stars. Recently she has caused a bit of a stir by telling the world that Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were wet shavers, just like the readers of this blog.
There are many ways that hair can be removed; shaving, threading, waxing, lasering, tweezing, sugaring and exfoliating creams. Of these you would expect shaving to be the least popular because of the false wives tale that it encourages stronger future growth. Obviously the Hollywood beauty experts know better than this and realise, as we men do, that wet shaving is the best solution.
Several times on this blog I have commented on the tenuous relationship between quality and price in traditional shaving. There are shaving soaps and creams with fancy names on them that cost a fortune and are pretty useless, yet one of the very best shaving soaps in the world can be had for less than 50 pence. So I thought I would try and bring some of the best value together in one article.
Amazing, unbelievable bargains.
This first category has three entrants. Firstly the Turkish horse hair shaving brush that costs just $2.45. OK the handle looks like it was made by an 11 year old at his first woodworking class, but this is not about cosmetics. This is about an absolutely brilliant brush that works amazingly well. So well that I am frightened to buy the more expensive brushes that this vendor offers because there is no way they can offer the same ratio of ability to price.
Second up is the Palmolive shave stick which can easily be bought in British supermarkets for less than 50 pence. This tallow based (despite the name) shaving soap is one of the best that you can buy, regardless of price. And it is going to cost you about half of one penny per shave. It just amazes me that there are people in the world who are so misinformed that they spend many times this to use that awful aerosol rubbish.
Thirdly comes the black delrin Wilkinson Sword Classic razor which costs about £4. Don’t get me wrong this is not a first pass, stubble destroying uber razor. This is much more subtle, the Classic comes into its own after most of the stubble has been removed. This is a second or, preferably, a third pass razor for when you are striving for that perfect shave. And it delivers, it is so benign that you can confidently buff and polish away with gay abandon knowing that it will not bite. This is the razor for those who want absolute smoothness.
Amazing believable bargains.
Anyone involved in traditional shaving will know that first up must be the Frank Shaving badger brushes from China as supplied by Ian Tang on eBay. By buying direct from source and cutting out the middleman you get a brush that you would have to spend about five times more in the West to equal. Ian has built a reputation for customer service and has also built a range of brushes to cover a variety of tastes. Go for the Finest hair and avoid the wooden handles and you will get an outstanding brush.
Lord razors. These are available from Connaught now and on Amazon if you watch out for the different models, the L5 (in the L122 packaging) is a less mild Tech copy with a long handle for £6.90 at Connaught. The L6 Premium (in the LP.1822 packaging) for £7.90 is a Merkur copy head with the same long handle. Both these razors are simple and straightforward and work very well indeed.
Shaving soaps and creams from Godrej in India and Arko in Turkey. Brilliant products, they cost a lot less than £1 each on their native soil. In the West we must pay more for the shipping and the profit of intermediaries than we do for the product. However judicious ferreting round the web can reveal some very good deals if you are prepared to buy a few soaps or creams in one go.
Then blades. Once again the developing world delivers. Super Max blades from India and the various Lord brands from Egypt. Some suit some shavers and some others. YMMV so firstly only buy a few to try them out. If they work for you then look to spend about £5 per 100 blades, which is about a penny per shave. Used together with a Palmolive shave stick you are going to get luxurious shaves for one and a half pennies each. Don’t tell anyone who uses multibladed cartridge razors and aerosol lathers, they will have a heart attack.
Extremely good value.
Monsavon Bol à Raser is a soft French saving soap that you can buy in every supermarket in France for less than two Euros. And it is utterly fabulous. And almost impossible to get hold of outside France. If you can get your hands on some of this then jump at the opportunity, you will not regret it.
Edwin Jagger razors. These start at about £20 and are both better and less expensive than the equivalent new razors from the German brands. However they often pitch up on Amazon for about £15, which is faintly ridiculous for something so well made that works so superbly well.
The Vulfix 404 badger boar brush is one of the very best shaving brushes you can buy at any price, yet it is just £10. From its perfect, hand turned handle to its perfect, versatile knot there is nothing about this brush that can be faulted. A total absolute classic.
Taylors of Bond Street shaving creams are lush and luxurious and come in many fantastic flavours yet they are less than £7 for a big tub. This is far cheaper than the other St James’s men’s grooming companies and is very little to pay for a top draw, world class, grooming product.
Petersburg Products International razor blades. Probably the best currently made on planet earth, they will probably cost somewhere around twice what a Super Max or Lord blade does. But in the overall scheme of things they are still very inexpensive at around two pence per shave.
Simpson’s smaller shaving brushes in pure badger. The Case, Beaufort, Berkeley and Special. Less than £20 for one of the world’s best brand of shaving brushes. The smaller sizes are perfect for face lathering and perform as well as bigger brushes from some other manufacturers. And Simpson’s pure grade of badger hair, whilst not as soft as their more expensive grades, is not rough or coarse in any way and in fact give a pleasing level of exfoliation.
iKon razors. Yes these are pretty expensive, but they cost a lot less than the solid stainless steel razors from other manufacturers. Not only that, they are rated as one of the very best razors you can buy at any price. And they will pretty much last for ever.
So there we have it, how to get the most for your hard earned money. Obviously there is much more that could be added, but this is a pretty fair look at some of the amazing, through to good, value that is out there for traditional shavers.
Since last writing here I have been lucky enough to spend a little time in Egypt, a country that is both in Africa and Asia. With a population of around 80 million the average income is around $500 per month. In the shaving world the big player is Lord of Alexandria, a very large and top class manufacturer of razors and blades.
Some Egyptian shaving equipment
The shops I visited were in tourist areas so may well be non representative of Egypt as a whole. The razors on display were mainly disposables with a few system razors (including the older and thus cheaper models) manufacturers were Gillette, Schick and Lord. Very rarely were double edged (DE) blades available and there were no DE razors. This would seem to be an ideal market for the new Gillette Guard razor. I bought some Gillette Nacet DE blades made in Shanghai, China.
Some Egyptian shaving equipment
The brushes on display were all Omega boar, mostly made in China for about £1 each. But I found some made in Italy models at about £3.50 each and bought one for the lovely Arabic script on the handle. It is an Omega 10018 model.
Shaving equipment bought in Egypt
Aftershaves and colognes were varied, but many had the number 5 as their name, repeated multiple times. I bought the big bottle of Eau de Cologne in the photographs for about £1.50. It is very pleasant but the 65% alcohol content is interesting in a Moslem country, some must get into the body through inhalation and through the skin.
Shaving equipment bought in Egypt
There were a total plethora of shaving creams, local as well as global brands. I just bought a tube of Lord and a tube that carried the same repeated 5 motif of the colognes. In one shop I enquired of the price for this and was told £2, obviously their pricing policy depended on the appearance of the customer. The next shop visited wanted 50 pence for the exact same item. This is typical of shopping in Egypt.
Shaving equipment bought in Egypt
Overall this is one of the great delights of traditional shaving, seeing what is happening in different countries and bringing goodies back home.
Regular readers will know that there are two strong recurring themes in the articles here. The first is the near infinite choice that is to be enjoyed in traditional shaving. In every aspect of the shave you are presented with almost limitless options. The second theme is that of personal choice. Do what suits you, even if nobody else on planet earth is doing the same thing. There is no wrong and right, just use the available kit to remove your stubble in any way you want.
Whilst these themes make traditional shaving an endless treasure of discovery they can also be a little bit daunting. How do you choose what to use and how to use it?
One thing is to look at what other people are doing and saying. Often this is pretty rubbish. Firstly because everything is so personal to yourself, secondly because people tend to praise stuff they own and have spent good money on. I read some of the online user reviews of stuff and often they are just very wrong. All IMHO and YMMV of course. The Weishi razor is a very good example of this, it cuts excellently but only if you get the angle right. So when people say that the Weishi doesn’t cut very well is it the razor or is it their technique?
The best method is to evaluate yourself. This is so subjective that the only way is to use kit side by side. Use one razor on one side of your face and a different razor on the other side of your face (making sure they both have the same blade in them). Likewise with brushes, this morning I compared the Indian Disco boar bristle and the Turkish Jaguar boar bristle brushes, yesterday a Rooney prototype and a Morris & Forndran. This subjective, side by side comparison is incredibly revealing and comes up with results that you wouldn’t expect.
Also a good technique is to have a reference piece of kit, something you know very well indeed that you can use as a yardstick to compare against. I use the Edwin Jagger DE89L, the Iridium blade, the Simpson’s Duke and Mitchell’s Wool Fat soap as my references. All good standards.
It is also sensible to only evaluate one new thing at a time. If you are trying a new brush out you don’t want to be trying a new blade at the same time. It is too much to take in. Take it steadily and work your way methodically through new kit. Giving each new item plenty of outings to get a true measure of how it works for you.
One very good characteristic of the online shaving community is swapping, loaning or just giving kit to other shavers to try. This allows people to experiment with a far wider range of stuff.
Then there is knowing what you are looking for when you evaluate something. With razor blades it is supposedly sharpness, smoothness and durability. But there is more, something subjective. Sometimes with some blades in some razors I feel as if they are on the edge of digging in, nothing to do with the three factors, just something personal to me.
Likewise with razors, people go on about aggression but to me this is a long way from the whole story. Aggression is about blade exposure, but different shave heads vary in far more than this, when they are in action they are working in 3D, not the 2D of blade exposure. And they are moving, not static. It is for these reasons that some shave heads feel far milder than their cutting ability would have you think they should. The Eclipse Red Ring and the Edwin Jagger DE89L are both like this. All IMHO, it could well be different for you.
It is with brushes that we have the greatest variety, even two Simpson’s of the same model coming consecutively down the production line will behave differently. And how they are used varies wildly. Hard soap, soft soap, cream. Thin lather thick lather. Minimal application or father Christmas style. Face lather, bowl lather or hand lather. Painting or scrubbing. I could place my brushes in order of my personal preference and I can guarantee that you would place them in a different order.
Another thing to remember is that you change yourself. As you experiment your technique and understanding evolve. I can prove this; dig out an old piece of shaving kit that you haven’t used for a long time and give it a go. I bet it behaves somewhat differently than your memory of it was having you expect.
On some traditional shaving forums you are not allowed to mention one of the most important double edged razors in production today, the iKon. This is truly amazing and totally devalues the community that has done it. If iKon was an isolated case it would be bad enough, but it isn’t. Some of the most important people in traditional shaving are banned and you are not allowed to talk about some of the most important companies. Connaught shaving, Frank shaving brushes, New Forest shaving brushes, The Leisureguy’s Guide, Nanny’s Silly Soap Company, the list goes on and on.
The Pogonotomy forum is different because there is no silly politics. Vendors don’t have to pay to be allowed to post. People are not given lifetime bans on a whim. Members are free to discuss all the suppliers and all the manufacturers involved in supplying us with our kit. There are no power mad moderators.
Not only that, every member of the Pogonotomy forum is treated with respect by everyone else. There are no cliques, no bullying, no personal attacks. Everyone is behaving towards others as they would like to be treated themselves. So from a standing start with no marketing budget Pogonotomy is already as busy as some of the long established shaving forums. Hardly surprising really.
Another thing that is great is that we are getting posts from some of the key people in the industry, people with vast experience who know what is going on. This adds an authority to the forum that other places, who have banned these people, are lacking. For instance we know that Greg at iKon is working on some exciting new razor developments. He is not allowed to talk about this in some places (in fact nobody is) yet is free to do so at the Pogonotomy forum.
After an initial flurry the forum has settled down to a steady and interesting level of input from over 100 members, with new people joining all the time as the word gets around. The input is totally global with no national bias looked for or wanted. Most of the products we use are available globally so there is no need for Xenophobia.
Overall, for me, this has been a very pleasant surprise indeed. The members have built a great community very quickly because they have wanted to. Let’s keep up the good work.
If You Acquired a Gillette M3Power Razor Between May 1, 2004 and October 31, 2005 You May Be Entitled to Benefits from a Class Action Settlement
There is a proposed class action settlement with The Gillette Company in a class action lawsuit called In re M3Power Razor System Marketing & Sales Practices Litigation.
The lawsuit claims that Gillette’s advertisements stating that the M3Power Razor (“M3P”) “raises or stimulates hair up and away from the skin” were false and misleading and violated consumer-related laws in the USA and Canada. In mid-2005, Gillette deleted those representations from its ads. The proposed Settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or an indication that any law was violated. The Court has not ruled on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims or on the defenses made by Gillette. Gillette denies the allegations but agreed to the proposed Settlement to resolve this class action. This lawsuit is not about the safety of the M3Power Razor.
The proposed Settlement provides $7,500,000 to benefit Settlement Class Members who obtained an M3P in the USA between May 1, 2004 and September 30, 2005 and in Canada between May 1, 2004 and October 31, 2005. M3Ps purchased for re-sale are not included.
The proposed Settlement will provide Settlement Class Members who submit a valid, timely claim with either a refund (a minimum of $13 US or $16.25 Canadian, depending on the place of purchase) for their M3P, or up to two $5 US rebates (up to a total of $10 US, or the equivalent in Canadian dollars) for any M3Power blades and/or any Fusion or Fusion ProGlide razor purchased before May 2, 2011, or a new Gillette manual men’s razor as a replacement, and other relief.
Claims are limited to one per person and three per household. If claims exceed the amount available for benefits, there will be no benefit for replacement razors and the refunds and rebates will be reduced in proportion. If claims do not exceed the amount available, additional benefits may be distributed.
Ben Barnow, Barnow and Associates, P.C. and Robert M. Rothman, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP have been appointed as Settlement Class Counsel. If approved, Gillette will pay fees, costs, and expenses of Settlement Class Counsel, as well as incentive awards to the individuals who brought the lawsuit. These amounts will not be deducted from the proposed Settlement. You may hire your own attorney, if you wish, at your own expense.
If you do not want to be legally bound by the proposed Settlement, you must exclude yourself in writing, postmarked by March 4, 2011, and sent to the Settlement Administrator at the address below. If you stay in the Settlement Class, you may file a claim. Claims must be postmarked by May 2, 2011. You may object to any aspect of the proposed Settlement. Objections must be postmarked by March 4, 2011. You also may request in writing to appear at the Final Fairness Hearing, which will be held on March 25, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts will consider whether the proposed Settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate and the motion for attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. The Court will also consider objections at that time.
This is only a summary of the proposed Settlement. For a more detailed Notice, a copy of the Settlement Agreement, and how to file a claim: call: 1-877-506-4030, visit: http://www.m3powersettlement.com, or write to: M3Power Settlement, P.O. Box 2302, Faribault, MN 55021-9002.
When I was young you could buy an aftershave called Moustache made by Rochas and it was unique, unlike any other aftershave, it was completely distinctive whilst remaining remarkable pleasant. Launched in 1948, just after World War 2, it was designed by Edmond and Theresa Roudnitska (his wife). Edmond was one of the most famous perfumers of all time and created famous, classical brands for Dior, Elizabeth Arden, Rochas and Hermes, amongst others. Theresa had studied at l’Ecole de Chimie in Paris, graduating in 1941, and served her apprenticeship in the laboratories of the De Laire company. It is thought that Theresa instigated the idea for Moustache and that Edmond added polish to the formulation.
Apparently there are six different families of fragrance used in aftershaves, these are citrus, spicy, leather, lavender, fougere, and woody (and combinations of these). If you go to one of the traditional St James’s men’s grooming shops and sample their long established men’s colognes you will find a cross section of these scent families represented. For Moustache the notes are lime, bergamot, pine, fruits, vetiver and moss, yet the citrus was very subtle and did not intrude. There are plenty of reviews of it online on more specialised sites than this.
Then came disaster. Rochas (under owners Procter & Gamble who also own Gillette) decided to reformulate Moustache to bring it more in line with modern fashions ( another scent, Monsieur Rochas was also reformulated). They made it more refreshing, made the citrus dominate. But of course in doing so all they succeeded in doing was to create yet another “me too” which had no special merit to make it stand out from the legions of citrus scents. So there was no real need to buy it and in the end Rochas had little option but to discontinue it.
You can buy old stock of the reformulated Moustache online and once you get past the initial citrus jolt it is still a bit special, but in reality it is a pale shadow of the original. You can even still buy the old formulation. If you are looking for Moustache then the new formulation is in a rectangular frosted glass bottle with a silver cap. The original is in a cylindrical fluted glass bottle.
All this has left a bad taste in my mouth and put me off my citrus favourites like Au Sauvage by Dior and Agua Fresca by Dominguez, instead I am going through a phase of Bay Rum and Floid as my own little statement against fashion and the conformity it can sometimes bring us.
Regular readers will remember this idea of using the best tool for the job on each shaving pass. Starting with a Merkur slant bar to remove the maximum amount of hair in the first pass, then a Edwin Jagger DE89L for a reducing second pass and finally a Weishi for a polishing and buffing third pass. This works really, really well because each razor is being used for its optimum purpose. You don’t put a tack into the wall with a slegehammer so why polish and buff with a slant bar?
So now I have used the method for a few weeks I thought I would list the advantages.
It is a lot faster. The slant bar really crops the stubble like crazy, but you don’t have to work hard at it because you know the DE89L is to follow. Likewise the DE89L doesn’t have that much work to do, just the problem areas like jawbone and goatee. When you get to the Weishi it is just a matter of how polished do you want to be. So you are not asking much of each pass, so they can be done much more quickly.
Much better shave. My wife noticed this. You can polish away with the Weishi XTG and ATG using some vigour, knowing it won’t bite.
Less nicks and cuts. Because you are using the best tool for each pass you don’t have to work the razors hard. Just relax, take it easy and let them do their job. So they just can’t bite.
Far less trauma. Razor burn, red patches, whatever. Once again because each razor has been used in its best mode as a stubble cutter they end up having far less impact on your skin.
More fun. It is great getting to use 3 different well engineered shaving tools one after the other. Adapting to the different weights, shaving angles, balance and handle lengths is all just part of the enjoyment. Going back to using just one razor (when I travel) is boring.
Then, in the interests of science, it was time to try a different 3 razor method combination using optimised blades as well as optimised razors. This time it was as follows:
Mergress opened out to 5+ with a Feather New High-Stainless blade. Set like this the Mergress is very aggressive and the Feather is famous for being the sharpest of blades. As you can imagine this is a pretty effective stubble removal combination for the first pass.
Wilkinson Sword Classic, the black Delrin razor, used here with a Personna Platinum blade. I have joked in the past that you cannot feel whether or not this has a blade in it, so mild is its functioning. This means, of course, that it just doesn’t bite and can be used to buff and polish with gay abandon. Not that there is much work left to do, such is the effectiveness of the two previous combinations.
Once again the 3 razor method shows its merit. A better shave, faster with less skin trauma. What more could you want?
Wander round the online shaving forums and you come across lots of beginners asking the same questions again and again. Whilst some may find this a tedious misuse of bandwidth there is no denying that it shows that lots of new people are being attracted over from the dark side. So, for these people, I thought that I would write down the 5 key, most critical bits of information that they need to take on board as they venture up the traditional shaving learning curve. Obviously it is possible to write a book on the subject, but these 5 tips contain much of the distilled knowledge that is critical for the enjoyment and pleasure that traditional techniques bring to this daily ritual.
2) Control the angle. The multibladed system razors have pivoting shave heads that control the blade angle, with a double edged razor you must do this for yourself. The downside is a short learning curve, the upside is much more control of how the blade works on your skin. Start with the handle at 90 degrees to your skin and tilt it over, whilst moving the razor across your skin until you reach that sweet spot where it munches effortlessly through your stubble. Good techniques to ensure good angle control are to only make short razor strokes and to move the razor with your arm, not with your wrist.
3) No pressure. This is a huge difference between system razors and double edged razors. System razors have their blades buried within a cartridge, so shavers tend to apply pressure to get them to work. Double edged razors have blade exposure so they don’t need any pressure, just keep the razor head in contact with the face and concentrate on removing the lather. It is counter intuitive to start with, but using pressure will give you a worse shave because you are distorting your skin before and underneath the shave head.
5) Do it your way. When you escape from the patent protected walled garden of the global shaving companies and their expensive multibladed system razors you discover the heady and intoxicating experience of freedom. So take advantage of this freedom and do it your way. Some internet shave bores are nearly as bad as the big shaving companies, insisting that theirs is the only true path. Ignore them. Experiment a lot and find out what works for you. If that involves using peanut butter as shaving cream then fine. Just do it, and don’t let anyone tell you that you are wrong.
Much of the rest, like making a lather, is either common sense or trial and error. The important thing is that shaving needn’t be the daily chore of the multibladed system razor. Instead it can be something special and enjoyable.