One of the great joys of real, traditional shaving is the huge diversity of kit available. You could have many dozens of razors without having two the same, the same goes for brushes, creams/soaps and for blades. So each day it is possible to choose the exact shaving experience that you want. But if you were forced to narrow this down to just one of each then what would it be? Americans call this choice their “go to” selection.
Of course any “go to” will vary over time when there is so much quality and so much choice available. So someone’s “go to” kit today may well not be what it was a month ago or what it will be a month hence. It is just an ephemeral choice frozen in time. And it is very personal, what works for one person is unique. It may work for other people but it may not. So two good reasons to take the subsequent choices with a big pinch of salt.
Creams and soaps mostly just do the job, however there are a handful, like Mitchell’s Wool Fat and Cella Crema da Sapone that are exceptional. But if forced to choose just the one then right now it would be Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado Shaving Cream. So lush, so lubricating, it forms a fantastic lather and seems very kind to the skin. There are other TOBS creams and their formulation is no doubt similar, but it is the avocado that seems to perform the best.
To apply this cream the brush has to be the $9.99 Frank Shaving Finest. The combination here of soft tips, backbone and the ability to charge up with a huge amount of lather are a bit special, better even than their own, more expensive, silver tip. However there is one enormous caveat to this choice and that is that whilst I have used shaving brushes for many years and have accumulated a small collection, some famous names are absent.
For the razor the choice is a lot more varied, there is a huge difference between shaving with, say, an Edwin Jagger DE89L and a Merkur Bakelite, the whole shaving experience is changed completely. Far more than the changes wrought by any other element of the shave. Current “go to” is the 1972 Gillette long handled Super Adjustable. By the time Gillette made this exact razor they had been making adjustables for a very long time and it shows. The balance and weighting are so perfect that it has the agility of a far lighter razor yet the cutting action of a far heavier razor. The handle is just perfect in length, diameter and grip. And it is super smooth. I have tried the other adjustables, the Fat Boy, Slim and Toggle, but just now this is the best for me. However in mid September I am going to have a long run using my Mergress, perhaps more familiarity will elevate this back up to the top.
The blade choice is very simple indeed, Iridium Super from the St Petersburg factory. These really are to me the benchmark against which all other razor blades need to be measured. They are very sharp (but not the sharpest) and are very smooth with a great consistency from blade to blade. But, as with all the choices they may not be for you. I have a small stash of Personna 74s but have not brought them into this reckoning, that they are irreplaceable means they cannot be a daily use blade.
After shaving there is a near infinite variety of balms and moisturisers to choose from, some with fancy brand names, some with magic ingredients. But, just now, the Geo. F. Trumper West Indian Extract of Limes Skin Food comes out on top. And to be honest it would take a lot of beating. Whilst it is expensive you only use a little each day, so you can use this luxury product without breaking the bank. They make it in other flavours but for me the limes are nicely bracing after a shave.
So there you have it, these would be the “go to” choices if forced to choose today. But the really interesting thing is that, as I write this, I have never actually shaved with that exact combination. Maybe tomorrow.