One of the really bad things about the multibladed system razors is that they try and force a communist like conformity. Supposedly we are all the same and must all use exactly the same pieces of equipment in order to shave. System shaving is living in a patent protected walled garden that has been engineered to maximise the profits of big global companies.
Traditional, real shaving is the exact opposite. An explosion of choice from all around the world so you can customise every pass in every shave to suit you. With such a diversity and quality of products that we are truly pampered. Yet because we are not paying for expensive patent protected monopolies the prices are far more reasonable.
Making most shaving equipment is not rocket science, the double edged safety razor has been around for over 100 years, so much of what we use can be made in the developing countries and/or by small artisan companies. In fact it is the developing countries where the vast majority of the world’s DE shavers reside. It is their use of this kit that creates the massive volumes that enable us to buy so much good stuff so cheaply.
And then there is the enormous globe shrinking power of the interwebs. The communication this provides mean that everybody in the world has the potential to have perfect knowledge all the time. This has powered the explosion in traditional shaving in the West. Anyone who is interested does not have to stumble alone in the dark, they can go online and share with tens of thousands of like minded others from all around the world. Not only that, it is so easy to buy and sell stuff virtually anywhere, shaving kit is mostly light in weight which stops the postal charges from being punitive and PayPal and credit cards ease transactions.
We are just so lucky, the world is our oyster and our playground in a way that previous generations would not have believed. So it would be churlish not to take advantage by experimenting with and buying from everywhere. So let’s go for a little trip to look at some of what is available (in no particular order).
United Kingdom. Lots of active companies, making some brilliant kit. Edwin Jagger razors are rightly very popular. Brushes also come from them and also from Kent, Rooney, Mason Pearson, Culmak etc. Some fabulous shaving creams and soaps come from the famous St James’s grooming brands and also from Mitchells’s Wool Fat, Castle Forbes, Body Shop, Creightons, Coates etc etc. A plethora of riches really.
Isle of Man. This small island nation in the middle of the Irish sea is of immense importance to traditional shavers because it is where the very best shaving brushes come from with the famous Simpson’s range. The company that make them also make the value oriented Vulfix brushes and own label brushes which are sold under the brand names of lots of different companies.
New Zealand. Earn a mention for their very nicely crafted Goodfella razor.
India. Home to hundreds of millions of traditional shavers it is hardly surprising that they are also home to two of the world’s biggest blade manufacturers Malhotra (Laser, Topaz, Vijay, Swish, Centwin etc) and Vidyut (Super-Max, Zorrick etc). It is also the home of Parker razors. But of most delight to Western customers is the plethora of fantastic, high quality shaving creams, the jewel in this particular crown is Godrej and most famously their Menthol Mist, something that really has to be tried.
Vietnam. Gillette have a factory here that makes DE blades. But what is really special are Kimson shaving brushes (that I have written about before) which are exquisite and beautiful handmade works of art made mainly from buffalo horn.
China. The other huge market in the world and even more prolific than India at manufacturing. They make lots of different razors, which I have written about elsewhere and have a bewildering array of razor blade brands. But their main claim to fame in the global real shaving market is badger hair shaving brushes. Badgers are conserved in the West but culled as vermin in China, so they have lots of badger hair to export. Being entrepreneurial, having cheap labour and access to the raw materials, much of this is sold as manufactured knots which are used by just about every brand of shaving brush in the world. Now, because of eBay, it is possible for individuals to buy brushes directly from China cutting out the middleman and the expensive brand names. So what was a very expensive luxury item for the elite can now be bought by anyone for just a few dollars. Something that some people are finding difficult to take on board.
United States of America. Home to the big global shaving companies, Procter & Gamble (Gillette) and Energizer (Schick, Wilkinson Sword, Personna etc) whose sheer marketing horsepower nearly eliminated traditional shaving. But the fight back is on with artisan companies producing razors, brushes and soaps/creams. However the biggest attraction of America for an international traditional shaving audience is as a source of vintage razors. Nearly all my classic Gillettes crossed the Atlantic in a Jiffy bag.
Australia. Like most countries Australia have their own shaving soaps and creams. But the real gem are the gorgeous Bryce artisan shaving brushes that are something special. You will find his account on eBay as “theshavingbrush”.
Spain. I have written about Spanish swag before, as a frequent visitor there I have had some good buys. Pre-eminent in many people’s eyes are the La Toja range of shaving sticks, shaving soaps, balm and after shave. Also Vie-Long are one of the world’s premier shaving brush manufacturers.
Portugal. Brought to our attention by the action of Semogue and their fantastic brushes and by Musgo Real shaving soap.
France. L’Occitaine and Pré de Provence soap, Joris razors and Plisson brushes are just typical of the French luxury goods industry. But there is excellent stuff at sensible prices, Monsavon shaving soap, for instance, is more than a bit special. And then there is Thiers-Issard a cutlery company who make Sabatier knives, cut throat razors and some of the very finest shaving brushes that money can buy.
Italy. Omega brushes are excellent and available worldwide, as are the soaps and creams of Cella, Valobra and Proraso which are world class.
Germany. A powerhouse in traditional shaving. Razors from Merkur have been the backbone of the movement for years and Muhle and Pils also make excellent razors. There are a plethora of blade manufacturers including Merkur (again), Apollo, Feintechnik, Souplex and Timor. Famous soaps include Tabac, Speick and Sir Irisch Moos and brushes come from Muhle, H L Thäter and shavemac.
South Africa. Here we have The National Match Company factory in Cape Town that makes double edged safety razors and the blades to go in them. Unfortunately they are little known of outside Africa.
Russia. Home to the factory that makes some of the best double edged blades that money can buy (but for how long?) with Petersburg Products International. Also there are Rapira blades from Moscow. But an area where Russia really shines, without most shaving enthusiasts realising it, is shaving creams. There are a huge range, all excellent. Tet-a-tet, Everest, Nord Ost, Phyto Expert, Svoboda and Comme il Faut are just some of what are easily available there but difficult to find here.
Thailand. Must be included for the excellent iKon razors, one of the best made in the world today.
South Korea. Home of Dorco razor blades and Tweezerman brushes.
Turkey. Traditional wet shaving is big here amongst their 73 million people so there is a lot that is made here including Derby and Bluebird blades, excellent Arko shaving soaps and Jaguar brushes. It is also an good place (alongside Spain) to buy horse hair shaving brushes.
Japan. Here are made some of the sharpest blades, Feather and Kai. Also Feather make the razors to put their blades in.
Egypt. In Alexandria is Lord who are one of the world’s big manufacturers of blades and razors which are sold under an array of different brand names and which are very widely exported.
Israel. Home of a big Personna blade factory that also produces under the Crystal brand name.
That is not the lot, obviously things like shaving creams and soaps are very easily made in just a kitchen, so they can be made just about anywhere. From my own experience it is well worth experimenting and trying the less well known, even if it takes a bit of effort to get hold of it. Some online lemmings deride the non mainstream, but that is their loss.