I haven't even touched a hair on my kisser yet and I am already getting sucked into the dark world of wet shavers. What is it with us guys anyway? Something new catches our fancy and we lose all common sense and logic in our quest to be part of the cool crew, the cool sport, the latest manly fad. We make fun of women and their collection of handbags, shoes, silver spoon collections, yet we dumass men can be just as bad. Only for us it's cool stuff like chisels, sharpening stones, collectible tools we will never use, and yes as I have found out recently, straight razors.
These wet shaving fanatics are as crazed as any hobby group I know. Thousands of words expended on more than a few forums about the proper strop, the best hones, and of course their ever growing collection of straight razors. The are over 60 videos on Youtube that focus on all the various considerations one needs to think about in order to be a hot dog with the straight blade. How to strop a blade. How to hone a blade. How to pick a razor. What brush and soap is best and how to lather up to get the best beard softening bang for the buck. And yes, more than a few enthralling videos of guys shaving using the latest and greatest techniques. The proper and best shave entails two complete passes at least. First with the grain and then for that baby butt finish another pass against it. Edge of your seat stuff.
I understand. I am a crazed bicycle guy. I own more than I think I do. Must have 14 or 15 bikes scattered around the homestead or down to the shop. So yeah, I do understand. When I get into something, I really get into it. Hell, my fascination with bikes turned into a living, sort of. A lifestyle that supports itself most of the time anyway.
After about a week of exploring this unique sub culture of mostly men, I have finally begun to understand the shorthand, the abbreviations, the lingo. It seems that if I am going to make the cut, pee in the tall grass with the big dogs, it is a good idea for me to know how to hang with them as we scratch our respective crotches and talk about everything relating to sharp edges. "Yeah dude, I just got a great deal on a Truefitt & Hill ivory Badger hair brush for $70." And then you just know he postured that superior cool dude way and metaphorically spit on the ground.
For the longest time I had no clue what they meant when they derisively talked about "DE" shaving as a kind of wussy wannabe retro girly way to shave. For several days I just accepted my ignorance until this morning when the light went on. "DE" - Double Edge. Those razors with the two edges that Gillette introduced back in the day to replace straight razors. The straight shavers I think consider them as providing a sub par shave when compared to the shave a straight can give under experienced hands using a properly sharpened razor. Apparently razor burn is a major issue with DE razors. The snobbery of one group versus the other reminds me of the ribbing the Single Speed cyclists and the multispeed cyclists throw back and forth. Straight razors are the single speeds of the shaving world. The hip and cool way.
Shaving with a straight razor is way more than being about the shave. The shave is just one component. Buying and collecting the razors is big, as is owning as many different kinds of hones and being able to out tech talk the next guy with your knowledge of grits and techniques of finding that perfect edge. Some of these guys have 10 -15 strops. Some have razor collections in triple digits. Definitely a hobby that sees some intense over the top involvement.
Doing all this research and lurking in all the forums has fired me up enough so that I actually used advice I found on the Internet and bought my first straight razor. The JA Henckels #84 pictured at the top should be in my hands by the end of next week. The advice across the board from the experienced guys is a newbie such as myself should not get a razor that has not been prepped to what they call "Shave Ready". Apparently brand new razors are not "shave ready" out of the box. Everyone advises that first razor should be a used one that has been honed and shave tested. Learning the art of the proper hone is the most difficult thing to master.
So I went shopping at Ebay. This was my first buying trip there. I have sold on Ebay, but never bought anything. How could I resist this -
"This is a J. A. Henckels #84 straight razor that was made in Solingen, Germany. The blade has some very light stain marks, but still has a nice satin finish full 5/8 wide, spike point blade and provides a beautiful shave. Showing only minimal prior usage, it opens and closes snug and smooth on the pivot pin and well centered between the handles. The silver bolstered yellow celluloid handles are in near perfect defect free condition. The blade and handles of this razor have been cleaned, sterilized and restored throughout, even in the pivot pin area under the handles, which is in absolutely clean, like new condition. Recently honed and shave tested this razor comes shave ready."
A new Henckel would cost over $140 and I would have to pay someone $20 bucks or so to get it shave ready. I paid $86. And it comes ready to rock. Probably could have gotten it for a few bucks cheaper, but I had been beat out just previous by some flounder when he upped the bid $1 in the final seconds on the razor I really wanted. I made sure and with 15 seconds left, I punched in $5 more bucks just to make sure he didn't nickel and dime this one away from me.
Now I have to ask myself why I just spent $86 on a straight razor. A shaver I will have to support with about another $100 worth of shit to make it work for me. I have a brush, but it is a $5 dollar brush I bought 40 years ago. I will probably start with it. But I need shaving soap, some kind of fancy smelling aftershave, and a leather strop. Decent strops start at around $40 to $50. The soap is all over the map. Basic shaving soap, $5. Fancy shaving soap, $40. Aftershave is about the same, all over the place in price. $100 more bucks and I still have not bought any superfine honing stones yet. The set up to have will be $140 or so. The honing stones can wait. I have some already and and do not want to duplicate anything I already have. More research in this department. One thing though - investing this much money and time into the idea of shaving will most likely result in me following through with it.
Now I understand the urge to own these things. They are simple in their function and many are just plain beautiful pieces of work. The variety of razors is astounding. And most of the ones still out there are older or antiques and still being used. I would love to locate my Uncle Herb's razor and have it restored if possible. Shaving with it would re-connect me to him in a way we never connected. As men. Besides, as most of the hard core shavers assure me, you can't own just one.