Monday, October 13, 2008

The Minimalist Shaving Kit

I believe that for most men, shaving is probably a morning ritual that is endured rather than enjoyed. You wake-up (or half wake-up), spray on some strange gel or magic expanding white cloud on to your face and then drag an over-priced disposable razor that is no longer sharp across your mug.


About a year ago, I went to buy some blades for my Mach 3 and saw the price tag and absolutely refused on principal as a sane and capable person to pay the kings ransom for the blades. There has to be a better way, I thought.

So that thinking led me down a strange journey into the world of "wet shaving." It's "wet", because unlike that magic goo in a bottle that doesn't really lubricate, "wet" shaving is based around using a brush, shaving soap and water. The advantages of wet shaving are many, for one you do get a CLOSER shave and it is much cheaper in the long run. For example, I recently ran out of a tub of $10 shaving cream (The Body Shop makes a great men's shaving cream!) that lasted me nearly four months. It didn't use an aerosol or require any strange space-age application device and the plastic tub is recyclable!

The other component of wet shaving (other than the wet and foamy part) is the shaving tool Many wet shavers use straight razors. Imagine that, a razor that you buy ONCE that will last you your entire lifetime with proper care! For about $200 you can get a straight razor, razor strop, soap, brush and sharpening stone. Everything you need for a lifetime of shaving, minus more soap ($10 every four months).

Wet Shaving while on Tour
I don't mean this to be a treatise on wet shaving, but some background was needed. When I'm home, I usually go the whole nine yards with the brush, soap, razor, shaving bowl and all the other accoutrements.

When I'm on tour, I still like to treat myself to a nice straight razor shave every third or fourth day. I have found this kit to be the most optimal for my needs.

Pictured above are a Dovo Shavette and a 1/2 oz bottle of Pacific Shave Oil.

The Dovo Shavette is essentially a folding blade holder that functions like a straight razor but holds disposable razor blades (not the over-priced ones, but the old school ones that you snap in half). For $7.99 you can get a pack of 10 blades that you snap in half giving you 20 edges ($.40/usable blade). The blades are longer than usual so it's closer in length to a real straight razor. Each edge, for me, lasts about 3 weeks of shaving.

With proper technique and good lubrication, you can get as close a shave as with any $500 straight razor.

Which leads me to the curious bottle of Pacific Shave Oil. The packaging boasts that five drops is all you need for a shave and let me tell you it isn't bullshitting. This stuff is amazing! I tend to use five drops per pass (in wet shaving you shave in "passes" - pass one is with the grain, pass two is across the grain, pass three is against the grain). Pacific Shave Oil will let you shave closer than any can of goo will.

Typically, I build up a lather in a bowl with a brush at home, but with Pacific Shave Oil you don't have to. Just wet your face and rub it in. Honestly, I'm a bit of a sucker for the process of building the lather, but if somehow tomorrow all the shave soaps disappeared, all the wet shavers could still get by with Pacific Shave Oil.

So that is my wet shaving kit for on the road.

Of course, this probably isn't for everybody, but if you're a wet-shaver and bicycle tourist, this is a good combination.


2whls3spds said...

Funny you should mention that...I was having a shaving conversation with someone today. I used to use a straight razor years ago, but had to give them up for "security" reasons I quite often carry my Rolls Razor with me. I have yet to brave TSA with it. But almost always carry one with me when traveling by ground means. I use a soap/cream that my brother got for me from Nordstrams for Christmas years ago. I little dab will do ya. I have no clue as to the brand name (label fell of years ago) but an 8 ounce jar lasts over a year. I am currently using a shaving mug soap that I picked up from Lehman's Hardware the last time through Kidron, OH. Great stuff...wet shaving.


Anonymous said...

Somehow I just figured that the same people who follow this trend in bikes also would be wet shavers.

No surprise really, I should have known I wasn't the only one.

My personal favorite is a merkur 23c with a dorco blade. I've tried straight, but I don't have the skill just yet.

In terms of cream, Taylors is the best I've ever used. It does run a little pricey, about $15 a bowl, but it's worth it.

GhostRider said...

Crabtree & Evelyn used to make a very nice almond shaving soap in a wooden bowl. Now they have something called "Nomad" which is quite nice on its own, too:

Lazy Bike Commuter said...

I always thought straight razors and steel frames should go together!

I'm going the supercheap route, using just a Fromme replaceable blade razor and a boar brush from CVS (and the Williams Mug Soap also from CVS), but I still get better shaves than I ever did with a Mach 3.

And straight razors are the ONLY thing that don't irritate my skin.

Concept Photography said...

Nice, the style of straight razors fits in perfect with the style of the blog. I have been a big fan of the wet shave for a while.While at my first newspaper job in St. Louis I found a barber who was gave a great shave. I have been a junkie ever since.

This is why I am still the advocate of the m- 4p as the perfect touring camera. The Leica, the razor, some wool pants, pure style.

Tomcat said...

I visited your blog to check out the acorn interview and saw this posting on shaving. I can't stand buying disposable razors and through your links found some links to alternatives. Thanks!

I actually shave in the shower with just some soap, but I have always wanted to do something about the wasteful and overpriced disposable razor parts.

Anonymous said...

I too got fed up with buying and dumping all that plastic every month.

I invested in a Merkur double-edge razor and after testing it for awhile, I bought a pack of blades for $15 that should last me a couple of years. Another cool part about this system is that I can take the used blades to my local art store for recycling.

kenbird said...

I gave up soap and the aerosol creams for shaving, over 10 years ago. That was when I tried some shaving oil from the old 'Body Shop'. Unfortunately it did not sell well in Australia, so, obviously, they discontinued it. After much badgering, over time, one of the shop assistants suggested a light cooking oil like the nut oils. So now for every day use I use macadamia or almond nut oil. Same 5 or 6 drops of oil as the commercial product. No rash, no dry skin and I get a nice close shave and less pain to the hip pocket nerve.

When I do cycle tours or multi week hiking I go feral and don't shave until the trip is over

As for Razors; I'll take your word for it. My only experience of straight razor shaving was at a barber preparing for a friends wedding. The result was 2 nicks and an unsatisfactory finish, a better result would have come from an electric shaver. I had to re-shave with disposable for a very much smoother finish.

From an economic and resources use point of view there are some very good reasons for straight razors.

Until I can either get a satisfactory straight razor shave from a barber or else have a test shave for my self I'm going to stay with my oils and resource wasting 'Bic' disposable.