Traditional, masculine shaving is exploding in popularity around the world. Wet shaving products have gone from quaint Father’s Day gift items to genuine must-have accessories. And that is because growing numbers of men are discovering that the old ways are so much better. Men just like you are finding out that the TV ads and marketing campaigns simply are not true. You can shave better and save more with a safety razor, double-edged blades, and soap or cream, than with modern cartridge razors and foam or gel.
Shaving the way your grandfather did – or even the way your great-grandfather did – will save you piles of money over years and decades. But which wet shaving products should you buy? Which ones do you actually need? You might find the plethora of choices available to be quite confusing and hard to navigate. And if you are not careful, you could end up spending quite a bit on expensive products that do not actually last very long and do not deliver good quality.
This guide breaks it all down for you and gives you just what you need – no more, no less.
For starters, you need:
1. A Safety Razor
The history of this type of razor dates back at least to 1880, if not earlier, as a way to make shaving safer than the old cutthroat razor method. These days, safety razors provide a great balance between the extreme sharpness and quality of a cutthroat razor, with the simplicity and safety of a cartridge razor. In some ways, safety razors are a better option than either of the alternatives for wet shaving.
There are a LOT of safety razor products available for the novice to buy. Open-comb, closed-comb, neutrally aggressive, highly aggressive, adjustable blade gaps – the list of attributes goes on and on. It’s all very confusing and nobody really has the time to figure it all out.
Here’s the simple truth: You just need a solid, well-designed, high-quality product. Pick one, and stick with it. DO NOT buy the cheapest product you can find – you will regret it. You want a product that will last.
I recommend buying the Muehle 3-piece closed-comb safety razor. This will last for years, if not decades, and will give you a great shave every single time. As far as I’m concerned, Muehle makes the best safety razors on the market. Because this razor disassembles into three pieces, it is very easy to clean.
If you like the visual effect and appeal of a butterfly mechanism in a simple one-piece design, where you twist the handle of the razor to open up the blade chamber, then the VIKINGS BLADE Chieftan safety razor is the way to go.
And that’s it. You’ll never have to spend money on cartridges and disposable lightweight plastic junk ever again. You will now have a solid, craftsman-built piece of precision engineering to use every time you shave.
Next, get yourself:
2. Double-Edged Razor Blades
Once again, there are plenty of brands and blades to choose from. And once again, you will be tempted to go for the cheap and easy option.
This is a mistake. If you insist on buying cheap Chinese-made blades, or low-quality Gillette razor blades, you will find that each edge of these blades lasts for perhaps 3-4 shaves before they go blunt. And the last thing you want is to shave with a dull blade. You will end up with nicks and cuts and extreme irritation – both physical and mental. Don’t do it.
Instead, get yourself a few packs of Merkur double-edged razor blades. These blades are superbly engineered and exquisitely sharp. They are expensive, but very much worth the price. Each side of each blade lasts a 6-8 shaves, which means that a set of 25 blades is all you need for an entire year. That’s $30 or so for an entire year of shaving.
If you are willing to use one blade a week – as opposed to one edge a week – in order to pay less, then the next best brand to use is Japan’s Feather double-edged razor blades. A pack of 50 blades will cost you only about $21. Each edge lasts 3-4 shaves.
There is one point to note: these blades are designed for most skin and hair types. They may not be suitable for those with sensitive skin and hair. I will address the issue of shaving for sensitive skin in a future post.
Now that you have your razor blades, you need some…
3. Shaving Soap or Cream
There are quite a few different shaving soaps and creams on the market these days. Precisely ONE brand deserves your actual time and investment. And that is Proraso.
This is an Italian brand that makes quite simply THE best shaving soaps and creams in the business. I have tried out a number of different shaving soaps from brands like Colonel Conk and Trigodon. I have even used a bar of regular bath soap when I found myself without access to shaving soap for about 6 weeks during the recent COVID-19 crisis. NOTHING compares to shaving with a Proraso soap.
Their soaps are made with the highest-quality ingredients and to the highest levels of craftsmanship. Each tub of soap comes in a plastic container that eliminates the need for a separate bowl or mug. Their three primary soap and cream types come in three different colours – green for everyday shaving, white for sensitive skin, and red for coarse beards.
If you are just starting out with traditional wet-shaving, get yourself a tub of Proraso Shaving Soap with eucalyptus oil and menthol. This will last you for a good 3 months.
If you prefer to use a shave cream rather than a soap, then, again, go for a tube of Proraso Shaving Cream. This uses the same basic ingredients as the shaving soap, but comes in a squeezable tube instead of a bulky tub.
You’re almost done. All you need now is something to lather up and apply your shaving soap (or cream) to your face. And for that, you need…
4. A High-Quality Shaving Brush
The quality of your shaving brush will determine the quality of your lather and therefore of your shave. So try to avoid buying a cheap brush with synthetic bristles. This will not last very long. You want a brush made of a type of hair that retains water very effectively. The brush needs to have hairs that are strong and durable, yet light and flexible. As a result of these qualities, your daily lather will be rich, thick, and luxurious.
There is a lot of debate about whether you should buy boar or badger hair brushes. My personal preference is badger hair. Boar hair is not light or flexible and does not retain water nearly as well as badger hair.
As a result of their lightness, quality, and water retention, badger hair brushes command a significant price premium. In my experience, they are WELL worth the extra money.
Don’t waste too much time over a particular brush. Just get yourself a Parker silvertip badger brush. That’s all you need – no muss, no fuss. This brush will give you a terrific lather every single time.
Quality Creates Quality
When you combine high-quality, high-value instruments with good technique and an appreciation for traditional, masculine shaving, you get great results. It’s just that simple.
Wet shaving products do not need to be overly expensive or complicated. They just need to be the best quality that you can afford for the purpose. The rest is up to you and your technique, and I will show you how to develop good shaving technique in a future post.
So commit yourself to getting a superb shave each and every morning. Take the time to savour the time, skill, and effort involved to shave the right way. Slow your day down just a bit to become a more masculine man with an appreciation for good grooming. And throw away your money-wasting, skin-damaging cartridge razor and petroleum-based gels and foams.
Save money, shave better with the best-value wet shaving products that you can buy.