Watch any sporting event and you’ll see an ad with some alpha-male, be it Packers linebacker Clay Matthews or anyone from the seemingly limitless pool of chiseled guys with chiseled chins. He will, invariably, be shirtless (nice pecs) standing in front of a mirror, holding a razor. The voiceover will say, “For the man who wants to get closer (with no nicks or cuts!)” as Ripped McBiceps strokes his Olympian jawline while some absolute babe wraps her arms around his waist.
Carefully packaged marketing. It hits what guys want. Even in this era of beard hysteria (we like to call it “beardsteria”), a nice shave continues to be a relaxing experience.
Here’s what Schick, Gillette and that dude shaving with a nuclear-powered Norelco don’t want you to know—cartridge and electric razors don’t give you the best shave. For the prime home grooming experience, you need to get into wet shaving. It’s simply the best.
Vintage is perpetually all the rage. Ignore this oxymoron for a minute and get ready for the ultimate vintage man-care tool: the safety razor. These small blades, also known as double-edged (DE) razors, are the key for anyone dissatisfied with their modern shaving experience. This is how your grandfather did it, unless he used a straight razor. In that case, kudos to him. Most of us would slice our faces off.
Getting into the wet shaving game is easy, but it requires a bit of an investment. You need to get a handle. They’re around $40 and some reputable vendors are Merkur and Gillette. The blades are the next step. Each man has a preference, so pick up a starter pack with a variety of blades. A blade will last about three shaves. If you’re used to cartridge-razor pricing, you may balk at this. Thankfully, safety razors cost about a dime apiece.
Open up your medicine cabinet and throw out any of that aerosol shaving cream/shaving gel/shaving goop that you may have accumulated. There’s no place for that anymore. It’s got alcohol, which is drying and aging on your skin, and there are other skin irritants in there, too.
Shaving soap will be your new best friend, and what a friend it is! Pick up a puck from Pre Du Provence or L’Occitane and don’t look back. These soaps smell divine and provide a smooth lubricant for your razor to glide across, leaving your face soft and moisturized.
To actually use and apply the soap, you’ll need a brush. Spring for a proper badger-hair brush. When it’s time to shave, take a hot shower and let your face absorb the moisture. It’ll open up your pores and soften your whisker. Use a gently exfoliating face wash to avoid ingrown hairs.
Repurpose a big mug from your kitchen as your new shaving mug. Some soaps will come in a tin; others will need to be placed in a bowl. You can buy soap bowls specifically for this purpose, but they aren’t necessary. Fill the mug with hot water and pour a bit over the soap. Place your brush in the mug and let it soak for about 45 seconds as you tend to other business. Empty the mug and pour the soapy water into the mug. Wring the water out of the brush and then rub it on the soap until it lathers a bit and the brush has absorbed some soap. Then, whip the soapy brush around in the mug and add water as needed to achieve a rich lather.
Now the really fun part—time to shave! Brush the lather onto your wet face and take in the scent. Hold your razor all the way at the end with a three-point grip, using your thumb, pointer and middle finger. Without applying pressure, drag it across your face with the grain of the hair. It may take some prctice to find the correct angle, but you will. Do as many passes as necessary, and rinse off.
Afterwards, apply your favorite aftershave (again, no alcohol allowed here) and revel in how good your face smells and feels. You’ll never go back.
Michael Nissenbaum is a lawyer by day (and night), and a writer by night (and day). You can follow him on Twitter @gnarsenbaum.