I Love My Brand New 1940’s Shave

Also featuring “how not to cut yourself shaving” 

Last month I decided to go back to the safety razor, the same thing my father used, and quite likely his father before him. I stopped using plastic razor blades supplied by Gillette.

The blade is stainless steel, and has been since 1965. Did my face become a patchwork quilt of minor cuts and other shaving errors, as I had feared? To begin with, yes – to a point, but I soon learned the art of the safety razor – and inevitably, I started to enjoy it. Would I go back? No.

here’s what you need

What do you need? This whole exercise took some preparation. To start with, what equipment would I need? The only thing I was sure I’d need was a safety razor. I soon found out this wasn’t something I could walk into a supermarket and buy. Taylor of Old Bond Street (established 1854), yes. Sainsbury’s Lewes Road in Brighton, no.

I love Taylor of Old Bond St. For a short while I worked in a bank that had offices in St James’s, London, and I could walk around St James’s in my lunch time pretending to be a middle-class Victorian patron, sniff the wonderful manly aromas and ogle at the mouth-watering prices. I always wanted to be a Victorian gentleman, but was hampered by not living in the Victorian era, among other things.

I was also hampered by their prices. Safety razors are sturdy metal things that should last a lifetime and needn’t cost
much. So like millions of others I did the equivalent of the mail-order catalog, held my nose at the minuscule taxes they pay and ordered one from Amazon. We’re all hypocrites! I suppose I’d rather contribute towards Amazon’s tax-free life than be a willing part of trashing the planet.

So there it was. Choice of silver or gold, ****1/2, 914 customer reviews. 20 customer questions (I’m sure one was “will I cut myself to pieces?”). “Want it delivered tomorrow?” Of course! Total cost £12.99

out with the old

The Gillette Mach 3 razor I had been using costs just £5 but the blades range from £1.63 to £2.50 each. Even if you go through one or two a week that’s a fair amount on your annual grocery bill.

I’ve seen safety razor blades on Amazon for about 10 cents each.

But more than all this is the environmental cost. Every blade is about 2/3 plastic, which we know is clogging the oceans. An old-fashioned razor blade is pure steel and can be recycled.

boo, hiss – the disposable razor

Then it was just a question of finding good old-fashioned shaving soap (£2) to replace the complicated and expensive foam that comes in a throwaway metal can, and a brush (about £7).

And yes, I learned how not to cut myself. Easy really. The clue is in the title “wet shave”. Just keep that face wet and you’ll be fine. And let the blade do the work, and don’t rush. If you do cut yourself there’s a range of after-shave like options to stop the bleeding. Gin, ice cubes, deodorant, even mouthwash are all touted as alternatives.

the 5-blade Gillette Fusion. Really?

It’s fun, and it’s great news for Planet Earth. The shaving industry is a good example of consumerism at its most wasteful. “Improvements” that cost more and more and somehow you can’t do without. We’ve had the twin blade (1971), the 3-blade mach 3 (1998), the five-blade Gillette Fusion (2006) and now the Fusion ProGlide FlexBall (2015). Great if that’s what you want, but they all do the same thing – give you a shave. And of course the most tragic and wasteful part of it is the disposable version that enables us to throw plastic into the oceans at an ever-faster rate.

I know I have many things in my life the Earth doesn’t want me to have. I believe the best way to change all this (at least for me) is one habit at a time. Often all we have to do is go a little back in time, to a less wasteful era that wasn’t really that long ago. And we usually find it’s a more restful, relaxing time too.


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