So you’ve decided that you’re finally ready for the big leagues, eh? Ready to tame that face-mane the way your forefathers did? Well step right up and let the Shaving Fool give you a quick run down! Follow these simple lessons for a crash course in traditional wet shaving and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining that dapper look that ladies love and other men envy.
Lesson 1: YMMV
Learn this lesson and learn it well. “Your mileage may vary.” Not all products, or techniques work the same for everyone. Pick virtually any ingredient used and you’ll find people that love it, and people that hate it… but that’s the point. Just like a cologne might smell slightly (or even very) different on me than on you, so it’s true with shave gear. So experiment!
Lesson 2: Gear
Seriously, spend the money to invest in decent gear. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive… what’s important is that they are GREAT quality. Here’s what you need to get started:
- A razor. I could give you a recommendation here, but honestly it would be a shot in the dark. Why? Because your face is different than mine. There are a ton of brands that work great and a ton of variations… open comb, closed comb, big blade gap, little blade gap, etc. Seriously, experiment… there’s no shame in owning more than one razor because they may not all work as well in certain situations.
- A brush. Now listen. A lot of creams will say that they are “brushless.” This means nothing. What they are basically telling you is that you don’t need to mix the cream with water to produce lather, which is typically done with a brush. A brush is still beneficial though. It helps stand the hairs up and exfoliates the skin.
- A good cream or soap. Forget that stuff in the can. Will it work? Sure, but is it the best? Absolutely not. Now you’re going to be daunted when you see how much some soaps/creams cost… “$15 for a little can of cream?!” you’ll shout – to which I’ll laugh and say “only $15?” But seriously, you have to remember that these are all concentrated and dehydrated somewhat. Most good makers will last you 3-4 months or longer, depending on the size. In that time, you’ll likely spend just as much on the spray stuff so skip it and get a real soap or cream. Your face, and your loved ones, will thank you.
- Blades. You can’t shave without the sharp, right? Remember lesson 1? Say it with me, “your mileage may vary,” very good class. That applies here more than anywhere. Even in cases of people with very similar hair types, the same blade may just not work very well for both. It can be the coating, the razor you’re using, or just the specific curve of your face. Don’t get disheartened…. More about this later.
Lesson 3: Picking your poison, I mean blade….
Like I said before, blades vary more from person to person than anything else. The trick is to be adventurous. No matter how good of a deal it looks like, DON’T START WITH 100 OF THE SAME BLADE! Get yourself a nice sampler pack, but make sure that it includes at least 2 of each type of blade… a single blade does you no good. Why, you ask? Because sometimes a blade is a dud. It happens. More importantly, no matter how badass you feel, old school razor in hand, a mug of foam and a loaded brush at your side, cigar hanging from your teeth, you ARE still human and humans make mistakes. Maybe that bad shave was the result of poor technique? The only answer is to try it again, and give each blade at least 2 days… unless of course you leave the bathroom wearing more toilet paper than your neighbor’s tree on April 1st. Even still, don’t chuck those unused blades. Even after all this time, if I get a bad shave from a new blade I just put the rest aside and come back in a month or so to try again.
Lesson 4: Brush types
There’s always an argument… natural versus synthetic. And when that other idiot yells at you, “REAL MEN USE” this kind of brush, just yell back “YMMV YOU FOOL!”… or maybe don’t, and just remember it. You can find great brushes of both types, so experiment and find what works for you. I’ve personally found that I do best with good quality badger hair, with a short loft and lots of backbone. My friend does better with synthetics that are huge and floppy. Find what works for you and experiment.
Lesson 5: Technique is everything, but don’t let that put pressure on you….
Wet shaving is all about your technique, and the key here is to use as little pressure as possible. The best shave is one you hardly feel.
Lesson 6: Building a lather
Forget everything you know about what a “good lather” looks like. That foam in the can is aerated using various propellants, leaving it over-inflated in the end. Focus more on comfort. Now there are 2 main techniques you can try, dry brush or wet brush. It all comes down to how wet your brush is after you wet it down… do you squeeze all the water out and then add it little by little while building your lather? Then you like a dry brush. Like it wet and wild, lather flying all over the place? Then it’s wet for you. The big difference really is how you arrive at your lather… with a dry technique you add water slowly and with wet technique you add product if needed.
Lesson 7: I got all that crap, now how the F$%K do I do this shaving thing?!
So you got your lather built, your blade loaded, razor at the ready, and prepared to beat back the beast that is your beard. Good. Now remember that wet shaving isn’t about speed, it’s about luxury. Wet shaving comes from a time when men went to barbers, had a smoke and talked about the affairs of the day… when men were gentlemen and gentlemen were men. They could talk politics with you one second, stand up and engage you hand to hand the next, and then polish it off with a good whisky and a cigar. Take your time and enjoy it, and remember the feeling. …And if you meant actual directions, start with the grain, then across the grain, then against it, applying a good coat of lather in between. Wash the shorn hairs from your face, slap on some aftershave and meet the world dapper as all hell.
Stay dapper gents,
@gentlemens.gear on instagram