What does it mean to be a Revolucionary? To be a Man of Action, a Warrior of Truth, a Pioneer, a Trailblazer? With a fast-paced world around us that is constantly changing and charging forwards into the future, it can sometimes be easy to forget to honour the past, which has been as integral to our continued evolution as is dreaming of what is to come. At Revolucion Fine Gifts & Cigars, we like to practice a complete and wholesome appreciation of both the old and the new, the young and the wise!
With that in mind, today’s blog series dissects the process of shaving with a traditional double-edged safety razor, which remains to this day a timelessly classic instrument in every man’s luxury shaving tool belt. We hope this will help all of you develop a more comprehensive understanding of the benefits of traditional shaving techniques and accompanying accessories.
SELECTING YOUR RAZOR
Selecting the right razor for your first shaving setup is yet another daunting task that one must tackle. Just like brushes, there are many options. If you look closely, you will see the variation among many of these razors is very small and often only cosmetic—for example, the Edwin Jagger RE89 series razor is now offered in several different handle finishes featuring the same cutting head with the same overall physical dimensions. Generally speaking, a beginner will be best served by learning on a fixed-head, regular-guard double-edge safety razor. Adjustable razors have their merits and many men enjoy using them; however, if you have something adjustable, curiosity may get the best of you and you will tinker with its settings looking for better results. By going with a fixed-position blade, you are forcing yourself to master the grip, pressure, and angle familiarity required to be more successful in your results. Selecting the right blade for your razor is also a task. Ten years ago there were only a handful of widely available blades, such as Merkur, Derby, and Feather. Today, however, there are exponentially more; Revolucion Fine Gifts & Cigars carries blades for every budget, including Derby, Astra, Shark, Crystal and Wilkinson’s, just to name a few! The unfortunate part of finding the right blade is that it is likely going to take you a little trial and error. Every man’s face and hair density is different, and what works well for some will obviously not for others. In general, most men do well with platinum-coated blades since they provide a sharp and durable edge for shaving. The best option is to consider a sampler of various blades—ask your friendly sales associate at Revolucion to recommend a variation of blade brands, so that you may sample a few until you find the blade that feels best suited to you.
AND WHAT ABOUT STRAIGHT RAZORS?
There is a shared sentiment that considers the use of straight razors as the ultimate traditional shaving experience. However, most men make a much smoother transition in learning the wet shave process by starting out with a good double edge safety razor and “learning the ropes” before making the transition to straights. Straight razors are a fantastic hobby, especially if you are the type of person that appreciates fine cutlery and learning how to strop and hone blades; but by first learning how to master your brush and lather as well as how to navigate a sharp blade around the contours of your face, the straight razor will be a much more enjoyable experience when you do decide to pick one up and give it a try.
HANDLING and TECHNIQUE
For those who are moving from a mass-market multi-blade razor to a traditional safety razor, they will immediately notice that the cutting angle of a double-edge razor is much different than cartridge or disposable razors. The safety razor does not have a pivoting head, and the weight and balance of the all-steel constructed double-edge razor requires a different grip in order to maintain the correct pressure of the blade against the skin. Below we will demonstrate the correct way to hold a double-edge safety razor to achieve the proper angle and comfortable shave.
It is critical that a new wet shaver learns the right way to hold a safety razor. Holding the razor near the cutting head can inadvertently cause the shaver to press too hard against his face during the shave and result in accidental cuts or skin irritation. By holding the razor at the correct position, the weight of the cutting head allows the blade to track along the skin, providing the most comfortable and efficient cutting action possible.
The way to hold a razor varies slightly depending on the style of handle you choose. Most popular safety razors available today, such as Merkur, Edwin Jagger, and Parker, are available in both long-handled and standard models. Revolucion Fine Gifts & Cigars carries an excellent selection of all three brands. The different handle lengths combined with the weight of the razor’s cutting head determine the best finger placement when holding the razor.
Short Grip—This type of razor features a wider diameter handle, but has the shorter length that allows it to feel well balanced in your hand when held properly. The release knob at the bottom of the razor provides the ideal point to grip the razor securely. The best technique is to use three fingers, the index, middle, and thumb, to secure the razor at the bottom of the handle. For the downward cutting motion, as you would do for your first pass with the grain, hold the razor similarly to how you would hold a dart.
Cutting in an upward direction stroke, against the grain, requires an adjustment, however. For this position, use the thumb and index finger to secure the base of the razor near the knob and allow the barrel of the handle to rest on the middle finger. This keeps the razor stable and secure when making the more awkward upward strokes during your shave. Although the razor rests on the middle finger a bit higher up the length of the handle than you would hold it for the downward cut, the grip pressure remains at the base, near the knob where it should be.
Long Grip—This size features an elongated grip. The longer length handle allows for more grip space so the finger placement has to be slightly modified in order to maintain the right balance in your hand. Although it does not rotate, there is still a knob at the end of the razor that provides an ideal place to securely grip the razor. Unlike the short-handle razors, the best technique for gripping the long handle is to use four fingers. For the downward cutting motion, hold the razor with the thumb, middle, and ring finger applying pressure at the bottom near the knob. Allow the index finger to rest above your other fingers, against the handle, to add additional support to the razor. This provides a secure grip anchored at the base of the handle while also compensating for the additional length of the handle.
For the upward cutting motion, secure the razor with the thumb and index finger at the knob end the same way you would for the short handle. Allow the barrel of the razor to rest against the ring finger while the middle finger provides additional support towards the base. This finger position maintains the stability at the base of the handle and prevents excess pressure at the cutting head. Similar to the technique used with the upward cutting grip on the short handle razor, the fingers are extended a bit further up the length of the handle but grip pressure is maintained at the knob where it should be.
In conclusion, knowing how to hold and maneuver a safety razor will allow a wet shaver to shave without accidental cuts or skin irritation. On a quality razor, such as the 34C or 23C, the weight of the cutting head is complimentary to the weight of the handle, allowing the shaver to comfortably hold the balanced razor at the correct position. It is important to keep your hand at the base of the razor, so you can be sure that you are not applying too much pressure against your skin. By knowing how to hold a safety razor, you can achieve the proper cutting angle, minimize cuts, and enjoy a close and comfortable shave.
SOAPS and CREAMS
The range of available shaving soap and cream varieties is almost endless. Take a quick walk through any grocery or drug store’s personal care section and you will be quickly overwhelmed with hundreds of choices of various gels and foams. Many of these products promise the closest, most comfortable shave with less irritation, fewer nicks, and various other marketing buzz words. Unfortunately these products are also loaded with a plethora of artificial chemicals such as propellants, numbing agents, and additives to make them shelf stable till the end of time. Many of these additives are not exactly the safest things to put on your skin every morning and expect it to remain healthy.
Fortunately, at Revolucion Fine Gifts & Cigars there is a large variety of very good traditional soaps and creams to choose from, manufactured by some of the top brands in the industry from around the world. Soft shaving creams tend to offer more benefit for the beginning wet shaver because they are easier to work in to a good lather using a shaving brush. Soaps can sometimes require a little more technique to get the water ratio perfected for a good lather and that will vary from one product to the next. Those seeking the more traditional types of shaving products should look into the product lines we carry by Edwin Jagger—made in Sheffield, England—or Jack Black—from the United States.
There is a vast wide array of fragrances to choose from ranging from fruity to woodsy as well as the more unique signature blend fragrances, so it is best to be open to trying various ones and finding which is most pleasing to your own shaving experience. If that is more your style, have a look through Revolucion’s collection of Penhaligon’s signature shaving products.
WRAP IT UP, TIE IT WITH A BOW (additional accessories to complete your shaving set)
So now that you’ve selected your core products for your wet shaving setup, what shaving set is complete without a way to show it off? STANDS! TRAVEL BAGS! Consider other accessories available that will be very useful.
The good news is that we stock a variety of stands, cases, travel bags, and other items that can be just the finishing touch you need for keeping your new investment protected and organized. If you are a frequent traveler, a good quality travel bag is invaluable for keeping your shaving items easily transportable while you are away from home. Travel bags are available in a variety of materials from basic canvas to luxury hand stitched leathers. Any type of bag can work well for your needs, so ultimately the decision on what works for you is based on your own budget and your own preferences for quality and craftsmanship. We even carry wet shaving travel sets for the man on the go—travel kits designed down to the detail by Edwin Jagger.
Shaving stands also provide a useful function for keeping your items neatly stored at home. Stands are available for brushes or in a combo configuration to keep both a brush and razor neatly displayed. There is the added benefit in keeping the brush and razor neatly displayed on the counter as well, which can certainly add a bit of sophistication to the appearance of your side of the bathroom sink.
Although it might sound silly to think of shaving as an art, the fact of the matter is that you are trying to fuse together the elements of water, soap, brush, and steel in the delicate process of running a sharp blade along your skin with a skilled and steady hand. This no different than buying a fancy set of cookware and quality ingredients, and expecting to go home and turn out a five star entrée. The process takes some practice to develop the feel and technique to get the best results. You should expect there to be a bit of a learning curve.
…But that is why you have your friends at Revolucion Fine Gifts & Cigars here to help you through every step of the process, to ensure you become an informed, proud, and sharpened Missionary of the Ages; one who looks to the past, and harnesses its wisdom to inspire the future—a RevoluCionary!
Edwin Jagger Official Site: “Edwin Jagger Shaving Products”; http://www.edwinjagger.com/shaving-products
Shaving 101: Wet Shaving Education & Reviews: “Double Edge Wet Shaving”; http://www.shaving101.com/index.php/education/double-edge-shaving.html
Shaving 101: Wet Shaving Education & Reviews: “How to Hold a Safety Razor”; http://www.shaving101.com/index.php/education/double-edge-shaving/191-how-to-hold-a-safety-razor.html
Shaving 101: Wet Shaving Education & Reviews: “So you want to be a wet shaver?”; http://www.shaving101.com/index.php/education/double-edge-shaving/300-so-you-want-to-be-a-wet-shaver.html
Shaving 101: Wet Shaving Education & Reviews: “Shaving with a Straight Razor”; http://www.shaving101.com/index.php/education/straight-shaving/109-shaving-with-a-straight-razor.html