Whilst it has the potential for instilling a luxurious and satisfying experience for a man, shaving has sadly been relegated to something dull, sterile, and inconvenient. Not only that, but the act of shaving has been sullied even in regards to names. Must we call a razor a “fusion pro-shield with flexball technology” razor?
I mean, seriously? It’s a razor. It’s not a space-craft capable of interstellar flight.
But that isn’t the half of it. What really grabs me is the concept of the want for a short, fast and plastic life. For decades now shaving has become mass marketed, in a big rush, and dislocated from the essence of grooming, and that’s a massive shame for many reasons let alone that there’s more to life than increasing its speed.
So, who’s for a “fusion pro-shield” razor with all of its bells and whistles? Don’t forget, you’ll also need an awful tin of foam or gel that you’ll have to messily squirt in to your hands and crudely rub in to your chops – Anyone? Any takers?
Not for me, thanks.
But, many men have gone down this path because that’s all they know. They blast through the sore and inconvenient act and… Just – Get – Through – That – Chore.
But to what end?
To rush to work? And then what? To dash back home for the weekend only to go again on the Sunday evening or Monday morning? Why be rushed? Why be “fusion” man, when you can go slow, live now (right now) and live fully.
However, if you’ve no regard to the efficacy of your shave it can, I’m told, be “achieved” in less than 30 seconds. Grab that horrible plastic razor, go dry shave your face or use that can of foam and best of luck with your shredded, dry skin and ingrown hairs.
Is it any wonder so many men have a strong dislike for (fast) shaving?THE DEPARTURE OF PROVEN TRADITION
The demise of slow shaving has been steady enough that men have taken what used to be a lengthy ritual, to a more convenient one, to a faster one, to a this isn’t important and let’s just get this done as quickly as possible one.
Back in the day the way you’d go about your shave was to boil up some water, strop your straight edge blade, lather your soap and then onto the face, and then you’d go through multiple steps in order to emerge a renewed man whose skin felt and looked brilliant.
Not today, not any more – not if you buy in to the marketing of the "fusion warp-drive enabled razors" and associated tins of awfulness.
Speed. Pace. Impatience. Vanishing months. The next target. Wanting it now. The next contract. The next holiday. The next game. The next thing on the list. The next big job. Chasing the clock. Watching the clock. I just don’t have the time. Constant chatter and the irrelevant static from the media and social media channels.
Really? For what?
How much of that matters? How much of that is about you? Well, without wishing to go off on a Buddhist tangent let’s look at something that truly does (and should) matter to you.
Taking a surgically sharp piece of cold steel to within 1” of your carotid artery, to just below your eye, then to your ear, and over your cheek, around your lips and under your nose – that matters.
This act, this daily ritual is one that absolutely, categorically matters. In just 15 minutes’ time can seemingly be slowed to such an extent that it feels as if you’ve just experienced a one-hour spa treatment.
But how does slow shaving do this, or more pertinently, why? For me the act of shaving is simple and profound – it’s something that can happen every day. And that has real importance attached to it.
It is part of caring for the only thing we truly own, and that’s our body. You have just the one face. Just the one body. And the experience of shaving and caring for your appearance is an experience worth taking time over.WHY BOTHER?
Well, why bother enjoying a crisp, cold beer poured in to a chilled and great looking glass? Why not drink something cheap and tasteless that you’ve decanted in to a plastic disposable cup? After all, beer is beer, right? Or why bother brewing a rich and full coffee in a solid and well-made cafetiere? Why not just stock up with a pile of plastic instant coffee cups?
None of these things, including slow shaving, need to be expensive. All it takes is three of your most valuable assets; your time, your full attention and your energy.
Having a good shave, a slow shave, is an act of revitalisation and renewal. There’s a specific process that you can follow, or you can modify and adapt it and make it your own. The act is clear; it has a beginning, a middle and an end – and it’s absolutely 100% worth the effort.
You - That’s you, right there, in the mirror. That’s everything you’ve got. For better or worse, that’s it and it’s time to take better care of you.
Whiskers - Your face is hydrated, clean, hot, soft and pliable from the recent shower. The whiskers on your face are soft and ready and they’re waiting to be cut down and demolished, albeit only briefly, ready to return another day.
Brush - In your hand is the brush, a beautiful piece of bone, marble, resin or wood with the bristles, possibly, of a once living wild animal. A boar, badger or horse once wore the coat that is now the knot of hair, blossoming from the brush. That or you've opted for a synthetic knot. Whichever your preference your brush is dry and ready to do its job – build your lather, exfoliate the skin and prepare your whiskers.
Lather - In your other hand is your jar of soap or your shaving bowl. You add hot water and begin the lathering ritual. Identify your preferred method of building your lather and before long you’ll have a slick, silky and voluminous body of lather that resembles thick whipped cream. Don't believe me? Try any of our shaving soaps and I'd eat my own hat if you then went back to shaving gel, foam, oil or gunk.
Using your brush apply lather in a circular motion. Feel the warmth penetrate the whiskers and the skin. Cover every inch from the high cheek, to the earlobe, to the Adam’s apple. Let the bristles agitate every whisker and prepare them for the looming cut.
Blade - Where would you like to begin? Cut throat? Single edge? Safety razor? Feather Kamisori? My recommendation, if you’re new to slow shaving, is to start with a double edge safety razor and find a disposable blade of your choice. Whatever you opt for you can bet your razor will be a solid piece of high quality equipment that will last you for the rest of your life.
Shave - You begin with the first pass and you shave with the grain, which is to say in the direction of the growth of the hair. Now re-lather and go for your second pass, but this time go across the grain. And then lather up for your third and final pass, this one will be against the grain. In summary, with the grain – across the grain – against the grain.
Tidy - The remnants of lather, severed whisker and blood that might remain on the face and give it a thorough splash with warm and then cold water. This will rinse out and close the pores.
Burn - By no means compulsory but for the man who wants his pores well and truly closed the next option is to employ the astringent properties of the alum block. Moisten it in cold water and then rub it in to your face. Enjoy the intense burn as the alum tightens pores and seals up any minor nicks or cuts – the stinging will be severe but it is only temporary.
Finish - One final rinse of cold water to remove the alum and your skin is ready for your preferred aftershave splash, post shave tonic or moisturising cream.
Emerge - Slow shaving is a cleansing, invigorating and focussing ritual. Surgically sharp steel removes whisker, dead skin and time from your face. Your skin becomes lighter, cleaner and renewed with each pass. You emerge refreshed, new and re-energised. Notice the sensation of cool air gliding over your smooth jawline and cheeks. Notice the smoothness of your skin and your enhanced alertness.
Fast shaver or slow shaver; which are you?