From time to time, I like to take a little trip down memory lane. This is one such time. I recently made what many would erroneously consider a step in the wrong direction with my grooming habits. I benched my 3 bladed cartridge razor in favor of the dreaded safety variety. Some of you have used this classic device before. Those who have may have just winced at the memory of nicks received from the gadget. Of those folks, many were probably introduced to the safety razor the same way I was... By sneaking it out of their Dad's medicine cabinet and trying to secretly shave the first time without assistance. This attempt was usually followed by a classic bellow from the bathroom as dear old Dad yelled, "Who has been messing with my razor?" This did not necessarily mean the young lad's actions had been detected. Moms of the time were notorious for dulling blades by secretly shaving their legs with the same razor.
Why does a simple safety razor get recognition in my discussion of Father's Day? Sure, it was used by fathers for decades, but that is just scratching the surface (pun intended). Step into the way-back machine and follow along. Years ago, men (and women) worked hard. Seems like a foreign concept today, but I mean they really worked hard. Look at black and white photos of working class families from a hundred years ago. Do these look like happy-go-lucky-people? A workday was demanding, and left the worker with evidence of their toils. Coal mining husbands were unrecognizable before washing off the day's black soot. Steel workers stank of sweat and the acrid smell of smelting burned the nose. Farmers gained the aroma of horses, mules, cows, and the piles they left behind. A shower or bath was not used to wake up after a late night out. It was necessary for health and longevity. It also kept the bed sheets from resembling the Shroud of Turin. How did our ancestors stand to stay together, in close proximity, in teeny houses, under such conditions? Once in a while, they had to spiffy up.
Let's say Ma gets her canning done a little early and decides to take a cool bath to end her day. Pa comes in from the field covered in dust and grime. Ma says, "You get in the washroom and clean up before dinner!" Pa yells from the washroom, "Who's been messing with my razor?" He lathers up with lime, sandalwood, or other exotic shave soaps from the era, and slickers off his stubble. After dinner, over a game of dominoes, Ma comments on how handsome Pa is with a clean shave. Pa questions Ma about the dullness of his razor. The old oil lantern gets turned down. "Brown chicken-Brown cow", our lineage continues. Now that we know we will eventually be born, let's move back to the present.
Why would a modern man voluntarily move backwards to a single bladed razor when there are plenty of 2, 3, or 5 bladed cartridges on the market? For starters, let's talk cost. Yes, a quality safety razor is not cheap. It will set you back $20 to $50 in initial layout. Blade cost? A pack of four Mach 3 cartridges runs around 16 dollars, while 100 safety razor blades from respected manufacturers are between 8 and 12 bucks. Next, consider the operation of the shaver. With a safety razor, the trick is to keep your face wet and use short and no-pressure strokes. The new cartridges are designed to stretch, pull, lift, cut, and confusingly the last step, lubricate in a single swipe. My observations over the last few weeks have convinced me that the single blade is actually less irritating on my face. There is no pull on the handle from the rubber ribs of the cartridge drag across your face with the simple shaver. The old style razor does take a little more time, probably due to the fact that I am trying not to ruin the experience by nicking my face. My speed is increasing as I become comfortable with the technique.
Let's not get confused and come to the conclusion that I just like doing things the hard way. An old time safety razor shave approaches spa-level service today. You can chose the brush, the shave soap, amount of lather, moisture, the scent, the razor, the blade. If your goal is to compete with the lady in your life for valuable bathroom counter space, I advise you to take a look at all of the products available at Classic Shaving. You can contemplate what weighed on your ancestor's minds as they wiped fog from the mirror. Take a simple job, a simple machine, and make it yours again. In the end, you come away with a smooth, lightly-scented face, and the possibility of a "Brown chicken-Brown cow" moment of your own. Without those, Father's day would be a moot point.