Thursday, June 25, 2015

Any Silly Bugger....

Old-school wet shaving is all about a single blade edge slicing hair at the skin surface. That's what makes it great. That lone line of sharpened steel gives a close shave and a nice-looking shave. It also makes the shaving process a little challenging to achieve that perfect balance between smoothness and comfort.

Therefore, the reality is that for many, old-school wet shaving isn't perfect. For those with sensitive skin (like me), the baby-smooth shave requires sufficient contact between steel and skin that, along with removing all surface stubble, the blade edge also riles the skin surface to some extent. And the more passes that one takes over a given area of skin, the more irritation is likely to be created.

It is this necessity for balancing closenss and irritation that makes the activity so addicting; it is the challenge of walking that line -- the razor's edge, to borrow a phrase.

In a very small way, it's akin to the addiction of auto racing. As the late, great Jim Clark once said, "If there were no limit, any silly bugger could drive the car." He meant, of course, that the great drivers perform on that limit of tire adhesion, where the car is going the fastest it can, without losing traction and sliding off the road. It's about optimal performance (speed) and avoiding disaster (shunt/skid/crash). If there were no risk in auto racing, the activity of driving would be a pastime for children and idiots, like the boom of firecrackers, which eventually holds little appeal for fully-developed adults.

Old-school wet shaving is like that: getting optimal performance (the closest shave possible), while avoiding disaster (weepers, nicks, cuts, razor burn). The satisfaction of the baby-smooth shave is a driving force, and the challenge of achieving it while minimizing negative consequences makes it addicting. That's one reason why multi-blade cartridge razors are less interesting to use: yes, they can provide a good shave, but it becomes just an expensive chore, with little risk. Like Clark said, "If there's no limit, any silly bugger can [do it]."

This natural conflict of close shave versus irritation and blood loss is, in part, what drives some us in our obsessive quest for more and different shaving accessories. (Of course, some of it is just the enjoyment of variety.) Part of the motivation for different razors, soaps, and other acoutrements is like the racer's motivation to get race-car improvements: better results through technology.

Yet at some point in the racing game, technology becomes too expensive. In Indy Car, they addressed that by standardizing the chassis itself, eliminating the need for teams to design their own cars. In wet shaving, for many men, the final straw was the triple-bladed (and more) disposables, which became uncomforably costly for many, but also removed the challenge, the need for any skill. Again to paraphrase Clark, it got so that any silly bugger could get a close shave with impunity.

Yet the uncomfortable truth is that the original Trac II razors served a purpose. They largely eliminated the learning curve in wet shaving. They were designed to keep the sharp-steel edges in slightly less contact with the skin, while still providing not only a close shave (close enough for many), but also a no-skill-required shave. Yep, they clogged easily. Yep, they caused in-grown hairs. Yep, they got too expensive. Yep, they were ecologically unfriendly -- causing unnecessary deposits in land fills.

Now, when I lay it all out like in the preceding paragraph, for many of us, the decision to go old school is a no brainer. Yet the reality is that there are still many who are unmoved; you will have to pry that disposable five-bladed pivoting plastic razor from their cold, dead fingers cause they ain't lettin' go.

Well, at least now we have another way to detect silly buggers.  ;-)

Happy shaving!

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