Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Raindrops on Roses... Er... My Favorite Things -- in Shaving

I'm not going to break into a Julie Andrews song from "The Sound of Music," but I am going to start a series of articles about my favorite things in shaving including hardware, accessories, and processes.

Today I start with the most basic issue: choice of razor.

To prolong the drama just a minute more, I need to acknowledge that my choice of preferred razor has shifted over time. However, I doubt very much that my favorites will change going forward.

I use the plural, favorites, because there are two classes of razor choices in my opinion: routine shaving and travel-by-air shaving.

For routine shaving, I use a double-edge (DE) razor for several reasons. It's kind of fun to shave old school and still have the advantage of a safety razor. Given my temperment, going fully old school with a straight razor would be unwise owing to likely excessive blood shed on a daily basis. However, the DE equipment offers both the pleasure of shaving like grandad did, with the near safety of a modern cartridge design.

From an economic perspective, the DE hardware is hard to beat. Once a gent has settled on the right razor, the cost of Internet-purchased blades is so economical that the razor-and-blade combination, over time, will likely yield the lowest cost per shave. Although a straight razor is a one-time investment, the initial cost is pretty steep, and when one factors in the cost of sharpening stones, strop, or alternative maintenance, I'm not sure the straight is as economical as the DE.

Ecological considerations make the straight the razor of choice, but the DE is a close second, with only the blade to be routinely replaced -- and that is recyclable. All the cartridge designs involve more non-recyclable processes and are therefore less desirable.

The Merkur Classic, the 33C. 
My favorite DE razor is now one that I now use every day. It's shave character is well suited to my sharply-contoured and sensitive face and neck. It isn't worth going to other razors because they either increase my risk of nicks and cuts, or they don't offer as close a shave.

My favorite DE razor is the Merkur Classic, the model 33C. Given the shave process that I also now use every day (the subject of a different article), this razor is far and away the best choice -- although, really, no matter what process I use, this razor is still the best for me.

The Merkur Classic razor has a negative blade exposure, with the edge of the blade slightly below the shave plane, safely within the protective cove of the top cap and the safety bar. However, it has a moderate blade-bar span (from points A to B in the photo), which allows the razor to still shave closely without being much of a hazard.

As I've written before, it is ironic that this razor is the first DE design that I purchased after finding my father's 1963 Gillette Slim Adjustable and giving DE shaving a go. Unfortunately, I didn't have the experience to realize what a gem the 33 truly was for me, and I needed to shave with many more DE razors and use various shaving techniques before I understood that this was truly the best razor in my stable. Ah well, live and learn.

I get consistently good shaves with a variety of blades. I truly value this DE razor above all others for my daily shaves.

My favorite travel razor: the twin-blade, pivoting head
offering from Gillette.
When traveling by air, DE blades are not allowed in carry-on luggage, of course. And since carry-on luggage is all that I bring on flights, my DE-shaving options become limited. I can take my chances and buy blades from stores at my destination, but they are always waaaaaaaay overpriced, and the selection is severely limited as well. I can mail my preferred blades to my destination ahead of time, but that is usually impractical and just too much trouble for my taste, thanks very much. So I use a plastic disposable for air-travel trips.

My favorite disposable is the two-track, pivoting head product from Gillette. It isn't expensive, gives great shaves, and is allowed in carry-on luggage. I buy this razor in a ten pack, and find that it's also reasonably durable.

I believe that I've correctly pictured this disposable razor in its packaging. It's called the Gillette Custom Plus razor. There are other acceptable options for my face when traveling by air, but this one -- of those that I've tried -- gives a great shave, is inexpensive, durable, and comfortable.

So that's it: the Merkur 33C Classic for my normal DE shaves, and the Gillette Custom Plus for my airline-travel shaves.

Happy shaving!

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