A Close Shave

A Man Out of Time

Last week, I paid visit to my barber shop for a good trim. The establishment, as well as yours truly, holds dearly to traditional values. As a luxury service, it offers a good old-fashioned shave with a straight razor which provoked me to enquire upon the expense of a straight razor. Sadly, the price of £200 for something worthwhile including the strop for sharpening and blade grease was far too high to purchase on a whim.

As the barber skilfully sheared the back of my neck, I realised that he was not using the straight razor that we associate with times of old. In fact, for hygiene purposes, straight razors are solemnly used by barbers today. Instead, the type of blade of choice by guardians of the art is a shavette. The premise is simple: The body resembles a straight razor. However strop and grease are foregone by a normal razorblade housed in the arm.

That evening, I scoured the electronic communications network on my space-age calculating device. After studying a number of opinions on barber forums (seemingly, there are forums for every profession), I was overjoyed to discover that I could indulge in a Parker 31R Stainless Steel shavette for a humble twelve pound sterling and twenty pence.

Following its arrival, my experiment began. My weapon of choice is a double-edged razor after having long forsaken those wretched modern, ten-bladed, vibrating, laser-guided monstrosities. Therefore I postulated that there would be little difference in the experience. After all, if the blades were alike, how problematical might it be?

Pictured: Two twins seperated at birth.

Pictured: Two twins seperated at birth.

Shaving has always been a pleasure for which I have developed a ritual. Every two evenings, I put on some mood music, light candles, sacrifice poultry, lather the shaving soap with a brush and leave the razorblade dipped in some boiling water for approximately a minute while soaking my face until the skin became supple. Once prepared, I would apply a thick layer of soap and shave with the scalding blade while singing along to ‘Mack the Knife’ with lips as motionless as a professional ventriloquist. The result would a smooth babyface followed by a dash of moisturiser and harmless splash of cologne.

A perfect relationship while the pomade looks jealously on.

A perfect relationship while the pomade looks jealously on.

Therefore, expecting the same ceremony, I elatedly prepared everything as per usual. A moment later, bare-chested with the thick soap cohering to my face like a white beard, I stood before the mirror. Once mastering the grip, I watched apprehensively as my quivering hand hovered clumsily over a throbbing jugular. Taking a deep breath, I eased the blade at a thirty degree angle onto my trembling skin.

Other than a stinging pulsation above my top lip and neck, the end result was fundamentally efficacious. Seemingly, some practice around the chin is still necessary in order to avoid its inadvertent removal. Nevertheless, my jawline feels fresh and smooth.

If anything, this experience has led me to believe that it is not the clichéd hazards of straight razors that have advertently caused its downfall but merely the inconvenience. Unless you feel it necessary to hack away at your face with the razor like a machete, these are no danger of harm any more than when using a conventional safety razor. Customarily, a daily shave lasts no longer than five or so minutes.

Although be it my first attempt with a shavette, it endured nearly twenty minutes. Perhaps in the New York minute world of today, there is little time for such charming pleasures.

Now for a splash of cologne, methinks.

Ow… Ow. Ow! Oh God, it burns!

Charles-Philippe Bowles


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