Jun 30, 2017

Dad's retro shaving ways

by Darrin Vindiola

Who doesn't love a man's razor with 5 blades? They're safe and easy to use, can be less irritating to your skin than other disposables, and offer a pretty close shave. Heck.. you can even buy battery operated razors that vibrate and massage your face as you shave!

I was a fan of these nifty razors for awhile, until one day thriftiness got the best of me. It suddenly dawned on me how much I was spending on the replacement blades for my five blade setup. An eight pack of these state of the art razor blade heads, which is a two month supply for myself, can cost anywhere from eighteen to twenty five dollars a pack!   Don't get me wrong.. if someone wants to spend that kind of money on razors, I'm fine with that. Some fellas may even need to do so because of skin irritation issues.   I however, choose not to do so any longer.

One morning a few months ago, I found myself plumb out of replacement razor blades. Disgusted at how much it was going to cost me to run out and buy some more, I looked through my bathroom drawer hoping to find a replacement blade hiding somewhere. It was then that I stumbled upon my old trusty (Made in the USA) Gillette adjustable razor.

I'm not exactly sure when I bought into the whole "multiple blades are better than one" notion, but I'm going to say it's been close to a decade now. I'm not saying this statement isn't true, but I have switched back to using my old Gillette razor, and am perfectly happy with it. The biggest satisfaction I get, is that I now pay around $1.50 for a three to four month supply of replacement blades! I also feel more "Green" because the old blades can be recycled.

My 40 something year old Gillette Razor 
Before.. and after a recent cleaning and oiling.

My old man gave me this old Gillette adjustable razor when I was fifteen, which means this razor is at the very least forty plus years old. There's not a thing wrong with it, and it's fully functional.   In fact.. Dad still uses his Gillette adjustable razor daily, that he bought back in the 60's!

Just like most everything else these days, products are made to be discarded of, or to wear out quickly. Now that I think of it, I guess the Gillette adjustable razor would be a nightmare to a modern day disposable razor company! I mean.. once a Gillette adjustable razor was sold to the consumer, it could very well be forty to sixty years before said consumer had to buy another one! I like those odds! The razor companies.. not so much.

A lot of younger cats out there may never even remember seeing adjustable razors on store shelves until recently.  In fact, there was a period of about ten years or so when they were absent from store shelves altogether. But everything that's old is new again, and guys are loving the money they are saving and the close shaves they are getting, by using these old style razors that are once again very popular.

The Gillette adjustable razor's design is quite ingenious. There is a numbered dial just under the head which adjusts the distance between the blade and the housing. The numbers range from one to nine, with the lowest number being for very sparse or shorter whiskers, and the highest number being for thicker and courser stubble. Turning the shaft at the lower half, opens the housing for blade removal and replacement. The double edged blades are wickedly sharp, so care needs to be taken when handling them. Fortunately, the dispenser which houses your replacement blades also has a compartment on its back side for you to discard used blades in. Once the used blades are safely placed in the compartment, there is no way for them to fall back out.

There are trade-offs for using an old school razor however, the biggest being time. There's no such thing as a fast shave with one of these old razors. If I can't dedicate at the very least, ten minutes to shave properly, I will skip shaving all together.

Back in the day, before cans of aerosol shaving cream became the rage, shaving mugs and shaving brushes were the norm. This is the perfect way to prep your face for any shave, but especially for one with an adjustable razor. Probably the biggest part of getting a clean, close, and nick free shave is preparation. You want your pores to be opened up, and for your stubble to be soft so it can easily be cut. Shave soap can be found in most store's shaving sections and usually costs around $1.00. This product is also a "greener" alternative to aerosol cans.

The shaving soap is placed flat in the bottom of the mug, and a little hot water is added. A shaving brush saturated with hot water is then used in a circular motion to whip up a lather. Covering your face with warm water or shaving oil before applying lather will lubricate your face, which will reduce friction from the blade dragging across your skin. Apply the lather to your face using horizontal, vertical, and circular motions with the brush. The point is to lift the stubble from your face, so the lather can better soften it. The bristles on the brush also help to clean dirt, sweat, and grime from your pores. The whole process of applying your shaving cream usually takes one to two minutes to complete, but is crucial to help you get a nice clean shave.

Not so Fast..
Shaving the retro way is definitely a more greener AND economical way of shaving. It may even seem like a novel way of grooming yourself. However, I wouldn't recommend trying to switch to this way of shaving overnight. Whenever you shave, microscopic amounts of skin are removed with your stubble. You can multiply this amount of skin abrasion several times with an older model razor. Old adjustable razors are not as forgiving as their new four and five blade counterparts. A wrong movement of a newer model razor may not cut you at all, whereas the same movement with an adjustable razor can lead to a very nasty cut or slice.

If you want to start using an adjustable razor, you basically need to throw out everything you've already learned about shaving. I recommend that you start out by only shaving flat areas of your face like your cheeks. You will be able to get the feel for the adjustable settings, and a sense for how the blade drags across your skin. Strokes of the blade MUST be slow, straight, and short. Don't shave against the grain of your beard, as this can cause major irritation and razor burn. For most people, this means always pulling your razor downward, and not up or sideways. And above all, you need to exercise patience! If you try giving yourself a quick shave with an adjustable razor, you're just asking for trouble.

That being said, if it sounds like old school shaving is up your alley, by all means.. give it a whirl. I'm not even sure if Gillette still makes adjustable razors in this day and age, but e-bay has scads of them for sale at a decent price. The older razors from the 60's can be a bit pricey as they are now becoming collectible, but I've seen newer models from the 80's and 90's selling for around ten dollars.

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