It’s weird, how we gender inanimate objects, isn’t it? I always felt like masculinity got all the good stuff — ties and tie bars, motorcycle boots, cufflinks, cars, fountain pens, leather chairs, horses, weapons, tools, whiskey, loafers, barware. I mean sure, I enjoyed my dress-up costumes, makeup, kitchen tools, and art supplies, but it all just lacks a certain ruggedness.
I started to get really fed up with the whole concept of “this is for boys, that’s for girls,” though, when I got to thinking about my razor a few years ago. I’ve been conditioned to shave my legs and armpits every gall-derned day of my life. Most of the guys I know shave their faces once maybe every two or three days. And yet ladies do not exactly get the cream of the shaving-supply crop: We get frilly, oil-infused, pink, plastic razors with five poorly-made, cheap-quality blades that cost $3 per cartridge on average, and that’s pretty much the one and only option we’re presented. Razors are supposed to last for about 10 days, so we’re talking about Gillette wanting you to fork over $100 a year for the privilege of using their cheap plastic cartridges.
I’m not saying that men’s drug-store razors are much better, of course, but when men are marketed to for their grooming needs, they at least get options. And this is what drives me nuts: the best of those options are always valued for their durability. Think about men’s accessories, grooming products, jewelry, clothes, shoes — men are encouraged to buy things that last, that are timeless, that won’t wear down. And so while we’re stuck with our cruddy pink pieces of garbage, they get the cool stuff, like beautiful steel-handled single-blade safety razors and even more beautiful straight razors, which can be custom-designed and passed down as heirlooms.
I looked into straight razors after a (male) friend of mine gave me rave reviews. It is, apparently, the absolute closest shave you can get; and the more you use a straight razor, the more it sort of personalizes itself to your contours. It is a sharp, unprotected, single blade, though, so you have to be delicate about how you use it. What really turned me off is the level of financial commitment required upfront: You’d pay about $150 for a razor and strop (the leather band you use to keep it sharp). That being said, you’d never have to buy a razor ever again — you’d have to get it sharpened very occasionally, but that’d be about $5 at a whetter, maybe once a year.
The step down from a straight razor and strop is a safety razor or a disposable straight razor, which means you’d be buying a durable handle and blade refills that run at about $5 for 10. I chose to go with a safety razor — it was $30 for the handle, and from there I change my blades once every two weeks (they are extremely sharp). A straight razor handle is comparable but maybe a little pricier; I figured, between the two, I’m more used to a shave with a safety razor — a long handle with a head on the end is the style that most people grow up with. So all told, after the initial investment of $30 for the handle, I spend a grand total of $20 on razors a year. For the rest of my life.
Even with a safety razor and the single, disposable blades, you get a WAY better shave (like 10 times better) than you do with the Five-Blade Extreme Butterfly Action Sensitivity Razors! that you’re using right now. I’m sure you’ve noticed that hair tends to pile up in the tiny gaps between the five blades, which winds up dulling the blades and making it hard for them to even get to your skin. Furthermore, scraping your skin with five blades irritates your flesh, which leaves you A) with itchy skin and B) more prone to getting nicks. Neither of these things are a problem with a single-blade razor.
Shaving supply companies have tricked us into applying the more-is-better mindset to our razors, but ultimately, as I’ve opined before, simpler is usually better for your brain and your wallet. In this case, it’s better for your skin, too!