More Shave For Less

The old standby: Gillette Sensor Excel and Edge Shaving Gel

The Art of Manliness (AoM) website continues to be a favorite destination for my sons and me, for everything from well-researched writing on the history of manly honor to how-to articles on wilderness survival. It is not without flaws, of course: there is an undercurrent of hipster consumerism that manifests itself, for example, in the site’s frequent Huckberry giveaways. Huckberry is a free subscription site that aggregates interesting content and cool manly gadgets, products, and clothing, and every week or two, AoM sponsors a giveaway to drive traffic to Huckberry’s store. The merchandise is often quite nice, but how can a site touting manly self-sufficiency advocate for purchasing a $40 hardwood six-pack carrier (or a $120 “wallet” made out of old baseball glove leather) when any man worth his salt could make the same for the cost of a few bucks and a little elbow grease?

Nevertheless, if you pay attention at AoM, you might learn something that actually saves you money. For the past several months leading up to this summer, I’ve been wearing a full beard as opposed to my more typical goatee. When I finally decided to lighten the load on my face, I couldn’t find any spare cartridges for my razor — an old double-bladed Gillette Sensor Excel I’ve had for years now. I scraped by (see what I did there?) with the old cartridge until I got to Walmart to pick up some more. $20+ for ten cartridges.
My head rebelled. Must be discontinuing these, I thought. I should get the razor Brendan has; then we’ll use the same blades.
Brendan’s razor is a triple-bladed Schick Hydro 3 he got at Christmas time. It’s nowhere to be seen, though there are a few cartridge left on the rack — also $2+ a piece. I could get a newer model Gillette or Schick cartridge razor for $10-$20, and pay through the nose for cartridges you use three times and pitch, or go cheap and completely disposable. 
Secondhand Gillette safety razor
and badger brush, $12 total
Then I noticed a tiny box that read “Wilkinson Sword double-edged razor blades” — a 10 pack for a couple bucks — and I remembered something: a few evenings back, Brendan had been watching a video on the Art of Manliness site: How to Shave Like Your Grandpa. I turned my back on the Walmart rack and went home.
The video was helpful, as was the original article and several others on the site, and I learned a ton of useful (and useless) information. For example: who knew that most shaving brushes are made with either boar or badger hair, both of which provide an appropriate level of stiffness while retaining a certain amount of water needed to mix shaving lather? Badger is considered the premium hair for shaving brushes, but boar is more readily available — leading to a discussion about a side business to Brendan’s taxidermy work: Would hunters miss a few brushes’ worth of hair from their boars? Would a naked badger mount ever catch on?
Of course, the hipster element persists here too: an old-school wet shave is considered the pinnacle of…something…so you can spend hundreds of dollars on “silvertip” badger brushesmodern safety razors (or sought-after vintage models), organic and vegan shaving soaps and splashes, you name it.
Yeah, I didn’t do that. As I approach my 40th year, I like cheap and secondhand, and I like things that last. I found an secondhand Gillette safety razor at an antique shop in Rogers for $5, which I opened and scrubbed with hot soapy water and a toothbrush, then found a pure badger shaving brush with a chipped handle and its bristles intact at an antique store in Buffalo for $7 (“That’s luxury right there,” says Bren) — I washed that thoroughly several times with antibacterial soap. Blades were a $1 for ten; shaving soap was $1, I think, and after four shaves, I can’t tell I’ve used it. I’ve picked up a couple of other things, just to try: a tube of cream for a few dollars, a shaving “scuttle” for $2 at a secondhand store in Monticello, drugstore aftershave, that sort of thing. I’ve used one blade thus far for four shaves, and shaving twice a week on average, I shouldn’t need to purchase anything else (blades, cream, or soap) until Christmas, at which point, I’ll buy blades in bulk at a couple cents a piece.
Secondhand shaving scuttle and soap, $3 total
What’s more? These are the best shaves I’ve ever had. Incredibly close and smooth on the cheeks and jaw; the neck has taken more practice, but it’s closer than ever with no more nicks or razorburn that with a cartridge. It takes two to three times as long at this point — one pass it all is takes with a cartridge, because the second and third blades take off the first couple layers of skin.  But I’m getting faster, and when you know you’re saving money and can feel the difference when you do it well, a few more minutes seems worthwhile.
What’s pictured is all you really need: a razor and blades, a brush, a mug, and soap — and really, your palm can sub for the mug. $15 to $20 to get started. Bottom line: If you’re not gonna grow your beard out like my dad, then shave like your granddad — you’ll get more shave for way less money.

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