Bearded & Tschorn's razor blade redux: the power of one
Monday, the Wall Street Journal posted an article about guys who stockpile razor cartridges as a hedge against running out of their favorite blades as razor makers launch ever more advanced -- and expensive -- versions (among the men interviewed was a San Francisco investment banker who bought his Gillette Mach 3 cartridges 100 at a clip).
Men, it's time to put down the razor, step away from the sink and take a good look at the steamy mirror of your morning ritual. Do you really need to hoard blades the way "Seinfeld's" Elaine stockpiled the Today sponge? What's next -- having to decide if a particular date is "blade worthy"?
When did we men stop being hunters and start being gatherers?
I understand the desire to gather. I was completely blade blind for years, with a follicular fealty to the Gillette Sensor Excel double blade cartridges that I'd been using for nearly three decades, forced to upgrade to a third blade -- albeit temporarily -- when I found myself stranded in Europe last summer without access to my blade of choice.
The piece I penned in the aftermath of that generated a lot of e-mail from men who expressed similar attachment to their blades of choice. It also resulted in a package arriving at my desk from book and blog author Michael Ham, containing a mid-1950s-era, double-edge TTO (twist-to-open) Gillette safety razor. "If you think two blades is better than three," read the enclosed note, "you'll probably find one blade better than two."
That was last September, and once I got up the nerve to use a vintage, second-hand razor sent by a complete stranger (the book does include detailed instructions on how to clean razors found at flea markets or on E-bay), I've not only been a total convert to the old-school double-edge (also referred to as a DE) safety razor, I've been buying different versions -- old and new -- wherever I can find them, and my collection now includes a brand new German-made Merkur, a Parker from India (both available on Amazon.com), and a Gillette TTO from 1965 (the year I was born).
I find the DE gives me a shave as close as any cartridge razor I've used, though as Ham points out in his "Leisureguy's Guide to Gourmet Shaving," every face is different and the perfect blade - or number of blades -- for one face doesn't mean it's the best choice for the next. He recommends experimenting to find the right combination for your own face, and I couldn't agree more.
In fact, this week, I trimmed my blade count down even further, and started experimenting with a GEM single-edge razor I found at a Montana antique store over Memorial Day weekend for $15, and it may actually be the best shave to date (and it's as old-fashioned as I'm willing to go, since there's little chance I'd ever muster the the intestinal fortitude to wield a straight razor on my own face first thing in the morning.)
Maybe that investment banker interviewed for the WSJ piece knows the Gillette Mach 3 gives him the best shave of his life, but if he's like most men, chances are he's using the same thing he started shaving with (or close to it). And, until something forces him to hunt, he'll be content to simply gather.
Let the hunt begin, my hirsute brothers; the best shave of your life may be right around the corner. Will you really be able to stare at yourself every morning in that steam-clouded bathroom mirror knowing you don't at least try to put your best face forward?
-- Adam Tschorn
Photo: A vintage GEM single-edge razor purchased for $15 at a Montana antique store, one of the many grooming hardware options available to men willing to hunt around for the best combination of blade and razor. Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times.