The Art of Shaving – Not All Close Shaves are Bad

Letting the Art of Shaving Badger Hair Brush do its work

I guess I should thank the distracted woman in a black SUV and that unexpected U-Turn yesterday morning for giving me the perfect intro for this piece. That close shave was dangerous, but not all close shaves are bad.

Months back I wrote a humorous piece entitled Track-Stand Boy and the Lost Art of Bicycling Shaving. Track-Stand Boy mysteriously disappeared shortly after it was published and I never did have the necessary balance to pursue shaving on my bike. Happily that didn't stop Velodramatic regular Kurt Cornell from offering to send Juli and I a selection of products from his company, The Art of Shaving. I should note that I didn't take Kurt up on his offer to provide me with one of their beautiful straight razors. I've got a pretty steady hand, but I figure you've got to be at least a cat1 to wield that kind of blade.

The Art of Shaving's Pre-Shave Oil, Shaving Cream, After-Shave Balm, Ingrown Hair Night Cream and Fine Badger Hair Shaving Brush make quite a shaving kit

We can all agree the exercise of shaving can be a dull routine. Something we do each morning shortly before, or just after we pry open both eyes. Grab a can of gel and scrape off the stubble with as little blood loss as possible. There's got to be a better way.

Well there is and the two extra minutes I'm spending each morning have turned that routine into an invigorating day starter. Perfect preparation for the bike ride that follows.

A new blade makes the difference

The Art of Shaving is a blend of old world tradition and new age skin care; not unlike a classic steel frame built up with the latest gruppo, the end result is a fantastic ride. The basic system is quite simple: prepare your face for the shave; enjoy the lather; shave with a sharp blade; moisturize. If there's a secret its in the formulations... high-quality botanical ingredients and essential oils and beyond that it's about taking the time to get a harmonious result.

I take an extra minute to soak my face with warm water, not the two splash dash of old, but a good, gentle soak. I follow that with an application of Pre-Shave Oil. This is as important as chain lube is to your drive train, it sets your beard up and prepares the face to be shaved without irritation or razor burn. I apply a dime size drop of oil to my fingertips and rub it into my face and neck. I'm using the hypoallergenic unscented oil for sensitive skin but there are also lavender (normal to sensitive skin), lemon (normal to oily skin) and sandalwood (normal to dry skin) formulations. A little goes a long way and you want a thin layer protecting your skin beneath the lather that follows.

The next step is the fun part, and if you're as old as I am you can probably remember your dad using a shaving brush and soap long before aerosol gels and foams appeared. This is another right-of-passage tradition that's almost been lost. A badger hair shaving brush is as classic as a Brooks saddle. Hold the brush under a little warm water, swirl it a couple of times in the jar of Cream Shave (again a little goes a long way) and then apply it to your beard. Don't rush this step just enjoy working up a warm, thick lather. How you do that is as individual as painting: swirl, stroke, dab, brush whatever. The more you work it in, the better the shave is going to feel.

I don't know about you but I'm happy with three blades on my Gillette razor, and that's where I'll stay until they stop making them. I get the feeling that they'll eventually join Campy at 11... we'll see. I've taken The Art of Shaving advice to heart and started changing my blades more regularly (every two weeks). I definitely notice the difference. A new blade glides cleanly over my skin, cuts through lather and beard over that thin film of Pre-Shave Oil, smoothly and without irritation. To quote Al Pacino's Colonel Frank Slade "Ooh, Mama"

Rinse off any remaining soap with a little more warm water and finish the shave by applying a small amount of After-Shave Balm. Formulated with grapeseed extract, shea butter and vitamin C, it's dessert for your skin.

Art of Shaving's After-Shave Balm is the final step

Total elapsed time is no more than five minutes start to finish and that includes twenty seconds to rinse out and fan the shaving brush so it's ready for duty the next morning. I owe Kurt a big thanks for helping me to rediscover the art of shaving and some great products.

Back to that other close shave. The woman definitely saw me. I was unmistakably visible wearing my red Rapha Lightweight Softshell Jacket over the new ¾ bibs with red flashes. She just didn't care, it was up to me to stop in a hurry. Maybe I'll have to get that straight razor after all, I'm sure it would do a wonderful job on tires.

20 Responses to The Art of Shaving – Not All Close Shaves are Bad

  1. Stephen says:

    Nice! I switched to shave soap and a brush this year and haven’t looked back. Looking to upgrade to some of The Art’s fine goods for Christmas.

  2. Joe says:

    I have used a badger brush and soap mug since I started shaving 40 years ago. The hair on the brush is getting thin, as is the hair on my head. It may be time to upgrade my soap and oil.

    • Joe,

      I’ve got that same “thinning” problem, hence the closely cropped hair these days. It’s too bad there isn’t a way to have the beard migrated North where it’s needed ;-)

      In some ways I’m happy I strayed from the classic shave, it makes the rediscovery all the sweeter, now if I can just get my dad back using a shaving brush.

      ::M

  3. Martin says:

    A good shave is a beautiful thing. It’s no coincidence you and your readers enjoy many of the same “little things in life.” You gotta check out Jura’s full auto espresso machines. I got one for Christmas 2 years ago and will never look back. Kudos again for such a great site!

    • Martin,

      I’m with you… those “little things” are often the only things getting me out of bed in the morning. I didn’t say it in the piece, but taking an extra few minutes to have a good shave at the expense of work is just too damn bad for work. The older I get the less I understand why I rushed to get in early all those years. Juli’s the coffee drinker in our house, the Jura might make a nice present for her, I’ll have a look.

      ::M

  4. David Irvine says:

    Could not resist commenting… I remember thinking the same thing when the 4-blade ‘Quattro’ came out – when are they going to stop!
    I had this comedy sketch in my head where a guy comes on stage with a huge twenty blade razor. Look guys – the new ‘Venti’ for men.

  5. Jon Moss says:

    Ah, shaving.

    A daily necessity for when I was in the corporate world. Having escaped over 2 years ago (and have never been happier), it is not something I have to do too regularly, but when I do, I’m in total agreement with you. Decent blades and decent products.

    I’m a big fan of Aesop’s shaving oil (from Oz), a lovely sandalwood and cedar smell and a smooooth shave. Also Santa Maria Novella shaving foam or soap works well.

    Aftercare – Kiehl’s or Malin and Goetz from NY.

    Fragrance – big fan of Frederick Malle.

    My barber’s in London, Murdocks is a superb establishment on the bottom floor of Libertys and they offer fantastic wet shaves. Alex or Ekraim (spelling) will do a fine job, highly recommended.

    Best,

    Jon

  6. Kyle Franco says:

    Have been using these products for a little over a year. the closest (no pun intended) thing that i can compare it to is the art of embrocation. Sure your can ride your bike with out it, but why would you want to?

  7. Troy says:

    The straight razor is the next step. I’ve been using mine for 4 years now, and while it takes a bit getting used to, it is the best. It’s really nothing to be afraid of, and when it’s good and sharp you can put the Mach 3 to shame by shaving twice. The plus side is that it lasts forever- no need to buy those crazy expensive blades for the Mach 3. The Art of Shaving does make incredible products.

  8. Jon Moss says:

    Michael,

    Do let me know when you’re in London, would be great to meet up!

    Jon

  9. Kurt says:

    Velo,
    Where in the world is Trackstand Boy?
    That article was humerous as it was telling of the your skill as a story teller. Always working a life experience or fleeting thought into the mix; you guide the reader down a path of their own nostalgia.

    My infatuation with shaving instruments was inspired by a collection of straight razors and safety razors owned by my grandfather passed down to me by my father many years ago. I experimented with shaving brushes and creams but product availability stateside and rural Mystic, Ct was non-existent.
    Flash forward to 2007 and a new job in Miami, Fl with The Art of Shaving and I find using the products and more specifically the badger hair brush to be an experience that somehow connects me with my father and his father. Every morning becomes a ritual of self-indulgence and a grounding of who I am while preparing me for the tasks and tribulations of the day that lie just ahead. A moment of bliss before the burden.

    As men, we often times stick to the tools we use every day because they work. “What ain’t broke..” My personal experience with the 5-blade system – Fusion, Mach 3, Sensor, Atra, Track II, and more recently safety Razors have lead me to this conclusion. The technology of the Fusion blade is more than just 5-blades but also consists of blade coatings and docking systems. Coatings that improve the blades performance and a secure docking system that ensures a shave without incident. I find the I can shave with the Fusion and enjoy a close, comfortable experience without too much care and attention to the task at hand. Quick, easy and painless not unlike the daily existence of modern man.
    But if you wish to add a little thought, precision, or dare I say Art to your daily routine, venture towards the other side of the spectrum. I am working my way towards the straight razor by using a safety razor. It is sort of like friction shifters on your down tube or riding (and gluing) tubulars.

    When a man adds a bit of panache to his daily routines by carefully choosing his equipment he improves the ride of his life and adds elements to his personal style.

    I just received the Rapha soignuers bag. It fits everything I need for the Sat and Sun rides. One bag that fits perfectly in the remaining space of the TT’s cargo space after my bike frame and wheels consumes the rest. Made of sturdy construction and elements of style that simulatenously adds to it’s usefullness and durability. The perfect tool for the job and a sharp addition to my Rapha collection.

    Thank you for your kind words and I am happy you enjoyed the products.

    Ride on

    • I’ve got to give the Fusion another try. Funny thing I stick with the Mach 3 for my face, but use a Fusion razor for the legs. Perhaps with the extra preparation, I’ll have more luck with the Fusion top side now.

      I’m jealous that you got the soigneur’s bag; it’s a beautiful piece, and it would look good our our Audi too.

      ::M

  10. Mark Rushton says:

    Start with a good facewash and a sink of hot water and a face cloth. Rinsing the soap off using the flannel sets the beard up. Rinse the razor frequently in v.hot water, you’d be surprised how much difference water temp.makes. Final rinse with the flannel and clean hot water. I use Trumper products (Geo.Trumper is a high class barbers/shave emporium in London) but Mankind do a good range of products

    • Gave the hot towel (facecloth) a shot this morning Mark. In addition its effectiveness, it also saves on running water. I tend to have the taps running during the whole process.

  11. kurt says:

    The pictures do illustrate a damn close shave. How did Juli react I wonder:)

    • I think she’s enjoying the smoother me ;-) She actually watched me shave last week, for some reason kids and women seem intrigued by the true art of shaving. As I said in my email, it’s great to see how refined our little group here is. Everyone aware of using quality products and taking a little more time to enjoy the little things in life.

  12. Daniel says:

    Michael,

    Please try the Gilette Fusion. A quantum leap compared to the one you’re using. Smoother shave + blades stay sharper longer. PLEASE try it.

    D.

  13. You’ve turned shaving into an art form with your well detailed description of the task most men perform daily, the feel of a sharp razor on the well oiled cheek is something women wouldn’t understand (well maybe most women). Brings memories flooding back, {bad pun} about the time on sky when your washand basin flooded the restaurant below.
    Aaah the bliss of memory, but then I’ve had a beard for the last 30 years.

    Douglas