Charlie's Blog: On Shaving


On Shaving

The best reason I can think of for not running for President of the United States is that you have to shave twice a day.

The issue of shaving comes down to two basic times in a man's life. The first is when he is a boy hitting puberty, and the hair begins to grow on his face. It is not quite a beard, but it is unsightly all the same. At some point, he cracks out his dad's unused Norelco given as a thoughtless Christmas gift and buzzes off the hairs, or he uses one of those cheap single blade Bics and some Barbasol to get the job done. The second time comes later after some years of shaving when a man must decide to let his beard grow or continue the daily ritual of sliding a razor across his face. To shave or not to shave. That is the question.

Beards are manly. There is no question about this. The problems with beards are many which is why men opt to shave. The first and foremost is that a beard cuts off virtually 90% of your job options. The only thing worse than a beard for landing a job is having a face tattoo. The face tat limits your job options to tattoo artist or gang member, Likewise, the beard limits you to lumberjack or tenured professor.

I have had employment situations where I could have a beard, and I even tried one on in my twenties for a few weeks. It was a bad experience for me. A beard to me is like having an itchy rug on your face. I found it annoying. The other thing I discovered is that you still have to shave. You have to lather your neck and shave or else let your beard and body hair connect making you look like a sasquatch. Then, there is the phenomenon known as beard dandruff which can be treated with shampoo and beard oil or cured with a daily shave. I had the beard dandruff. Yeah, it was gross.

I'm not a beard guy. I respect any man that opts to grow a beard, but I reject all the arguments they make for growing it. Beards are as high maintenance as shaving daily. They are unhygienic. And they are uncomfortable. Plus, I like being gainfully employed. But even if my job did not depend on it, I would still shave daily.

The choice to have a beard is primarily an aesthetic one. The same is also true for mustaches, goatees, lamb chops, and the rest. The beard conveys the message of manliness. Real men let their beards grow. Of course, hobos and homeless guys also let their beards grow. The context of the beard matters.

If you tell all the men in our armed services, fire departments, and police departments that they aren't real men because they are beardless, they will certainly correct this illusion with a manly ass whipping. Most men shave their beards. Now, if it truly is a man's world, why would shaving be so ubiquitous? Why do most men generally have short hair and shaved faces? Blame it on the Romans.

Shaving and hair removal existed in various forms among ancient cultures like the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and others. It is said that Alexander the Great shaved his face. But it was the Romans who really made it a thing. Now, shaving in the world was a painful ordeal. They didn't have Gillette and Foamy back then. The razors were poor. They also used tweezing and waxing methods. Shaving was not a pleasant thing. Plus, it was expensive and time consuming. So, why did they do it? The answer is obvious. Shaving was good hygiene.

The Romans found that a shaved face was an advantage in combat because the enemy couldn't grab a faceful of beard and yank on it. But unless you have a ZZ Top beard, it is hard to grab a man by the beard. A pair of scissors could have shorn any beard short enough to make it ungrabbable. The simple fact is beards and hair are home to lice. The ancient world crawled with lice. This lice made the torture of hair removal bearable in contrast.

The barbarians were bearded men and were called "unbarbered" which is where the term "barbarian" came from. Basically, these men were filthy and infested with lice and fleas. Beards are sexy until you see some bugs crawl out of them. The Romans looked clean and civilized in contrast to these men resembling animals. Facial hair would come and go over the centuries until World War I. That war permanently removed hair from the faces of US military personnel.

Prior to WWI, beards were common in the military as evidenced by this photo of Sherman above. But the clean shaven look was mandated in WWI because of the filthy conditions of trench warfare and the need to make a uniform seal on the face when wearing a gas mask. Ever since then, the military has been against facial hair and even mandated short hair for the head. The hygiene question is why the military shaves the heads of recruits when they enter basic training.

I think the hygiene issue still matters. Nothing screams filth like a bearded hippie. This is why the clean shaven look made its way into the world of business. Like suits and ties, the clean shaven look was carried over from the military because it conveyed the same level of respectability. This is also why short hair on men is preferred to long hair.

Once you decide to accept shaving as your thing, that leaves the method of shaving. Some men will experiment with electric shavers, and those experiments will fail. I have never had an electric shaver that could adequately get the job done. There are always a few whiskers left that stubbornly refuse to get shorn by the razor. In frustration, you will turn to a real razor to get that last 10% done. Then, the thing gets tossed in a box to rust at the bottom of a closet. Men, do yourselves a favor and don't waste your time with an electric razor.

Your next option is the most dangerous option. This is the straight razor. Straight razors will get the job done. It will remove all whiskers as well as skin, earlobes, and a piece of your nose. I am exaggerating a bit here, but I am not exaggerating when I say that the straight razor requires a skilled hand. I have never attempted to shave with what I call the "danger razor."

My preferred option for shaving is the safety razor. It gets its name from the fact that you can't slice off your face with it like the straight razor. When this thing came out, it rapidly became the razor of choice for many men. This is the razor John Kennedy shaved with. This is the razor used by US troops all over the world. It got the job done and will always get the job done. So, what happened to the safety razor to make it disappear? The answer to that is simple. Gillette wanted to make money, so they introduced cartridge shaving. That was a bad move.

The Gillette Trac II was a success for the company. They could patent a product that would have to be bought again and again. It wasn't necessarily a bad product. The cartridges were easy to load. They had two blades which made shaving faster. But it basically locked you into Gillette. Then, when the patent ran out, they went to Mach 3, Fusion, and all the rest. Schick copycatted with their products. Naturally, they are hideously expensive prompting up starts like Harry's and Dollar Shave Club to get into the act. Frankly, the act has become ridiculous. What used to cost pennies now costs many dollars.

The old school safety razor is the way to go. I've done the cartridge thing, and I find that multiblade razors give me razor bumps. Disposable razors are nice if you have to use them, but I recommend a single bladed Bic razor. Basically, it is a safety razor with a plastic handle.

If you get the idea that they are ripping you off with those expensive multiblade razors, you would be correct. The other place they get you is on the shaving cream. Canned shaving cream is a gigantic waste of money. For the same price of a can of Foamy or Barbasol that will last you for a week, you can get a cake of shave soap that will last for months. Invest in a brush and a cup, and you will never use canned lather ever again.

I prefer homemade shave soap, and my supplier is lady who lives in my town and sells her products at the local farmer's market. You may be able to find some online. These soaps are well made and have a nice scent. They are also kind to the skin on your face. Plus, that warm wet brush of lather feels awesome. Combined with the safety razor, shaving becomes a real pleasure with the brush and lather.

This leaves us with aftershave products. If you are a metrosexual type, you will opt for some silly expensive cream out of a tube which is basically hand lotion for your face. If you are a real man, you will go with a cheap aftershave that your grandpa used. It will have alcohol in it, and it will burn when you apply it. Then, it will feel great as it evaporates leaving your face feeling refreshed and smelling manly. My preference is Aqua Velva or whatever drugstore copycat product is available.

Shaving should be cheap, mostly comfortable, and leave you looking great. Somewhere, the companies involved with shaving decided they needed to milk the cow harder and sell men on expensive products that did a worse job at a ridiculous price. Do yourself and your wallet a favor and shave like your grandpa did.

Finally, we have the last aspect of shaving to consider which is the shaving of the head. It is said that Telly Savalas shaved his head to play Pontius Pilate in The Greatest Story Ever Told. He liked the look and kept it.

Savalas didn't have much to shave. He had the classic horseshoe thing going. At this stage of baldness, shaving it off is an improvement in much the same way that taking a chainsaw to a dead tree can only improve the landscape. Other famous men like Yul Brynner and Bruce Willis would clean off what was left on their balding pates. I highly recommend it. It is a liberating thing. 

Jesse Ventura used to belong to the head shaver's club, but he decided to let it go wild. Now, he looks more like a clown where he used to be a certified bad ass. If he had a matching beard, I would chalk it up to him not giving a damn in his old age. But when you truly don't care, you take it all off and forget about the hair you once had.

For myself, the shaved head thing was a gradual thing as I cut my hair shorter and shorter until I found it more convenient to just lather my head and shave it off. I was not balding at the time when I made the decision, but I am now. I find hair to be a nuisance now. I don't do anything different for the dome than I do with my face. I use the safety razor, and I bathe my head in the same aftershave I use on my face.

Shaving can be a chore for me, but there is an upside. It feels cleaner and better to be hairless. When I had the mop, I suffered from dandruff. I went through a lot of bottles of Head & Shoulders during those years and that stuff never worked as advertised. I found my scalp issues vanished with my hair. I shave daily except for Saturdays when I give myself a break and let the scruff appear. I am not inclined to change my changeless appearance.