It all started with this article over at MSNBC.com, called How to Get That Perfect Shave. I can't remember what I was searching for originally, something about types of aftershave for sensitive skin. No matter.
When I first started shaving back when I was 15, I didn't know anything, and my dad had been using blue disposables and Barbasol for years. My total beardage was a thin whiff of a moustache. If I left it on, I looked like a tool. If I shaved it, I immediately broke out. Great options.
Years later I decided that perhaps electric shaving would be better, so I got one of those three-head whirly-blade things for Xmas, and for about a decade I used that. With sensitive skin, this was better, but still not effective, and there were always sections to go over again and again. Then I got the Gilette Mach3 (for a birthday gift, but used only much later) and after reading the article above, starting using that in conjunction with Aveda's shaving creme and Nivea aftershave balm for sensitive skin.
But I still felt I was missing out of the retro fun of a brush and a safety razor, and sent out a poll to my male friends. Unknown to me, 2/3 of them had already gone back (or had never left) to the traditional, old school method of shaving.
So finally, I invested a little chunk o' change and got me the goods.
From Classic Shaving I bought the Merkur Hefty Classic from Germany (with some extra double-edge blades). This is your standard safety razor.
I also got the Vulfix Badger Hair brush.
Those came last week. However I had to wait for the soap, which I had ordered at the same time. Yesterday, it arrived. I ordered it from QEDUSA, and I had chosen the Proraso soap from Italy. (If you've read the MSNBC article, you'll see that I simply just followed the recommendations and deferred to the cheapest of each category, while not skimping on quality.)
So finally, I got to have a shave with all the new goodies, and so I chose to do it last night, not leave it till the morning, when I'm in a rush, etc. However, we have the smallest waterheater in the world, so after taking a shower to get the body and face all hydrated and steamed, there isn't much left for filling a basin. So I've been using a mug full of boiling water from downstairs. This heats the brush and razor well, although I found with the all metal Merkur, and not the plastic handled Mach 3, too well. Yikes!
Anyway, I did a little bit of the brushy brushy soapy soapy and soon had a manly lather over my face. Whee! The Proraso contains Eucalyptus oil, and already my face felt like the inside of a peppermint patty. I followed the instructions and kept my shaving strokes nice and simple, straight down, not pushing on the skin, etc. Already, this was a close shave. And it sounded different from my usual shave, like I could actually hear the stubble a poppin'.
I re-lathered up and now shaved against the grain. Apart from a few nicks under my chin (always a problem area), I had no problems, and in fact had a shave that immediately rivaled the Mach 3 for closeness. All this with a single blade. Bloody hell. They've been keeping us in the dark all these years! Damn you, Gilette! Damn you, Norelco!
I rinsed with icy cold water, applied some aftershave, and for about 30 minutes afterwards, I felt my skin was made out of mint.
Conclusion: Classic shaving is the way to go. Your money outlay may be a lot at first: $60 for brush and razor, $10 for jar o' soap. And that's if you go cheap. But afterwards, you're just paying for blades and soap. And that ain't much.
Oh, and according to my friend Chris, who's been shaving this way for some time, the only decent blades from Germany, as they haven't decimated their steel industry.
AND: If you choose to do so, shaving supplies allow men to be as fetishistic over looking good as women. However, apart from The Art of Shaving chain store (which sells its own brand), there are very few physical outlets for men to check out classic shaving supplies. Some enterprising young businessperson needs to step up and fill the market.