Men used to do this every day. Almost all men, and almost every day, unless they were rich enough to have someone do it for them. It took then, as it does now, fifteen to twenty minutes to do it properly so that it’s satisfying, a couple of minutes if its rushed, when it’s not.
Shaving, obviously. The proper way, with a real razor, instead of a pencil sharpener on a stick of plastic and a stupid big price tag.
About ten years ago I got my first straight razor. It is not called a cut-throat razor unless you know nothing about it at all. I’d be prepared to put money on betting that nobody called it that until the Gillette company started advertising. I blame the war. TYhe first one. Before that, everyone shaved like a grown-up.
And it takes time. You need to prepare your face for a start, with a hot flannel draped on it, then ideally a wash with glycerine soap (practically free in Spanish supermarkets, silly money here), then rinse, then more glycerine soap and lather up with shaving soap and a brush. If you’re being really picky you could do this in a warmed bowl, but the palm of your hand will do, as it does for so many things.
Obviously you need the razor sharp. The worst cuts come from a blunt razor. Seriously. It’ll stick, or you’ll pause, or god help you, press down and before you can feel it you’ll see the red krovvi seeping through the soap, if not dripping on the cobbles. Just a tip – never move the blade along its own line. Always move it at 90 degrees to the line of the blade. Or you will slice straight into your face and even a blunt razor will go way deep before you know what’s happening. I still have a white line on my chin from doing exactly that, years ago. I can see it but no-one else has ever noticed it. That’s what clean cuts scar like.
So why do it? History, maybe, a little. Every man used to, until in the First World War Gillette got a major contract to supply the US Army. Suddenly, one and a half million men had to shave with a safety razor. Which isn’t. The whole reason I switched was I always cut myself every morning with a safety razor. It’s safe, after all. It says so. What could possibly go wrong?
With a four inch piece of steel you can see in the mirror and feel sliding over your face, you concentrate. It wakes you up like nothing else. Whether it’s the concentration, the awareness of what can go wrong, the need to sharpen the blade by stropping it on a leather belt or a towel every time you use it or just the fact that you’re spending a quarter of an hour just on you, giving yourself your full attention in a way that you rarely maybe do, it sets you up for the day. You can say your doing your bit for conservation, because you’ll never be throwing this blade away. You’ll be saving a ton of money over your lifetime, despite the fact that a decent Dovo blade will cost you about £80. But more than anything, you’re giving yourself the time you deserve. Life is short. Too short not to take good care of yourself.