A few years ago I made a conscious effort to slow down in life, to ‘enjoy the moment’, and part of that journey has been a rediscovery of classic items which by their definition encourages a more relaxed, and perhaps sedate, refined or even dignified, approach to life. My Filofax, my fountain pen, handwriting notes, not owning a car, enjoying lunch (again), are just a few examples. It was inevitable that I would eventually turn to the art of shaving. However, this recently happened quite by chance and in an unplanned manner.
I had been trying the now widely advertised Harry’s shaving razor. I had been using the Gillette Mach 3 for almost as long as I can remember, but had become increasingly frustrated at the price of the blades – Harry’s offer of improved blades at a fraction of the price seemed worth pursuing. I posted a picture of my new monogrammed Harry’s razor on Instagram,
and then received a direct message from Thomas Clipper. They suggested I try their more traditional safety razor and very generously offered to send me a sample to try. I had been looking at traditional safety razors in antique stores for some time, but had temporarily put off the journey.
Thomas Clipper was founded in 2014 in London by Matt and Antonio, – they aim “to bring joy to men’s lives through beautifully made collections of products which have meaning”. A perfect fit for my journey to a more traditional life in contemporary times.
The package (the Mark K Purist – Razor Set) arrived a few days later from Thomas Clipper and contained a beautifully made safety razor, shaving oil, an organic cotton flannel, and a number of razor blades (and a set of colognes which I will review later).
I cannot even begin to describe has stunningly beautifully made the safety razor is. It is solid metal, a sleek design and a weighted handle. It is a traditional double-edge safety razor, with the handle made in Market Harborough, Britain, with a head chromed and cast in Delhi. Machined in a three-step process with strictly limited production.
Holding it against past razors (my ivory one which I’ve been using for 20 years from Edwin Jagger and my more recently acquired Harry’s) revealed just how much enhanced the chrome and metal construction can be. It is beautifully weighted, feels strong and safe. A somewhat unrelated analogy is the first time I picked up an SLR rifle during officer training and realised what beautiful piece of engineering (despite its lethal connotations) the rifle was!
I waited until the weekend to test the products, as I wanted to have no undue pressures of time upon me, which sometimes happens before my morning commute from the Suffolk countryside to London. I filled my mug with boiling water, dipped my Taylors of Old Bond Street shaving brush into the boiling water and worked up a lather in my Floris 89 shaving soap (a product I have used for the best part of 30 years).
Before lathering I used the Thomas Clipper organic frankincense shave oil, which has been developed and produced in the United Kingdom. I did have an unfortunate experience with shave oil many years ago in Canada when I first tried such a product, and found that it left an unpleasant residue on my shaving brush. However, the advice from Thomas Clipper was just put a few drops of the oil into the palm of one’s hand and then rub into the warm stubble (I had of course just stepped out of the shower). I soaked the face cloth in hot water from the tap and massaged it into my face drawing the bristles to a more upright position. This face cloth is extraordinary, luxurious, organic and made and embroidered in Devon, England. It is quite the heaviest and yet softest cotton face cloth I have ever touched. I then applied the oil.
Thus, suitably facially prepared, I took the safety razor apart, inserted the brand-new razor blade and tightened the razor back together. Now the nerves kicked in! This is a very different experience to shaving with a Mac 3 or Harry’s blade. I quickly learnt that short frequent strokes of no more than 1 cm, with the blade angled at about 45°, produced an excellent shave. It paid to go over the area several times. It worked equally well under my chin on my throat. Shaving of course isn’t rocket science but one should realise the sharp blade has to be moved downwards or upwards and not sideways, as that is where it will slice into the skin. Therefore, an element of concentration is required, and of course patience, and the occasional pulling of the skin to make the hair bristles stand more upright for ease of shaving.
The whole experience lasted several more minutes than my old shave. But what a difference! I felt more relaxed afterwards, the shave was definitely closer than I had experienced with any other product. I’m not sure whether it was a combination of the quality of the organic face cloth, the shave oil, both in their new relation to the shaving soap, or whether it was the razor and blade on their own. All I do know is it was an extraordinary experience. And, extraordinary is not a word that I use lightly!
I used the face cloth again in warm water to rinse my face and then the most refreshing splash with my hands full of cold water from the tap to ensure all the skin pores were closed. I followed this with my usual Aqua Di Parma aftershave balm and felt an intense sensation of satisfaction and relaxation.
The challenge now for me is to introduce this safety razor to my daily routine, accepting that a couple more minutes is necessary as part of my drive to slow down my lifestyle.
I am now a convert to the traditional shaving that this safety razor allows. One is left wondering how we have deviated so far from this simple yet effective process, with high quality built to last products from Thomas Clipper, to the three, four, or even five highly expensive blades from Gillette et al (and their monstrous plastic handles) and the positioning of shaving as a process that has to be quickly endured to move on with one’s day. I now leave the bathroom relaxed, better groomed than ever before, and ready to face whatever the rigours of the day may be.
Having control of one’s time, as I have said before on this blog, is the greatest luxury known to man. The more I take the small actions to slow down, the more in control I feel, and the more efficient and effective I believe I am becoming. I would therefore encourage all of you male readers to take the step back to traditional shaving using a safety razor, and of course I would strongly encourage you to contact my new friends at Thomas Clipper and avail yourself of their superb products.
(Although this was a free gift from Thomas Clipper I have written this article entirely independently with no expectation of further reward or favour)