Shave like your grandpa for 10 cents

Your grandpa was a man, a real man. You know how I know? Well because back in the day when a good shave used to cost 10 cents, it looked something like this:

That’s right, they took a knife, so thin and sharp it could cut you with the slightest twitch of the hand, and they slid it across your bare neck while you patiently tried to ignore the fact that death could be imminent.

But then something changed. Along came a man named Gillette, and Gillette had this idea that he would perfect a recent invention called the safety razor. He would perfect is so that you, the user, could now shave at home, of course, with the slight side effect that he would sell you the means to do so. Oh and by the way, these means that he would sell you would have to be repurchased at frequent intervals for the life of the user.

Of course I’m being a bit tongue in cheek here with this story, but the short version is that the invention of the safety razor, and more specifically the invention of the thin, stamped disposable safety razor blade revolutionized shaving and of course made  Gillette a ton of money.

One welcome side effect of this invention is that the user now did not need so much skill to operate the blade. And being able to do things with less skill (effort) is addicting. (Anyone who doubts this should do a quick count of the remote controls in their living room right now.) So as time went on Gillette and its competitors perfected the tool.

Now instead of the old razor:

We had the new razor:

And this new razor again made it even easier to shave. How is that? Well have have you ever looked at your razor blade heads? Well here is another stock photo of the head of razor. Notice the grey bars on each side of the actual blades.

The grey plastic bars on the side of the razor serve to stretch out your skin as the razor blades slide across it. This prevents you from cutting yourself. The trouble with this of course is that you now need to press harder and this causes irritation. Of course, we have a fix for that too, queue various aftershave products to calm your poor face down.

So again, the difficulty in shaving was reduced. I would argue that at this point, any brute with opposable thumbs can shave. My cat could shave if she could only hold the darn razor. And the innovations kept coming, twin blade, triple blade, quadruple blade… and the rest is history.

But as they removed the obstacle to shaving, and the skill of the average user declined, the razor blade companies suddenly had a captive audience. And that my friends is why it costs mucho dollars to shave your face today (and legs, ladies you’re not off the hook here).

Of course people are not happy about this. So in comes the disruptor – the dollar shave club! These folks will sell you a starter kit which starts at $5, and then for $9 each month they will sell you four razor heads. So a bit of quick math tells you that the shave club, which is cheaper than the store brands, will cost you a wopping $113 in the first year not including the monthly $5 can of goop that you have to smear your face with. And this assumes you don’t fall for the trap of buying the fancy lotions at checkout.

But what if I told you that you could shave for much cheaper than that? How about 10 cents per week? That would mean you would spend $5.20 on razors for a whole year! How is this possible?

Well you see the original invention, the safety razor, is still around! The trick is that you have been convinced that its easier, safer, and better to shave with the newer razor. But in fact the original 1932 razor (slightly improved of course) and its razor blades are still for sale today. Here is what they look like today:

Here are a few models that you might choose if you wanted to try this:

Top of the line Merkur from Germany. Note that this is a real piece of hardware that will last you for many years (if not your life), not a cheap plastic handle you discard.

Another razor, made by Parker, has a butterfly opening mechanism. Pretty cool, and again a tool that will last you a lifetime.

Finally, here is one by a British company, Edwin Jagger. That’s just a cool name to say.

Now if you wanted to try this then I would suggest that you try different razor blades. Depending on your technique and skill level each razor blade will be more or less comfortable. Of course there are inexpensive handy variety packs here and here that can introduce you to the great assortment of razor blades still available today.

But I’m not done saving you money just yet. Remember that $5 can of goop you need to buy monthly to shave? Well it turns out that before aerosol cans of shaving goop people made shaving soap. And this soap lasts months and months and months. And its cheap… really cheap. For example, for about $13 you can try out 4 different soaps in this variety pack and see what you like. Oh and they will probably last you at least a year and a half.

Personally, I enjoy Mitchells Wool Fat Soap. It’s a bit more expensive but who cares. Its one puck of soap per year!! You can save some money here by buying the re-fill here and placing it in your own soap dish.

To use shaving soap, you will need a brush. I have used this brush for the last five years without any problems.

So to summarize, you will need a razor, a brush, shaving soap and a bowl, and some razor blades.

Oh and to make it a bit nicer so its not just a jumble of tools in your bathroom, I would recommend the classic stand in the picture or this nice wooden stand.

But wait! Mr. Handy Millennial, you might say, you’re recommending an awful lot of products here. How can this possibly be cheaper than the dollar shave club? Well you see my dear reader, here is what I recommended:

These materials would easily last you a full year. The total cost of this package is $89.  Compare this to the $113 cost of the Dollar Shave Club above? And remember, in year 2 you only need: Soap refill ($10) and razor blades ($10). So your second and then on yearly cost is $20!!!! Hows that for a bargain!

Whats that? Still too expensive for you? Well, ok I will recommend a cheap starter set for you but I’m sure that you will be back to get the nicer stuff:

  • a razor ($32 – most expensive from above)
  • razor blades ($10)
  • brush/stand/soap/soap dish – complete set ($15)
  • total cost for 1st year: $57 (that’s half of the dollar shave club in year 1)

Now before I finish this post, I must leave you with a few cautionary comments. First, using a safety razor is a skill. You may cut yourself while learning. Obviously try not to peel of your face in the process. Second, because this is a skill you should learn from someone who knows how to do this. There are a plethora of resources on the internet to do this. Watch a video or two before you start so that you are familiar with the technique. Here is a man showing you how to shave like a man. Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “Shave like your grandpa for 10 cents

  1. Very good post. In my family, the situation was a little bit mixed up. My grandpa was the one who used the (by the time super rare) Braun electric shaver and my dad was the one who used the safety razor. I remember as a kid I watched him shaving cheering to remain alive 🙂 This type of razor was the first I tried, but my soft teenage skin (maybe because of the lack of skill?) was begging for a smoother solution. So I went on to the Gilette series, but that was not a joyride too, so I was searching further. Tried two types of electric shavers, but damn, I don’t know if that works for anybody, but for me, it just does not do the job. My not so elegant/manly solution to the situation was that I use my 5 blade Gilette razor with their shaving gel. And also use it as rare as possible, which means one shaving per week at most. Let’s say I use two heads a year, which cost me ~$10. The shaving gel and the sensitive after shave cost me nothing most of the time as relatives know about my preferences and I get the supplies as birthday/Christmas gift.

    Lately, I bumped into this (http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/10/06/how-to-straight-razor-shave/) article about straight razors and was tempted to try it out, but so far did not dare 🙂 If I can get myself into it, I will write a post about it for sure.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Hi HCF! Thanks for stopping by. I laughed when I read your comment. There is a generational thing going on here. I remember my grandpa (during my lifetime) shaving with an electric razor – he was always looking for the newest invention. My dad used the more outdated 2 blade disposables.

      I didn’t write about this but I actually own several straight razors as well. It’s quite fun to shave with a straight razor. For me its a meditative experience. You can’t worry about anything while using a straight. It did cost me a couple bad looking cuts to learn though 🙂

      If you do decide to do it, go with this guy: http://www.whippeddog.com/ I haven’t bought from him in years, but he was a good buy when I did. He will get you into straight razors inexpensively so that you can try it. Buying a new straight razor will set you back a couple hundred for a good one.

      I look forward to reading about your experience!

  2. Great Post! Very Informative. I have always looked for ways to save on shaving because I hate buying those cheap (but expensive) plastic razors. Thanks HM!

    1. Hi Eric! Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad that you enjoyed this post. I agree I cannot stand to buy expensive shaving razors when the perfect tool was invented over 100 years ago. Good luck learning and keep me posted on how it goes!

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