Revisiting The Golden Age Of Men’s Grooming: Wet Shaving

What is it about? What is wet shaving? Do you remember a scene in the movie The Untouchables where Robert De Niro gets a shave? The one minus the accidental cut? A warm towel placed on your face followed by a close shave. Watching wet shaving on the television or movies are probably the only exposure many may have. We can visit the neighbourhood Indian barber for a shave. But that is not the wet shave experience you see in the movie.

Close up of a man getting a professional shave by a barber.
Getting a shave by a professional barber beats labouring it out yourself with a disposable razor.
Photo by Nick Demou from Pexels

A Brief History On Shaving

Long before proper hygiene care is easily available, men would visit barber shop to have themselves groomed. Skilled barbers would offer shaving services along with a trim and and shower. However, in modern times, these practices are slowly fading away. Thanks to indoor plumbing in our homes and the cartridge razors flooding the supermarket shelves.

A mass produced standard cartridge / disposable razor that's commonly used for self shaving.
An everyday cartridge razor that is a common sight in modern times with a dollop of shaving cream.
Photo by Gabriel Manlake on Unsplash

King Camp Gillette introduced the double edge safety razor circa late 1800s. The safety razor became popular post World War II. Military personnel were issued safety razors during their service, and they adopted it in their civilian life too. In 1971, Gillette introduced the first cartridge razor and in 1975, BIC introduced the disposable razor.

A double-edge safety razor with the replaceable double-edge blade.
An uncommon find. Safety razors were introduced in the 1880s but lost out to the modern cartridge razors mainly because that was the direction companies like Gillette was pushing for instead rather than user preference.
Photo by Nacho Fernández on Unsplash

We have all grown accustomed to shaving as a regular routine. A necessary chore to complete, lest we look like a hairy ape. Or a cross between a bearded manly specimen and a prepubescent young adult. For those blessed enough to grow out a full beard need not fret. Unfortunately, not all men are born equal, and many fall short of achieving that thick bearded look. Hence shaving is an unavoidable chore which many of us have to do diligently.

Barber lathering shaving soap on the face of the author
The author, receiving a full-fledged wet shaving experience. Also note that the shaving soap is not only lathered on the chin, but also covers the whole face too. The lather actually functions as a moisturiser to the skin.
Image by Author

Shaving As Therapeutic Treat

Man holding a cartridge razor and an aerosol shaving foam
An example of what most modern men are familiar with, a cartridge or disposable razor and a chemical based shaving foam that’s dispensed from an aerosol spray can.
Photo by drobotdean on Freepix

Most of us would only wet our chins, pull out the cartridge razor purchased from the supermarket, and just shave. If you’re feeling a little more fancy, you’ll probably spray on shaving foam from an aerosol can. Undoubtedly this is what we expect from a shave, but did you know wet shaving uses soap instead. Not the bottled foam but a proper shaving soap. It comes in the form of a solid soap bar. You need to soak the solid bar of soap with warm water for about 30 minutes to soften it. Once softened, you can whip it up into a rich and creamy lather to apply on your skin.

A man getting a self pampering wet shave by a professional barber
Self-love: a man pampering himself by having a wet shaving done by a professional barber.
Photo by Maria Orlova from Pexels

Self Shaving Vs Professional Barber Shaving

The process is a little more tedious, but it’s well worth the effort. It is extremely relaxing, as the barber brushes the soothing soap onto your skin. Some would feel discouraged by the need to wait for the soap to soften. However, an alternative is available for those who want to save time. There is a soft version of shaving soap from The Elektrik Chair. It works just as effective, if not better than regular shaving soap, and incorporates all natural ingredients. By cutting down the waiting time it is ready for lathering right off the bat.

Close up of a straight razor resting on a honing stone, a badger hair shaving brush, and a tub of Overload shaving cream.
The Elektrik Chair shaving soap is a soft shaving soap that allows the user to easily scoop, lather and immediately begin shaving. Don’t need to wait for the soap to soften by soaking it in warm water before hand.
Image by Andrew Chang

Wet Shaving 101

Lathering the soap is but merely the beginning. It is only the first step out of the door into the world of wet shaving. The barber whips up the shaving soap with a shaving brush in a scuttle into a smooth consistency. He then lathers the whipped soap onto the skin. There are many types of brushes available. The cheapest and most common is the synthetic shave brush. On the other hand, wet shaving enthusiasts would aim for more premium products. Badger hair brush, boar bristle brush and silvertip badger brush are the top contenders in the field. Boar bristles are stiff and coarse which make it exceptional for exfoliating. Badger hair brushes on the other hand are softer, giving a more luxurious feeling on the skin.

Examples of shaving brushes available
Types of brushes that are available for wet shaving use. The brushes on display are made of synthetic hair and a single badger hair brush. First three on the left are synthetic hair shaving brushes whilst the brown handle on the right is a badger hair shaving brush.
Image by Author

Sometimes we fail to notice even the simplest act can have a great effect. The shaving soap allows the blade to glide effortlessly across your skin. It also protects the skin to avoid razor burn. That’s a common occurrence when you dry shave, or shave against the grain. Once the soap application is complete, we then begin the shaving process.

Selecting The Right Razors

Cartridge razors will not cut it compared to a straight razor. This is because cartridge razors focus primarily on safety and ease of use as oppose to getting the closest shave. Even for straight razors, their grade affects how one feels when getting a close shave. The keen edge of a straight razor will slice the hair off like a hot knife through butter. One can experience the closest shave in their life, and still feel completely safe.

Three straight razors arranged in a row, exhibiting the different types of blades available on straight razors.
Even straight razors come in different varieties. The razor on on the left is a “regular” straight razor, favoured by regular barbers of yesteryears. On the right is the Feather Artist Club straight razor, specially crafted to provide a smooth and close shave. The model in the centre is the famed Kamisori straight razor.
Image by Andrew Chang
Close up of a Feather Artist Club straight razor, with a tuck of propriety Feather disposable blades.
Close up of the famed Feather Artist Club straight razor, the razor used for my shave. This razor uses the propriety Feather blades, which is famous for being one of the sharpest blades there is.
Image by Andrew Chang

Shaving Methods

Typically we run through two shaves: with the grain and across the grain. But with a good shaving soap and a professionally crafted straight razor, you can shave against the grain. You won’t even feel any stinging sensation after that. With practice, or under the skillful hands of a professional barber, we can achieve the cleanest shave ever. And at the same time avoid shave burns and also prevent ingrown hair after the shave.

A barber shaving against the grain on the chin of the author
An experienced barber can easily shave against the grain and leave you feeling clean and fresh after a shave.
Image by Author

Not Your Typical Barber

To an untrained person, all of the steps mentioned above might be rather intimidating. One needs to acquire enough experience in perfecting one’s shaving skills. Don’t have the right tools, or don’t want to risk slicing the skin off your face? Then seek professional help. Treat yourself to a professional have by a profesional barber. One such barber is Andrew Chang from Othrs Barbers. He offers professional shaving on top of the regular hair cut. His perfectly honed skill with the blade will give you the closest shave of your life. Guaranteed to leave you with a smooth face afterwards. It’s not just another hair cut, it is a cut, a shave and cleansing like no other. Perhaps you might feel that you don’t have enough ‘hair’ to treat yourself to a barber. But trust me, it is like a Pringles’ tagline, once you pop it, you can’t stop it.

Profile image of Andrew Chang, the proprietor of Othrs Barbers KL.
The man himself, Andrew Chang of Othrs Barbers, in his elements inside his barber shop.
Image by Dr Leroy Tan

If you’re keen to experience your first full-service shaving experience, click on this link to book an appointment. The service ranges from a regular hair cut to beard trim, to a full-fledge wet shave. Services are available based on first-come-first-served, pre-booked appointments only. So be sure to book and select your preferred service before heading over.

Signage of Othrs Barbers
One of the few places that readily offers professional grooming: Othrs Barbers in MAHSA Avenue.
Image by Author

Shawn KHIK

About Shawn KHIK

Wanderlust and gamer, Shawn spent a good portion of his life travelling the world. Enjoys soaking up foreign cultures, gastronomic adventures, and sharing the tales of his travels. Gifted with green fingers, he also ventures into the gardening and nursery business too.

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