The Modern Gentleman must apologize from the start here. This paean to maturity in grooming is not intended to sell miracle man-beauty products, or hair gels, or three hundred dollar shavers, or colognes distilled from pheromones. You already produce all of the things required to make you handsome, happy and attractive. It’s how you manage these things that counts.
"Tall stately Buck Mulligan came to the top of the stairs with a bowl of lather, a razor and mirror lay across it." This is the first line of James Joyce’s brilliant novel Ulysses, and that simple sentence alone contains everything you need to know about shaving (almost).
The history of gentlemen and the history of shaving have always been intertwined. A gold razor found in King Tut’s tomb was still sharp enough to shave with. In 2006, a gold-platinum alloy dagger was found in an ancient Thracian tomb in present day Bulgaria. (I can almost hear the hilarious old barber from the neighborhood I grew up in saying, “…and you thought we had disposable razors!”)
At home, only the most pretentious of us would still use a straight razor. There are many great-feeling razors out there, and it is not worth the Modern Gentleman’s time to accidentally undergo a rhinectomy.
However, when traveling, I cannot recommend a hot towel straight razor shave enough. First of all, you can only get them done by classically trained barbers who have undergone certification. These are usually old Italian guys who like to talk about classic sports games, which is fantastic.
Last month the Modern Gentleman was in Havana, and was treated to a wonderful hot towel shave by a woman named Sule for $0.11. He tipped her $5 because of how wonderful he felt afterward. Some people get manicures even though they clearly have the ability to do it themselves. Afterwards, they feel wonderful and confident. The Modern Gentleman should strive to always feel wonderful and confident.
At home, however, one must keep it simple and routine. If you are looking to save money on an extraneous cost you might consider going the way of Buck Mulligan. A brush and small bar of soap might be all you need. It also travels well (never explodes under cargo pressure in planes), it looks much more stately than a half-rusting can on your sink, and sometimes there is nothing better on your face than the feeling of hot lather.
The Modern Gentleman must admit that he uses his grandfather’s choice in shaving cream, Barbasol. You needn’t be too concerned with the moisturizer content. You’re shaving your face, not conditioning it.
Keep a plastic (important) cup upside-down in your shower. Fill the cup with cold water from the sink and put it somewhere out of the way in the shower. Take a moment to do any detail work. If you have sideburns, be sure to make sure they are even and trimmed properly. If you have a goatee, the best way to maintain it is to start at the top and shave the whole thing off.
Then step into the shower to finish the job. The steam will keep your pores open. Don’t let the razor – especially a multi-blade razor – touch the hot water (it will expand, become dull and can cause embarrassing razor burn). Clean the shavings and lather off your razor by dipping it in that plastic cup of cold water (these cups tend to slip and fall so avoid glass). The Modern Gentleman also recommends this technique to modern ladies during their shaving rituals. Also, do not leave that glass by the sink, as house guests may mistake it for a drinking glass.
Any multi-blade razor will do a fine job. The Modern Gentleman must also confess that his brother gave him a Mach 5 Power. This should actually be called the Mach 7 because it has two more blades on the reverse side, which would come in handy if you had a soul patch — because then you could shave that off in one stroke. This razor has a battery powered motor in it, which has a pleasant buzz. There is no proof that is helps you shave any better, but whenever the battery is dead, I don’t feel like I’m having a good shave.
Now, this is where the Modern Gentleman differs with other shaving advocates. The Modern Gentleman only shaves down. Simple stokes, all in the same direction. Shaving down with five blades is more than enough to render your face kissable. This also leaves a vague amount of shading, which will help your jawline look more striking. Also, your razors will wear down half as much and last twice as long.
Shaving upwards gives you the facial irritation that causes nicks, burn and discomfort. If you’ve done your outlining work, you should be able to shave in the shower without a mirror.
If you are, say, Richard Nixon, and you get five o’clock shadow at two in the afternoon, then you should be down-shaving for a second time if you have a meeting that afternoon. However, most men merely require a simple touch-up shave in the neck area if they have evening plans. Squash your neck down to your face, and when you see what some might call a double chin end (right at the top of your throat), then you’ll know where you should shave down from.
This will give you the added bonus of smelling like a barbershop at the end of a long day.