It is easy to understand how the mystique of wet shaving becomes so captivating as you stand in front of Geo. F. Trumper’s 1 Duke of York Street establishment gazing at the glistening paraphernalia associated with this most basic of needs. A glittering display makes you wish you had cause to purchase items regularly. Truth be told, the shaving brush I bought from them years ago is still going strong with no sign of giving up.
I still remember watching my grandfather shave. I was probably four or five years old, stood at the bathroom door watching this strange ritual. Get a good lather going, brush it on, take the already old Wilkinson sword safety razor and slowly shave away wads of white foam. As a child it was a mystical and intriguing ritual, watching an adult do something that one day I would presumably get to do.
I still have that razor and I use it every day. It is a testament to craftsmanship, to engineering and to nostalgia. That razor somehow links me with my heritage and with generations fading back into history. Occasionally as I gaze into the mirror a shadow of men around a campfire preparing for the day ahead flickers into my head, people heading westward across the American plains for a better life. I glimpse a Victorian explorer in Africa preparing to face whatever The Heart of Darkness had to throw at him, I imagine countless men who’s hopes and dreams started afresh each morning with a cleansing ritual that shaped them for the rigours ahead.
We all have rituals, conscious and unconscious, they help us build confidence, reassure us and allow us to get to the top of our game.
Using this antique razor is about more than just linking with a notional romantic back history though. From a practical point of view going back to an old traditional method of shaving was a blessing for me. When I first started shaving men were indulging in a growing love affair with electric razors. Victor Kiam was giving the ultimate personal endorsement to Remington, “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company”. It doesn’t get much better than that in the Ad World does it Mr Draper?
I happen to be one of those people who has sensitive skin. Trying different electric razors for me was a little bit like experimenting with different brands of sandpaper. Along came twin blade wet razors, shaving foams in cans, gels, oils and a multitude of products that would probably have my grandfather snorting with derision.
Wet shaving became a necessary evil. I learnt that my best friend was a kettle of boiling water, a facecloth soaked in the hot water and a judicious amount of judgement about when to grasp the boiling fabric and bath my face to soften the hairs and open up the pores.
Then one day along came the lubrastrip. For many perhaps a godsend, for me it was a disaster! This little strip of gunk was designed to ease the glide of the blades, by then heading toward three on each razor! My skin went into meltdown and didn’t know what to do, it reacted in a multitude of ways and my shaving routine became torturous.
A trip down memory lane had me remembering grandfather, his ability to shave without all these issues and miraculously his old razors came to light. Shaving became more of a pleasure, a ritual to enjoy rather than fear. Nowadays a plethora of products for the discerning shaver abound and they are easy to acquire.
Back at Trumper’s you can delight in fragrances that not all will be conversant with, brush elbows with the traditions of the past and carry them forward for another generation. You may also explore the St James Street premises of Truefitt and Hill another fine purveyor of luxury shaving items. Both companies provide help, advice and inspiration for the shaver and the gift buyer.
Online searches will bring you no end of information about the process of wet shaving. Part of the fun ladies and gentleman is the search for the perfect razor and the accompanying accoutrements.
If you haven’t taken the step into real shaving I heartily recommend you give it a try, it can be a little addictive and one of the things that makes life special.