The art of wet shaving originated centuries ago. Skilled barbers, who offered straight razor shaves and other grooming services, were among the first on the scene.
At a time when grooming practices were particularly lacking, inconvenient, and time-consuming, visiting a barber was not only an indulgence, but a genuine necessity!
Unlike today’s safety, disposable, or cartridge razors, straight razors (aka “cutthroat razors”) required practice to handle proficiently and with adeptness. For this reason, most men gladly handed off to the much more dexterous “barber-surgeon.”
“Barber-surgeon?” you may be asking.
Believe it or not, the history of the barber has not always been the suave and debonair profession synonymous with the practice today. In fact, up until the late 1800s, barbers were more like surgeons than hairdressers. They were not only charged with shaving and trimming, but with teeth pulling, lice picking, abscess lancing, and even bone setting.
One of the foundations of the barber-surgeon’s profession was bloodletting (an old medical practice in which blood was drained from a patient’s body to prevent disease). It was based on an ancient system of medicine, which regarded bodily fluids as “humors.”
Health was only achieved when these humors were in balance. Although bloodletting was seen as necessity in the medical field, many doctors believed “the cutter’s art” was beneath them. Hence the reason barbers were assigned this gory duty.
The wet shaving safety razor arrives
Around the time when people finally realized that bloodletting was in fact detrimental to one’s health, King Camp Gillette introduced the modern safety razor. It came complete with a patented carbon steel, disposable, and double-edged blade. The safety razor’s success was in part due to the fact that these convenient and easy to use razors were issued to soldiers during WWI. This helped secure its place when it was launched to the public post-war.
Following the revolutionary safety razor came the onslaught of mass marketing and manufacturing. Over the years, razors have been developed into varieties such as disposable, single blade, multi-blade, pivoting, lubricating, light operating, vibrating, etc.
The wet shave became about convenience and efficiency, rather than relish and ritual. While interesting, the foundation of a great shave has been lost with all these unnecessary embellishments.
While trying to incorporate features that promise to give a better wet-shave, companies have remembered everything but the quality of the blade itself. Without a quality blade, you’ll never have a quality shave.
Traditional wet shaving incorporates preparation, a great shave brush, and an array of oils, creams, and soaps.
Modern disposable and cartridge razor shaving includes the use of water, of course, but traditional wet shaving is a wetter (and better!) way. The modern shaving market is all about convenience and efficiency. What they don’t realize is that time and traditional wet shaving products are necessary for superior results.
No convenience feature can substitute for the time it takes for dry and coarse whiskers to become soft and flexible. The wetter the better. For traditionalists–that’s super saturated!
What’s your wet shaving history? Be sure to share in the comments below!