Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zen and the art of straight razor shaving

I dislike shaving. I usually let my beard and mustache grow for three weeks, or more, to the point I encounter raised eyebrows from my colleagues and not so subtle complaints from relatives. The only alternative at that point is to head to a barber. Heading to the barber is painful for a different reason - waiting for weekends, queue and the loong delay. I therefore had a rule to shave after two weeks. But I don't. Go back to the paragraph beginning.

So the win-win situation is self shaving. The problem is that with the current razors available, the load is too much for them to handle. I always used to wonder why the regular "straight razor" (read: barber razor) wasn't commonly available in markets. I have been looking for them for a long time now. My conclusion is marketing. If you watched "The Story of Stuff", Ann talks about "perceived obsolescence".  It's the way of marketers to make the barbers razor look archaic. You can also make out by the fact that the number of blades in the hitech razor are increasing. Started with 2, then 3, now 4. The Gillette 3 razor blade is a ridiculous 300+ bucks.

Last week, in Coimbatore, I finally found a straight razor. I am not letting go of that anytime soon :)
The experiment of self shaving had mixed results. In addition to perceived obsolescence, there is a valid point of safety. I had four cuts on my face after my attempt at shaving. White foam on face with red spots is an eerie sight. Another thing I noted was straight razor shaving is an art. It is a way of wielding the razor with deft angling to get the shave done - the consequence otherwise being a mini sword battle with the skin. I realized that a barber possesses a skill - it is not mere infrastructure access.

Anyway, after my self-shave, I had serrated skin, 4 cuts, but a full shave (one month+ beard). I will give 3 points for the quality of the shave but much more points for not chickening out :)

Note of confession: The final piece had to be completed with the modern 3-blade razor. I will learn though!

Note of "go to hell": I recently saw a 5-razor blade by Gillette, which was motorized to give a "smooth shave". It cost 675 bucks. This is sheer misuse of marketing hedging on the safety aspect.

Why Zen? Well, if what you do is a matter of life-or-death for you, your task has the spirit of Zen. Here it is literally so!

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