Finally, A Razor With Balls

NYMag states that Gillette’s new ProGlide Flex Ball razor is “everything wrong with American Innovation.”

A new razor is now a testament to the state of American manufacturing and business. The article leads you to believe that people are going to be willfully swindled into buying it – that we solved the shaving problem decades ago.

I’m not so sure. Between electric razors, r/wicked_edge,1 and razors with balls, there are still people out there doing everything “right” and dealing with irritation from shaving.

Sure, Gillette is cashing in on a market still looking for a solution to their problems short of laser hair removal, but I thought that’s what the point of innovation was anyway. People are asking where the flying cars are – like it’s going to be less expensive and get us where we need to go any faster.

  1. r/wicked_edge has its own feeling of commercialism – people selling books on how to shave (which I bought, read, and still had isuses), people recommending razor packs to sample, creams and lotions to put on your face…yet people still have problems, cuts, and irritated necks. This is not a solved problem and there are plenty of threads (warm water didn’t work? I guess try cold water) and product recommendations to prove it. 

Training a beard

Ask metafilter question:

The manual that came with the razor claims that it will take 10-12 days to “train my beard” to the new razor so that I’ll get an optimal shave, and that I’m not to use a manual razor in the meantime. Research I did before buying the electric razor indicates that all manufacturers say something similar–two to four weeks for the best shave. Why is this?

I just bought a fancy-shmancy electric razor and I’ve always assumed the “it takes two weeks for your face to get used to it” was just a way of making product returns a little more difficult.

I asked my barber about this yesterday and he says it’s true – you need to train your face for an electric. It’s probably not merely a ploy to keep you from returning an electric razor.

I’ll have to write about my shaving experiences over the years in more depth later. In short, I went like this.

  1. Mach 3 (resulting in bumps)
  2. Buying into the DE wet shaving craze (still getting bumps)1
  3. Fuck this I’ll grow a beard (can’t see bumps)
  4. Bite the bullet and buy an expensive electric razor (we shall see)

  1. Most of my thoughts on DE and the PROCESSS of you becoming a real man through it now seems to me more like how you’re not a real fan of beer unless it’s really thick beer with 10% ABV that you need to chew. After trying it for years, hoping it would solve my problems, I’ve became disenchanted with it. I’ve noticed more and more the small cottage industry making youtube videos claiming you’ll be more manly if you buy these expensive sharp things from them. DE advocates claim you’ll save money going their route, but you’ll spend just as much as an electric trying to find what’s right for your face. 

“What shaving taught me about capitalism”

Shaving has basically been a solved problem for at least half a century. By the 1970s the patents on those solutions had expired, and nothing of importance has been invented since. In a sensible world, all men would know this and the factories would focus on delivering cheap high-quality double-edged razor blades. That didn’t happen because it wouldn’t have made anybody rich.

Razor vs. Electric

From Under the Microscope: A Hidden World Revealed:


This is the kind of comparison that infuriates the manufacturers of electric razors. On the left is a man’s beard hair, cleanly sliced by the blade of a “wet” razor. On the right is a beard hair from the same man, torn and mangled by the action of an electric razor. Since each hair is approximately one fifth of a millimetre in diameter, the difference visible to the naked eye is little or none, and the difference felt by someone kissing is likely to be more imagined than real. Nonetheless, one can see why the manufacturers of electric razors would have preferred it if the scanning electron microsope had never been invented.

Aqua Velva Man


I have a bottle of this stuff left over from when I bought it back in 2005. I think I have about half left. I splashed some on this morning after my shave, and now I smell like an old man.

It seems like 50 years ago Aqua Velva was the standard for men’s aftershave, or at least competed with Old Spice to be that standard. Aqua Velva is to Old Spice what Pepsi is to Coke. But while Coke has been around forever, and it’s ingrained itself into American culture through its marketing, Aqua Velva and Old Spice have the stigma of smelling like an old man.

Why? Because that’s what men had 50 years ago.

At least Old Spice got over the hump, but now they make crap like body sprays. All Aqua Velva did was update the design of the label (old vs new).

I imagine the phrase “Aqua Velva Man” used to refer to a kind of man who had put in a few years of service in the armed forces, knew how to wear a necktie properly, watched baseball games on the weekends, and shaved every morning for a white or blue-collar job. Now it means you’re an old-fashioned, stuck-in-the-past guy over 60.

Amazon review—Don’t Let The Price Fool You:

Although this is one of the cheapest aftershaves out there, it is the best. If you put this same product into a high-end, 100 dollar bottle, it would still sell. It’s got a perfect balance between the leathery musk scent and barbershop astringent (alcohol) scents. If there is a classic “masculine scent” then this is it, and there isn’t a woman out doesn’t enjoy this smell. But more importantly, it feels damn good after a shave. Teens shouldn’t look down on this product because it has been around forever and their fathers used it. And snobs need to ignore the price. This is a classic scent that should never fall out of style.

But in some circles that’s exactly what happened—the scent fell out of style. I really wonder if that “there isn’t a woman who doesn’t enjoy this smell” part is true, because whenever I wear it I just remind people of their grandfathers and they make sure to point it out.

In a way I find the Aqua Velva smell comforting because it reminds me of older men in my family. The smell put me at ease as a kid because it meant I was among family and was safe.

Giving Up Shaving Cream

Unchained in America writes about dumping shaving cream and using shaving soap.

Besides shaving cream just being plain messy the author notes the amount of waste compared with shaving soap. Shaving soap leaves behind the paper it came in. Shaving cream leaves behind a whole can.

I’d try using Ivory soap as a lather, but I’m going to try the winter beard thing (yeah, I know winter beards are lame, but it’s cold up here).