Don’t mix nostalgia with your shaving razor choices

When it comes to shaving, I am lucky in two respects. First, I am a man and the only shaving I do is on my face.

Well, I also shave my head because though I am not fully bald, I am bald enough that I’ve decided to give up on having hair.

It’s probably good I don’t have a yard. If a got a dead spot from a hot spell in the summer, I’d tear up all the sod and replace it with a rock garden.

Anyway, my hair grows slowly. I can usually get by with one shave at the beginning of the week — two if I need to be fancy.

Still, it’s a tedious task and, worse, expensive.

I started shaving with Bic disposable razors. I’m not sure if anyone should use razors by a company that makes disposable pens, but Yamaha makes keyboards and motorcycles, so business confuses me.

I was about 15 years old when I first shaved. I scraped off the soft peach fuzz with the razor. The bathroom looked like something out of “The Shining” when I was done. I used toilet paper to dab the nicks, of which there were many.

As a Christmas gift, my brother bought me a Norelco electric razor. It was terrific, except for the part where my face felt like I had rubbed it down with sandpaper after each shave. This razor got me through college, before I dropped it one too many times on the hard concrete floor of the residence hall.

On my 18th birthday, Warren Buffett sent me a Gillette razor with three blades in the mail. Buffett doesn’t know me. But, at the time, his company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns Gillette.

And this was their marketing trick.

It worked. I used that razor for years. I eventually upgraded to a razor with four blades. I tried one with five blades, but that somehow seemed like overkill.

But while the razors were initially cheap — the first one was free, after all — the replacement blades cost as much as minor surgery. A pack of five cartridges runs more than $25 now.

I am not a frugal man, but I felt like my good friend Mr. Buffett was really sticking it to me on these razor blades. I guess this is how he got rich: smart investing and overcharging on razor blades.

It ticked me off because both Dad 1.0 and Dad 2.0 used a simple safety razor their entire shaving lives. Dad 1.0 was an old school kit. He mixed his shaving cream in a mug and applied it with a brush.

Dad 2.0 was happy with a can of Gillette foamy.

A few years ago, I saw a late-night commercial for a safety razor.

The guy selling it was one of the people on those unscripted basic cable shows about neat stuff people sell at pawn shops.

I ordered one up. It cost $20 and came with 20 blades. I figured it would pay for itself in blades alone.

It didn’t. The old-fashioned razor chewed up my skin and I looked less like a clean-shaven man and more like I’d been in a fight with Wolverine.

There must be something to these fancy new blades, as expensive as they are.

This is my fault, of course. Sometimes I get it in my head that things must’ve been better because they’re attached to a fond memory.

I remember taking a shower in the basement of our house over on Lynner Drive. Dad 1.0 would stand in his boxer shorts and shave everything but his upper lip.

I would stand next to him in a towel and flex like the Incredible Hulk in the mirror. Sometimes he would tap my face with the foamy end of his shaving brush and leave a dollop of shaving cream on my nose. I would act like it was a terrible act of child abuse. It was all in good fun.

Dad 2.0, the kindly east Des Moines printer who raised me after my parents died, taught me to shave.

His advice: Up and down, not side to side. That’s good advice. I didn’t follow it too well at first. I was a teenager. I was not good with instructions. Some say this is still true.

Both my dads used safety razors like the one I bought from the TV ad.

They must be made of sterner stuff. I can’t stand the thing and it’s been sitting in my medicine cabinet for nearly a decade.

Nostalgia is a powerful force and like anything powerful, it can be dangerous — especially when it comes to close shaves.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney is a Marion County Express columnist.

Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

1 Comment

  1. toubes1 says:

    My father would use a razor and shaving cream that he would mix in a bowl- Yardley’s I believe. When I was about 4, there was a nasty kid across the street and I learned from him to say to mom “Shut up.” Mom whisked me up the stairs and washed my mouth with a bar of soap. It was awful. So after I was done crying and understanding that was a dumb thing I did, I decided to escape Dad when he got home. I borrowed a chair from my brother’s room , he said I could borrow it. I dragged it to the bathroom, climbed up and opened the medicine cabinet where my toothbrush was. I figured I should brush my teeth and go to bed as my parents wouldn’t wake me up. Now I can’t read, so I grabbed a tube which looked just like the toothpaste, it wasn’t. I put a good amount on the brush and to my horror it was soap. I shrieked, cried , yelled. Every body came running. My parents and brother were concerned but slightly amused. Brother said, “The first time was Mom, the second was God getting you for telling her to shut up.” Later, I went into Dan’s room. Sat down on his chair and said, “Danny, you have to teach me to read. I won’t make it if you don’t.” He did help his little brother with some reading and I never told my parents to shut up or was rude to them. I remember all of this as if it happened yesterday and sort of get that taste of that soap.

    I did learn to shave with a razor . It was cool in college. I had a stipic pencil to deal with the nicks shaving. Now I use an electric shaver.


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