I once used a straight razor for an entire year. I got up in the morning and took a hot shower. I stropped my blade daily (stoned it every few days). I worked up a lather in front of the mirror, and in an elegant ritual of grooming and bloodletting, sculpted my face into a feminine masterpiece, only mildly punctuated by nicks and burns. At the end of that year, I was overjoyed to return to the ease of the disposable razor.
Well I was talking with my father–on my last visit to Colorado–about shaving. One of those father son “hey check it out we’re both men” kinda talks that came up randomly. Turns out he had some fascinating trivia about shaving, which is ironic, considering he has worn a beard for my entire life. But more on that later, First the trivia.
I think most people know that disposable razors evolved out of safety razors, which were clunky handled devices that held a double edged blade. But what you may not know (at least if you are my age or younger) is that good blades for these were at one time very hard to get.
Prior to the 1960s, high quality stainless steel razor blades didn’t exist, and blades rusted (and dulled) rapidly.
But then, totally on the down low, Wilkinson Sword in Sheffield England started sneaking packets of their brand new stainless steel razor blades in with orders of their gardening equipment. According to Dad, Americans coveted these awesome new blades, as they were far superior, and rather difficult to come by.
Because of their rarity, various superstitions were developed to keep the good blades sharp. One of the more memorable and widely spread of these, was the practice of stacking a small, hand folded, paper pyramid on top of your blade. According to my father, the general notion was that the shape of a pyramid is imbued with certain properties that would keep the edge sharper.
So how does a man who has worn a beard for thirty years know so much about this? Well there was a time when my grizzly father was a clean shaven dude. My mother claims that he grew his beard to hide his dimples, which are a sure sign he is trying to pull something over on you. Given the nature of his son’s blogospherical tenancies, I’d have to admit this is a likely possibility. But still there was a time when he did shave, which brings me to the final tale he told.
After the safety razor, eventually came the electric shaver. And then of course, the battery-powered electric shaver. Well as it happens, my father purchased one of the first battery powered electric shavers when he was in the army. This was before the era of wall-warts, and his shaver had a very regular looking cord attached to it for charging.
My dad tells, with some glee, of a time in an army camp, at dawn one fine day, getting up to shave with all the other grunts. Everybody had their little mirrors tacked to trees, and carried cans of shaving cream and towels. My dad had his corded, battery powered shaver. So he found a good tree with a knot in it and plugged his shaver (fully charged) into the knot, and commenced shaving with the fellas.
There were many double takes, even by officers. They had no idea what to think about him.
That’s my Pa. I’m glad I have him.
Posted: September 13th, 2010 under Uncategorized.