On the Trouble with Shaving

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When boys make the transition into men, they do so with a subtle blend of confusion, pain, and anticipation. Manhood means great things. It means jobs and handshakes and lawnmowers, suits and shoe polish. But it also means aches and emissions, cracks of voice and spurts of height. It means awkwardness, and fewer things are more awkward for the man-in-progress than the rapid and frightening flourishing of hair other places than the head. Single strands become tiny meadows of black curls, swirling up legs and arms. Armpits become tough and impenetrable tufts of knotted  mass, quick to moisten and embarrassingly quick to stink.

But it gets worse. After the shock of becoming a hair-canvas subsides, and a man is now sufficiently removed from his boyhood and impressed with his movement towards masculinity, he must now control it. It is the intersection of facial hair and society that man finds one his most troublesome conflicts. Biology demands that whiskers grow, but society imposes its own standards on  what uncontrolled facial hair means. A face without hair is a clean one, smooth in a way that the skin of a baby is smooth and immensely caressable. A face ravaged by hair is the face of a homeless man. This is an association that many men seek to avoid.

And so, as shaving was ushered in, and men became obligated to bring, in a troublesome reversal of basic logic, sharp implements their faces on a regular basis, smart men found themselves a business model: They would use mens’ desire to be cleanly shaven and sell back to them. In our hyper-modern time this has resulted in the creation of the multi-bladed razor. Products like the Gellette Fusion razor function via a connection of quantity with quality. The assumption is that, if the number of blades is increased, the quality of the shaving experience will follow suit. As any man who has ever shaved with a multi-bladed razor knows, however, that’s simply not the case. In fact, shaving has become so painful and so inundated with rivulets of blood that men have gone backwards in the development of the razor blade for relief. The straight blade and safety razor movements are clear indicators that men are noticing their post-shaving pain and struggling against the technology that created it. Shaving, they realize, doesn’t have to be that bad.

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(thanks to Okko Pyykkö for the image.)

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