Considering that many men will shave once a day for the rest of their lives, it makes sense that each has a firmly held opinion about how to do it. Gillette? Schick? Three blades? Five blades? Everybody knows The Right Way to Shave.
Loot decided to settle the razor question the old-fashioned way, with a face-off.
And who better than a barber to judge the competition? Two barbers! Loot chose Jeff Yabut and Alyssa Pfadt of Truman's Gentleman Groomers on Madison Avenue.
The razors on trial, picked up at the local CVS, covered a wide range of commercially available options: a Gillette Fusion with five blades ($10.79), a Schick Hydro with five blades ($12.49, but it came with an extra cartridge), a Bic Hybrid Advance with 3 blades ($8.99, and it came with six cartridges) and a safety razor the barbers provided, which sells for around $20.
Loot didn't dare ask about electric shavers. The barbers were armed with razors.
Yabut pitted the Bic against the safety razor on one customer's face (half and half), and Pfadt did the same with the Gillette and the Schick. Their guidelines were straightforward: Decide which feels the easiest to use, which cuts the beard quickest and most effectively, and which leaves the skin the smoothest.
Unless you frequent barbers -- and at Truman's $55 shave, not everybody does -- the comprehensive 45-minute regimen is hard to replicate. There was a hot towel to open the pores, a pre-shave face wash, another hot towel, hot lather, another hot towel, pre-shave oil, shaving cream, the shave itself, another hot towel, aftershave balm, a cold towel (to close the pores) and then moisturizer.
The verdict? Loot was asking the wrong question.
You see, It's not the quality of the razor, it's the quality of the preparation. "You can be using the best razor in the world," Yabut said, "but if you're doing it on a dry face, it's going to be an awful shave."
This was something of a letdown. Wasn't there some distinction between the five-bladed Gillette and the Bic of three blades? Nope.
"Multiple blades are a redundancy," said Pfadt. "Once the hair's shaved, it's shaved."
A good shave, it seems, comes more from shaving well than from a good shaver -- though you wouldn't want to drag too cheap a razor across your face. We mean, it's your face.
"It's about how well you prepare your skin, how carefully you shave, and how well you take care of your skin," said Yabut. "It's really a question of skin care."
On close reflection (the shop had a lot of mirrors), Loot could see they had a point. Each of the shaved cheeks was shining, soft and smooth, regardless of which brand was used.
Which raises the follow-up question: Which is the best shaving cream?
Time for Round 2 ...
James Tarmy reports on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News.