Some thoughts on shaving with a limited palette

Recently I’ve been enduring a major bathroom renovation. As in tearing the bathrooms down to studs and redoing everything – pipes, wiring, walls, the works. Which was needed – the old waste water pipes were cast iron and almost rusted out – but still left me shaving out of the GoBag for several weeks.

Now, I do change out what goes in the GoBag ever so often. But even so it is a limited palette. Doubly so when comparing to the fairly big rotation I normally have – 25+ razors, sevenish brushes, and I don’t even want to count how many soaps and creams. But, to harp on the point, for several weeks my palette was a single razor, a single brush, and two soaps. Oh, and an aftershave and a preshave.

Which granted is what most shavers have had to deal with throughout history. It is only recently that shaving as a hobby has gained much traction. And even today, in what I would consider a Golden Age of traditional wetshaving, the vast majority of shavers have a razor and a lather. And most of those savages probably don’t even have a single brush…

There is a couple of lessons to be had from my experience. Well, lessons identified at least, which is not the same as lessons learned.

First of, shaves are still enjoyable even when they get repetitive. A large rotation adds variation and enjoyment, but is not strictly speaking needed for a good shave and a Moment of Zen. A single soap is enough, if that soap gives good lather. And if it can air out between shaves, a single brush suffices. And if the razor is good – as my 105 year old Gillette “Khaki Kit” Old Type is – a single razor is sufficient. This is very much a lesson re-identified, since that is how I was shaving for the first year after getting into traditional wetshaving – I was deployed to Africa, and only had one of each.

Secondly, even though a large rotation isn’t needed… you do miss having choices when you’re used to having them. Face lathering is great, but even so I missed having the option to whip up lather in a bowl. The beard oil in my GoBag is damn good, but so are the ones that were packed up at home, And I did miss my horse hair brushes, although the boar travel bush is a damn fine brush.

And lastly, shaving at work means a lot of cartridge shavers will express curiosity about the noble art of traditional wetshaving. Thankfully I stocked up on some Gillette Super Blue safety razors a while back, so I have handed a couple out to curious colleagues.

So with all that in mind, what are my overarching thoughts on the experience?

Well… I did it. I didn’t suffer. But I rather not do it again.

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