I used to watch my father shave with this. It’s a brass Gillette, made in Canada, issued to him on his induction into the Navy, probably in Regina. He had a drill, a ritual. When he was done, he would unscrew the top, wash and wipe the pieces with a towel. I must have watched him do it hundreds of times, probably mostly on weekends, although having watched him do it several times, I would often come in to the bathroom during the process and know just where he was.
I know this made an impression on my sister too, because I remember she mentioned it in a column, which I can’t find now. I have read that many women have found watching men shave to be a very sexy thing. A careful, deliberate, sensual thing. I can understand that. I use it, but not every day, not to do my whole face, and not always at the same time when the bathroom needs to be shared; neither of my kids has ever watched me.
Safety razor refers to how much safer it is than the straight razor, which preceded it. We had one of those in a drawer, which had been my maternal grandfather’s. Barbers use them still, or did a few years ago when my neck was last shaved. For someone who knows what they’re doing, the straight razor, with a good edge that can be kept keen by stropping on a piece of leather would be much more flexible, and could be used with a minimum of fuss all day long. The safety razor, with its paper-thin disposable blade, good for a half-dozen shaves perhaps, is principally valuable because the unskilled won’t cut themselves so badly with it. The shaft of this one is hollow, and my dad kept a styptic pencil in it; the one I’ve been able to buy won’t fit in the shaft. That’s good enough for the cuts this razor will make.
The safety seems to come from the right-angle handle, much easier to hold and manipulate, and the way the edges are enclosed and guarded. All these features are still with us now, in the latest versions, with three or four blades–like shaving with a venetian blind. But disposibility is already part of this design, about 80 years old, and my razor is not a superior device: it is the ancestor of what’s available today, and does the same job. Supplies are still available, generic blades from one local grocery store/pharmacy, brush and soap from another, styptic pencil from a third. But when blades are no longer readily available, I’ll just toss it back in the drawer I found it in and move on. I think my father would have been amazed at my still using it, and why would my son use it?