Putting the Fun back into Shaving

Cutting social comment.

March 2009

Wild Whiskers

I’m reminded each morning of one of the benefits of living a whole country away from my good woman for a few weeks:  I don’t have to shave today. Or yesterday. Or the day before if I didn't feel like it. Because shaving is such a drag isn't it? Au contraire.

Mr PittI like to begin the week with a solid five o’clock shadow and work up to Don Johnson Designer Stubble midweek. If I don’t have any appointments in the weekend, this bohemian fantasy can play out a little longer in a facial topiary reminiscent of the former Brad Pitt, alas without the aesthetically perfect chick-magnet foundation. Is that an outcrop of gray around the corners? Crap.

Beyond seven days though, things begin growing wild, and inevitably, you have to visit your mum; or meet up with your friends; or you find food debris in your facenest; and then it’s definitely time for a whisker-clipping. Some consider facial hair prickly, unsavoury, scruffy and off-putting - even on a man - but to me, it is an opportunity for the expressive to express. A blank canvas, you might say - or more correctly, a fully pre-painted hirsute canvas. A face-lawn, ready to be mown in the manner of one’s choosing. 

Enough already. 

For those of us who give shaving more than lip service, so to speak, this is not a Night of the Long Knives. Neither is it a time trial. It is selective pruning rather than clear felling - a systematic and process-driven tidy up, albeit much easier than clearing out the back shed. 

Mr ClooneyAnd so the ritual begins. 

A traditional opening gambit involves the application of a careful trimming and shaping about the upper cheeks and lower neck to leave you with a stunningly masculine hair-mask a-la c2008 George Clooney. Except for the eyes, nose, smile, figure, etc… Actually on second glance, nothing at all like the Cloonster. 

Still, catch a glance in the mirror… and… hey-hey… would you look at that! Is that the sound of a ManlyMeter rocketing off the scale? Of testosterone shooting through every strand, electrifying the room? Holy smokes. Lookin’ good, lookin’ fine…! Woof.

You wonder what another week of growth might do…. 

Mr ReevesBut that is just beard fantasy, for today, in the real world, your follicles have a date with destiny. A little older and you might be able to pull it off, but for young, ordinary, un-famous dudes who aren't in alternative rock bands, beards haven’t been cool since the days of Glen Campbell, the BeeGees and Mr T. Despite both fame and participation in several alternative rock bands, even Keanu Reeves looks stupid with a beard. Some would he say he also looks stupid without one, but, be that as it may.

Yes, the die has been cast and the whisker-whacking that has been set in motion cannot be stopped, so let the game begin. Its time to bring out the big guns, time to add some flair. Gentlemen, begin your sculpting. 

As a first timer, it’s tempting to just hack away as you’ve always done, but remember it’s not the arrival, but the journey that makes travel worthwhile. Finesse and skill trump sheer speed in faceweeding, and as any artist will tell you, it’s not what you put in, but what you leave out that matters. Simple, clean lines are what we’re after.

Mr Sainsbury So let us step back and engage in a little due diligence. Map out your face geology and growth densities; and then use these to derive a deforestation strategy. Do not take this planning session lightly, my Padawan, for it requires discipline to stay true to the path and turn a blind eye to the showy baubles that would tempt you over to the dark side of grandiose follicular experimentation without earning your stripes first. Don’t try a Two-Face from the Batman movies with different styles on each half, or attempt a Mark Sainsbury on your first go – it will only lead to disaster and subsequent embarrassment. There are a precious few face shapes that suit advanced configurations like the Mark Sainsbury. Precious few. Probably none. 

Take some advice from an experienced artisan: don’t shave yourself into a corner with respect to later options. So let us play it safe for now and keep things moving by drifting back in time to the early 90’s when you were rockin’ out to ancient Pearl Jam tracks on your mountain bike. Ahhh, youth. Wasn’t it wasted on the young? 

Visualize, and then execute. Careful removal of your sub-aft-beard and burnsconnectors will leave you with a wicked full goatee and a gnarly set of lambchops in the finest traditions of the American Civil War.

Misc internet dude #1Take some time now and play with those lambies like you did in your BMX days. Shear them back to fancy sideburns, sharpen them up a bit, make them into crescents or lightning bolts, give them an angle cut, or put stripes in the bottom, perhaps thin them to drop spikes. Bodacious. Now put on a Smashing Pumpkins T-Shirt and some shades– some Ray Ban Cats perhaps – and take a look at yourself in the mirror; you big hairy beast of a man. 

Urrrk. You look like a big dork trying to look twenty years younger. Those unpleasant, reality-reduced early-90s memories are quickly banished from consciousness with a flurry of defoliatory flashes from the blade that force a retreat of the sideys' front-lines to a more conservative beachhead much closer to the main body of hairy reinforcements.


In the next critical step, the connoisseur of fine face-dos starts with that classic goatee and works to eradicate pricklies in the sub-lip area down the center of the chin and then carefully outwards to prepare the classic Merv Hughes Walrus. 

Mr HughesThis style is not as easy as it looks and can easily be botched by amateurs – the moves need to be performed just right to have it looking the part, and the Judges will be looking for the legs of your Walrus to droop down close to vertical. Care should be taken with the ends to ensure things are kept nicely parallel although tapering is permitted in some countries, however not under Queensbury rules. First-timers should keep an eye on their side mirrors to avoid the one legged droopy Merv, which can provoke an instant disqualification. Shaving gurus maintain vastly differing schools of thought around the shape of the lower tips and upper transitions so it’s best to consult with local regulations. Myself, I’m an angular post-modernist.

Misc internet dude #2Traditionally, the Merv Hughes is one of the most revered stages in the trimcycle. For several minutes, the following will run around inside your head: “I'm a retro love machine. Wonder if I could get away with it?” But inevitably, the Hughes goes the way of the Beta VCR when one of the following phrases worms its way into your consciousness: 

• “I look like a pillock.” 
• “Christ, I’ve got a Board of Directors meeting tomorrow.”

About now, you'll make sure the bathroom door is almost completely closed, lest you be caught by a member of your household glancing at your Merv in the mirror.

The late, great Mr MercuryFrom here it’s a simple step to trim up to the penultimate style in the collection by taking a pruner up Merv’s legs while leaving the lintel intact, leaving you with a smart Freddie Mercury, which, together with a nice set of Ray Ban mirror Aviators and a black leather jacket with an improbable number of zippers, will see you right at home on the streets of San Francisco.

You would think the Freddie would be a quick jumping off point, a brief last hurrah of hedonistic hirsuteness before you come clean. But this classic configuration often remains in situ for an extended few minutes accompanied by a period of deep reflection as you look far beyond the mirror. 

The mid-shave crisis. 

What the hell am I doing here?! What lies ahead? Where did the last ten years go?! 

Mr Selleck as Mr Magnum, PIIf you’ve ever considered giving up the family, throwing in the towel at work, buying a little red Ferrari and becoming a private investigator, there is no better time than now. It’s a little known fact that had Tom Selleck not paused for several days at his Freddie checkpoint before heading off to what would have been yet another fruitless acting interview, it’s certain he would not have been a constant topic of discussion in women’s locker rooms for almost the entire 1980s decade until four and a half minutes after the final episode of Magnum PI, when suddenly moustaches faded from the limelight and were rarely again seen in public until Brad Pitt's vain sponsorship of them c. late 2008 in a feeble attempt to deflect his thoughts from his burgeoning home orphanage now that the novelty has worn off.

We all sit there, staring at the Freddie’s simple and timeless elegance thinking: “Yeah, yeah… In the past I always associated mustaches with men in black latex catsuits, but dammit, that looks pretty hot.”

Freddie’s fate is sealed one way or the other as your partner walks by the bathroom, wondering why the door has been partially closed for so long, and catches you looking rather pleased with your fluffy upper-lip-attachment. 

If your partner is female, she will inevitably begin a line of reasoning with “What the hell ...is that???!??!!??” If your partner is male, I expect you’ll be handed a pair of Aviators and black leather jacket with an improbable number of zippers and whisked off to the bedroom at pace. 

The late, and not so great, Mr HitlerThere is another rarely-practiced variation that can be derived from the Freddie, but this is not for the faint hearted. Due to religious and historical sensitivities, many cannot face this final move, but a symmetrical lateral encroachment upon the end sprouts will have you sporting a Brazilian, which combined with an extreme parting made topside of the head, has you looking like history's favourite Nazi Dictator for a split second.

A flash of the triple-bladed safety razor before anyone from the Simon Wiesenthal Center sees you, and you’re a back to clean-shaven reality. Same old boring you, same old boring job, same old boring life in the same old boring world.

But never fear, my boring brother, for that boring world doesn’t stand still, it spins round and round and orbits the sun with an oblique axial tilt, but that’s not important right now. What matters is that the planet faces calamity and crisis every day; and at any time, the call may come: that desperate searchlight signal beaming onto conveniently cloudy evening skies. 

And at that time, the call will be heeded, as mild mannered Joe Average whips surreptitiously into a phone booth, pulls out a shaver and in a few deft strokes once again becomes the hero of our times…. Mo Man.

©2009 Darryl K Bond