Fully shaved. Full-face few days’ growth. Fully shaved with gleaming, Bic’ed scalp. Agressively clean shaven even on a Sunday. Light shading under the chin. Traditional goatee. Broad blond goatee blending into a cloud of Allman Brothers locks. 90-degree wedge emanating from the soul patch. Four-inch-long Fu Manchu. Geometric appliqué fashioned by lasers and space technology. Brazen but good-natured kodiak bramble. Just-plain-fuck-it recluse explosion. Thick, brown lumberjack with handlebar mustache. Two inches of clippered growth across the face and an inch over the neck. A centimeter-thin chain proving the existence of a chin.
These are the facial-hair varieties surrounding me on a Sunday afternoon at a Los Angeles coffee shop. Each the result of deliberate craft, trial and error.
Everything else making up the appearance of these males is someone else’s work. Barbers and stylists did the hair. Designers and manufacturers did the clothing and eyewear. Artists and craftsmen did the jewelry. The men made the buying decisions, but the hands of others were present.
Not so with shaving. No barber guided the blade for them—those days are over. No stylist consulted on how to approach the cheek bone—male pride sees to that. The few square inches comprising a man’s cheeks and neck are his domain in total. They are his ever-changing canvas, a lifelong work that may be perfected but will never be finished.
When men can’t talk about anything else—when they can’t discuss sports, politics, business, relationships, the passage of time—they can talk about shaving. Don’t believe me? Next time you’ve run out of things to say at a party, ask the guy next to you how often he shaves. Then ask him what kind of blade he uses. Then if he goes against the grain on his neck. If he shaves before or after he showers. If he ever saw his old man do a dry shave.
Try it. I guarantee you’ll have a conversation topic to run out the night.
Every man shaves. The organization man shaves every day. The independent shaves as he pleases. Even the most pious Muslim must have shaved once. Splash warm water, apply lather, scrape with a blade. This is the ritual that each of us share.
Welcome to The Dopp Kit. The writers of this space will review products, jaw about technique, and essay to capture the simple and universal mystique of male grooming. We invite you to join the conversation. Because the only thing that beats a good shave is talking about a good shave.