Sunday, February 1, 2009

The form and function of wetshaving

It's bright and sunny today in So Cal, 63 degrees this morning. Unfortunately I don't have any different shaving cream just yet to take advantage of the warmer weather. I went to the site to order my new shaving stuff, and a few things were out of stock, so I decided to just wait and order everything at the same time. I found other websites that had the items I was looking for, but all of them were more expensive than West Coast Shavers.

I've decided the next thing I'll get in addition to the Merkur HD 34C and the razor blade sampler pack is Proraso shaving cream. As I continue to lurk through the hallowed halls of the wet shaving Internet websites, I can see lots of consensus among the wet shaving group on certain products, and who am I to buck the trend when so many have gone before me?

Anyway, Proraso has been described as a great cream, with lots of lather and the kicker for me was the cool eucalyptus for warmer weather which I described in my last post is something that I would like to try. It is from Italy which is nice, I only wish it didn't look like some drug store toothpaste tube or hair gel tub. You can't judge a book by it's cover, but honestly, I just do like the look of a good book cover.

Thinking of packaging though got me thinking about all the other shaving products out there and how they are packaged. Schick and Gillette do a great job packaging their products. It is one reason for their success. Like I said, I love great packaging, I think presentation is a big part of enjoying something. So it is a little tough to ignore the commercials, and the can designs and all of the high-tech looking razor cartridge systems.

I don't begrudge these companies, I think there is a place for the disposable razors and shaving cream. For guys like me that can't stand waking up in the morning there will always be the need for the quick shave before going to work, and I think that these products work for that. But I've seen wet shaving described as a "steak dinner compared to eating at McDonald's", and I can't think of a better analogy.

I have no problem eating at McDonald's, but I'm not going to eat it every day, and of course a steak dinner is simply better meal. The big shaving companies, just like McDonald's, do a great job of packaging and advertising their product not only to get you to buy, but also to drown out the alternative products. However, a good wet shave, just like a great steakhouse, is simply a much better proposition than disposable razors and cream in a can.

Presentation plays a part in this. A great steak restaurant has much better presentation in their restaurants than the "eating area" of a McDonald's, just like the products for wet shaving have better presentation than the mass produced ones. Shaving soaps often come in wooden bowls, Shaving brushes can be made out of rare and exotic materials, and razors are made of real metal and finely honed blades. I love the fact that these things have a history, and a following, and techniques and all of that. The presentation is part of what makes all of this fun.

For me, the Proraso packaging just doesn't do it for me. I'm a big advocate of "function over form" so if there's a better product in sub-par packaging, I'm going for the better product. I have a feeling the cream will occupy a place in the back of the cabinet hidden behind all of the better looking products, but from what I've read I also have a feeling it's the one I'll be reaching for the most, so I'll have lots of space to be able to get to it easily.

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