30 Years A Shave

Thirty  years a shave

Joe Collier learns the importance of keeping up appliances

Getting old seems almost unreal. As a child, then as an adolescent and later in my twenties, old age seemed a long way off and not much fun. And some things were clear – when old age arrives bodies stop working. Walking sticks, glasses, false teeth and hearing aids become the order of the day and, of course, there is also plenty of gardening, dozing, and going to funerals. But actually it isn’t that bad and sometimes there are surprises too.

One thing I remember noticing when in my fifties was how older men –  I am referring to my then contemporary or retired colleagues in their late sixties or early seventies – would often have whiskers around their necks. While their faces would be clean shaven, it was not uncommon for there to be large areas above the collar and below the chin that were populated by anything from grey stubble to silvery whiskers, some long enough to rest on shirt collars

It was all very mysterious. Whatever else, I assumed that these men were not using old-fashioned razor blades. As a one-time wet shaver myself, with my double edged ‘safety’ razor, my lather dish and my soft, badger-hair lather brush, I knew that the methodical process of clearing lather and with it swathes of whiskers, would make missing the neck most unlikely. So these old-men’s neck hairs had to arise from some problem with shaving with an electric razor. At that time, I supposed it was possibly a matter of missing or forgetting bits.

Now the tables have turned. During the last two years since turning seventy, there in the mirror, I have begun to see those very same neck whiskers that I had been so quizzical about in the past. Moreover, however hard I tried, their removal was difficult. It didn’t matter whether I moved the razor head from east to west, from north to south or even in a circular motion, nor whether I applied the head with more or less pressure, getting a clean shave had become an almost insurmountable problem. The one-time 30-second shave was now taking minutes, and even then some whiskers escaped my attention.

I decided with some reluctance that it was the skin around my neck that was at fault. With ageing my skin had become more lax and the hairs could move out of the way of the shaving head. Or perhaps as I developed wrinkles the blades were finding it more difficult to negotiate the new contours. Or perhaps again, as I aged, my whiskers had become softer so would less easily pop their tips through the the razor foil for summary decapitation. Although this new reality was sad, at my age it was just another change I would have to accept.

By chance the blades in my razor were due to be replaced – manufacturers say that one should buy a new set every twelve months, for me it is closer to every five years. At the local electrical appliances super-store shop there was some discussion as to which blades I should buy and after some assurance, close to bullying, I bought a ‘likely’ set and for an exorbitant price. When inserted they made a terrible screeching noise so it was back to the store, not for a blade swap but to exchange them instead for a brand new shaver at virtually the same cost.

Next morning I shaved with my new purchase. The once-resistant neck whiskers now yielded without any difficulty! It was not my skin that had aged but my razor. I had acquired it thirty years ago and with time it had become more frail. Inanimate objects age too.

But there was a moment of sadness. As I threw away my old black Philishave, I was reminded that it had not been new in the first place;  I had inherited it.  It had been my father’s before it was mine – and he died in 1984!

2 comments on “30 Years A Shave
  1. Andy Ince says:

    I was both shocked and a little cut up, to hear that you had thrown away your old electric razor.

    Replacement blades are available for all Philishave razors dating back to the earliest models of 1939. Perhaps your father obtained his before production was disrupted by the German invasion of Holland in 1940? As you have noted, the replacements are rather expensive, but this is more to do with the need to keep electrical stores in business (and to encourage unnecessary ‘upgrades’).

    It will not be long before the new razor is as blunt as the old one, meanwhile, this family heirloom, this loyal servant handed down from father to son through generations of the Collier family, has been consigned to the scrap heap. Could you not have passed it on to your own son? At the very least you could have donated it to the Philips Museum at Eindhoven, very well worth a visit on a rainy afternoon should you find yourself in that part of Holland!

  2. Graham Dukes says:

    Some things about shaving, of course, remain puzzling throughout one’s life.

    When I was about 20, I happened to read (in a woman’s magazine that was lying in my dentist’s waiting room) about a fabulous depilatory cream for ladies. If they felt that the hair on their legs was disfiguring, all they needed to do was to apply this cream and – hey presto! – the hair would loosen and could be wiped off. So why wasn’t there a depilatory cream for men instead of all this scraping or clipping?

    I have gone on wondering for 64 years, but I have never known a woman with whom I dared to discuss this subject (except for one who laughed at me with my foolish notions). Nor have I dared to go into a cosmetics shop and ask for a depilatory cream for my face. Nor have I dared to write to Mr King Gillette and ask him why he hasn’t taken this initiative.

    Actually, I suspect that Mr Gillette (or someone like him) did try to develop a depilatory cream for the male face and stopped hastily after finding that it caused blotches or eczema or gynaecomastia or something even more dreadful. Does anyone know?

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