Welcome to our series “Bond Under $50”! Sometimes we have a little extra cash in our pockets and an urge to treat ourselves. And although “retail therapy” is yet to be defined as a legitimate psychological treatment, let’s admit that it’s perfectly okay to pick up a little something once and while that injects some 007 into our lives …
As was quickly discussed in this article on the Extras and Details of a Bond Wardrobe, taking the time to enjoy the ritual of shaving can turn it from a chore into a something almost meditative. There’s a lot to be said for giving ourselves 10 minutes in the morning, devoted to nothing more than making ourselves look and feel our best.
Obviously, the most recent example of Bond shaving on film is the “Moneypenny with straight razor” scene from Skyfall.
Now if you want to jump right into wet shaving with a cut-throat, then more power to you. If you don’t have any experience with the technique, you can read this article from Ape to Gentleman for guidance. Luckily, if this is something you’d rather ease into, Bond has used a variety of techniques and shaving equipment throughout the films. And of most of them are much safer than letting a person who almost killed you get near your jugular with a sharp instrument.
One quick note before we continue: “traditional” shaving can be become an expensive proposition if you let it. $250.00 safety razors and $150.00 silver tip badger hair brushes are not uncommon. We’re going to try to stay under our $50.00 limit on a per item basis to get the equipment we need for wet shaving, while (hopefully) still getting the tools that will provide a quality shave.
And if you’re not looking to buy everything at once, I would suggest investing in the razor first before buying the brush. Film Bond regularly used shaving cream from a can, and while many will argue that the soap and application technique used for the wet shave are superior, we also need to be realistic about what we can spend at the start. On top of that, when you start with a safety razor (and especially a straight razor) you’ll want to go slow to prevent accidents. Add in the time it takes to work up a really nice lather with soap and a brush (a technique that also requires practice), and you’ll find the Monday morning shave that used to take 3 minutes now takes 20. Might be wise to get efficient with one tool before adding another.
The Safety Razor
When it came to safety razors, the literary Bond was first a fan of Gillette before switching over to Hoffritz, which had its razors made by Merkur. In the movie Goldfinger, Connery’s Bond used the Gillette 1-9 adjustable safety razor.
Hoffritz branded razors in decent shape are more difficult to find, and the asking price usually starts around $90.00. For example, here is a pretty banged up option from eBay, with a starting bid price of $84.00.
However, since Merkur made the razors for Hoffritz (and others), if you’re not obsessed with getting the Hoffritz branding you can find new Merkurs on Amazon in the same style for a reasonable price. For example, the Merkur HD 34C is available for $32.95/£29.50 or, if you prefer a longer handle, you can try the 38C model for $38.38 (in the U.K. the price for this one jumps to £53.00 for some reason, so if you’re budget conscious you might want to look at the Merkur 25C for £26.95 instead).
Safety Razor Blades
After the initial investment, one of the big advantages of going with a safety razor is the cost savings. Cartridges for modern razors can cost between $2.00 an $4.00 a unit, and while they claim to last up to 30 days, I’ve never been able to get more than 2 weeks out of one. On average, a double edge razor blade costs around 10¢ to 20¢ a unit, and you should be able to get about four shaves out of it if you use both sides and flip the blade (this is assuming you’re doing a “3 pass shave” every day). Based on my experience, switching to wet shaving has saved me about $70.00 a year (which gets you a pretty nice bottle of single malt!).
The double edge blade you choose has a lot to do with the sensitivity of your skin and the thickness of your whiskers. Astra ($9.83 for 100 on Amazon; these are what I use) and Feather ($27.50 for 100 on Amazon) are two brands that are frequently brought up on the wet shaving forums. But to start, I would recommend buying a sample pack which includes blades from multiple brands so you can find the one that works for you. This sample pack sells for $9.99 and includes most of the popular brands.
The Straight Razor
From the information I could gather, it appears that Bond’s straight razor in Skyfall came from Dovo Soligen. The exact model used is difficult to find; based on the positioning of the rivets in the handle and the rounded end, the closest I could come up with was this Dovo Buffalo Horn Handle model from straightrazordesigns.com for $308.49, which is no longer in stock.
Once again, Dovo straight razors are available on Amazon, but when you start looking at their higher end models, you definitely break our $50.00 ceiling. The Dovo Best Quality 5/8″ Straight Razor goes for $98.99, while a similar model is available on the U.K. site for £100.00.
However, if you’re more interested in getting a screen accurate look rather than securing the same brand, you should check out the Fromm 5/8″ Straight Razor on sale for the slightly over budget price of $55.87. This one only has 3.5 stars in the ratings, with most negative reviews focused on the fact it doesn’t arrive “shave ready” and needs to be sharpened, so you should know that before purchasing.
If you’re just looking for the highest rated straight razor under $50.00, then this Stainless Steel 6/8″ Razor from Wet Shaving Products for $44.99 is probably your best, with 74% of customers giving it 4 stars or more.
Whichever straight razor you select, I recommend watching this video from The Art of Manliness to learn proper technique and avoid slicing your Adam’s apple off.
In the films, Bond has most commonly used shaving cream from a can (I guess it would be more difficult to stash spy gadgets in a block of soap or brush a lather onto a mirror).
For his wet shave in Skyfall, Bond lathers up his soap with what looks to be a black handled silver tipped badger hair brush. In the research for this article, I didn’t find any definitive identification of the brush maker (the Kent BK8/BLK8, which sells for $210.00/£101.56 on Amazon gets mentioned a lot), but it’s probably safe to assume it cost more than fifty bucks.
Choosing the brush for your wet shaving starter kit can end up being a rather complicated process. Go onto the forums and boards devoted to wet shaving, and you’ll find an abundance of, often conflicting, information, opinions and advice (hey, it’s the internet!). I would recommend reading these articles from Gentleman’s Gazette and Shaving 101 for an overview on the types of brushes; and if you really want to go down the rabbit hole you can read this post on Badger and Blade that does a side-by-side comparison, with pictures, of Pure Badger, Best Badger and Silver Tip Badger brushes.
What I can share with you from personal experience is this: I’ve used a pure badger brush, a best badger brush and a silver tip badger brush. The silver tip is definitely the softest, but that’s not always a good thing. I have pretty thick hair, and if I haven’t shaved in a week (it happens), then I actually prefer the stiffness of the best badger because I feel it does a better job of raising the whiskers for a closer shave. And while the silver tip is softer than the best, the difference isn’t as noticeable as between the pure badger and the best. In other words, best badger is a nice, happy medium, and $50 can get you a solid brush with that type of hair. You’ll need to experiment with different brushes to find you’re own personal preference for knot size and loft (the length of the exposed hair), but you probably won’t go wrong selecting a medium sized brush with a 20 mm knot and around a 50 mm loft.
Two to check out are the Edwin Jagger Imitation Ebony Handled Best Badger Shaving Brush with for $40.00/£28.38 on Amazon, and the Edwin Jagger Tortoise Handled Best Badger Shaving Brush for $46.00.
Of course, any brush is going to work better if you “load” it with the soap correctly. This forum post on Badger and Blade shows you an effective technique for getting a good lather.
The Soap or Cream
Again, the soap or cream you choose is going to come down to personal preference (I find a lot has to do with scent). It’s well known that Ian Fleming’s preferred scent was from Floris and the brand is mentioned a few times in the Bond novels. It was confirmed in this thread on AJB007 by David Zaritsky of The Bond Experience that Craig’s Bond also used Floris No.89 soap in a wooden bowl, which you can still buy on Amazon for $50.22/£35.00 (just cracking our price ceiling).
A stand for your razor is nice, but a stand for your brush is pretty essential, allowing it to hang upside down and dry properly. Some brushes come with their own stands, but these are usually cheap looking plastic jobs. If you’ve invested in a nice razor and brush, consider picking up a higher quality stand to show them off. The Perfecto Deluxe Black Razor and Brush Stand sells for $15.75 or you could pick up the chrome version for $16.95/£18.00.
If you went with the straight razor, check out the Zeva Deluxe Stainless Steel Straight Razor and Brush Stand for $17.99. A similar model can be found on Amazon U.K. for £12.99.
Whatever stand you choose, just make sure the prongs that hold the brush are spaced wide enough apart to hold your brush handle.
The Leather Strop
For those brave souls that decided to start with a straight razor, you will need a strop to sharpen it. This 16″ version goes for £15.75 on Amazon U.K., or you can try this 23″ Fromm Strop for $34.98. This video from Razor Emporium will show you how to use your strop.
And that’s it! Of course we haven’t covered pre-shave oils or aftershaves (if you want Bond’s, pick up the Floris No. 89, $79.99/£55.00 for 100 ml) , but we will look at those more closely in a future article on Bond’s grooming favorites. If you have any suggestions, go right ahead and use the comments below; that’s what they’re there for!
Information for this post was sourced from AJB007, James Bond Lifestyle, The Legend of Q, Shaving 101, Badger and Blade, The Shave Den, The Shaving Shack, Gentleman’s Gazette, Testing Team, The Art of Manliness, and GQ.