December 5, 2012

The Art of Shaving (Glorifying God in the Mundane)

by Jesse Johnson

MohlerA true story: I was minding my own business, loitering in a Kansas City knick-knack shop, when in walked none other than Al Mohler. Recognizing him (he was indeed wearing a suit and Brooks Brothers tie, having preached only hours earlier at Rick Holland’s installation), I followed him over to a window, where he was looking at old razors.

“Excuse me, Dr. Mohler,” I asked. “I teach a Bible study of college students. If you had one lesson for the men of this generation, what would it be?”

“Teach the young men the art of shaving,” he replied. “You have to start young, or it will be too late.”

In honor of the end of November, this blog post is an attempt to do just that.

First, God made the world in such a way that even the most menial and common tasks can be done in a way that brings him glory. In his providence, God designed men in such a way that they need to shave every day (give or take). Many men simply assume the task should be done begrudgingly, and give up on finding a pleasurable way to do it. They exchange the truth for a lie, and plug in their razor, or—worse yet!—they use gel from a pressurized can. They live life oblivious to the fact that God has made a better way.


That better way is to delight in the mundane by doing it well. Magnify God in the ordinary by seizing every shave as you would every thought, and take it captive for the glory of God.

Here is how: First, throw any pressurized can immediately into the trash. Second, come to terms with the fact that every shaving commercial you have ever seen is designed to sell you a product that steals your joy. Advertisements lie to you, and they make money for the companies that sell you $5 blades that you have to buy, because the $4 ones lacerate your face and make you look like an adolescent with acne. Bumps from your razor are proof positive you are doing it wrong.

In their place, buy the essentials: pre-shave oil, a safety razor, blades, soap, a brush, and aftershave that could stun a buffalo. If that sentence read like the Septuagint, you should probably get this book as well: Leisure Guy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving.

Here is consolidated list of links of places to shop and things to buy. I list each one separately, although all of them can probably be purchased for significantly cheaper from Amazon. Don’t’ be discouraged by the price. In the long run, this is cheaper (and more enjoyable!) than the money you light on fire every week buying your $25 Mach whatevers. This list is here just to help you get started, or, if you are a father and/or college pastor, heed Dr. Mohler’s advice, and teach your son/disciples the art of shaving.

  • How To: Leisure Guy’s Guide to Shaving
  • Oil: American Crew
  • badger hissingBrush: Anything from a badger (is it possible that God made this animal just for this reason? I think so). This is the most expensive piece. But as Dr. Rick Holland often says, spend the money on the brush, and remind yourself that Mach 3’s are a thing of the past.
  • Soap: Classic Brand
  • Safety razor: Merker
  • Blade: feather. The Merker blades that come with the razor will make you bleed like you were attacked by a porcupine.
  • Alumn block: Not necessary, but a nice touch.
  • Aftershave: you can go the gentle soothing route. You can also drink ginger bread lattes and get manicures. A better solution is what has been referred to as Bema Seat aftershave. It judges your shave by stinging you profusely, so that you learn to do it the right way.

Combined, these items will rescue you from the drudgery of a chore, and allow you to rejoice that God made you as a creature that shaves.

Do you have anything to add to the list? Let me know below.

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Sharp article Jesse. I avoid the sting of the Bema test and opt for the soothing route with Geo F Trumper’s sandalwood “Skin Food.” The skin food can also be used as pre-shave oil. I recommend the silver tip badger hair brush and Taylor of Old Bond Street sandalwood cream (or Lemon or Eaton College). It is what James Bond would use for sure. I prefer Derby blades, They’re excellent, and cost 0.02c per blade (when ordered in bulk) for 5 full shaves. Theology is life, n’est pas?

    • Theology is indeed life. Where do you get Derby blades in Africa? And don’t say, “we keep it next to our running water.”

      • Touche I buy bulk when I’m in the States

  • Mark Z

    I remember that day when Rick Holland took his C-Team to the Art of Shaving store in Glendale and initiated us into this world of shaving…

    • Yes Mark. I would like to make it clear that this post is dedicated to Dr. Richard L. Holland, who taught many, many people, the art of shaving.

  • Mike Weaks

    Imitate the bearded Jesus and put away childish things…Cc;

    • The beard went the way of the Levitical Law. With do respect to Chantry and Dan Phillips at Pyromaniacs.

  • Busdriver4jesus

    Truly funny! While I don’t practice shaving quite this way, I certainly endorse anything designed to resurrect the manliness of our culture. (Yes, it’s dead and it must be raised back to life!)

  • So there is a science to shaving??? At 22, maybe I too can learn this science…

    • I suppose there may be a science, but the art is more of what I am after.

  • Fred

    I am pretty much of the opinion that if you don’t shave with a safety razor, you’re really not shaving.

    experience, Feather blades are, well, razor sharp. Like Ninja sword
    sharp. That may be due to the fact they are made in Japan. I sliced my
    thumb open once inserting one and didn’t know I had cut myself until
    maybe 30 seconds later.

    For the newbies who may be directed over
    here via twitter or a Challies shout-out, don’t let the price of the
    soaps and lathers freak you out. My wife just got me a tub of high-end
    sandlewood lather cream from some up-scale British shaving company, and
    it was 25 bucks! But one little pea size of soap gives me more than
    enough lather. Should last me two years or more. If you want to start
    cheap, go with Williams Mug shaving soap, which is maybe 3 bucks at a
    CVS (or whatever pharmacy outlet is in your area) and can be worked up
    into an outstanding lather in a mug.

    And you do need a good mug. A
    coffee mug, maybe like a Teampyro logo mug or something, works fine.
    Shaving mugs can be a bit overly priced.

    If you are absolutely
    new to the concept of real shaving, and think that safety razor shaving
    is something you remember your grandpa doing, check out the following
    videos. They are all well
    done. Front page has an intro video to classic wet shaving. If you take
    a look at the building lather series you can get an idea of what we are
    talking about here. That youtube page links over to where you can find even more good articles.


  • Gus


    I will never forget Rick’s gift in 2009, the Art of Shaving special Shepherd’s Kit!

    Here is what I think about soaps, (not that anyone cares), but being in Europe, I have to go with the Proraso soap, it’s the best around and it has eucalyptus/ menthol in it! 🙂 it’s so good that you don’t even need an aftershave (though I use one anyway). They also have a great styptic gel as well!

    How awesome that you wrote a practical shepherding post on shaving!
    Here is to you Mr. Arbitro!

    • I to was turned to the badger as a result of that gift. Yet another opportunity to be thankful for Rick!

  • Christian P

    Interesting post. Will this be followed by your advice on, “Gelling Your Hair to Perfection”? Or “Eyebrow Sculpting: More Manly Than You Thought.” And I look forward to, “Reforming MAN-icures.”

    • For the record, I put manicures in the category of gingerbread lattes. If you drink one in secret…ok. But if you blog or brag, or order one without blushing, there is something seriously wrong with you.

      • Christian P

        The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.

  • Pingback: Shave Like A Man | hipandthigh()

  • As a straight razor man, I simply cannot understand your unapologetic advocacy for the safety razor. There’s nothing quite like stropping a blade early in the morning before applying it to one’s face. In my opinion, the safety razor is the men’s grooming equivalent of the halfway covenant. Take that final step and buy a strop and straight razor set, you won’t regret it!

  • I love this post. My wife for Christmas bought me a safety razor, badger brush, and shaving cream, and then for a graduation present treated me to a shave at the Glendale Art of Shaving store, and then I was able to purchase some of their products.

    I am absolutely hooked and this is now a favorite hobby/pasttime/activity of mine.

    As for recommendations:

    For a brush, my Vulfix badger brush has been terrific.

    My Merkur razor is also terrific.

    I’ve really enjoyed blades by Astra and Shark. I would recommend them over Merkur blades.

    I recommend the Lavender and Sandalwood scent shaving cream by Art of Shaving.
    I also recommend the Roses scent shaving cream by Taylor of Old Bond Street, and Proraso shaving cream.

    As for aftershaves, for non-alcoholic I recommend the Lavender and Sandalwood balm by Art of Shaving, or for alcoholic I recommend Pinaud Clubman Bay Rum.

    As you said, it is well worth the investment. My products have lasted and will continue to last for a long, long time.
    Thanks for writing this post Jesse!

  • So was Jesus clean-shaven with short hair? I think I know of some Assemblies of God friends who followed that line of thinking.

    But as for me and my facial hair, I’m bristling with too much testosterone that a razor couldn’t even shave through it all. Bearded men rule!

  • Some people prefer the Merkurs to the Feather blades. After some real face-burning experiences with Feather, I finally adjusted to them. I think Menthol and Feathers do not mix on my skin. The Arko Shave Stick is a wonderful shave soap with an old-timey scent.

    • The way you can tell if a shave store is legit: Do they sell Merker blades? If so, walk away fast. Guns don’t kill people, Merker blades kill. The confusing part is they make the best razors, so people get confused. Buy their razor, throw their blades immediately into the trash.

  • Drew Sparks

    ok so I have never heard of this before, guess I haven’t been shaving properly.

    So if I get this right, it is cheaper in the long run? The upfront cost seems a lot more expensive, but is the razor supposed to last longer or something? Again, clueless rookie here.

    If it is cheaper in the long run, are there any legitimate benefits? Or is it just the “manly” thing to do.

    • it is cheaper because the blades cost 15 cents each instead of $3 each, or whatever Mach 3’s cost now. It gives you a significantly closer shave (if done properly) and is better for your skin. It makes you look older, as your razor induced bumps on your neck go away. The upfront cost is more expensive, especially for the brush. But in the long run it is cheaper, better and manlier.
      Since you confess to being a rookie, I’d encourage you just to get the book I linked above. He spells it out. Keep in mind, that guy is partially crazy I think.

      • Drew Sparks

        I will keep that in mind. Thanks.

      • Fred

        A good badger can be found on various on-line sources, like Ebay or even Craig’s List if you hunt around. Don’t let the cost discourage you. Believe me, moving from a disposable razor style to wet shaving is like moving from PC to Mac. Or at least that is what I’ve been told, seeing I don’t do Mac, but you get the picture.

  • Mike

    I would love to try this, but I shave my whole head not just my face. Can I do this without the back of my head look like I got into a knife fight with Tinker Bell?

    • That would be a question for Austin. Who I will page right now.

      • Austin politely declines to get involved. His exact words to me were “some where in Minneapolis, John Piper is crying.”

  • Jesse, you know it’s hard to lure me in on comments but you got me on this one. Great post! I will only add 3 things:

    1) Not only is wetting shaving better, but it also has a nostalgia that is inherrent to it. What kid longs for the day he inherits his dads Mach 3?? However, I remember my grandfather every morning I pick up his safety razor and shave. Call me sentimental, but this adds a value of its own that our disposable friends should consider.

    2) There is a world famous wet shaving guy, Charles, here in Austin. He has developed some pretty cutting edge products that KILL the average chemical soaps out there! Check him out:

    3) I had every intent of moving from a safety razor to a straight edge. But Charles told me that after being in the wet shaving business for 30 years, he would argue with anyone that said you can get a better shave with a straight edge over a safety razor. He even sells straight edge razors but likes to say, “If you want to buy theatrics, I’ll sell you theatrics. If you want the best shave, I’ll sell you a safety razor!” I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I think I might wanna try the theatrics:)

    • Woo hoo! Bryan on the comment thread!
      Thanks for the link. Clicking it now…
      And amen on the theatrics vs. shaving.

      • Let me know what you think of Hydrolast, if you ever try it.

  • George Sleezer

    As a barber of 50+ years I find this discussion very interesting so I must add my two cents worth. I’ll never forget my barber instructor telling us that “a well lathered beard is half shaved”. Those words have served me well for many years and I certainly appreciate a good shave!

  • Why not stick with Spurgeon? “Growing a beard ‘is a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.” Yeah. Why not? 😉

  • I love Mohler, but have to disagree… Young men need to be taught the value of a manly beard… not how to look feminine by shaving it off!

  • I think the matter is rather silly…..

  • Eric Davis

    I think this is the only Cripplegate article to be irrelevant in the state of Wyoming.

  • “Aftershave: you can go the gentle soothing route. You can also drink ginger bread lattes and get manicures.”

    Best line I’ve read in a while. Thanks for a great interesting article!

  • Joshua Cottrell

    You can glorify God in shaving but the less time you spend babying yourself, the more you can spend time in things that glorify Him more.

    • Fair comment Joshua. But allow me to counter: The time, after you figure it out, is more or less the same. The reward is greater. So it is really this: 4 minutes with a can and face destruction, plus no enjoyment, and the attitude that “well these 4 min don’t glorify God, so I better get through them so I can get onto something that does,” and those four minutes (and that attitude) played out every day…
      six minutes that are enjoyable, calming, involving sharp (manly!) objects, better for your skin, and cause you be thankful that God not only made you like this, but that God made the world in such a way that he can be glorified in the mundane things, and that there is nothing you just need to push through to get onto things that actually do glorify him, and that attitude played out every day
      When I think about it like that, I don’t really begrudge the 90 seconds difference.

  • Excellent, excellent post. It certainly gave me lots to think about. It would be nice to see some thoughts on grooming beards.

  • thatbrian

    I started doing this about 10 years ago, and I have no regrets. There is a learning curve, but after that you will get a better shave and save money at the same time.

    I picked up a couple of Gillette razors from the 60s on Ebay, and I use Feather blades (Japanese).

    Check out an online forum : for help and tips