In India I grew up watching my father shave with his trusty Gillette safety razor (Adjustable Super Speedcirca 1962) and real blades. He used a real brush for lather and a solid soapstick. We got to use the ‘used’ blades (Wilkinsons were the best) for sharpening pencils at school.
When I reached shaving age, I stubbornly resisted shaving off the first growth for a couple of years, finally giving in when I was in engineering school. The choices for shaving tools had changed by then and the new Gillette multi-blade razors with disposable blades were in vogue. Over the next few years I realized the various swirls under my chin and the way my hair grew required multiple passes to get a close, smooth shave. And even with a brand new blade, I had red patches if I tried to shave close. Staying with the grain (fatherly advice since my first shave) meant I could still see and feel hair sticking out and even with multiple passes I irritated the skin. Over grad school and then with startup life, I never had to shave daily and it sort of worked. I would let the stubble grow for a few days and was lucky never to shave more than once or twice a week for many many years.
My shaving regimen, meanwhile, had improved and like all things I care about, I searched as much as I could for various products to make the experience better. Pre-shave oils, pricey Kiehl’s shaving cream, l’Occitane after-shave balms seem to help but there was no real or practical substitute for the razor. Over the past decade+, Gillette’s ever increasing blade-number madness of a razor ‘system’ only made things worse. I tried all the new ones they released – Mach, three blade, Turbo, Fusion,… and then in an ultimate insult to the shaving man – a ridonkulous five blade system. I tried all but the five-bladed madness… none gave me a closer/better/smoother shave.
Meanwhile, Gillette withdrew the previous 2 blade products from most retail outlets – which just made me angry. There may be hair types and focus groups which convinced them five blades were better than four or three or two or one. For me and my stubble and skin, it made things worse. In 2011, I ranted
— Rohit (@rohit_x_) March 1, 2011
..and not finding any comprehensible answer from Gillette, started buying sensor excel (2 blade) refills in India on every visit. 50 at a time twice a year and a spare razor too since those are not sold here anymore either.
So when I heard Tristan Walker was launching Bevel, I was excited to experiment and thrilled that someone was thinking about customers and their needs differently. My only worry, frankly, was: ‘Am I brown enough to use bevel?’. Bevel was potentially exciting in two ways – a simple rethink of an everyday problem for men Gillettes of the world don’t care about, and a founder whose passion for finding solutions to tough problems was clear the very first time we met (Thanks Semil).
The Bevel package arrived on Wednesday and I didn’t shave till this morning (Friday) so I could throw a challenging stubble Bevel’s way. The experience began with opening the box. The first thing I was drawn to was the simple message ‘#itsagoodlook’ – reassuring!
The bevelled sturdy cardboard box is very well thought out packaging. In experiencing a new product, I expect every aspect of the product and its packaging to signify the commitment to quality and careful thought. Bevel’s packaging feels Apple-class.
Now, on to the goodies. The kit is complete with priming oil, brush (soak it extra long before first use), and shaving cream + after shave balm and of course the razor and blades.
The razor body is simple, unadorned, and just the right amount of weight/heft to hold against the skin without jitter.
After priming with Bevel oil, I wet the brush and worked up a lather – effortless. The cream felt good and rich – and it took me a while to remember the almost forgotten art of brush whirls to get lather on to skin while working up more. Muscle memory and mimetic memory helped. I opened the razor, took out a blade and put it in. Fumbling a bit because I expected only the top to swivel open.
The shave was uneventful – ftw! Since it was the first time, I only did a single pass everywhere. The curve of the bezel plus the weight works well to go the whole stroke without altering pressure. The increased width versus Gillette means that the curve right under the jowls (my hair grows straight back towards my neck like windswept Cypresses in that region) requires special care. I am still thinking about how to navigate that next time. But the chin area worked wonderfully. Thats where I seem to have the highest density of hair and the razor edge curved nicely with the grain downwards. Not seeing any holes for water drainage I was a bit nervous about hair getting trapped between the blade-edge and the bevel case but a quick examine afterwards proved otherwise. My engineering self thinks a couple of drainage holes for water may make rinsing it during shave a bit faster. Note the blade edges after the first shave – no tiny blunt dings – quality!
Accustomed to frequent razor burns, I usually rinse first with warm water (often with warm water soaked towel to soothe the irritated skin) but this time a quick warm splash to remove soap, then cold to ‘close the pores’ (delighted to see this little gem in the Bevel shaving guide – i’ve used that forever – father’s advice at 18) and after shave balm. I examined the skin everywhere and ran my fingers up and down – exactly as expected and w i t h o u t any razor burn or redness or nicks !
Yes! it felt good. No, felt great because the smooth skin was without irritation for the first time in ages after a close shave.
I think Walker and Co. with Bevel met every expectation I had from the kit. I don’t yield counter space at my sink lightly but I think Bevel is going to live here happily for a long time. Well done Team Bevel !
Now for a few specific points of feedback for Team Bevel:
1. I understand that the metal edge of the case prevents the blade-edge from dings or dulling if I simply rest it on the counter (see pics below) or at the edge of my mantray. But it seems disrespectful to a serious ‘tool’ to be left lying there. I’d happily pay a bit extra for a contour-fitting simple case to hold the razor. Maybe it can be a pop out rubberized cardboard pack that holds the razor in the initial packaging.
2. Think about adding a notch or band with knurling right where smooth/matt finishes meet. When I am shaving, a notch/dip/knurled pattern will let me locate the angle better by feel (my forefinger will be at that notch/dip). This way I will feel a bit more confident that I am holding the razor right (in the rotational sense) as well as give me fine motor control at (fore)fingertip.
3. In my first ‘unboxing’ experience, I expect a personal touch from the founder or the startup. A startup is not a brand or a faceless company. In this case, a simple inkstamped note from Walker & Co. perhaps re-establishes the link between a new user and the startup team. Or a simple signature from a human – a craftsman asking me to respect the pride that went in to making the product and signaling their commitment to delivering a great experience. One of the best furniture makers around Thos Moser carries this statement “Each piece is handcrafted to our exacting standards, signed and dated by the craftsman who built it, and carries our lifetime guarantee.”
Update: 2:30pm Tristan msg’ed me to say a handwritten card should have accompanied the package. It is included in every one of the first shipment.
Overall, a great experience and I am happy to move out some big, established brands from my morning routine to bevel up!