Cigar Aficionado

A baby-smooth face is not the latest fashion trend. A clean-shaven visage has long been the mark of statesmen and
superheroes alike, and the panache of tonsorial caretaking is not limited to a neat appearance, but extends to the tools we use to achieve it. (Note: the elegant setup from Mühle Shaving, pictured.)

Still, shaving has had a bumpy, stubbly road to its modern incarnation. Early adopters of smooth skin used everything from shells and stone to shark teeth to keep their beards in check. Crude razors started appearing as early as 4,000 B.C. in the tombs of Egyptian royalty, but it wasn’t really until the rule of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. that a clean face became a staple of society as a whole. Even then the conqueror had his practical reason: he told his troops to remove their beards so that enemy soldiers wouldn’t have something to grab in combat.

Substanial improvements to tools had to wait until the nineteenth century. It was then that William Henson, an English aeronautical inventor, applied some of the science of “lift” to getting a closer shave. His greatest innovation was what would become the safety razor. The blade was set at a right angle to the handle, like a hoe, and a guard was placed between the blade and the skin, reducing the severity of nicks and cuts. It was King Camp Gillette, namesake of today’s popular razors, who improved upon the idea in 1904 by making the safety razor disposable. This relieved our ancestors of the tedious task of blade sharpening, while insuring Gillette a steady stream of customers for his blades (especially after he won the contract to supply doughboys with blades in the First World War).

While a century later, the method of cutting hasn’t changed much beyond injection and then cartridge razors replacing double-edged razors, the number of blades used has progressed rapidly, from the 1970s introduction of a twin-blade system through to five- and six-blade tools. Now battery-power systems make the blades vibrate as they cross your face, and lubricating strips serve to ease the ride.

However you stand on the inevitable proliferation of blades, stylish shaving tools make the exercise that much more elegant. Mühle has an entire range of products that combine the simplicity and convenience of the modern cartridge razor with the elegance of handcrafted tools worthy of display. They even make their well-balanced handles to fit popular cartridges, like this African Blackwood brush and blade set ($417) with a Gillette Mach 3 cartridge and a hand-assembled badger-hair brush. They offer a dozen other finishes with popular blades, safety razors and even a straight razor for those of you who skipped the last upgrade.