Introducing Harry’s: Fancy Shaving Supplies Without all the Froufrou

I’ve never really fetishized the act of shaving. It’s just not an art to me, apologies to the nice people at that classy company that believes it is. Of course I want a good, clean shave, and I do love the refreshing feeling it gives me, but I’m not going to spend any longer than I have to in the bathroom, nor am I going to geek out over some $200 nickel-plated handle for a Gillette Fusion. If carving your puss into perfection with some straight razor and leather strop transports you to a 1930’s barber shop, I’m happy for you, but my interests lie elsewhere. The founders of Harry’s, a new shaving supply website, seem to get this. Oh, they’re big into shaving, and probably consider it an art themselves, but they understand that I just want to shave well, and fast, with minimal fuss and expense.

Harry’s was launched by Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider, college pals who were convinced that there was a happy middle ground between "over-priced, over-marketed" razors that are great but too precious, and cheap, mass-market razors that cut your lips off. They’ve certainly got the background for it. Raider was one of the founders of eyewear maker Warby Parker. And they were able to snag the website harrys.com, so they must have some serious pull in the web world. 

The beauty of Harry’s is in its simplicity. They only sell a few different kinds of razor handles, razors, and supplies. The Truman is ten bucks. The Winston is twenty. Their shaving cream is eight bucks, and has marula and coconut oil in it. Their razors, which are made to some crazy high standard in Germany or something, have five blades and a "Gothic Arch" pattern. I don’t know what that is, but if it does a good job slicing the little hairs off my cheeks, then color me gothic. An eight pack of razors is $15, which is just $1.88 a cartridge. See if you can do that well at your local Duane Reade. Not for these magnificent works of, uh, craft and science. 

And as with Warby Parker, there’s a charitable component to the company. Through its Give a Shave program, for every pack of Harry’s blades you buy, they donate one blade (or an equivalent dollar value) to a charity. They’re starting with The Mission Continues, which empowers veterans of recent wars to apply their skills in the civilian world through six-month fellowships with non-profits. Sounds like a good cause to me. 

So if you’ve ever thought about upgrading your shaving routine, but aren’t quite ready to commit three figures to it, visit harrys.com, pick up the Winston Set for $25, and go have the shave of your life. If that’s art to you, all the better. To me it’s just nice shaving stuff for cheap, which is about all I can deal with in the morning. 

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]

Take Your Lavish Lifestyle On The Road With You This Holiday Season

Traveling to inhospitable guest rooms this holiday season? It’s easier than ever to take your lifestyle with you. Here are BlackBook’s picks for making your stay at the in-laws’, the family cabin, or Dad’s Winnebago as luxurious as a five-star hotel.

1. The J. PANTHER RUC TOTE ($590; jplc.com) is everything you could ask for in both an everyday bag and a long-weekend carryall. It zippers shut to keep out snow and rain, and the lightly waxed canvas keeps everything dry.

2. Make any musty or over-potpourried guest room your own with a scented candle from CIRE TRUDON. We love the woodsy Balmoral and the Havana-inspired Ernesto. Use their elegant long matches to rekindle the flame (candles $85; matches $12; both at ciretrudon.com).

3. Barnes & Noble’s SIMPLE TOUCH WITH GLOWLIGHT NOOK ($119; barnesandnoble.com) is barely larger than a phone, has a battery that can last a month, and allows you to trade day for night reading with The Touch of a button that backlights the screen.

4. A ready-made heirloom, THE JAMES DIXON FLASK ($550; sirjacks.com) is based on an early 20th century design—its upper half wrapped in rich brown leather and its orbed screw cap and removable cup made of sterling silver. We suggest filling it with a spirit as complex and mellow as TULLAMORE DEW’S 12-YEAR-OLD SPECIAL RESERVE WHISKEY ($40; tullamoredew-usa.com).

5. BANG & OLUFSON’S BEOLIT 12 PORTABLE SPEAKER ($799; bang-olufson.com) is a sleek update to the company’s classic 1960s transistor radio. It features a leather handle, and you can get eight hours of sound from the rechargeable battery.

6. No critters were harmed in the making of Restoration Hardware’s deceptively soft LUXE FAUX FUR THROWS ($99; restorationhardware.com). They come as portable as can be in a blanket roll with a leather handle.

7. Get the best shave your great-grandfather never had with The Art of Shaving’s BOCOTE WOOD STRAIGHT RAZOR and 4 ELEMENTS OF THE PERFECT SHAVE KIT (razor $225; shaving kit $115; artofshaving.com). Or pack even lighter with JOHN MASTERS ORGANICS 2-IN-1 FACE WASH AND SHAVE FOAM ($22; johnmasters.com).

Photo by Joshua Scott.

An Authentic Barbershop Shave—Complete With Badger Hair

“I was astonished at the creativity and innovation that exists in the American people,” Mitt Romney exclaimed during last week’s presidential debate. He was no doubt referring to the fact that only a couple decades ago, men’s razors had one blade, and now they have five blades. When left unburdened by useless regulations, American enterprise soars.

Speaking of enterprise and razors, The New York Shaving Company, a boutique tonsorial parlor started in 2008, opened its second location this summer on East 49th Street. The approach isn’t exactly in keeping with the Mach Fusion thing—they stick to straight razor shaves in the chair, and the place smells more like mahogany and less like chewing gum, or whatever blue shaving gel smells like. I asked Arthur, the Master Barber who trimmed my peach fuzz, what jazzy tune was playing. It was the ’40s channel on SiriusXM Radio (“It takes guys back, you know?”). The shop’s owner, 33-year-old John Scala, was wearing a short tie and suspenders, though he’s from Bensonhurst (it’s a neighborhood, look it up), so no harm, no foul.

“We wanted that more authentic, nostalgic feel,” he told me. If that’s a contradiction, it doesn’t really matter because the place is super comfortable. The shave itself—my email confirmation said I was getting “the ultimate shaving experience” ($45)—was delightful for a handful of reasons, first among them being that in the end I didn’t look I fell on my chin rollerblading (authentic, nostalgic). It involved a hot towel on my face at three different points in the process. After the shave I had a clay mask for ten minutes, which is about how long I can last before instinctually needing to lick whatever’s caked onto my upper lip. The whole shebang ended with rose water, moisturizer, and a plastic cup of Jack Daniels. It was 11:30 AM.

Part of the “wet shave” experience typically involves lathering on the shaving cream with a brush, though John told me that in the shops they use a hot lather dispenser because, for hygiene reasons, the city won’t allow the use of brushes.

The government also doesn’t allow domestic manufacturing of the brushes because they’re made of badger hair, so they have to come from China. This part I didn’t fully understand, since badgers only serve two purposes: shaving brushes and sports teams’ mascots. Otherwise, they’re vicious little things that’ll eat your garbage and your cat. (Mr. Badger from The Wind and the Willows “simply hates society.”) Anyway, their fur is great for retaining heat, so Chinese badger it is. (“Sometimes they use horse hair,” John told me.)

The New York Shaving Company isn’t the first parlor to revive the old school luxury shave. The Art of Shaving, which now has eighty-four “barber spa” locations around the country, started in 1996 on the Upper East Side. It began with a “Big Idea with Donny Deutsch”-esque mission to bring botanical oils and badger hair to a market saturated with irritating Bics and cheap Barbasol. In 2009, The Art of Shaving was purchased by Proctor and Gamble, the folks behind stain-removing pens and stackable potato chips. They also own Gillette, innovator of the aforementioned five-blade Fusion. You can purchase a $200 engraved, nickel-plated Fusion, or a $25 jar of their sandalwood shaving cream, at the Beachwood Place Mall in Beachwood, Ohio.

Marketing is marketing, but The New York Shaving Company really does abate the gimmicky chain thing. They don’t have a barber spa in the Mall of America. The shaving creams and lotions are made with all-natural oils in a warehouse in Brooklyn. In order to finance their first shop on Elizabeth Street, John’s wife sold her engagement ring for $9,000. I asked if he’d gotten it back yet. “Workin’ on it,” he chuckled. You’ve got to be astonished at the creativity and innovation that exits in the American people.

But all said and done, it’s not easy running a business that involves holding a blade to your customer’s face. I asked how they keep from nicking people, because I’m shameless.

“I have a light hand,” said Arthur, a third-generation barber who’s getting married this weekend. “And I don’t press too hard.” Mazel tov, Mrs. Arthur.

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Appropriate For 75% of Men Over 16

Still fretting about your unfinished holiday shopping? I can’t even link to all the gift ideas and guides we’ve published. However, if you’re still reaching for ideas, we have an easy solution for any man in your life (assuming he grows facial hair and shaves on a semi-regular basis). These old-fashioned safety razors from Merkur Solingen are handsome and built to last, available online for $40-$70. Considering the high price of drug-store razors, the durability of these items means saving money in the long run.

Coupled with a gift certificate from The Art of Shaving for a fancy straight-razor shave, your man may never utter the words “Bic” or “Gillette” as long as he lives.

Because Men Are Hairy: The Art of Shaving

Gentlemen, this one is for you. The Art of Shaving has become the best-selling men’s shave and skincare brand at high-end department stores. You may have even seen their stylish shops around New York, or any of their 39 locations across the country. Products include brushes, razors, lotions, and even a top-notch hot shave. Check out the Art of Shaving’s Perfect Gifts after the jump.

Perfect Shaving Kit: ProGlide Power Shave Set, $150.

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Perfect Fusion Chrome: Manual Razor & Stand, $200.

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Perfect Power Shave: Power Brush-Fine, $175.

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Perfect Stocking Stuffer: Carry On Kit, $50.

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