As a child I watched in wonder my grand father stropping a straight razor on a belt like leather piece at my ancestral home Sakaramangalam, Thamallackal in Kerala. He would then apply some water and the a coat of soap and deftly hold the razor in his hands and shave his daily growth on his chin. He did not keep a mustache and the whole daily ritual was performed on the verandah remains well etched in my mind.. These are the earliest memories of my grand father who was an ayurvedic vaidyar.
|Straight Razor blade|
Later on I had watched the barber using it deftly on lathered faces of men whenever I go for a hair cut in the hair cutting Saloon at Maduranthakam where we had settled. Before hair cutting the barber used to spray water from a green bottle fitted with a metal pump on to the thick growth of hair on my head. It was really a blissful experience as some the water mist cooled by the swinging overhead punkah falls on your face. Those were the days without electricity and the punkah was the only means of circulating air and served like a fan. It was a rectangular piece of fabric fixed on a framework and hung on the ceiling. It was swung back and forth to make the air move which was by means pulling it back and forth. There was an arrangement of rope and pulleys which ended outside the shop where sat a boy , the barber's son pulling the rope up and down rhythmically and often nodding in to sleep. The spray and the punkah were the star attraction which made my monthly visit to the Barber shop joyful even though I didn't like the way he cuts my hair, which was a crew cut ( as in the military armed forces)
During my adolescent years I keenly watched my uncles and other relatives deftly working up lather from a round white soap with a brush and applying it on their face. One of my uncles used one blade for one year, sharpening it on a curved glass sharpener. Another cousin will shave without using a razor, just holding the blade in his fingers.
By the time I started shaving the stainless steel razors consisted of three parts, you just put the blade on the top part then the bottom one and screw the handle.
|Three Part Safety Razor|
The blade easily available at that time was Ashoka Stainless steel which was a good one, Made in India and affordable though 7O'Clock was an expensive imported alternative, I remember buying a foreign NACET blade when the Burmese Refugees arrived and sold foreign goods on the roadside near Madras Park Railway station. later on it became Burmah Bazaar.Other blades like Gillette, Wilkinson, Topaz etc made their presence in the Indian Market. Some of the blades are so poor in quality they were only used for sharpening pencils etc. Bharat blade was much preferred in the Film editing rooms for scraping and joining film rolls.
|Varieties of Blades|
Meanwhile developments took place in razor design and a single piece twist and open model came out in Stainless steel and Gold plated varieties. It was much easier and soon I acquired a Gillette Gold model.
In 1971 Gillette introduced Tarc II Twin blade shaving system which had a fixed Twin blade that gave a smooth shave. Later by 1977 they introduced the Altra/Contour system, the first twin-blade shaving cartridge with a pivoting head, which allows the blades to follow the contours of the face for a closer shave. I bought one Altra Razor in the U.S, in 1978, where I went for the filming of Malayalam film Ezham Kadalin Akkare ( Ore Vaanam Ore Bhoomi - Tamil Version ),
I am still using it even though 37 years had passed in spite of the fact that several triple, four or even five bladed cartridges were introduced, I still use Gillette Vector blades with my old sturdy Altra Razor. The heaviness of the handle and well balanced grip ensures a smooth shave.
|Gillette razors over the years|
And finally here is my old faithful Altra Razor with GilletteVector Blade...