Shaving is just what people do, right? Stubble grows, so we shave it off. As simple as that.
Every time you stand in front of the mirror, razor in hand, you are deciding to shave. What does this decision say about you? What does it represent? Each one of us is a unique individual, so your answer depends on you.
Consider the teenager, between childhood and adulthood. Their shaving starts off uncertain, uneasy, self-conscious. Then it becomes confident, assured, steadied, just as they are learning more about who they want to be.
Later, the child might be caring for the parent. Keeping them looking sharp when they can no longer do it themselves, using skills passed down many years before.
For the soldier, the discipline of shaving daily is imbued with camaraderie and shared experience. It is a badge representing pride in what you stand for.
The New York Yankees baseball team have a ‘no facial hair’ policy. Everyone on the team is clean-shaven. You’re not allowed a beard, even if you want one. What you want comes second to the history and tradition of the organisation. Their uniforms, the design mostly unchanged in a century, don’t even have names on the back of the shirts. No-one is bigger than the team.
Swimmers seeking maximum hydrodynamic efficiency, “shave down” to get in the zone. In a sport where you’re almost naked, the tiny details matter.
Likewise, the cyclist shaves their legs to offer the path of least resistance, not just to the wind, but also to the expert hands of the massage therapist at the end of the day’s racing. And, let’s be honest and admit it; they do it because fuzz-free legs look fast - hard-edged muscles cut and gleaming.
Their physiques are very different, but the same is true of the body-builder. If you’re going to go to all that effort - lifting incredible weights, eating prodigious quantities of lean protein, and then dehydrating yourself for the big event - you don’t want hair ruining the look of your oiled human sculpture.
While we’re on the subject of altering your body, consider the person who was born in the wrong body for them. Shaving is an act to take control of the situation, either removing the visible signs of the body you don’t want, or embracing the changes you’ve wanted for so long.
Other shavers include the tattooist and the surgeon. A similar act, but different purposes. The tattooist preparing their canvas ahead of making their mark.
The surgeon clearing the way for the incision, the procedure, the stitches and the dressing.
And what of the patient? A person with cancer who is undergoing treatment, perhaps. Shaving their head to acknowledge the hair loss from the chemotherapy that might save their life. A bittersweet act of hope.
Shaving can be a full stop, marking the end of a phase in your life. The actor removing all trace of the role that required a beard: the viking on the big screen, or Othello on the stage. The offshore yachtsman or the polar explorer shaves to mark their return to civilisation, their family and home after a period of gruelling isolation.
The monk shaves their head as an act of devotion, a rejection of their ego and an acceptance of an ascetic lifestyle. In contrast, the drag queen shaves when getting ready to put on their make-up, pull up their tights, look fabulous and entertain the audience. Again, the movements may look the same, but the purpose and intent could not be more different.
But what if you don’t feel the above applies to you? What if you think of shaving as just an automatic act at the start of the day? It still says something about you.
Perhaps it’s saying “I pay attention to detail”. Your smooth face, no hair out of place, projects your care and precision.
It might be saying “I value having a bit of me-time”. Shaving can be an act of meditation. As your hands make their smooth, deft strokes, your mind can focus with no distractions. After all, it’s hard to reply to an email with a razor in your hand.
It could be saying “I’m a creature of habit”. There’s nothing wrong with that. You wash, shave, clean up, moisturise and you’re good to go. Such reassuring and comforting, familiar moments can anchor you. Whatever happens, whatever challenges you have to face that day, the familiar routine - your shave - is there.
It might just be saying “I look great clean-shaven”. That’s alright with us - we think you look great, too! It’s important to feel great when it matters most.
It could be before the first date and the many that follow. The debut, the final, the medal ceremony.
Graduation, the job interview, the promotion. The pitch and presentation. Looking proud in victory or gracious in defeat. The lessons and the test. Meeting the family, popping the question, the big day.
No. Shaving is never just what people do. It’s a decision, a statement of intent, an act with purpose, and a declaration of who you are. For something so important, make sure you’re doing it right and using the best kit for the job. Your choices matter. Own your choices. Be proud of them.
So we ask again: Why do you shave?
This post is the first in a series commissioned from Jonathan S. Bean a freelance writer and charity fundraiser by King of Shaves.
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