SMOKE: A Close Shave

Originally published: 19 April 2005

There's a commercial on telly that seems to have been on forever: two guys (one white, one black - this is South Africa, after all) are shown being glum in front of their bathroom mirrors come shaving time.

A voiceover explains that most men would rather set their shorts on fire or eat dirt rather than shave, and goes on to help them out by giving them some sort of balm to soothe the irritation on their faces.

Which is nothing compared to my irritation every time I see that advert.

The reason for my irritation is probably silly, really, but I just can't stand bullshit like that is all. I have yet to meet one person in the universe who would rather eat dirt or set their shorts on fire than shave, and while I appreciate the attempt at humour - it's not very funny.

But I'm preaching to the converted, right? I mean - bad copywriters are hardly a new phenomenon.

Still - this is not a rant about poor copywriting and worse humour, although I suspect a Smoke is needed on the topic soon. I'll apply myself.

The sentiment of what the ad is trying to convey is perfectly correct, however - nobody likes shaving. Yet we all (well - most of us) have to. Some more regularly than others.

I'm actually quite lucky. I don't have a very speedy growth and it takes three or four days before I have to consider losing the stubble - by which time it's usually around Thursday and I think what the hell and leave it until Sunday. So I don't shave much more than once a week.

Some okes I know shave twice a day and to them I say: O ye brave men of faith. Rather you than me.

Of course - none of us were meant to shave at all. When humans were first around there were no razors, but it didn't matter - there also weren't thousands of magazines and television shows and commercials showing just how important it is - for aesthetic effect - to shave. For both men and women.

Men would have had hairy faces, women would have had hairy legs and the Hustler Beaver Hunt would have taken on a whole special new meaning. Porn wouldn't necessarily have been as ... ah ... big.

Put like that I'm rather glad we all have to shave (or choose to shave) - I'm no mad fan of licking a hairy female leg and I'm sure most females can do without having to snog a smelly beard filled with months' worth of food bits and dried saliva. So I guess we all win.

Except for when it comes to shaving time. Then we all lose.

Firstly: because shaving is common to most men and women it makes it non-negotiable to buy shaving products, which in turn means that folks like Gillette can fleece us ('scuse the pun) as much as they like - we're still going to buy their products. We have no choice.

Secondly: because the companies who make shaving products can fleece us they do - as much as possible. Most men will have discovered at some stage that it's cheaper to just buy a brand new razor than a pack of new blades and that's a travesty. Especially when you consider how cheap it must be for Gillette and their pals to make their blades - how expensive can a paper-thin sliver of steel be?

Thirdly: they have yet to come up with a decent razor that doesn't cut you. I use those razors with the three blades and even though they're a vast improvement on my old Minora blades I still get cut occasionally.

However - I only get cut when it matters. Only on occasions when it is vitally important not to have a dried piece of tissue paper stuck to your face and dark brown blood spots on your crisp white collar.

It only ever happens to me when I have a meeting to attend or a soirée to ponce around at - never when it's just me alone with nought but my face and that bloody dog.

As a teenager it was terrible, actually. I was Pus-Face - the original Pimple Kid - and shaving was a nightmare as I would always shave off at least 500 whiteheads and a few blackheads along with my fuzz and would go to school looking like The Butcher Boy. Blood and pus streaming down my face and trickling into the corners of my mouth.

I even developed a club-foot to drag behind me to further enhance the horror of it all and moaned long and low as I went, tap-tapping with my cane in front of me and ringing my little bell by way of warning to the good, decent, sensible folk I might meet along the way.

Appalling, man. Quasimodo had nothing on me.

The prohibitive cost of razors meant I used the same ones over and over and over again, and to this day I still only use one blade every three months or so.

The more blunt it becomes the more my face gets ripped to shreds and I usually only insert a new blade once the old one starts leaving bits of rust underneath my skin.

But all of that is only my face - women have to shave not only their armpits but their legs as well, and that's a lot of flesh to be scraping razors over every few days.

Couldn't do it, I'm afraid, and I don't know how women do. Those with high pain tolerance simply get waxed and a few of them decide to walk around as nature intended them to, but the majority of women seem to use razors. Shame.

But what's with women who don't shave their faces? There's a chick who lives three doors down who has a vicious pair of mutton chop sideburns and a handlebar moustache that would put Custer to shame, and frequently I see women with deliberately downy upper lips.

I know it's everybody's choice and not everyone feels a need to please men or be conventional and yadayadayada, but it's the ugliest thing I've ever seen.

I haven't been able to figure out whether those women know they have hair on their faces (surely they must?), or whether they are completely oblivious to it. Knowing women and their reliance on mirrors, the latter seems highly unlikely.

If they do know then why don't they do something about it? Maybe they're too busy setting fire to their shorts and eating dirt.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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