How to Shave with a Brush and Soap in Today’s World

EVER NOTICE HOW some people can smuggle an AK-47 in their checked luggage but you can’t sneak a can of shaving cream past alert Transportation Security Agents without them tossing that and your toothpaste in a large plastic garbage can? Well, I have. Also, and this is more important, I’m so cheap I won’t even pay attention.

That’s why, after wasting my third can or so in the TSA trash, I’ve taken to shaving with the old-fashioned brush and shaving soap. Not only have I never been wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by alert agents trying to confiscate my beaver-hair shaving brush, but past the initial investment I’m pretty much home free.

Plus – and this is a big plus – I’ve found it gets my day off to the proper artisanal start, taking this time to work with my hands. So here’s how you pull off that close shave the authentic, old-fashioned way.

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The man seen shaving here is not Phil Scott, nor does he play him on TV.

1. You’re going to need a shaving brush, a ceramic mug of some sort, and a bar of soap. I prefer a thick china mug with an old Air Force logo, but you can maybe find one with a Brooklyn Dodgers logo or a Yogi Berra quote. Whatever you choose, the majority of the mug must be a light color.

And don’t forget the razor. That’s really the most important part, the razor. I prefer the triple-blade types. Disposables blow. Straight razors are dangerous and scary and you’ll never get one through an airport anyway.

2. Place the soap inside the mug somehow. I prefer to nuke the combination in the microwave (no need to carry this authenticity thing too far) for maybe 20 seconds until the soap gets a little soft, then flatten it with my thumbs into what is called a soap puck. You’ll have to do this each time you add a new bar of soap, which means maybe twice a year. (See, it’s already less expensive than canned shaving cream.)

Even toss in soap scraps from the sink or shower. If your mug’s dark (see no 1. above) it will block the magic hot rays that are supposed to turn the soap into a soft goo. Same with metallic elements, like gold rims. I’m not sure why, just take my word for it.

Now you’re ready to shave! Fill the mug to the top with hot water, and work up a lather with the brush. Brush the lather all over the area destined for shaving. Really work it in there, too – coating those whiskers makes for a smooth shave.

3. It is not strictly necessary to don long pants, a dirty wifebeater, and suspenders that you can drop off your shoulders while you lather up, like in those early episodes of Mad Men. Today you can do this in boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, or a towel, or less.

4. Scrape all the soap lather off with the razor. And there you have it! You’re done! And your face is smoother than if you’d used shaving cream, or an electric razor.

NOTE: A styptic pencil is what you need to control the bleeding.

Executive Editor Phil Scott has written seven book and numerous articles for national magazines.


  1. […] Phil Scott plays a mean keyboard  — of the qwerty sort — and  as you can read for yourself here he also knows how to twirl […]


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