One of the hardest parts of being a native reenactor is shavin’ parts you’re not used to…
An accurate native portrayal requires you to lose a lot of hair, and I don’t just mean your beard or head hair. Any exposed body part should be slick — there are many, many references that substantiate this. Paint looks terrible on hairy skin too.
As such, shaving down is a subject that comes up pretty regularly, and some folks aren’t comfortable asking for shaving advice.
I posted most of this on a message board a long time ago. I realized that I should stick it on a blog post and link from my site – not that it’s well written, but I think it gets the point across – so found it and did some minor editing.
Shaving down for events:
First off – the primary tool you’ll need: A Gillette Fusion Razor (four blades) or equivalent is the best solution, though some of the new women’s razors might be better – I haven’t tried them. See below for why I like the Fusion. Get spare blades, ’cause the first shave down will kill one set.
You can use a chemical hair remover (“Nair”/”Neet”/etc) first, but some people react to them, and you still have to shave afterwards, so after my first couple of experiences with it, I quit using them. They stink. A lot.
If you have coarse hair and a pair of clippers, use them first, either with the shortest guard you have or none at all. The only reason to use a guard is if your blades get hot. Don’t be terribly picky, just get it hacked off to make shaving easier.
Assuming those of you reading this are guys, and used to shaving creams and gels. For this purpose, a shaving gel works best as a lubricant and to get the hair to stand up (and it helps you see where you’ve shaved). However, cheap hair conditioner is better from a skin lubrication point of view and I get closer shaves with it (on my face too).
It’s going to take awhile, so get the bathroom warm, get comfortable, and don’t run out of hot water, ’cause you get razorburn from goose bumps. Scrub down what you’re going to shave (legs, chest, arms, whatever) and leave it wet. Apply the gel or conditioner just like you do on your face. Give it a few seconds to soften up the hair.
Shave against the grain slowly, take long strokes, and use a back and forth motion rather than just going in a single direction. This clears the long hairs out of the razor and off your leg/chest/arms/whatever. This is like using a farrier’s rasp on wood – it clears the teeth to go backwards. Rinse the razor often, and wipe/rinse the hair you’ve cut off to keep it from getting in the way. The back and forth motion doesn’t work on razors without the rubber strip that the Fusion has – the strip works like a squeegee to push the hair.
Don’t let the razor slide sidways — you can cut yourself, but you probably know that if you are a male over 15.
Get your wife or girlfriend (or mom, but don’t tell us about it) to take care of your back if you’re going to go shirtless.
After you finish the majority of the hair, rinse it off well, soap up and rinse again. That should get all the loose hairs off. You will probably find stuff you missed. Use more shaving gel/conditioner and spot-shave.
When you finish, put some kind of lotion on. Bear oil has a good manly smell, but if you’re at home with the wife/girlfriend (if both, that’s your own problem), something less manly might be called for.
Remember what’s going to be visible — what your attire will cover. Your leggings will get the lower part of your legs, and if you keep a shirt on, you could be less diligent on your back/chest. The hardest part is what your breechclout and leggings don’t cover.
However, it will grow back, so a little itching is worth authenticity, right?
If you have other suggestions, please feel free to post them.