In many ways, this throwback to wet shaving is a look to the past, and to tradition. If that’s the case with you, what better way to do that than to get something as authentically old-school as possible? We recently came across Col. Conk Products, a website and company dedicated to making and selling shaving products of all kinds; they’ve got soaps, razors, brushes, you name it. All of it is packaged in an old-school presentation with Col. Ichabod Conk’s ragtime backstory (he lived during the Civil War, recovering from economic destitution by becoming one of the world’s first traveling salesman).
What a cool story, huh? Well, you can own a piece of it if you get some of Colonel Conk’s stuff; we can attest to it, and it’s well worth the price. We decided to outline a few of the good colonel’s finest wares for you, pilgrim, so take a gander below.
Grooming During the Civil War:
Before we delve into the products up for review today,we are going to pay tribute to Colonel Ichabod Conk himself. We are going to go back in time and learn about grooming techniques during the Civil War.
During the Civil War many things changed and made advancements due to the ever expanding technology and tools. Everything from weapons to how warfare was carried out was evolving at a rapid pace.
Up until this point, soldiers from countries around the world did not give their appearance a second thought. American soldiers took it upon themselves to change this standard, paying closer attention to their appearances and namely their facial hair.
In Civil War times, barbers wore two hats of completely different styles. They would serve as both a barber, that kept the soldiers facial and head hair well groomed and then transitioned to a field medic during battles when needed. To accommodate the need for both medical supplies and barber tools, equipment was developed to serve both purposes at any given time.
Men were no longer able to let their hair grow long and unruly, as they had been before. The importance of being clean shaven and maintaining a clean appearance was so important during the war that soldiers showered, shaved and cut their hair as much as possible.
Barbers during the Civil War were always supplied with razors, hair clippers, soap and pomade. The razors of this time were safer and lasted longer than previous ones did. Sure, soldiers were nicked from time to time, which was probably due to shaving faces surrounded by gun fire. The barbers eventually got used to the tense environment, though and shaving injuries to the soldiers became fewer.
Shave soap and shaving cream were a luxury that could not be obtained while in the middle of a war zone, so regular soap that was made will wool fat was used in place of it. A shave brush was still used to create the lather before the barber would shave the soldiers. We can only imagine how much whisking was required to work up a decent enough lather, though. We bet those barbers had some seriously tired arms by the time the day was through.
The neat and trimmed facial hair that Civil War soldiers adopted soon became a normal trend among other men after the war ended. Gone were the days of unkempt beards and mustaches. Most beards actually went out of style completely and morphed into neat little mustaches that came down to the edges of the mouth similar to a handle bar mustache just without the exaggerated handles.
Barbershops also saw renewed popularity after the civil war once civilians saw what a remarkable job they were able to do out in the field. Barbershops cropped up in even more places and barbers started making razors that were available for purchase by men everywhere. It was during this time that shops also became the social spot for men to hang out and this trend is still something that is participated in today in barbershops around the world. It’s pretty interesting what an impact the Civil War had on grooming and the barber profession.
Here are some of our Favorites:
Colonel Conk Traditional Safety Razor (Gillette Trac II):
First things first, Colonel Conk has a few options in terms of razors – many of them are repackaged versions of existing razors, like the Merkur Futur, and this one is no exception. This razor is essentially a repurposed Gillette Trac II, but it has a few embellishments that help to sell the atmosphere of the product itself. First of all, it comes either in a sleek silver or gold trim, which elevates the class factor of the blade.
To be completely fair, the Gillette Trac II doesn’t hold a candle to your typical double edged safety razor; that being said, it still definitely gets the job done, and we thought it fascinating how such an inexpensive brush was given so much style by Col. Conk. Instead of normal DE razor blades, it just takes the double track blades that typically come with Trac IIs, so it should still be fairly cheap. Furthermore, at $14, you’d be hard pressed to get a better rice for a razor. Despite its unambitious performance, the looks and simplicity of the design itself more than make up for it.
Colonel Ichabod Conk Almond Shave Soap:
While Col. Conk products span the entirety of the shaving kit gamut, their real value is found in their shave soaps. All of Col. Conk’s soaps have a really smooth and satisfying combination of avocado oil and Vitamin E in them, which appropriately nourishes your face while also giving you a smooth shave.
There are many different soaps in their arsenal, but I’m particularly fond of the Almond soap; I just love the subtle, nutty fragrance of the soap itself, since it’s not overpowering, and it’s a very nice alternative to a fruitier or more flowery soap fragrance. Plus, I get to walk around all day smelling basically like peanut butter, which is a plus for me.
One potential issue with the soap: you may have a little more trouble than usual getting a lather. Don’t worry, it’s doable, but it takes a bit more practice. First of all, you may actually have more luck lathering on your face than you would in a bowl. Secondly, if you insist on using a bowl, you need to make sure your brush is loaded with soap, or else it will not lather. If you can manage to do these things, you’ll be made in the shade.
Col. Conk World’s Famous Shaving Soap, Bay Rum:
Now we’ve talked about Col. Conk’s shaving soap already, but this is probably the best of them all – Bay Rum shaving soap. Like the Almond soap, I’m in love with the subtle scents of this puck; it smells just like an old-school barber’s shop. Bay rum, of course, comes from using rum to distill bay leaves, along with a few other aromatic spices like cloves and cinnamon. What you end up getting is somewhere between a cinnamon bun and a cool autumn day, and I can’t get enough of it.
Again, like the other soaps, it’s a glycerine soap, so it will wear down a bit faster when you use a shaving brush on it regularly. While the softer texture gives you a very easy lather, the integrity of the lather might not last as long as other soaps. Still, it gets the job done, it’s cheap at about $5 a puck, and did you smell that fragrance?? It’s simply majestic.
Evernice Progress Model 247 Pure Badger Shaving Brush with Chrome Handle:
Now that we’ve moved on from shaving soaps, let’s check out some other Col. Conk products – namely, their brushes. These are some pretty amazing badger hair shaving brushes.
Badger hair, as we know, is the softest of the commonly-used hairs for shaving brushes, leading to a floppy (but comfortable) feel on the face. This brush is no exception, and its chrome handle is pretty dang fancy as well. It’s got a very nice look to it, though the finish may make it a little bit slicker than some other shaving brushes out there.
Colonel Conk Progress Model 1001 Standard Pure Badger Shaving Brush:
One of the other major shaving brushes offered by Col. Conk is this black one, with a resin handle that is a bit easier to grip than the 247 chrome model. This and the other brushes from Conk are custom made, and still have that badger hair knot that will give you a really nice, easy lather. After all, we don’t want our faces to get scratched up before even getting shaved; cutting up the skin is our razor’s (and our own poor coordination’s) job, right?
With these Col. Conk products in mind, it’s never been easier (or cheaper) to be a fan of wet shaving.
Some of our other friends on Colonel Conk:
- Nick Shaves with Colonel Conk Bay Rum Shaving Soap
- Carmine Sirianni’s Lathering of Col Conk’s Lime Soap
- Shaving 101’s Review of Col Conk’s Bay Rum Soap
- Sharpologist’s Review of the Bay Rum Soap
- Straightrazorplace’s Review Thread of Col Conk Soap