I love my Rex Ambassador. It is a near perfect daily shaver for the weekdays. It’s modern; it’s manly; it’s sophisticated; it’s brazen steel; it’s smooth as silk (setting 2). Along with some quiet reflection on the gift that is today and on the one who made it, the morning shave helps me prepare my mind for the difficult workday to come.
Conversely, for me, the weekends are a time of rest and renewal. They call for something special—something vintage, something classic, something timeless. Something that sweeps one back to a different era—a simpler time, a slower time, a time before the quick and easy, a time before the dawn of the Information Age. For me, King Gillette weekends are a delight; they’re regular and something I look forward to with the close of each work-week.
The Rex changed my taste in razors. It (re-)introduced me to more efficient DE designs, and it wasn’t long before I was hooked on moderate efficiency and began to relish some blade feel. I’ve long had a fascination with Aristocrats, particularly the British. They’re just something magical and mysterious about them. Coupled with those exquisite cases, they seem to stand as the zenith of classic razors making. So a while back, I decided it was time to find an open comb and give it a go.
After a post on the BST, a fine specimen emerged, and it wasn’t long before it was enroute. In the hand, it was all that I had thought it would be. It had the size, heft, balance, and those lovely barbershop spirals accenting a brilliant finish. However, there was a surprise. When I started this quest, I did not understand that there were in fact two different open comb British Aristocrats. In hindsight, I now realize I thought I was getting a 1938 rhodium plated open comb British Aristocrat in a set #22. In fact, I ended up with the other, less common 1936 silver plated version. Neat!
Besides the plating, I’ve noted a few other differences. The 1938 has the famous rounded brackets/braces—visible on the underneath side of the head on the ends. Conversely, the brackets/braces on the 1936 have points on the bottom and is more squared corners. Inside the head, they each have a long center bar for holding and aligning the blades, while the 1938 has additional “wings” on the ends of the bars. The 1938 has a plain band at the base handle, just above the TTO knob, while the 1936 has a tiny “Gillette” logo stamped on it. Lastly, the screw in the handle of the 1936 is recessed much further in.
So how do they shave? In both cases I found they aptly live up to their reputation: starkly efficient while still smooth and comfortable. They are not intimidating as I once had once perceived them to be! In my experience, I find these Aristocrats to be a little more efficient than my Rex on 2 and slightly less efficient than my Timeless Ti 0.95 OC. They just the right amount of blade feel, and I don’t find it obnoxious. Both razors are well balanced and have a heft about them that seems to exude a silent confidence and eagerness to be used. They’re truly superb and easily daily shavers.
I count myself extremely fortunate and blessed to get to collect and shave with fascinating and superb vintage razors. Each time they bring a cheery smile and pleasant diversion from the difficult year that is 2020. Wishing you all a pleasant weekend and many great shaves.
In the pictures above and below, the rhodium-plated 1938 is on left and the silver-plated 1936 on right.