Williams Mug Soap (Combe Inc.)

If we must continue to live under pandemic conditions, I am officially switching from shaving with pedestrian "canned goo," like Barbasol and Gillette, to a synthetic brush and shave soap. One can offset life's big impositions by embracing its small luxuries. There is no better way to do that than by dropping a puck of Williams shave soap into a shave mug and whipping up a stiff lather. 

Except, as gentlemen on B&B point out, lathering is tricky with Williams. Considered to be one of the cheapest standard no-frills soaps a bloke can buy, Williams is notorious for being difficult to whip, even with rigorous brushwork. To succeed you must (a) Use soft water, and (b) "Bloom" the puck before attempting use. I do the following: buy Poland Spring water, and boil some in a kettle. Then I pour it over the puck and wait about twenty minutes. By that point it has absorbed all the water and created a layer of solid fattiness over it, which then needs only a bit of brushwork to resurrect. 

It takes serious motion in my Fendrihan mug to get something like the consistency of whipped cream, but it gets there. I can brush it on my face, and it holds long enough for my razor to do its magic. I have oily skin, so the drying nature of Williams is a plus for me (and a significant minus for anyone with naturally dry skin). The scent? It is identical to the original Ivory bar soap, the one which famously floats. This makes sense, as Williams is the creator of Ivory soap.

At a buck per puck, this is a true bargain. There are pricier soaps that I'm sure I'll try, but for a guy like me who just wants a quick scratch, Williams is fine, and for the price it's impossible to beat. 


  1. I been shaving with a 93 Sensor Excel and Gillette foam every morning for the last year. Lately I've been shaving after work using one of my various brushes, razors and after shaves. They've just been collecting dust.

    I really like the Gillette Pure in the tube. I don't care for their politics but it's a great face lather. Same for the Old Spice shave lather. But I need to try Williams. The Wegmans by me carries that and Proraso shave lather. Been thinking about picking them up. The only shave puck I could find locally was always the Van Der Hagan one. That one's great too.

    1. I've seen those Van Der Hagen pucks at the local stores also. Good to know they're decent. Might try one! They're not too bad price-wise.

  2. Curious; you need to pour some boiling water on it every time? If so, isn't that a hazzle?

    Personally, I just carve a stick, be it Arko, Palmolive or whatever I choose, and melts it down in the cup. Lather is excellent, and it lasts for hundreds of shaves.

    1. I don't need to, but opt to. The heat speeds up the process. I only shave once a week, so it's no hassle at all.

    2. I counted my de-blades the other day, and I'm ashamed to say they're proof of my hoarding tendencies. 2367. A blade usually lasts me two-three weeks.

      Now that I know you're a once-a-week shaver, I'm not sure if it's any use for me to mention you in my will anymore... you won't need all those blades neither.

    3. 2k+ DE blades. That's impressive. 2-3 weeks per blade? And I'm assuming you shave more than once a week like I do? How do you manage that? The most I've ever used a blade is 3 shaves, and that's Christmas-day rare. Usually it's one shave and gone.

      My thinking behind blades is that they're dull to begin with. Then after a shave they sharpen up a little bit. After the second shave they're even duller than before. And beyond that there's little pits in the metal that cause all sorts of issues. I have extremely sensitive skin. So sensitive that if I have an ingrown hair, and it gets disturbed, that whole side of my face will rash up. So I treat each shave like a clinical (albeit messily clinical) exercise. Lots of soap and water and everything else, but it's only used once and then carefully discarded.

    4. I started out with an short open comb and Feather's, so maybe I'm extremely gentle-handed when I shave?

      The majority of my blades are indian Gillette Wilkinson, probably the cheapest on the bay, some yellow and green 7'o'clock, Derby Usta's (the best of the lot) and other odds and evens.

      The only blades I've been disappointed with, is Muhle's. Beside those, I get 10-12 shaves out of most. Then I change the blade out of boredom.

      I shave at least every other day, my skin tends to be a bit dry, and I never do more than one shave at a time.

      Beside a good cleansing of the razor, I use an leather strap after each shave. I do it mostly because I think it's cool, but it probably keeps the blade sharper. 5-6 quick strokes on each edge.

      My razor is an Merkur 41, open comb, short handle.

    5. Oh, as for the sharpness; my experience is that they're peaking around the third shave.

      Of course, it probably depends on how coarse your beard is.

      The first shave is probably duller because of the oily coating that most of the producers use on their blades.

    6. I learned to shave on Feather blades, they're amazingly good at what they do, even if they do it a little too much (that's my FACE my FACE NOT hair, not hair).

      Gillette tech. No comb (techs are, well you know how they are). Currently using Gillette Platinums and they're the best blades I've used to date. Used to use Derbys religiously and for the life of me I don't know why, they were fairly dull and uninspired. Tried Voskhods and I can't put my finger on why, but I didn't really feel like using them again when they ran out. Tried Astras for a couple years, those were ok and I'd use them again. But these Gillettes are great.

      My beard is wiry and weird. It gets thicker as it gets longer but it has to go for over a month before it actually looks lumberjack, and even then it's not entirely convincing. Yet there's a lot of hair and if I let it go I get itchy so shaving once or twice a week is a must. This week was a 2-shave week, shaved today and felt 100% better for it. I swear the beard trend in general needs to end. I'm sick of seeing men walking around under the delusion that growths on their faces makes them attractive. Nothing is less attractive imo. Everyone looks better after a clean close shave.

  3. Ah, the Beard Boys... I think my anchestors the vikings are to blame for the current trend. Or at least Hollywoods vision of them. Unruly, wild and wooly bushes.

    I have nothing against trimmed, neat beards, like those we remember from the 80's (ah, dark & moody Burt Reynolds), but I can't stand the Ted Kaczynski look.

    A smooth DiCaprio-looking face with a huge, dead fur looks hilarious. Lee Marvin could probably carry it with grace, but I much prefer the beards to be in style of Kris Kristofferson's, not the Duck Dynasty.

    Uninteresting fact; a couple of times a year I use a straight razor. And every time I think of Jason Robards' scene late into Once upon a time in the West. I swear I glance to the left, half expecting to see Cladia Cardinale, sweaty, with her shoulders bare, looking at me.

    I hope you write a piece about the cultural aspects of wet shaving, Bryan.

    Beards may be the soyboy's idea of embracing machoism, but the image of a wet shaving man is a fine illustration on how a man has the strength to control his inner animal. Or Oscar Wilde versus Jack London, if you like.

    1. I think of today's beard phenomenon not as an expression of testosterone-laden machismo, but rather as a coping mechanism for men who never learned to shave in the first place. Anyone born after 1987 who now sports a ten-month growth is basically broadcasting to the world that they're not really sure what to do with facial hair.

      One can argue that electric razors should have fixed the problem, but the truth is electric razors suck shit through curly straws. They're a piss-poor approach to shaving that only work with five-hour stubble, and even then they're "not the best" as Trump would say.

      You get these guys who walk into Walgreens and stare cluelessly at the dozens of plastic disposables with their 5-blade detachable heads, and they buy 'em, use 'em, and predictably hate 'em. And why wouldn't they? They get the job done, but it's a slow, awkward, often painful process of pulled hairs and weird razor burn. They buy those green shave gels that smell like shampoo and never foam up correctly. They can't quite crack the code of how men who shave actually manage it, and they don't even try because stooping to researching something as supposedly mundane as shaving is beneath them, a waste of their precious time. So they lie and tell themselves, and everyone else, that the beard is part of their "look." They pride themselves on being able to scratch the outline clean and keep their necks relatively hair-free, but even then they slouch on it.

      I have a very close friend who is a brilliant mind and probably the best friend a guy could ask for. However, when it comes to shaving, he has struggled his whole life. I actually had to buy him a regular DE razor, and explain to him the benefits of using a single razor blade instead of four or five framed in plastic. I warned him there was a bit of a learning curve to using the safety razor, but that it's a "safety razor" that ultimately won't blood let the way a straight razor would. Did he ever use it? That's a no, right there.

  4. I was gifted one of these "pocket" electric razors some years ago, it felt like an epilator. That's my only encounter with electric shaving, it lasted for about 15 seconds.

    I can clearly remember that both my dad and my grandad used these three-heads. My granddad had a stroke in his late sixties, but my dad had no excuse to swap his Gillette cartridge razor with a buzzer.

    And that's probably, as you said, the reason to why so many of our generation (and those after us) shuns wet shaving; their fathers went electric in the 70's/80's, so they never got any exposure to the art.

    That, and the massive commercial attack, where the el-raz comes across as an 8th wonder.

    Whatever floats your boat, but me, I'd stick to a beard trimmer set at it's lower level, rather than using an electric razor, if I'm no longer fit to safely use a real razor.

    And cartridges are not an option; dirty, messy and too damn expensive.

    1. My generation has figured out that electric razors aren't really efficient and don't work very well even on short hair, and it's also figured out that you need a decent razor and water to get the job done right. But as you point out, without role models (our fathers switched to electric) it's an uphill battle.

      These new "shave clubs" and weird cartridge releases are just cynical jackals cashing in on a lost generation. The money a guy can save by just buying a decent $20 DE razor at the drugstore (if they even sell them) or online and a few packs of blades. Between bad shaving habits and Starbucks, it's no wonder my peers are perennially broke

    2. A 4-pack of Gillette cartridges costs about the same as a cheap DE razor over here too, problem is, as you mentioned, you can't just buy a DE in the local mart anymore. You're lucky to even find a 5-pack of rather expensive Parker blades anywhere outside the big cities.

      And even more luck is needed to stumble across a brush, shaving cream or soap.

      So, unless you actively search for some online sources, you're not likely to discover anything outside cartridges or buzzers.

      Not a big deal, probably, but it's a bit sad that we're stuck with Axe body spray, Gillette cartridges/disposables and awful canned shave gel. Can't even get a can of foam anymore.

      The shops are full of items these days, but most of them is a copy of a copy (34 variations of potato chips?) So, it's more of less, be it grooming stuff or vegetables.

      We had a lot more options back in the 80's, actually. As for razors, Gillette got rid of the competition already as early as the mid-90's here in Norway. And with a population of 5 million people, there's obviously no room for a contender.

      Well, at least I've got a new bottle of Oscar de la Renta's Pour Lui on it's way, and the wife has been in a (mostly) good mood the last days, there's still a quite a few bottles of homemade apple wine in the basement, so life isn't that bad, after all.

      Enjoy your weekend, Bryan!

    3. I have a bottle of a very old classic that I reviewed years ago and will review again (in its most recent formula) to close out February, if I ever get it - US Postal service is experiencing "weather delays." Interesting excuse given it's coming from Florida, but whatever.

      I think Gillette as a brand has dealt itself a major blow here in America with their "politically correct" crap. But what really hurt them isn't their politics. It's discontinuing products that men really liked, i.e. Wild Rain and Pacific Light aftershaves, two excellent products, especially Wild Rain. Now we have subsidiary "shave club" lines that don't interest me in the least. Over-produced stuff in dull packaging that doesn't speak to the fun, carefree aesthetic of the late '80s, early '90s Gillette used to put out there.

    4. At least there's still some Gillette after shaves left in USA, over here we're written off with an over-priced balm. I miss the Cool Wave and the other great scents they used to offer us.

      Curiously, the female part of our population got as many options, if not more, than the male part these days. Pink, purple, mint green and baby blue dominate the shelves. Not just when it comes to shaving, but even the tools are marketed toward women. Pink hammers, glitterly scarlet screwdrivers, cutey-pastelle sanders and drills. It's great that the women learns how to use those tools, but it's a cynical gimmick; a pink Stanley 16oz clawhammer costs about 25% more than a black one.

      Maybe this is the year I should go progressive; my next rifle will sport a flourescent pink stock, a white, furry Hello Kitty-sling and some sparkling bling atop of the yellow scope.

      I'll be the new idol out on the shooting range...


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