Jason Goodwin: ‘My own predictions would be for the return of fountain pens and safety razors’

Jason Goodwin suspects that shag carpets may not be making a comeback, but praises the few things that Brexit could bring to our doorsteps – especially those which significantly lessen our environmental impact.

They keep saying that vinyl’s making a comeback. I don’t know that I believe them. Izzy came back from Busby, the auction house where he works, with the news that a famously cool singer had put her record collection up for sale and I’m not surprised. Who wants to grapple with turntables and scratched records, like something out of Borgesian nightmare, when even a phone is a limitless jukebox?

However even if vinyl is a busted flush, other old things seem to be forever on the brink of a return, such as milk bottles or Polaroid cameras. I googled ‘old stuff making a comeback’ just now and landed on an American website called www.familyhandyman.com that promises the return of, in order, wicker furniture (‘The first piece of wicker furniture landed in America on the Mayflower in 1620’, apparently), wallpaper, gold (taps and so on), macramé, sunburst motifs, houseplants, conversation pits (whoa! What?) and – at number 15 – shag carpets. Now I know they’re making it up.

Fountain pen with spiral notebook, close-up

My own predictions, for what they are worth, would be for the return of fountain pens and safety razors, based on the fact that I have recently bought both.

The fountain pen actually takes cartridges, but it was less than a fiver at WHSmith and I could not resist. I’ve grown slightly disgusted by all the biros and rollerballs and felt-tip pens that gather dust in pots on the chimneypiece and don’t work when you need them and the new pen writes very well. I will lose it in a week, for sure, but I’ll perhaps buy another now that I’ve invested so heavily in black ink cartridges.

Walter got an old-fashioned safety razor over the summer.

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It has a screw-action handle that raises two brackets to release and replace the blades and, after I’d played with it a bit, I went out and got one for myself. It’s bad enough to think that all the toothbrushes you have ever used in your life are sitting in a hole in the ground somewhere. They’re only bristly and at least last a few months. Applied to disposable razors, it’s a thought to keep you awake at night.

‘I get a definite thrill from seeing the words ‘Made in Russia’ on the cardboard box’

For a whiff of excitement in the bathroom, you can’t beat the old-fashioned safety razor and a packet of old-fashioned razor blades, wickedly thin and sharp on both edges. They used to come in a small plastic box, so when one was used up, you slid it safely back into the box through a slit on the bottom. Now, they come in tiny cardboard containers.

You can use them to clean glass, cut paper and put a professional swipe on top of your sourdough. Even better, the bathroom is no longer littered with the dulled plastic corpses of razors with joystick handles and absurdly testosterone-fuelled names, such as Mach 1 and Xtreme and Fusion 5.

W5XHRF new razor blade with mens safety razor and badger shaving brush in a bathroom

As for the razor blades, which used to be made by Wilkinson Sword, here’s a funny thing. They are all, without exception, manufactured in countries that are not quite Third World, but not absolutely at the top table, such as Russia and Egypt.

I get a definite thrill from seeing the words ‘Made in Russia’ on the cardboard box. Retro or not, I think we are going to be making trade deals with all these interesting countries and, personally, I look forward to seeing ‘Made in Egypt’ or ‘Manufactured in Australia’ on more small household items.

I have a solid vice on the workbench, an old Record, with Made in England embossed in cast iron on the face. Now that’s due for a comeback, surely?