The Spinoff Reviews New Zealand #84: My friend’s fabric shaver

We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Alex Casey revels in the wonders of a borrowed fabric shaver.

I’ve sold so many old jumpers on Trademe in my life that I think my alias could be Slight Lee Pilled. “Slight pilling around the cuff,” I used to mutter bashfully in the listing description. Also the armpit. Also the collar. Also the hem. Also my soul. As a passionate second-hand buyer and seller, I became plagued by pilling, the little bobbles of fluff slowly enveloping me like that time that lady nearly died in a silo of wheat in McLeod’s Daughters.

Opshopping has always been a big part of my life. I’d like to say it’s because I’m groovy and eco-conscious, but it’s more that I love dusty copies of The World According to Clarkson and mugs with photos of other people’s children on them. I once bought an old bed sheet and cut it up to make a bandanna, which is not nearly as embarrassing as the time I wore an old St Mary’s pinafore and got roasted for it. Because, dear confidante, I did not go to St Mary’s school.

Despite a lifetime of thrifting prowess and some extremely regrettable choices, I managed to never encounter the wonders of a fabric shaver until last month. Having stocked up on Slightly Pilled jumpers for winter at a local garage sale, I took them to my friend Whitney’s house to see if she knew what to do about it. Pro tip: you should always have at least one friend who knows what to do about things. She’s mine, the proprietor of not one but TWO fabric shavers.  

A rich bounty

There it was. It looked like a torch. It also looked vaguely like a sex thing. But it was so much more. She turned the device on and the blades, nestled behind a cheese grater type shield, began to whir. Taking to my jersey like a frenzied conductor, she breezed over the patches of pilling to reveal what looked essentially like a brand spanking new garment. I felt like I was seeing God and was frankly furious I had never been taken through the ins and outs of fabric shaving by the likes of Venus, Gillette or Veet.

I took the fabric shaver home with me and I haven’t been the same ever since. It’s become a weird form of self-care, in the same realm as pimple popping clips or those videos of people cutting up soap for hours. This might be a sad thing to say, but it’s probably the most relaxing thing in my life at the moment. Pulling up to the table with a jersey laid flat – you have to watch for bumps otherwise you might make a hole – it’s my own pilly, pilly, zen garden. A rotating peace sign made of razor blades. 

A great haul

Of course, there’s also the environmental upsides to salvaging your old woolies. Clothing production worldwide has more than doubled in the last 15 years. The fast fashion industry is completely fucked up, destroying hundreds of tons of dead stock year, and is second only to oil via the pollution caused to the environment through textile dye. To think, there’s probably a turtle somewhere out there trapped in a humiliating H&M halter neck that says “Paris Je T’Aime” in rhinestones.

On a more selfish note, you can also save yourself some mega cash by buying old clothes and treating them to The Big Shave. Closely charting the change in opshop stock over the years, I can confirm that due to the growth of fast, cheap clothing and the popularity of Marie Kondo (whomst I’ve since turned my back on), the Sallies and the Red Cross are now more bougie than ever before. Check out this stunning example from a fellow shave fanatic Calum Henderson:

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And yes, I’m aware of the irony in buying cheap plastic shit to stop buying more cheap plastic shit. But if you can get through one or two more winters with your old faithful jerseys pill-free, then that’s just as good as anything. You can get ’em from your humble Warehouse, your humble Briscoes, your humble Kmart. And hey – if you ever want to borrow one, I know a gal.

VERDICT: Shave the world, save the world.

Good or bad? Really, really great.


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