Balding man shaving his head bald

Shaving for work… when you’re swimmer Stan Pijnenburg

The morning shave before you trudge off to the office is a thing of the past. Beards are in. And most places have relaxed clean shave policies. There’s a few hold outs, but it’d probably only a matter of time.

This got us thinking: “What jobs do you actually need to shave for?” There’s the obvious ones like healthcare, thanks folks, or the military but we wanted to go out on more of a limb. Where does shaving give you the edge? So we spoke to Dutch swimmer, and Olympic hopeful, Stan Pijnenburg about why he shaves to compete.

How did you get into swimming?

I started swimming when I was 4 years old. I was a really active kid and very competitive and I liked that I just had to beat the other kids across the pool. And my mom liked it because I burned up a lot of energy.

When I was 17 I was invited to join the Dutch national team. Then in 2017, I reached the final of the World Championships which meant I was eligible for support from the Olympic National Committee.

When did you start shaving?

I was a Junior. I was doing very well in Junior and was asked to join the seniors for competition in Italy. The senior team were all really keen to win and they were shaving and said: “Come on you need to shave if you want to win.”

I was honestly just looking around going: “Wow, I’m in Italy”

That first time I only shaved my legs. It felt really smooth when I dove into the water. Then later at the European Juniors I shaved everything. It was quite normal by that stage. I wanted to be the best, so I’ll do anything to be the best.

I saw you looking at your hands. Do you shave your hands as well?

Haha, yeah hands as well. Everything!

Why do swimmers shave?

When your skin is bald there’s less friction in the water, which can be the difference between 4 and 5 hundredths of a second. That might not sound like a lot, but when races are being won by a hundredth of a second it makes a difference.

And it helps you mentally. When you dive into the water after shaving you feel that the water isn’t holding you back. It’s a really great feeling and it gives you a mental kick right before the competition.

Do you shave regularly or is it something you only do for competitions?

I only shave for competitions. It’s like the last step in the process. I don’t want to say it’s magical, but it definitely gives you something. It’s like: “Right, I’m ready.”

What are mornings of competitions like?

For competitions, I always have the same routine. I set my alarm for four hours before my race. I drink a lot of water to get the blood moving. Three hours before the race I eat a big meal with a lot of carbohydrates. Ninety minutes before I eat a snack. And then sixty minutes before the race I start to warm up.

There’s normally six or seven hours between the heat and the final, so as soon as I get out of the pool after the heat I have a recovery drink. Then I try to rest before the final. Eat, maybe have a nap. Then fours hours before the final, the process begins again.

And when do you shave?

I shave the night before the competition. It normally takes about two hours so I like to have a lot of time to do it. I start with my toes and work my way up my body. Left leg, then right leg. Chest and left arm. Then comes the tricky bit – shaving my right arm using my left arm. That’s always a challenge.

Next is the most embarrassing part. I have ask my girlfriend if she can shave my back… I get her to come up and I sit on a chair as she shaves my back. After that’s done I shave my face. It’s the last part of the puzzle and it really makes me feel that I’m ready to race.

Do you have any shaving tips?

I used aftershave cream all over my whole body to help my skin recover. There’s a lot of chlorine in the water and this along with the shaving really dries out my skin. Aftershave cream really helps.

Also, be careful shaving around the knees and elbows. One time I had a cut that wouldn’t stop bleeding before a race. You’re not allowed to use tape in swimming competitions as it’s seen as a benefit so we had to ask for permission to use tape to stop the bleeding.

(Want to look after your skin. See our Skincare for men – the ins and outs)

What do you want to achieve in swimming?

My goal is to qualify for the Olympics. That’s what I was training for until the virus struck. Or course my dream is to win Olympic gold. And I’m a dreamer but also realistic. Making it to an Olympic final would be a big step for me and that was my goal for this summer.

How has that been affected by the coronavirus?

When everything happened I still had to qualify for the Olympics and then the qualifiers were cancelled before the Olympics were cancelled. When that happened I was like: “Oh my God! How am I going to qualify for the Olympics!”

There were about 10 days between when the qualifiers were cancelled and the Olympics were, which was really stressful. I wouldn’t say I was hoping the Olympics were cancelled, but I was hoping they’d find a way that I could still qualify.

What’s your plan now?

The Olympics being cancelled was bad, but I feel like we’re past that now. I’m focusing on getting back to training. And the cancellation has given me one more year to get even better.

Best of luck to Stan as he prepares for the Tokyo Olympics. And while most of us will never need to squeeze out 4 or 5 hundreds of a second to improve our performance. I think we can all relate to the mental boost you get from shaving. Beards might be in, but –as we’ve learned– there are a lot of other places you can put a razor.

Check our guides on everything body grooming. We’ll have you swimming faster in no time.

Let us know what you think.