Perseverance and Giving Products or Techniques a Fair Shot
As I write this, I'm coming from the point of another revelation of sorts in this wet shaving thing we do.
A couple of months ago I purchased a 1912 styled Treet SE copy of a Gem Junior Parade. You know, the one with the fat, stubby bakelite handle. I had read with glee on the forums devoted to SE razors what a wonderfully mild, smooth and comfortable shave the 1912 head gave, and I looked forward with some anticipation to giving it a go.
I found some Dorco SE blades at a local grocery. They were clearly labeled for use with Single Edge Safety Razors, so I was good to go, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong. Shave after shave with this razor was terrible. Tuggy, and very uncomfortable. It felt like I was trying to shave with broken glass. Or a serrated steak knife. Just incredibly uncomfortable, and the razor felt highly aggressive. I was afraid I was going to literally shred my face. Even with the aggressive feeling, it took four passes and a ton of touch up just to get a mildly passable shave.
Understanding that every razor is different, I chalked it up to my unfamiliarity to this razor. "Maybe if I play with the blade angle a bit," I thought. Nothing wrong with the razor, so it's got to be me, right? But shave after shave over the course of a month, or a bit more, and no improvement. So I began to think of this razor as something I was not meant to shave with. "I'll just put it up on the shelf with my other razors. It'll look great beside them. I don't need to shave with it".
Then one day I was at CVS, and finally they had their SE blades in stock. Not made in Korea. American Safety Razor Co. It can't be that simple, can it? But it was. Those blades turned that razor into a smooth, sexy shaver! Just got done with a shave with her tonight, and it was fabulous!
Just in the last day or two, in conversation with an experienced wet shaver, I found that he was having difficulty getting a quality lather from a very popular soap that most say is a champ to lather. It reminded me of a soap early on that I had been PIF'd. It was a Rose scented tallow soap that had been PIF'd to a member of one of the communities I am a member of. I had won a PIF he posted, and he sent it along as a "mystery gift" included with the PIF. He had had it a while, and could not remember where he got it from, only that it was a handmade tallow soap. I tried and tried to lather that soap, but all I got for a couple of months was an airy, bubbly mess that disappeared 30 or 40 seconds after it hit my face. But the Rose scent was lovely, so I kept at it, pulling it out 3 or 4 times a week, and finally, over the long haul, I got a stable, thick lather from it. It lathers as easily as any other soap I have now, and I love it.
I relate these two stories to make a point.
I see posts on the forums all the time from guys who say something like "I tried this blade/razor/soap/brush, etc., etc.,and they are just not for me" Sometimes these are very expensive products, sometimes not. A lot of the more expensive stuff ends up for sale.
I really think we do ourselves a disservice many times by not hanging in there a bit. Case in point for me was the straight razor. Anyone who uses a straight knows that the learning curve is very steep. It is a skill that requires patience and perseverance to aquire. A great many give up and go back to a DE or even an SE. I had my struggles with that blade, too. Again, I'm glad I stuck to it. I cannot imagine not being able to shave with a straight. In fact, in each case above, it was a sheer determination and an attitude that said, "I'm not giving up!", that made the difference. And in each case, I am so very glad that I stuck with it.
Think about this.
We live in an age where patience, and to some degree perseverance toward a goal, is valued less and less. Look at Youtube. If you can't say what you want to in 3 to 7 minutes most people won't watch. They'll move on, even if what is being said has value, they don't have or won't take the time.
For us, as traditional wet shavers, that's one of the things that drew many of us into this hobby. Wet shaving is a chance to slow down, a chance to be a bit meditative. Often we refer to the experience as "zen-like". I really think we should apply this attitude not only to the shave itself, but to the products and techniques as well.
So the next time you have a problem with that razor/blade/soap/brush, slow down. Look at it from a different angle. Try to come at it from a different point of view. Or set it aside and think about it a while before you pick it up and try again. You just might find something wonderful. Will that always be the case? Probably not.
But look at it this way.
We call ourselves traditional wet shavers. We liken what we do to what our grandfathers and great grandfathers did. Yet, you see a lot of posts from time to time asking how the older generation got along with one type of razor, one choice of blade, or soap, or the cheap brushes available at the local drug store.
Perseverance is the answer. They did not have all the options we do, so they stuck with what they had and made it work. Again, an anecdote from my own experience.
When I was 13 or 14 and just starting to shave, I started with a Gillette DE, a can of Barbasol, and the only DE blades available in my neck of the woods, Wilkinson Sword. I shaved with them for 10 years or more, and got good, comfortable shaves from them. I didn't complain about whether the blades were sharp or smooth, and then go looking for a different one. There was nothing else in my little one horse town. So, I made it work. I adapted, stopped worrying about it, and got on with the shave.
Now I'm not saying that all the choices we have nowadays is a bad thing. Indeed, vive la difference, as far as I'm concerned. But all that variety out there actually just reinforces the idea in my mind that a bit of perseverance before I chuck something out of my shave den just might be a good thing. It just might lead to the discovery of something else I don't want to be without.
Another little anecdote, if I may?
When I was younger, my Dad was in the Army, so we moved alot. I'd just get done making friends, when here I was in another school, having to start all over. And guess what? Some of the guys who ended up being my greatest friends started out as enemies. I mean, we locked horns the first time we met, and it was the mutual respect discovered in a fight with each other that brought us together and formed a lasting bond between us.
So, if you run across a product or technique that doesn't work the first couple of times, don't surrender. Stay and fight a bit. You just might find a lifelong friend.
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Billy had posted this awhile ago and I figure it is time to post it again.