The first month of 2014 is almost over. I usually don't make new years resolutions. If there's something I want to change in my life why wait...just do it. Here in the United States governors and mayors have been making State of the State or City speeches and tonight the President is presenting the State of the Union speech before Congress. I used to be neck deep into politics and when I was very young was being groomed for politics in my home county in Southern Illinois. Thank goodness I saw the light and my life went a different direction.
But like politicians maybe this time of year is just the time to do a little inventory and a personal "State of the Shave Den" evaluation. We are solidly in the middle of winter with a couple more months before the calendar says it is springtime. Now is a good time to look at your shave den and do some "winter inventory" versus waiting for the normal springtime clean up. When the weather is cold and dreary outside and you have to stay indoors, dig into those shelves, cabinets, boxes and bags and see what you have that you haven't used in awhile. Some things you never intend to use and they are just taking up space. Some things could be forgotten treasures that have been pushed to the sidelines and has been warming the bench patiently to get in the game again.
Sometimes one of the hardest things for me to do is decide what products to use for a shave. Too many options result in confusion and indecision, that is if you have multiple good and excellent products to choose from. If you have a few great products and many more only average or below average products in your den those decisions aren't so difficult. You reach more often than not for the superior items and leave the so so ones sitting on the shelf.
Of course there are always those "favorites" of the moment, that new soap, cream or after shave but once the new wears off it is replaced by the next new item. It's those special products that endure beyond the "new favorite" period that sees more playing time than the average. I have a few of those items that always show up at least every week or so in my shaves: Pinauld Clubman Lilac Vegital, Stirling Soap, Aqua Velva Musk, Brut Dominant, No. 4711 Cologne, Old Spice, Saint Charles Soap, Cella Creme De Barba Soap, Stetson Cologne, Cade Shave Soap and Cream, Arko, etc. There are really so many excellent products to choose from.
We hearken back to times past in traditional wet shaving and attempt to emulate how they shaved in the past, but in the past they shaved using double and single edge razors but many men did not even dream of having the products and choices we have today. One razor, one type of razor blade, one or two after shaves and that was about it. I'm sure they tried different products but not the way we do today in our "shaving hobby" additions.
In one of my videos I likened what we do with our shaves to what men used to do with their automobiles, before the age of computer controlled engines, etc. We used to spend hours on end "tinkering" under the hood of our trucks and cars trying to make it purr a little better or polished the chrome until we could have shaved in the reflection. Modern technology has taken that activity away from us. For most of us there is very little we can do to "fix" our vehicles when they break down. But shaving has replaced that urge to tinker on an engine and turned it into a passion for tinkering with our shaves. We are "Shade Tree Shavers" tinkering with our soaps, brushes, creams, balms and lotions; looking for the perfect shave, chasing that uber smooth shave, or the magical combination of brush, lather, blade and razor. There's nothing wrong with doing that if you have the means and resources and time to spend in that endeavor.
Traditional wet shaving can be a fulfilling hobby and is probably as economical a hobby as they come. At least we can engage in our hobby on a daily basis and obtain an end result from our efforts and expense unlike some hobbies that result only in the need to constantly dust things. It is also a skill and a history that unless it is passed on from one generation to the next the "tricks of the trade" can get lost. There are so many aspects of shaving with a straight razor, single edge or double edge safety razor that we will never know if we have truly captured all of the information known commonly in times past. The lines of communication were allowed to deteriorate and because shaving was just one of those common day to day things so many men did without thinking the idea that that knowledge needed to be preserved never occurred to them. Other things seemed more important to document and preserve and after all...shaving with a straight razor or a DE or SE razor was old news, passe, past it's time and worthy of the scrap heap of time. That's what was thought was cold hard fact 60 years ago and is the mentality of the mainstream today. But we know differently.
Maybe while doing your shave den inventory and preparing your State of the Den report it wouldn't be a bad idea to think about the products you have and start your own personal "time capsule" to store a few select favorite unique products away safely for the next generation. 30 years ago who would have dreamed that Old Spice was going to be sold to another company and the tried and true formulation changed. If we had known that we would have saved a few bottles instead of now scouring ebay for a rare unused vintage bottle. Who would have dreamed that such a fantastic razor blade like the Personna 74* was going to only be sold for a few years. Such events happen without headlines in the newspaper or prime time new flashes. Change usually happens slowly and by the time we recognize it, the time to do something about it has passed. Like buying a kilo of Klar Kabinett when supplies were available. Sigh...
Possibly you can take those products that you like but aren't your favorite and make samples to Pay It Forward when there is an opportunity to do so. Maybe you just do a few PIF's and not bother with doing the smaller samples. I have often thought about the issue of poverty and traditional wet shaving. There are so many men who for a variety of reasons can't afford to purchase even disposable cartridge razors and canned goo because they are struggling to provide food for their children. I'm sure there are charity organizations that could put to use some of our extra shaving products. The problem is that we also need to provide some inexpensive DE razors and brushes. These once common items aren't common anymore and giving a supply of DE blades or soaps and creams away to someone is almost worthless without the razor and brush. Those of you who are members of civic or religious service groups, what better way could you meet a need of the men in your community than provide some "shaving care packages" to give to shelters and food banks to give to men who could benefit from a good reliable and inexpensive way to shave.
For most of us the "State of Our Shave Dens" this past year has been pretty darn good and will continue to be good for the indefinite future. We are fortunate and blessed. Possibly it is time to think about the state of the shave dens of the less fortunate and those that are unfamiliar with the great and wonderful method of traditional wet shaving we have come to love and cherish. Find ways to pass that pleasure and satisfaction along whenever and however you can.
Good Shaves, Be Happy, Be Safe