We live in a world of endless and for the most part meaningless promises. Fast food that isn't usually fast and some would say doesn't even approach being food; catchy slogans that tickle our fancies, instant this, no wait that, the line is shorter over here, we're bigger, better, faster, and of course everything is guaranteed to make you look and feel better with a money back, no questioned asked guarantee...until you read the fine print. Made in the USA was at one time a label indicating quality and durability while Made in Japan or China was a sure sign of shoddiness and quick breakage and malfunction. How times and conditions have changed in just a few short decades. Today almost the opposite situation exists if "Made in the USA" can even be found on the store shelves...oh, excuse me...the online marketer's warehouse shelves. Brick and mortar small businesses, the backbone of the economy 50 years ago, is becoming harder to keep alive and is disappearing from main street communities at an alarming rate.
How have we gotten to such a state of affairs? How have we allowed ourselves to devolve to a place where we have trashed all expectation of having quality products and are not completely outraged by shoddy workmanship and low standard products? We have created, or allowed others to create, a world where if it cannot be obtained instantly we do not want it and cannot have it at all...not because it isn't possible to have, but because we no longer have the patience or fortitude to wait for it or demand it.
Just look at your basic vintage safety razor. Most of them are at least 50 years old with many approaching double that number of years in existence. Even those in poor shape and having endured decades of neglect and lack of maintenance can in a short time be cleaned and restored to working condition. Just a few decades ago products were made that would last decades and not mere weeks. A vintage razor could endure rugged daily use and the ravages of time without breaking or significantly degrading. For many products of the last 100 years "Unlimited Lifetime Guarantees" were the norm and if not for a lifetime at least 20-30 years. A "Limited 30 Day Guarantee" was unheard of and would have been considered laughable.
I recently went to a funeral and had to pull out one of my last remaining white shirts. It had been ages since I put on a white shirt. White shirts used to be worn by men every day instead of rarely on special occasions, like going to a funeral. While sitting down to eat the meal prepared by the kind and compassionate ladies of the church following the funeral service my daughter said, "Dad you have a stain on your pocket." I looked down and couldn't see a thing. My wife agreed, that there was a coffee stain on my shirt pocket. You couldn't see it unless the light hit it just right. From one angle it looked nice and white. From another it clearly had a brownish tinted stain. I now need to find another good quality white shirt.
There was a time when everyone wore white shirts daily. It was the only color to wear to look "presentable". But styles have changed. White shirts are difficult to maintain. They get stained easily but boy do they make you look sharp when pressed and clean and bright with some starch and ironed with crisp creased clean lines. Because they make you look good, you also feel good wearing them. They help maintain a level of self worth and a collective sense of well-being and order. Just like wearing white shirts has gone out of style so has maintaining communal standards and expectations has become passe.
When white shirts were in vogue it took time and effort to look sharp and dress well. Thought, effort and planning was required. Shoes shined, hair cut, face shaved, tie the correct style and tied just right, coat pressed with lapels the correct width, not too thin and not too wide. Styles change but some are classic and endure almost forever. But we have gotten lazy and the business uniform of 50 years ago has evolved into business casual attire where almost anything is accepted and ease of preparation and implementation most important.
Collectively we all said "It's just too damn hard to wear a white shirt and tie". I was there and applauded the comfort, less expensive and ease of simply keeping suits and ties in the closet only to emerge on very unique special occasions. Soon not only did casual attire appear at the office place but also it crept into the church on Sunday morning as did dressing up to go out on the town with your best girl on a Friday or Saturday night. Casual was good, comfortable, easy, hip and cool. Better than sliced bread and the ultimate rebellion against a stuffed shirted, up tight, un hip, judgmental, biggoted status quo.
Anything that involves "discomfort" is so scorned in today's world everything "comfortable" has become our premier idols and objects of worship. Just about anything goes anymore as long as you are "comfortable" doing it. Long live the "Couch Potatoship". Losing in a sports competition is "uncomfortable" so everyone must receive a trophy...no losers here...it's too "uncomfortable" to the little dears, but also quite effective at killing motivation for excellence let alone just average.
It is "uncomfortable" confronting the ugliness of substance abuse so we call it a disease and allow foolish irresponsible behavior and choices to be viewed in the same light as other ailments that have no elements of "personal choice". As a social worker I know there are biological elements and physiological responses that come into play for those plagued with substance abuse and alcoholism. I realize that, but there is also a huge personal choice element that involves self discipline and calling a spade a spade mentality required to abstain and maintain sobriety. We no longer have the guts to tell others or ourselves "no" when a firm and confident "No!" is the only response that is responsible or effective.
There are very few places, events or occasions where t-shirts and blue jeans aren't acceptable attire as long as you are "clean". You used to be able to say as long as your clothes were clean and "without holes" but even now that is a fashion statement and you pay extra to get them "holy". Comfort is king and nothing else matters as long as you can spend your day in easy fitting and comfortable clothes. But even if you're t-shirt and blue jeans are physically clean and you are comfortable are you really better because of it? Has our casual, t-shirt, jeans and sneaker any time and any place mentality made our world better or has it taken something away that we desperately needed to maintain? Has it eroded our personal pride and sense of worth and standards of what constitutes right and wrong.
Many of my friends in the United Kingdom and Europe will find these statements strange and will say that such conditions do not apply to their social norms. Classic traditional formality of dress with suit and tie, polished shoes and a minimum standard of attire is expected and demanded in the normal day to day office. Traditional dress and standards still apply. Of course there are still pockets in American society where more traditional standards of dress and appearance still apply. Lawyers who appear in court, Washington D.C politicians, New York bankers on Wall-Street, and a few other places where a suit and tie and more formal traditional dress is required, but it is more a rarity than the norm. Those who still wear a more formal style of attire tend to look down upon those who dress casually and the disrespect and disdain is quite mutual going the opposite direction.
Universally we have relaxed our standards of dress as we have relaxed our standards of just about everything in our society. I wonder which is the chicken and which is the egg. If it is easy, fast, quick, and cheap then we are satisfied. It is good enough. If our politicians, journalists, advertisers, friends, and family are truthful to us...most of the time, then that's alright. No one can be upright, honest, and trustworthy all of the time, can they? Isn't that asking too much? When they do fail us shouldn't we be loving and forgiving? Aren't we being unfair to judge someone in any manner? No one is perfect anyway. Nothing is flawless. You are narrow minded and prejudiced and wrong to judge someone or something in the first place aren't you? Who are you to judge? Shouldn't we be open and caring and loving and forgiving in a modern civilized society? We aren't evil, judgmental, narrow minded, blood thirsty, barbarians like our predecessors are we? We aren't like those stuck up prudes? Who made them God?
You are right. We're not Gods, we aren't omnipotent and omniscient and have no right to judge others...unless our failure to judge others or to maintain certain minimal standards degrades our collective quality of life and the ability of our society to maintain a semblance of minimal standards and order and survivability. I think we may be well served to examine what has happened to us both physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally in this regard. The pendulum has swung too far to the side of low quality, poor standards, lax ethics, immorality, and a bare minimum of personal and societal pride.
We have become so fearful of offending others, a single day cannot go by without the quality of our lives being offended and degraded by mass produced products, fast, unhealthy and easy food, personal comfort at all costs, the lowest common denominator expressed in a thousand different ways, and the further bruising and crushing of the human spirit and collective societal consciousness that I fear we may have gone too far to ever return from the brink of total personal and societal destruction. If not literally definitely in spirit.
In so many ways I continue to return time and time again to the 1960's as the key period of time when so many molds were cast that has resulted in our current lot and lower quality of life. American politics, leadership, and economic, domestic and world status and health hasn't been the same since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963. The rise and dominance of television as a molder, shaper, babysitter of society came into it's own during this period of time. So many other things either began, emerged, ended or became dominant or more powerful, etc. during this key decade: the war on poverty, birth control pills, increased drug use, space travel, environmentalism, civil rights, computer science, monetary policies, various equality movements, civil unrest, protests, integration, far too many things to list without leaving out something of importance. A very memorable decade, a turbulent decade, and a decade that more than any other in the past 100 years will dramatically influence centuries in the future.
In men's grooming and fashion the popularity of wearing a hat disappeared almost over night when the young and popular US President John F. Kennedy was rarely seen wearing a hat in public. King Camp Gillette produced and sold millions of primarily solid metal safety razors world wide up to the decade of the 1960's. It was in this decade with the introduction of the Knack Razor in 1966 that razors with plastic handles came into production. The Black Handle Super Speed Razors and the Black Beauty Adjustable Razors were the last primarily metal DE Razors produced by Gillette. The multi-track razors began production in the early 1970's and by the end of the 1980's Gillette no longer produce any DE razors. With the advent of the societal revolutions of the 60's and 70's beards, mustaches and long hair along with more casual clothing became popular, hip, youthful, and the trend of the future. Facial hair began appearing after a 50 year absence following World War I when the necessity of being clean shaven was mandated in order to wear a gas mask in the trenches on the battlefields of Europe.
I know I'm ranting and tilting at windmills. I may simply be an old coot complaining about things that can never be changed. I only desire to make some observations and bring a historical perspective that many people do not realize or are too young to have experienced and it is a rare school system that educates our children about such things. We have lost a great deal in the past 50 years as a society and as human beings worldwide, and not just for those in the western world. I'm not talking about standard of living, GDP, the employment rate, or world peace. I'm talking about a much deeper aspect of the quality of life. Greed, shortsightedness, and fears dominate everything and it is only through knowledge and insight and then action that any hope for a better future can emerge. Many good things have taken place in the past 50 years but does the good adequately counter balance those not so good. Are we happier people? Are we healthier in mind, body and spirit? Something to think about.
Many things are beyond our immediate control to effectively do anything about or change the course of the river of current societal trends. Yet there are still things we can do to influence a few things and at least attempt to mold a better tomorrow. Each raindrop becomes a puddle and flows into the stream which becomes a river and eventually an ocean.
I hear almost everyday someone complaining about this product or that razor on the shaving forums and groups. The ultimate vote in this small niche world of traditional wet shaving is our purchasing power, what we spend our money on will shape and mold what kinds and the quality of the products we have in the future...to some extent but not completely. There are factors that play a role in the overall quality of the products that are available in the marketplace that has nothing to do with what we purchase. We will purchase the best quality and best suited products to meet our needs...those products that are currently available. Even if we purchase the highest quality product available, what if that product still does not meet our desired level of quality? We often purchase it anyway because there are no better alternatives. Consequently we are voting and that vote is for a "sub-standard" product based on what we really want. The marketplace does not recognize that it is sub-standard and below what we really want until we communicate to the producers of that product what we really think. The following is how I think some situations have played out.
In years gone by, during the early re-emergence of traditional wet shaving, we bought the products that were available. Some of those products obtained great respect and were money makers for the producers of those products. I'm not going to name any names here because this situation is constantly changing and to point fingers would not serve any purpose here. In time, some producers who were not satisfied with their products continued to improve them. The quality of their products improved proportionately to their efforts to improve them.
Some producers were personally satisfied with their products, they were profit makers and they decided to follow the path of "if it ain't broken, don't fix it". The classic product remains unchanged year after year. It remains profitable because of "reputation" if not overall "performance". You can think of many products and product lines in this situation.
Then there are producers of great products. They are satisfied with them but the customers challenge them to do better by telling them the flaws of their current product lines. The producers desiring to continue to grow their market share and to keep their customers satisfied and continue to experiment modify their product lines. Two things happen in this situation. Some over do their "modifications" and discontinue good classic products and may or may not grow their client base because they will attract new customers and displease and lose others. Another group will modify their products, create new ones, improve them while listening to their customers continuously. They successfully keep old customers and attract new ones. This is the best way to do business but sadly very few product producers manage to be in this position due to corporate politics, greed, shortsightedness, etc., etc.
Then on the consumer side there are factors that we must face and address on a personal level. My wife always tells me I have champagne tastes on a beer budget and that is the truth. I always would like to be able to purchase a very high quality, durable, long lasting, well crafted product but sadly they are usually very expensive and beyond my budget. They may embody fantastic quality due to long life or being highly concentrated and thus lasting longer but the initial expense of that product is too expensive. Consequently, I must then choose a lower quality product that is within my budgetary constraints. My money's vote is for a lower quality product but my want and need is for the higher level product. This is where my active voice must do two things. Communicate to the top level producer an appreciation of their products but also a desire for additional lower priced but high quality products and communicate to the moderate level producer the desire for better quality products but an appreciation of their reasonable price levels.
Of course I choose a third course of action that many do not desire to follow. I experiment and tweak a lower quality product in an effort to transform it into a higher level of performance product. If a product doesn't meet my needs or desires I examine and test ways to change it or modify it. The reviews that I write and the videos I make are also efforts to not only inform others of my point of view on a given product but possibly communicate to the producer and provide feedback. Granted I seriously doubt many product producers ever read or view any of my reviews, but if they do I've done what I could to release into the universe the truth as I see it. I can do no more or less. Which boils down the situation for us all. We can be silent consumers or vocal ones. We can be sheeple in the world and continue to be led around by the nose and herded from place to place or we can stand up and make a statement of what we think and what we feel.
As I have said over and over again, in our world, marketing propaganda abounds. Being aware of the propaganda is the first immunization against it's infection and disease process. Speaking out against the propaganda and manipulation is the next stage of resistance, and finally voting with our monetary votes and communicating to product producers in other ways is the most effective method of molding our product world into what better suits our personal needs and wants. We can complain among ourselves all we want but the message will only be falling on sympathetic but ultimately deaf - ineffective ears.
Good Shaves, Be Happy, Be Safe