I got started wet shaving with a simple gift. My wife visited a boutique type soap company in our, then at least, hometown of Enterprise, Alabama. http://stores.homestead.com/bwsoap/StoreFront.bokShe purchased soaps for gifts for family and for herself. The gift for me was a puck of shaving soap, a mug (really just a coffee cup), and a very cheap (vice inexpensive) boar hair shaving brush. So, with that small start I realized that I enjoyed the process of building lather in a mug and brushing it all over my face. I still used my Gillette multi-bladed Sensor and then Mach 3. I soon replaced that horrible brush with a very durable boar bristle (very stiff and scrubby) brush sold then at Wally World under the Burma Shave brand. I marveled at how good my face felt when I learned that "face lathering" worked very well to exfoliate my skin. Then came the deployments. I spent a year in Iraq where, like it or not, and I didn't, I was forced to be clean shaven, with no respite, for a year. I suffered irritation, ingrown hairs, and a hatred of shaving. A year and a half back in the states with changing blades every 5 shaves and not shaving on weekends helped with everything but the hatred. When another year long deployment came, I dreaded the results would be the same so I did some more research. I discovered some amazing people, via the internet, who not only didn’t hate shaving but actually treated it like it was a hobby. People who make statements like “I wish my beard would grow faster so I could shave again sooner” or “I just finished shaving when the package arrived. Darn it, now I have to wait until tomorrow until I can try this new shaving soap.” I was pleasantly surprised that there were websites such as The Leisure Guy’s Blog (http://leisureguy.wordpress.com/) where this guy actually reviews shaving products no less. Another crazy blogger (http://mantic59.blogspot.com/) actually makes videos showing people how to shave properly (http://www.youtube.com/user/mantic59). Through these two loons I found a group of 15,000 other people who had posted over 1 million messages on forums dedicated to shaving http://www.badgerandblade.com/ . One million messages about shaving? How in the heck is that even possible? Well, if you go there and read, you’ll soon realize that it is not just about shaving; there are opinions there on high end wristwatches, fine cigars, scotch, knives and even a Ginger vs. Mary Anne thread. But, for the most part, they share knowledge, opinions, experiences, and reviews of how to shave, and what equipment and consumables seem to work best. A little before I joined Badger & Blade, and because of reviews by leisureguy and Mantic59, I purchased a Merkur Progress adjustable safety razor from Lee’s Razors (http://www.leesrazors.com). I proceeded to try to learn how to use it correctly on my own and after nicking the bejesus out of myself for a week or so I found B&B and then my learning really commenced. I found photos of what a proper lather was supposed to look like and a tutorial on how to make it using either soap or cream. I discovered that I had been applying too much pressure (many advocate NO pressure) because of the years shaving with the multi-bladed monstrosities from Gillette. I learned that many of these guys search EBay for vintage Gillette razors and freely offer advice on which ones they think are best. I also discovered their Buy/Sell/Trade forums which might have saved me a few dollars on the Progress I purchased. The most amazing discovery was PIFs, or Pay It Forwards. These amazing gentlemen, as they find a razor they like better than their current model or a better example for a collection, simply give newbies like myself some of their old equipment and supplies. I was shocked to receive in the mail a box or razors from a complete stranger who carefully packed them all up and mailed them to me gratis.But, back to the shaving; now that I’m learning daily how to improve my technique and learning more about my beard, the tough spots and the grain, I look forward to my daily shave. So much so, that while on R&R leave in April, I continued to shave daily even though my wife usually enjoys me growing a goatee while on leave. I have not had an ingrown hair since I’ve begun. The splotchy patches on my neck and the bumps along my jaw line are gone. My skin is clearer and more supple. Some of this can be attributed to the additional time and care which I now take while shaving, but most is due to a proper shaving technique with good equipment. I remember a time circa 1965 when I was 4 and watching my dad prepare for his daily shave. I watched him go through his routine and when he was done he helped me lather up, removed the blade from his double edge Gillette and then, probably laughing inwardly, watched as I scraped the lather off with the bladeless razor. He told me later that his Dad and brothers had taught him how to shave. Looking back I realize that nobody showed me how to shave properly. My first shave was in the era of the Gillette Trac II and Dad must have figured it was so easy to use that I didn’t need to be taught. So, part of the lure of this style of shaving is the link to days of past, standing beside my late father and looking up at him in awe. There is a ritual to the process and some indulgence that cannot be discounted, but that nostalgic pull is considerable. I hope that my son will learn to shave by watching me and with me right there beside him as he learns to do it well. There are too few masculine only activities that Fathers and Sons can share for me to allow that future event to pass without ceremony. I’d like for his first razor to be a special one; perhaps a vintage Gillette from my birth year but razors from 1913 and later are available also. Then again, I’ve recently bought a shave ready Geneva (New York) Cutlery Company (GENCO 1902-1935) straight razor. As I learn to use the straight, perhaps my little man will yearn for that connection to me. Either way he learns I hope to be there and to help him learn each step along the way.Now shaving is still part of my daily routine but now they are more leisurely and enjoyable. I program in thirty minutes so that I can properly prepare my face and whiskers and then to reduce those whiskers in multiple passes. Afterwards I treat myself to some old fashioned aftershave, Pinaud Clubman, Aqua Velva, Bay Rum or the like. The aromas are reminiscent of the barbershops of my youth and nothing kicks in nostalgia stronger than aromas.So that’s my story. That is how I got started wet shaving. How about you?
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