By Robert (Bob) A. Battles
My answer to that question has shifted with life’s twists and turns, and most notably with this pandemic.
Back in high school/college (in the early 80’s) I shaved mainly with an electric Norelco razor and my aftershave of choice was Hai Karate’ Oriental Lime. After college I shifted to cartridge razors and canned shave foam. Shaving was a chore that one needed to accomplish to start the day. It was part of a checklist -nothing more than a daily routine like brushing your teeth. In fact, it was less so because you could skip it if you wanted to.
Shaving became more and more of a chore. This remained the case until about 6 years ago when my wife and I were at an artisan fair in Ocean Shores, Washington. We happened upon a small company called Fox Island Trading Co., an inspiring locally-sourced business. My family bought me a starter set of their bay rum aftershave, shave puck and a generic badger brush in a custom wood box. I still used a cartridge razor, but shaving become just a little more fun. About six months later I purchased my first DE razor. It was a Parker 96R.
For the next couple of years, I would use up a shave soap and aftershave before I purchased another set. In December of 2019 I had one DE razor, one shave soap puck, and one bottle of aftershave. At a pre-New Year’s Day gathering, with my good friends Dan Diachenko and Kevin Kallish, we found that we shared a common interest. On that day, Dan and I discovered we each enjoy wet shaving, and, for the first time, we introduced Kevin to it. Dan invited Kevin and I to several Facebook shave sites and that same day I invited my brother-in-law, Duane Rhodes, to the shave sites. But that seems like a lifetime ago. It was before most of the world had heard about the COVID 19 pandemic.
In January 2020, Dan loaned me seven different razors to try. It was amazing. I fell in love with his Gem Micromatic. Shortly after trying it I purchased my second safety razor which is my first vintage razor, a 1930s Gem Micromatic. It still had the original tags on it, but that is a different story for a different day.
As we moved further into 2020, the world began to realize that COVID 19 was more than a footnote on history. By March 2020 the world was shutting down. We did not know how to treat this new pandemic. We asked our frontline workers to step up and continue to supply the world with food and other needs. We asked our health care workers to face what appeared to be an abyss with what must have felt like no hope. During this time, and even with all the upheaval, our world became smaller.
Slowly routines changed and habits changed. Days of the week blended. We stopped meeting friends and family in person. Gathering involved computers and phones. People stopped doing their daily routines.
Many stopped shaving.
While my work continued, much of it moved online. I am deeply aware of the difficulties others faced. I’m grateful for my job, my community, and the stability I was able to maintain. During this time, I made a conscious decision to keep shaving. I found comfort in the routine. From December 2019 to May of 2021, my razor collection grew from 1 razor to over 25 razors. My brushes went from 1 generic badger to 14 brushes including badger, boar, horsehair and synthetic. My shave soap and aftershave went from 1 aftershave and 1 soap to over 50 of each. You might say wet shaving became a passion
During these uncertain times I joined over 25 Facebook shave sites whose members are located all over the world. I also discovered many excellent artisan soap makers throughout the world. One of the best is an amazing company that took my joy for wet shaving and turned it into a passion. That company is Wet Shaving Products (WSP) in Chandler, Arizona. I can’t get enough of their unsurpassed quality and innovative, complex scents. They are a small company that makes you feel like you are family. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. So, while I enjoy my passion, I can also support the economy.
As my passion grows, I have the honor of connecting with shave friends throughout the world. Shaving has proven to me that we are more alike than we are different. I have made connections with men and women who are passionate about shaving like me in Hungary, Israel, Canada, UK, Germany, Denmark, Romania, Ireland, India, China, Australia, and the list goes on. My point is that we all shave, and we all love a good razor, brush, aftershave, and shave soap.
I learned that my shave friends throughout the world get just as excited as I do when one of us posts on the Facebook groups about a Shave of the Day (SOTD) or a mail call. It is a real bond that transcends differences. We can connect on a core level. In some cases, we can connect with our past. A perfect example is when my cousin sent me my great grandfather’s straight razor. What an amazing connection!
So, I ask again- To Shave or Not to Shave? My answer is most definitely to Shave!! I shave for normalcy, I shave for routine, I shave for connection, and most importantly I shave for hope. Remember to enjoy the simple things in life: Family; friends; and a good shave-stay safe my worldwide shave friends.