My AD Cure

Three Months In

Within three months of my first wetshave, this is what I had bought.

Perhaps the least attractive aspect of this wetshaving game is the near constant encouragement to get things. Razors, brushes, all of the gear associated with this hobby (if that is what it truly is) all have their own “Acquisition Disorder” (or AD). RAD, SAD, BAD, they all stand for one thing: the measurement of fun in terms of how much stuff you buy.

I myself was a quick study, and became a true sufferer of ADs of all shape and size. Razors both safe and not, soaps, and above all stones all served to feed the “passion” I felt about my newfound hobby.

It’s all over now.

What happened, you may ask? How did I shed the endless desire to buy more and more stuff?

Well, as a wise man once said, we covet that which we see. The reason that we want, that we feel driven to acquire, is that we see what our neighbor has (be it a comely wife or a beautiful wedge) and we think “That would look really nice in my hands.” So it stands to reason that one of the main driving forces behind our raging need to get more stuff is the all the pretty stuff we see every day. The SOTD threads, the “Hey, guys, look at this awesome thing!” posts, the hushed discussions of legendary razors stashed away in some out-of-the-way fleamarket stall…it is all as addictive as any drug. And of course, the gratification we get when all those people see our new purchase and tell us how envious they are (Send it my way, I’ll get rid of it for you! :P ;DLOL!!!1!)…it is effective. It’s skinnerian positive reinforcement at its most basic level. It feels good, man. It feels validating.

I fell hard into that trap, wanting to try what everyone else was raving about, wanting to get what no one else had so I could tell them about it, wanting to feel that dopamine bump. Of course, in the beginning, pure novelty was as big an influence as anything else. When you’ve never even touched a straight razor, any new one is pretty awesome to you. And the shaving creams, oh the creams–all those scents and ingredients and the traditional old labels and the hot new brands…

But as time goes by, as you realize that you can only shave a limited number of times a day, and that there really is only so much talking about it you can do, and the focus shifts from the experience in and of itself, solely to the gear involved. It goes from being a new way to enjoy a great shave, and becomes a way to demonstrate your worth through the things you can buy. It is also, and this is very important, a way to join the club. You can tell everyone “Hey, I got one of those too! Let me be in on it!” whenever you see someone talking about their new Filarmonica or Kronik or Shavemac. Whatever the reason, though, shaving is the last thing people are really thinking about when they buy a new razor, or brush, or even soap.

There are, of course, legitimate aesthetic and historical reasons behind a lot of purchases. I do not for one minute regret purchasing the Tamahagane Iwasaki straight I have, because I admire its maker deeply and appreciate the history and the mastery that went into making it. I feel similarly for my Tanifuji straights, or the work of the nameless man behind my Fuji. These are the works of true master crafstmen. Collectors, real collectors who understand and appreciate their collections for the history and context they represent, have a certain mania to them that goes beyond ADs. But just buying, razor after razor, brush after brush…it’s not right.

I did it, and it wasn’t right.

But I stopped. Not only did I stop buying (I haven’t bought any razor related goods besides replacement safety razor blades in three months), I stopped wanting to buy, for one simple reason. I stopped looking.

There’s no more reason for me to look. I have the razors that mean the most to me. I have tried more hones than any man should. It was only unbridled  materialism that drove me past that point, and once I realized it I knew I was being childish. I was giving in to temptation. So I removed the unnecessary temptation. I stopped looking at razors on eBay, I stopped visiting hone shops, I stopped browsing razor sellers’ sites…I haven’t even logged into a wetshaving forum for a couple of months.

All I have now is my blog, Sharpologist.com and the razors and stones I already have, which is pretty much enough for me.

So, how much is enough for you?

JimR (10 Posts)

Jim Rion is a slightly obsessive straight razor shaver and honer. He lives in Japan, and has made it his goal to learn everything there is to be learned about Japanese razors and honing stones. You can read about what he's found so far at Eastern Smooth, and follow him on Twitter @EasternSmooth. He's also been known to play the odd video game and write the odd short story.


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Comments

  1. I hear ya. I’m new to “wet” shaving (I still can’t use that term with a straight face), but I’ve played acoustic music for almost 30 years and I’ve gone through countless numbers of instruments. So, I’ve been able to recognize AD early on. (eBay is my real weakness!) I finally broke my AD with instrymments when I realized that I spent far more time dreaming/wanting/posting/shopping etc. than I did practing. Rather than spending time on the craft itself, I spent most of my time on everything peripheral. Once I convinced myself to learn to use what I already have, then I found that, even though I wasn’t happy with everything all of the time, I was satisfied most of the time and I was getting better, learning more and enjoying myself more.

    So, as the man said, love the one your with.

  2. Tim McDonough says:

    I might have given the advice a wee bit more credence had the “wise man” quoted not been Dr. Hannibal Lecter!

    I, too, was afflicted with the ADs during my first year of traditional wet shaving; creams, soaps and brushes. I have leveled off, partly due to the epiphany that I had but one face to shave (once a day) and partly due to being very satisfied with the products I have selected.

    Now I troll the forums and do some bottom feeding when there is a good buy/sell/trade or vendor sale – but I have achieved equilibrium and will remain stable until a couple of products are used up. I will only replace those that I feel are superior. YMMV

    • Ah, I’ve been caught out! But then, wisdom is wisdom, though it drip from the tongues of fictional cannibals. ;)

      I have found that the very act of trolling the forum awakes thoughts of “Hey, that looks nice, maybe I should try it. I have the money…” and that way lies madness.

      Jim

  3. But why would one want to cure acquisition disease? :)

    At least mine is mostly confined to soaps.

  4. Your right I’m gonna stop looking…after I order my next brush :)

  5. I did the same thing with bikes. I kept looking and looking, trying to find the next awesome bike, and like the prized razor in the back of a flea market, I was looking for cool bikes for killer prices.

    Then I began to realize that I had a stable of great bikes that I loved to ride, and there wasn’t any reason to clutter up my apartment with more bikes that I couldn’t ride because I had too many already.

    When you realize you’ve reached the point of satisfaction, that’s zen.

    • Bikes! Egads, that would be a real killer, especially in an apartment.

      But I think I might disagree on one point–zen would be finding satisfaction before you start getting stuff, wouldn’t it? Drinking tea from an empty cup, as it were?

      Jim

  6. Paul Frazier says:

    Amen. This truth can be applied to many areas of our life. Thanks for the post.

  7. Well said. My AD pattern was similar, and like yours eventually it ran its course. Eventually you discover that what you are thinking of acquiring is not substantially different from something you already had. You can no longer rationalize the purchase as being nothing like anything in your shave den already. Space limitations arise as well. When the next razor or brush means you can no longer line them up neatly on their current shelf or wherever you keep them, you have to decide if that next piece is really worth reorganizing your whole bathroom. Finally, if you like the pieces you currently have, and use them in any sort of “standard” rotation, you can end up going months between uses of one of your favored instruments. It actually becomes harder to enjoy your collection.

    This is the only shave related website I visit. I don’t go to the forums and I don’t share photos of my equipment or acquisitions to others. My wife and daughters are the only ones who go into my bathroom, and they are unimpressed with my collection. It was never about showing off my acquisitions for me. I acquired new items because they looked interesting or different from what I had and might increase my enjoyment of this daily practice/hobby. But eventually that acquisition curve plateaus for all of these reasons and those you elegantly discussed. Even if cost is not a concern (though these items run a fairly wide range of prices, it is certainly easier to collect shaving gear than German automobiles), eventually most people settle down and the novelty wears off. And then you focus on enjoying the experience, and realize you can do so without continuing to horde gear. People may have different limits. It might be 3 razors/brushes/soaps, it might be 30, or 300. I’ve not sworn off buying anything new. If I see something that sparks an interest or is substantially different from what I own, I may buy it. But I’m not seeking it out actively, and the threshold is much higher than when I was just starting with this hobby.

    • A well thought out, and accurate, comment. Thank you, Dr. K. In regards to the space problem, I think a bad sign is when you have to remodel the bathroom to accomodate a shaving regimen…

      I’ve seen it happen, to better men than I.

      Jim

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