While going through vendor links in the 5th edition of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving to make sure they were still working, I began reflecting on the vendors now gone. It struck home particularly with the loss of one artisanal soap vendor this past year (Susan Moore, of Saint Charles Shave, whose daughter Wendy is continuing the operation) and recent illnesses of two others (Krissy of Prairie-Creations.com and Sue of HoneybeeSoaps.net) and Mama Bear’s loss of her home and all its contents in a fire.
I got to thinking about it: many fine products for us traditional wetshavers are made by one- or two-person operations. These little companies, so vulnerable to vicissitudes of daily life, have a cherry-blossom quality: they bloom for a while and then, inevitably, are gone.
It’s a sobering reflection, but no less sobering is the realization that the same is true about ourselves: we get a brief time in the sun, and then must make way for others to have their turn. How do we deal with that?
The most constructive response, it seems to me, is to enjoy our lives as much as we can. Most of us quickly grasp that riotous, undisciplined living soon requires long stretches of time—not enjoyable at all, and in fact quite the opposite—to try to regain and restore one’s finances, health, relationships, employment, and so on. We understand that it’s better (and easier and cheaper) to find and exploit the many small sources of joy that arise in the course our daily lives. For example, we must eat, so it makes sense to find a way to convert that necessity into a source of enjoyment: in planning, in preparing, and in consuming. Eating merely to take on food as fuel foregoes some enjoyment you could have had in your life.
The connection to shaving is obvious, and I subtitled the book Shaving Made Enjoyable to emphasize the idea: if you must shave, then it’s important to figure out a way to make the task a source of enjoyment.
Artisanal products, which enable you to feel a connection with the artisan, can increase the enjoyment and—oddly—at prices that generally are less than those charged by commercial products in which the “artisan” is a corporation.
For example, using a handmade shaving brush, in which you know something of the maker, can be a daily joy. Rod Neep’s brushes, for example, have a distinctive look, and you can order them with a coin in the base, the year specified by you. (Full disclosure: I have already bought brushes for my two grandsons, each getting a coin from the year of his birth.) Peter Hyde uses more traditional English designs for his New Forest brushes. But in either case, when you pick up the brush, you know the story that goes with it.
For razors, you can get fine work from Bob’s Razor Works and Elite Razors—and iKon Razors seems very much an artisanal shop.
With shaving soaps and creams, aftershaves and balms, you have many choices—for example:
• Al’s Shaving
• Em’s Place
• Ginger’s Garden
• Honeybee Soaps
• Kell’s Original
• Mama Bear
• Nanny’s Silly Soap Company (in the UK)
• Prairie Creations
• Queen Charlotte Soaps
• Saint Charles Shave
• The Shave Den
Try using some shaving products that are associated with a person and that have a story. It will make your shave more enjoyable—and that’s the goal.