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Guest: Leisureguy

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This posts marks the inauguration of a (hopefully!) monthly feature, a “guest post” from someone who is well known in the traditional shaving community.  I’ll be asking them what inspired them to become a traditional shaver and what piece of advice they could offer to someone new to traditional shaving.

This month, Michael (“Leisureguy”) Ham.  Michael’s book is considered the “alpha and omega” of wetshaving technique and information, and his blog is a fixture in the traditional shaving community.

I began “traditional” shaving around 1955, though in those days it was simply “shaving.” I used a Gillette razor with Gillette Blue Blades and Old Spice shaving soap in a mug. I learned from my step-father, but in fact he knew little about shaving himself: the only sources of information commonly available were the ads, which basically simply told us to use their product. We lathered for the first pass only (not knowing better) and did a two-pass shave: lather, one downward pass and then rinse and do an upward pass. We used up many tiny patches of toilet paper staunching nicks.

Eventually we moved to a Schick Injector, which was really no better. As soon as I went to college, I grew a beard and I remained bearded for most of the following years.

For some reason a few years ago I tried a good shaving cream—TOBS, as I recall. It was wonderful, and I wanted to send some to my son, but I didn’t know whether he had a brush. I called, he had only a cheap drugstore brush, so I decided to get him a good brush.

I started Googling around, and I discovered shaving forums—at that time, there seemed to be just two: and I joined both and started reading, amazed. Within a week the letter carrier was delivering a lot of small boxes as I began to accumulate razors, brushes, shaving creams—all sorts of shaving toys.

I wrote a letter to my son, explaining all this, and the body of the letter I posted on my blog and revised and extended the post as I learned more and tried new equipment and methods. Eventually, thanks to pressure from my son-in-law, it became a book.

The biggest difference for me is not so much the quality of the shave that results (definitely better, especially since I disliked shaving so much that I shaved only Mon, Wed, Fri) as the quality of the shaving: instead of shaving being a tedious chore, it is now something that I actively enjoy and anticipate with pleasure. The big payoff is being able to enjoy your morning shave.

Advice for a new shaver:

Beyond the book, I think the shaving forums are very helpful, and now there are several from which to choose. And, of course, the major directions:

  • Take your time applying the lather and letting it soften the beard.
  • Use LIGHT pressure.
  • Keep the blade almost parallel to the skin being shaved so that the edge connects at right angles with the whiskers.
  • Use short strokes at first so you can pay attention to pressure and angle.

Remember: Because you get daily practice, you will rapidly improve your skill (just as all music teachers say).


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

2 thoughts on “Guest: Leisureguy”

  1. Like this new feature.

    Mike's experience mirrored mine when I started shaving in 1956. I never stopped shaving – just began to use every product Gillette came up with but with just so and so results.

    A few years ago I finally learned how to shave. However, my collection of razors, creams, soaps, etc. seems to grow despite the fact that I am getting a good shave with what I use.

  2. Great new feature…and from my two shaving heroes! Though I had met my first DE back in the early 2002, it was using Michael's budgeting worksheets and cooking advice a few years later that I really got hooked into old school shaving….which led to watching some videos a few years later! You both rock!


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