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Rediscovering My Heritage Through Shaving

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Brian, His Mom, Simone, me

I am a convert to wet shaving since September, 2010.  My Dad taught me how to shave with canned foam and a DE razor.  I went electric for many years and I think my beard became tougher in middle age, which instigated my return to wet shaving.
You’ve heard it before:  couldn’t get a decent shave with an electric, even with new cutters; tried cartridges again, they clogged; got sticker shock at the prices of replacement cartridges, checked out DE razors and got hooked, yadda, yadda, yadda.


I always knew my father’s father was a barber (the fights about hair length in the 70s burned that fact into my brain). Grandpa’Nicchi had lost his shop in The Depression and then always worked for someone else after that.  He had cut hair with a young Polish man named Al who eventually grew up to become my father’s (and my) barber in my childhood.  Al was a great guy, a very good barber and very old school but I’ve had my hair cut by many different barbers of various nationalities since and I have to keep asking:  why does it seem to me that Italians make the best barbers?
We’d had Grandpa’Nicchi’s shears, wet stones, barber’s towels, and straight razors around the house when I was a boy, but my Dad only ever used the barber towels.  Over the years, Grandpa’Nicchi’s accoutrements of barbering have become lost to time somehow; I’d really like to be able to shave with one of his straight razors for sentimental reasons.
This brings me to my point:  once I had rediscovered traditional wet shaving, I was espousing its virtues and pleasures to my older sister one evening and she asked me whether I was channeling our grandfather.  She said that I had become so into wet shaving and had learned so much that it was as if I had made some connection to Grandpa’Nicchi.  He passed away before I was born but my father was always a wealth of stories about his father.
Were I to eventually come across Grandpa’Nicchi’s razors, it would serve as a way to connect with him in a way I’d never thought.  Were his protégé Al still alive and cutting hair, I would appreciate that connection to Grandpa’Nicchi through Al at this point in my life but Al is gone many years already.
I own a Fatboy, a Gillette adjustable 195; it has a D4 date code (1958, 4th quarter), so it’s a birth year razor for me.  My Dad shaved with a Fatboy and that’s another reason I got one.  Dad’s was lost somehow over the years.  It was a way to also connect through performing a daily ritual, which I associated with him.
Without a son of my own to whom to pass on the knowledge & skill of traditional shaving, and not yet having a grandson (my bride-to-be eldest will fix that in a few years, I hope), I looked toward my nephew, my sister’s youngest of two sons.  We were all together at my sister’s home in Arizona for this past Christmas.
Brian is a drummer for an Atlanta-based rock/ska/reggae band who shaves infrequently (I guess as musicians are wont to do).  I had no idea what to get him as a Christmas gift, so I decided to buy him a starter DE razor.  I bought him a Parker 22 Gunmetal.  I’d had one and liked it so much I’d given it to a friend as his starter razor.  Of course, this reignited my smoldering Shaving Acquisition Disorders and, by the time I was done, I’d had bought him an AoS sample kit, DE blades, a rubber shaving mug and soap.  During our visit, I showed him how to shave properly, based on my knowledge acquired from Mantic59’s videos, and my readings on Badger & Blade. His first shave, guided by me, was an eye-opener for Brian.  He’d never had so close a shave which actually felt good. He was instantly hooked.  He made sure that he shaved again three days later, before returning home to his family in the Atlanta area.  He immediately was bitten by a BAD:  brush acquisition disorder (with which, incidentally, he shares initials).  He had to have a better brush than that in an AoS starter kit and ordered one.  Or, was it two?
Now that he and I have something father and son-like to share, I intend to unashamedly pander to any shaving acquisition disorder he may develop.  He doesn’t know it yet, but for his birthday he’s getting a birth year Gillette razor and a rebuilt (by me) Opal shaving brush, both in his favorite color:  black.
Ted Pettinicchi
PS:  Simone is my beloved SWMBO.


2 thoughts on “Rediscovering My Heritage Through Shaving”

  1. Great story! I share your opinion about “Italian Barbers” but I have to say that there are also some very good “Turkish Barbers” and “English Barbers”.
    The problem you mentioned with cartridges (easily clogging), was always a big issue for me, but I rarely see it discussed. I imagine if you shave every day, it’s probably less of a problem.

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