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The Effects Of Experience: A Groundhog Day Ritual

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In the US, 2 February each year is celebrated as “Groundhog Day.” It’s a memorable day (especially for those who have enjoyed the movie of the same name), and I hit upon the idea of an annual timed shave on that day.
When I first resumed DE shaving some years ago, I found that a shave easily took 20-25 minutes. (I was very careful.) As I continued to shave daily, I naturally gained experience and also gradually dropped from the routine things that seemed after a while to be cumbersome. For example, I started with building lather in a lathering bow, which was useful: I could study the lather as it formed and work out the right ratios of water and shaving cream. (I didn’t use soap at first: couldn’t get it to lather well. Finally I stopped using shaving cream altogether to force myself to learn how to lather soap.)
After using the bowl for some months, I moved to lathering on my beard, skipping the bowl. That seemed to go faster, give me more time to spend softening my beard, and removed a bowl from the bathroom counter, which was getting crowded with soaps, brushes, and the like.
At any rate, after some time I figured my shave was down to 15 minutes, more or less, but when someone asked me specifically, “How long does your shave take?”, I timed it and was surprised to discover at that point I was taking 8 minutes exactly, from turning on the water to wash my beard with a high-glycerin soap as a pre-shave until I slapped on the aftershave.
I was surprised because I was not rushing the shave—indeed, I felt like I was taking my time, shaving leisurely and enjoying the process fully. But the gradual accumulation of experience and constant daily practice had produced an efficiency I hadn’t realized.
Over the next few weeks, I timed my shave repeatedly, and it always came out within a few seconds of 8 minutes. Interesting.
So I dutifully responded to questions of “How long does a DE shave take?” from my own experience: “20-25 minutes at the beginning, but 8 minutes now.”
For some reason I was challenged on this, so I timed my shave again a week ago, the first time I’d timed it for a couple of years. The shave now turned out to take 5 minutes 19 seconds. Yet I felt I was doing exactly the same leisurely shave as always, not rushing myself or trying to set a record, just taking my time to enjoy the shave.

Practice really does produce improvement.

So over at Wicked_Edge, I’m starting an annual Groundhog Day post so that guys can time their shaves once a year and post the current time. It’s most definitely not a competition, and no one should (ever) rush his shave: take your time, shave as usual, but time it. How long from turning on the tap to begin until you apply aftershave?
This first year will be only mildly interesting, but a year from now we’ll see how practice perfects performance and undoubtedly see the times drop—as they will continue to drop, albeit more slowly, each following year until they stabilize. Who knows? In another year or two I might break the 4-minute shave.


Michael Ham, author of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way, is retired and follows his interests in shaving and shaving products, cooking and creating recipes, reading books and watching movies. His blog,, reflects those interests. He can be found on Mastodon at [email protected].View Author posts