Monday, July 31, 2017

Contemplating RAD: Razor-Acquisition Disorder

I happened to catch a YouTube video recently on TheShaveBusta channel in which TheShaveBusta discusses his five or six traditional straight razors, as well as how he intends to acquire more.

This video got me to ruminating on acquisition disorder, which is a common shaving-hobbyist malady -- certainly one that I've dealt with. I decided I'd share some of my thoughts with you today.

When I was wrestling with my double-edge (DE) RAD, I took a hard look in the mirror and tried to be brutally honest with myself about what was underlying this compulsion to acquire new razors.

For me personally, I think that my RAD always had its roots in my fundamental lack of complete satisfaction with my shaves. I enjoyed the DE-shaving process and I enjoyed the fundamental economy of the DE hardware and making lather from soap. I also came to really enjoy a quality shave outcome -- especially a close shave. But my compulsion to acquire ever more DE razors was really about trying find that better mouse trap. Similar to Goldilocks' search for porridge that was just right, most of the razors that I acquired over time were either too baby-bear mild or too papa-bear aggressive. I never could find my just-right DE razor. The outcome was a burgeoning stable of razors, many of which I liked but didn't love.

Oh, I do understand the variety-is-the-spice-of-life and I'm-a-collector arguments supporting acquisition disorders, but in my case, that didn't really apply. At least it wasn't really the primary reason for my razor procurements.

Further complicating my RAD was my underlying, conflicting interest in simplifying my life by reducing the burden of having, storing, or working around unnecessary things. Also, the thrifty part of me recognized the absurdity of having double-digit quantities of razors, when I actually only need one good one. After all, where's the economy in having (and paying for) over a dozen redundant shaving instruments?

Okay, okay, I know; I'm a shaving hobbyist, so I might get a little leeway in having variety in my shaving gear, but there is a reasonable limit.

And I think I've found that limit with my DE razors -- and all my razors, actually. As far as DE razors go, my Parker Variant is the razor I'd have if I could only have one. I acquired my Ming Shi 2000S just to see if it was any good and to explore the Merkur Futur design without laying out big bucks. However, that one turned out to be a very nice option, so I decided to keep that close at hand as well. The Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements' double-open-comb razor, I acquired unintentionally, but it's interesting and functional enough that it's the third leg supporting my DE-shaving platform. Three DE razors are more than enough variety to keep me interested.

Parker Variant ADJUSTABLE Double Edge Safety Razor and 5 Shark Super Chrome Blades - (Satin Chrome)  (Amazon link)

I do also have a fourth DE razor that is essentially a keepsake: my father's Gillette Slim Adjustable. I shave with it on special days in homage to dear departed dad, despite the fact that I really don't love its shave character. Ironically, this razor was my first DE and the one that set me on my quest to find the optimal DE razor, which the Slim clearly wasn't, and which led me down the RAD rabbit hole.

But then I tried the straight-razor experiment. This began with a barbers' razor, then another -- all in the academic interest of exploring the straight-shaving discipline and the two major barber-razor designs (sliding push type and pivoting clasp type). This did not lead to RAD. Instead I kept the barbers' razor that I liked best and allowed someone else to acquire the other. I have zero inclination to get other barbers' razors; the one I have is just fine: my Parker PTB, which I've mentioned many times in previous articles.

I finally came to the point that triggered my interest in traditional wet shaving many, many years ago: the traditional straight razor. This, too, has been a successful experiment. I'm now shaving (part of the time) with the shaving implement that is the most ancient (that is, ignoring stone-fragment blades) and the most ecologically responsible.

But to take us back to where this article began, with TheShaveBusta's professed interest in acquiring even more traditional straight razors.... well, whatever dude. Yet I don't get it. Even the variety-is-the-spice-of-life thing seems to wear thin when contemplating acquiring more than a half dozen straights. After all, the shave character of a straight is largely dependent on the user, not the design of the blade -- although I do acknowledge some design differences that can offer a slightly different performance experience.

I, personally, have no desire to acquire more razors than I have. For me, it's the just-right quantity. Three nice-shaving DEs for variety -- two adjustable and one unique open-comb design (the PAA DOC, double open comb, that in its way is a bit adjustable as well. As for my straights, I've a very pleasant-to-use vintage traditional straight and a much-enjoyed shavette for when the vintage straight needs honing or just for a change of pace. The Gillette adjustable, as I said, is merely still at hand for sentimental reasons.

When I try to fully understand both my own previous DE RAD and others' RAD -- particularly when it comes to straight razors of the same general design (that is, barber or traditional), I tend to suspect that the acquisition compulsion is a type of not-quite-healthy psychological stimulation. It is kind of like a constant Christmas season as one contemplates, then orders, then anticipates, then uses, then becomes bored with new gear and accessories -- at which point the cycle repeats. When I meditate on my own and others' shopping impulses, I get a glimpse into those poor souls whose homes fill up with unnecessary stuff because of their compulsive buying on TV shopping channels and via Internet sellers.

Maybe our psychological stimulation is another characteristic of our time: many choices, disposable income, and, just maybe, a bit of boredom in our daily lives. I'm not here to judge, so to each his own. It's a relatively harmless compulsion, this RAD -- as long as you have the income to buy, the space to store, and a spouse who tolerates your disorder.

So what do you think? Have you contemplated your own RAD with complete honesty? Is it just variety and experimentation that fuels it, or in part is it something else that we may not want to fully recognize? I'm interested to hear any thoughts on the issue. Comments are most welcome.

Happy shaving!

1 comment:

  1. My RAD was pretty bad when I first started out. I just had to have what everyone was talking about. However over the last few months it came down to finding that perfect razor. Ironically, it came down to the cheap Lord L6 mounted on a Maggard MR1 handle ( This razor continues to deliver perfect shaves for me. The second major discovery for me was the soap that I was using. The soaps made by Mason Boutique have proven to be excellent and really make the "Lord Maggard" razor sing. This, sadly, has killed my "soap acquisition disorder" also. Right now I am suffering from "blade acquisition disorder". I have enough blades in the closet to last me well into the next century!