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The Cure for "AD"s

04 Sep

Perhaps the least attractive aspect of this wetshaving world is the near constant encouragement to get things. Razors, brushes, all of the gear associated with this hobby (if that is what it truly is) all have their own "Acquisition Disorder" (or AD). RAD, SAD, BAD, they all stand for one thing: the measurement of fun in terms of how much stuff you get.

I myself was a quick study, and severe sufferer, of ADs of all shape and size. Razors both safe and not, soaps, and above all stones all served to feed the "passion" I felt about my newfound hobby.

It's all over now.

What happened, you may ask? How did I shed the endless desire to buy more and more stuff?

Well, as a wise man once said, we covet that which we see. The reason we want, that we acquire, is that we see what our neighbor has (be it a comely wife or a beautiful wedge) and we think "That would look really nice in my hands." So it stands to reason that one of the main driving forces behind our raging need to get more stuff is the all the pretty stuff we see every day. The SOTD threads, the "Hey, guys, look at this awesome thing!" posts, the hushed discussions of legendary razors stashed away in some out-of-the-way fleamarket stall...it is all as addictive as any drug. And of course, the gratification we get when all those pople see our new purchase and tell us how envious they are (Send it my way, I'll get rid of it for you! :P ;DLOL!!!1!)...it is effective. It's skinnerian positive reinforcement at its most basic level. It feels good, man.

I fell hard into that trap, wanting to try what everyone else was raving about, wanting to get what no one else had so I could tell them about it. Of course, in the beginning, pure novelty was as big an influence as anything else. When you've never even touched a straight razor, any new one is pretty awesome to you. But as time goes by, as you realize that you can only shave a limited number of times, and that there really is only so much talking about it you can do, the focus shifts from the novelty of the experience in and of itself, and to the gear involved. It goes from being a new way to enjoy a great shave, and becomes a way to demonstrate your worth through the things you can buy. It also, and this is very important, a way to join the club. You can tell everyone "Hey, I got one of those too! Let me be in on it!" whenever you see someone talking about their new Filarmonica or Kronik. Whatever the reason, though, shaving is the last thing people are really thinking about when they buy a new razor.

There are, of course, legitimate aesthetic and historical reasons behind a lot of purchases. I do not for one minute regret purchasing the Tamahagane Iwasaki straight I have, because I admire its maker deeply and appreciate the history and the mastery that went into making it. I feel similarly for my Tanifuji straights, or the work of the nameless man behind my Fuji. These are the works of true master crafstmen. Collectors, real collectors who understand and appreciate their collections for the history and context they represent, have a certain mania to them that goes beyond ADs. But just buying, razor after razors, brush after brush...it's not right.

I did it, and it wasn't right.

But I stopped. Not only did I stop buying (I haven't bought any razor related goods besides replacement safety razor blades in three months) I stopped wanting to buy, for one simple reason. I stopped looking.

There's no more reason for me to look. I have the razors that mean the most to me. I have tried more hones than any man should. It was purest greed and materialism that drove me past that point, and once I realized it I knew I was being childish. giving in to temptation. So I removed the unnecessary temptation. I stopped looking at razors on eBay, I stopped visiting hone shops, I stopped browsing razor sellers' sites...I haven't even logged into a wetshaving forum for a couple of months.

All I have now is this blog, and Sharpologist.com because I still do write for Mantic, and the razors and stones I already have, which is pretty much enough for me.

What's enough for you?



re: the cure for AD

I didn't cannonball into AD as hard as some, but I did spend a bunch of evenings scouting the local pharmacies and cosmetics shops in search of DE blades, soaps, and cologne.  I guess it's my upbringing that keeps me from going too far.  I can hear my father and grandfather saying, "Are you crazy?!  You paid what for that?"  But more than that, I prefer my life to be uncomplicated.  After a while, I get sick of spending time and energy on a frivolous quest for the ideal blades, soaps, and cologne when I'm actually quite happy with my Crystals, VdH Deluxe, and AV Musk.  That's how it has been in other pursuits too.  I survey the field, try the yardstick products to get a feel for what's considered the best, then eventually settle into a bang-for-the-buck product that meets my needs.


on finding the simple (but not necessary easy) solution of 'not looking'. I still look, although my criteria have increased drastically and thus I buy next to nothing. 

Luckily I never had any AD for brushes, I have six, including one synthetic I got as a present and don't use. The others are three badgers (one in pure, one fancy schmancy three-band and one two band), one horse and a boar. I'm set there and could possibly live with the horse brush alone and not regret it.

I still have some razors on my 'want list', but I'm not desperate, and hardly look to buy anymore. I wished my standards were this high to begin with, but as you said: in the beginning every razor is exciting - which does help you find the razors you like and dislike.

I am still looking to try out a handful of soaps, creams and aftershaves, simply because I haven't done so yet. Luckily there's no love for perfumey/smelly thingies in our house.

I have a good six hones, all of them natural, four of which are relatively small coticules of various strata. They give me the best edges I could ask for (although I might try out a japanese natural hone sometime in the future).

I do not envy people with so-called 'shaving libraries' with every possible razor type, soap, AS, sharpening device, etc. one bit. I think that's just, well, silly to put it in the least offensive way I can think of.

Anyway, thanks for the good read Jim, you have a nice blog going on here.

(sorry for my lengthy reply, I'm a bit 'wordy'. I hope you don't mind)

No apologies necessary!

Thank you for your kind words, and your thoughtful comment, Pieter.

It can be a tricky thing, to navigate the fields of temptation when it comes to any kind of hobby. I am almost beginning to think it is an inherent danger of the particular kind of community we find building on the internet.

I have recently taken up the 5-string banjo. It's a pleasant enough hobby, simple to get the basics and enjoyable to sit and pick out a tune for fun. But when I started looking at Banjo related forums, what did I discover? "Banjo Buying Disease!" Can you imagine? These are instruments that, for a decent model, start at US$1000, yet people still buy and buy and buy. Why? Because the social aspect of music, playing with a band and with friends, has become linked with the faux-social aspect of the internet forum, and a significant way to share experiences with your comrades is by talking about gear...and you see where I'm going from here. The same happened on a Japanese Hone BBS I visit. (In Japanese it's called "Toishi? Byou", the "Hone sickness.")

So you, my friend, are lucky, or perhaps you just have enough strength of character, that you did not fall into the AD abyss. It's waiting there for so many...

All that being said, if you ever do feel like trying a Japanese hone I've got a couple of good ones for sale that seem to have gone unnoticed for some time now. ;)


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