Local.

Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve been relying on Amazon and other online shopping services for our household needs. One of the neat things about living in a major city is that we often will receive our order the next day, especially when ordering from Amazon. This sort of immediacy is nifty.

However, as it becomes apparent as to how much money Jeff Bezos is making off of these pandemic circumstances, and coupling this with the fact that he’s not really allowing that wealth to trickle down to those on the Amazonian front lines, the ones that really get our deliveries to us the very next day, I’ve started focusing on shopping local.

I’m what I would call an “avid shaver”. After years of having a beard and/or mustache, I settled into a clean shaven routine when I became a private pilot. In many ways this is in remembrance of a discussion I had with my father back at the big airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1984. As we were walking about the airfield, he mentioned that many pilots opt to be well groomed, clean shaved, and with a structured, disciplined demeanor. While I’m sure much of this is due to many pilots of that generation having been in the military at one point or another, I admitted he had a point. Being a good pilot involves a certain amount of calm, cool, discipline, and structure, and outward appearance sometimes reinforces these qualities.

As a clean shaven private pilot, I’ve been purchasing “artisan” shaving products for the past decade or so. I have a Merkur Progress double-edged or “safety” razor. Men in the 1940s through the early 1970s typically shaved with these guys. 10 blades cost less than $2.00. Compare that to your Gillette plastic multi-bladed razor. Back in the early 2000s I purchased shaving brush at a mall kiosk and it has lasted me all these years. I like trying various soaps and creams.

Enter Shavenation.com. I could easily order my shaving supplies through Amazon, but with my focus on local or at least non-big-corporately owned entities, I opted to give “Geofatboy” and his Shavenation electronic storefront a try. He’s located in the suburbs of Chicago, actually just down the street from Chicago Executive Airport, one of the airports I fly out of, and Geofatboy has a bunch of instructional videos online. I placed a small order to give his business a try and it arrived in two days, was well packaged, and met all of my expectations. One of the items in the package was a sampler pack of shave creams from Geo F Trumper; yesterday I used “Spanish Leather” for my shave and this morning I used “Sandalwood”. I’ll probably try something a little more adventurous tomorrow.

Taking a few extra moments every morning to whip up a nice lather with cream and a brush and then slowly shave with a double-edge razor is my meditative and quiet time. The practice centers me and gets me on a productive start to the day. I’m happy to have found Shavenation.com and I’ll probably spend too much money in the future on shaving supplies.

Shaving.

My dad never taught me how to shave. Back then I was slightly bothered by this and considered it a missed father-son ritual moment. I just assumed that I was just too different to have such a moment. But ultimately, over the years my Dad and I had enough father-son moments to make up for it and in the long run it never bothered me (yet here I am talking about it at age 50).

When the stray blond hairs on my chin became long enough that I could actually pull on them, I asked a neighborhood friend that was a couple of years older than me to shave so I could watch him. He did so, quickly and expertly, like he had been doing it forever even though he was 16. I went back home, grabbed my Dad’s can of Barbasol, smeared it on my face and dragged his two-bladed razor across my face. I came out unscathed (save for the sting of the after shave I splashed on my face afterwards) and thinking back, it would be several years before I cut my face shaving (I think that was college when someone in the dorm shower room bumped into me).

Ever since I was a young lad I couldn’t wait for the time when I would start shaving. I found the ritual to be so intriguing. 99% of the men I knew at the time were clean shaven. Shaving like a man would signify that I had graduated to a being taken seriously, not being picked on anymore, and becoming the man that I knew I would be someday. Truth be known, there are some folks that still don’t take me seriously, I was picked on for several years after I started shaving, but overall I think I did pretty good at becoming the man I wanted to be.

The thing is, as I identified and began realizing the outcome of the gay feelings that had been stirring in me since my late single digit years, when I started shaving I identified a certain sensuality when seeing a man shaving his face. Maybe it was the sexually charged Noxzema ads that were on TV at the time, or the fact that many men that I secretly found attractive walked around the screen on television shows and movies in underwear and a t-shirt when they had shaving cream on their face, but as I discovered my sexuality, I discovered that I was fascinated with the practice of a man shaving his face. Though I really enjoy a man with a beard (and I’ve had many beards and other styles of facial hair over the years), there’s something just wicked sexy about a man standing in front of a sink, face lathered up while holding a sharp instrument, shaving.

A couple of years ago I bought a couple prints of men shaving in a sensual or fun setting. They were intended to be wall decorations for the guest washroom. One of the photos had a young man with shaving cream on his face standing behind another man with shaving cream on his face; the former armed with a razor scraping the beard off the latter. It’s a sexy, fun photo.

Photo from 2013 Spring/Summer issue of “Fantastic Man”.

The other day I was messing around Google Lens and took a photo of the photo in question and lo and behold, Google revealed the photo was part of a specific photo shoot. The photo shoot appeared in a 2013 issue of magazine “Fantastic Man”.

“Prominence, virtility, and wisdom are just some of the powers a beard can lend its wearer. It’s undeniably rugged and handsome, but the bearded look has become the one-size-fits-all mask of choice for men over the age of 18. Here we join six long-term beard lovers who have decided it is time for the new! Using the forthcoming heat of summer as an excuse to cast off nature’s balaclava, they eagerly welcome the clean-shaven stranger who lies beneath.”

The rest of the photo shoot is fun, is sexy, and does reveal a different look of the men that shaved off their beards. I know there’s a certain crowd that will shriek about these men deciding to shave off decidedly gorgeous beards, but if nature had intended us to look the same for the entirety of our lives, we wouldn’t change in appearance as time marched on. I think they look hot clean-shaven.

Because of my strong interest in shaving, I’ve also always been fascinated to see how a man shaves. Is he quick, does he take his time. How methodical is he about making sure he’s hitting all the stubble? Having watched several men shave in my life, I’ve never seen two men that do the practice exactly the same. Men start in different places on their face, they put the shaving cream on in differing ways, or they opt to go the quick route and run an electric shaver hurriedly across the face.

Just as no two beards are alike, no two men shave alike.

A couple of years ago I tried to capture my fascination and this razor wielding diversity with photos of my friend Mike shaving. He agreed to the photo shoot, and I was pleased with the results of my first endeavor with this. It was interesting to me to see how he put the gel on his face, how thick the foam was, and the method he employed to maneuver around his mustache.

This is Mike. He was kind of enough to let me photograph him shaving. Mike is a month younger than me and can grow a very impressive beard. He maintains a cop stache these days. He normally shaves everyday and uses Edge with Aloe and a Schick Quattro.

Today I’m wondering if I could capture my keen interest in the subject again by doing additional photo shoots.  It might be something worth exploring in this New Year. In the meanwhile, don’t mind me if I ask you (if you’re a guy) how you shave.

I truly want to know.