Sometimes the Old Ways Are Better

I’ve been accused by a friend of always wanting to jump on the latest whiz-bang technology and the accusation isn’t without merit, even if slightly inaccurate. Really, I am absolutely fixated on efficiency to point of believing it’s a moral value. I chase down efficiency almost doggedly- to the point of getting frustrated when I find myself making multiple trips throughout the house for things instead of accomplishing all my chores in one fell swoop on an uninterrupted path. And because what is new tends to be more efficient than more traditional means, I almost always find myself enamored of the latest gizmos. From phones to vehicles to personal hygiene products. But there’s the thing, and a painful realization for me: what is more efficient isn’t always better.

Now, when it comes to vehicles or computing devices, I don’t have an example to back up the theme of this post. There’s no sense in a 15 mpg engine that gets one horsepower per cubic inch in the face of a 30 mpg engine with one horsepower per cubic centimeter. Better power and fuel economy relegates old American muscle car engines strictly to the dustbin of nostalgia. There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia, I just believe we need to be realistic in our assessments. I have an old Jeep Cherokee XJ not because it’s the finest 4×4 ever built, but because I won’t mind when it dies. It’s cheap purchase price and cost make it an efficient choice for me. Likewise with computing products. Captain Kirk may carry a separate communicator and tricorder, but I’ll just stick with my iPhone.

So when do I feel that older, more traditional methods are better solutions than the most efficient means? Well, that’s going to depend on the reader and individual priorities. But here are a few things I’ve noticed.

Car washes. The drive-thru car wash that gets you washed, rinsed, waxed and dried in 5 minutes or less is a marvel of efficiency. I love these things when I’m pressed for time but hate my car looking like a rolling collection of different deserts I’ve traversed. (I’m talking about my car here, not my Jeep. It’s more efficient to leave the XJ unwashed.) But an automated pull through sprayers and rollers will never get a car as clean or waxed as well as a good detailing. To really get that vehicle looking showroom new, there’s just no substitute for an hour or two of hands-on, minute attention to detail. The car will get just get dirty again, sure. But if you want to keep your vehicle as nice as possible long-term for resale down the road, getting the deep dirt out and preventing it from accumulating here and there is the only way to go. Spring for a quality detailing at least once a year.

Shaving. While ladies shave a lot more real estate than men typically do, try not to look at the specifics of this paragraph so much as the theme. There’s no shave as efficient as an electric razor- it’s also a lousy shave. You simply have to wet shave for any quality, but here’s where I’m going to get controversial. As far as the shave itself, a modern gel and multiblade disposable cartridge work wonderfully- they’re both quick and clean. But recently I’ve found myself taking the much more laborious path of using an old glycerine based lathering cream or even soap, applying with a brush, and using a vintage Gillette Tech or Super Speed. Why?

  • It’s relaxing. It takes longer, but that extra time is nice if used correctly.
  • It’s cheaper. Initial investment costs, but the money saved replacing a blade instead of a cartridge recoups your investment in the first year. Maybe sooner.
  • It’s healthier. What’s in that pressurized gel that foams? I don’t know. But I have learned what lots of women already knew: that your skin is an organ and using all natural ingredients will keep you healthier and younger looking longer. There’s enough crap poisoning us in the world today, why not eliminate it where you can?

Incidentally, I get my shaving products from The Art of Shaving, and I prefer the Gillette Tech to the mechanical complexity of twist-to-open designs. Simplicity rules (but I’m not quite willing to go to the hassle of a straight razor).

Showering and bath products. I’ve been a fan of Pert Plus for years. Shampoo and conditioner in one fell swoop?! Heck yeah! Just one bottle! Then I found a Nivea product that’s shampoo, bodywash, and shaving goop all in one! This just gets better! I also eschewed washcloths as useless contrivance years ago. Here’s the thing: CLP works ok for cleaning and lubing and gun, but not as well as solvent and oil separately. And if it’s true for firearms care, it just might be true for stuff that cleans us, too. Lathering with a washcloth and a bar of soap has tripled the life of my soap (cutting cost), and using the cloth to scrub exfoliates the skin. I thought that was just a girl thing, until I noticed zits on my back and shoulders becoming more rare. Separate products and “old school” washing has me cleaner and feeling better. It may be an extra bottle or two in the shower, but that’s a small price to pay for health.

I’m sure there are lots of other examples, but that’s all I’ve got for now. I thought about e-books vs. traditional print, but I’m torn on that one. The only reason for dead tree media is the nostalgia that I slightly disparaged earlier. A Kindle’s e-ink screen is very nice for reading on and the advantage an entire library in such small physical space can’t be overstated for the traveler. Then there’s backups and online storage vs. losing a physical copy of a book due to theft or destruction. The printed book’s only advantage is a subjective and nostalgic one, the smell of paper and physical turning of pages. But sometimes, maybe that’s enough. An e-reader is invaluable to me, but the je ne sais quoi of a physical library is just more “human” for lack of a better term. I like books.

So what say you, dear reader? What examples do you have, and more pointedly why do you feel sometimes there’s no school like the old school? Who knows? Maybe sometimes, efficiency isn’t everything after all.

14 thoughts on “Sometimes the Old Ways Are Better

  1. As a mom and homemaker I like quick and easy for cooking, but here’s nothing like homemade stir fry or bread, or cookies made from scratch or a homemade apple or cherry pie. They taste better and don’t have any unknown chemicals added.
    A quick once over with the Swiffer duster makes the house presentable, but in the desert there’s nothing like a deep cleaning with some orange oil to keep the wood looking great.

  2. My only problem with the art of shaving, is that their prices for brushes and soap is ridiculous. I got a brush, soap and mug kit at a Fred Meyer for about $11.

    I’ve also become disgusted with modern Gillette stuff. It seems like they use cheap blades that wear out fast in all their cartridges except the latest, greatest, and most expensive razor. I bought a Shick Quattro Titanium, and it is much more comfortable than the Mach 3 I’ve been using for years. The Shick razor, and it’s refills are cheaper than the Gillette equivalent.

    One day, I may try a safety razor though.

    • Dave, you’re right about the Art of Shaving being a little overpriced. After spending time on Badger & Blade forums and some other shaving sites, I’ve definitely seen AoS is charging a premium. But the snob in me wonders about the quality of ingredients when going “too” cheap. I firmly believe I’ve paid a premium for AoS products due to their name, representing themselves as a premium brand whether it’s true or not ($80 Merkur razors vs. a vintage Gillette for $15, to say nothing of blades)… In the end, I did AoS for the convenience of a physical storefront, knowledgable sales staff, and demos. But it’s far from the only, or best, option.

      • An easy explanation for the price of The Art of Shaving products is that the franchise is owned Proctor and Gamble, who are also the owners of Gillette.

      • Ffej, you beautiful b***ard! All this time I thought they made “razors” to hold Gillette Fusion cartridges because they really believed in Gillette being a better product than Schick! If what you say is true, you are as wonderful as Tyler Durden thinks you are, and I really need to get a LexisNexis account…

  3. I also enjoy writing with a fountain pen. To me, the old technology of a split piece of metal with a rounded tip being able to write on paper is much more impressive than modern ballpoint and rollerballs. It’s also easier on the hands because you don’t have to push on the paper, it’s like using a metal brush to paint the words onto the page. And the glass ink bottles are much more recyclable/reusable than a 100 bic pens.

  4. On the shaving front I switch to a double sided safety razor and I love it. A Gillette Fusion or modern blade just tears up my skin. I get really bad razor burn on my neck. I will say a modern Gillette style razor is faster and easier to use, but not worth the skin irritation. I also use Taylor of Old Bond street cream whipped up with a badger brush. You can get the shaving cream off of Amazon and it is amazing. I have tried that cream with a standard Gillette and I have to say I get better results going that route than say something like edge gel. So just changing shaving cream can vastly improve your experience. Also I have to say paying $0.55 a blade for my merkur razor vs $2.50 per cartridge for the Gillette Fusion is also a huge bonus.

  5. I love the old shaving brush and soap, but I’ve yet to find a brush that holds up longer than three to four months.

    By the way, what’s with the ten billion blade razors? How about a nice three blade that lasts for $2.00.

    • I’ve been told the nicer brush you pay for lasts longer… As I’ve not paid for a crazy expensive brush, I can’t attest to the veracity of that claim. Yet.

      When the Schick Quattro made its debut I said skip all the middle steps and go straight to a 16-blade emery board. It had comedic effect before the Fusion “5 blade”. But I no longer believe multi-blades do better than a single in a DE razor. One blade, shaving with a focus on reduction instead of elimination and multiple short strokes instead of “one fell swoop” do the trick and last me just as long.

    • I am what some may call a “collector” of classic shaving accoutrements . I have found that you can get a less expensive brush to hold up pretty well if you use less pressure when lathering. That being said, I own brushes of all qualities and would say that a good quality brush can be had for reasonable price…say, 50-80 bucks. There is also the option of refurbishing a vintage brush , which is what I prefer.

  6. Pingback: The old ways are not simpler | eric.r.shelton

  7. Pingback: Diminishing Returns | eric.r.shelton

  8. Pingback: Well written | eric.r.shelton

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