I started shaving in the early 80's (I am mid-forties), and at the time, started with DE and moved to cartridge/disposables, as they were becoming prevalent. My father ran a gas station, and the company was running a promotion - free two-pack of Gillette Good News! disposable razors with each fill-up. I remember we had leftover cases of the razors in our basement for years. And man, did they suck.
Like many here, over the years I used the Trac II, the Atra, the Sensor, and others, in their various connotations. Though I tried 3-bladed razors, I didn't really care for them, and for me the 4- and 5-blade razors weren't ever a consideration. The Sensor/Sensor Excel were my favorites.
A few months ago, I was going through some old boxes and found an old straight razor that I had had some interest in over 20 years ago. I used to have an Old Spice mug and brush that was given to me one Christmas, and I did play around with it some back then. About the same time, I was traveling and my train was delayed; I found myself killing time in a shaving store in the station. I was given a sample of their shaving products (oil pre-shave, shave cream, after-shave), and after trying it, experienced a pretty darn good shave, even with my Sensor razor. And so it began...
My first acquisition was some shaving soap and a nice brush - got a silver tip for a decent price. Didn't like the soap as much as the cream, so my next purchase was a tub of AOS unscented - absolutely love the stuff.
Razor-wise, I bought a 1950-something Gillette Super Speed (silver). I found I could get a decent shave with three passes, but with some trouble spots. I think the Super Speed is a good razor, similar to what I had in the 80's, but my tough beard requires something more.
Next, I got a Merkur 33C, which I like a lot. Two passes and I get a very nice shave; if I use shaving oil, I can do a third pass ATG and get closer still.
So I was thinking about trying a SS Red Tip or an adjustable razor next, when I mentioned my new hobby to my brother. I was surprised to learn that he had purchased a safety razor a few years ago, but apparently had tired of it and discontinued using it. He is one of these jump-on-the-10-blade-bandwagon guys. The next time I visited, I brought him a sampler pack of the blades I had purchased recently (Derbies, 7 O'Clock yellows, red Personas), and some good shaving cream, determined to get him back to the fold...
Then I saw his razor - the b*stard actually had a Merkur Slant! I was dying to try it, so the next morning, I lathered up, put a blade in that bad boy, and got a fantastic shave. So much so, that I ordered one as soon as I got home that evening. I had read about the Slant, and how it is designed to be used only by high-order ninjas with specialized razor training and the like... All I can say is, it has given me the best shave ever. I have to be careful with it on my ATG pass or else I can get some nasty razor burn, but the scythe-like action of this thing is perfect for my sandpaper beard.
I will say I am secretly proud of the fact I haven't nicked or cut myself yet, with any of the razors I've used (there was one "weeper" a few weeks ago, but am not counting it). And like many here, I find that returning to this method of shaving is relaxing, contemplative, etc., and for lack of a better term, somehow "macho". Or perhaps "cool" is the term I'm looking for - the fact that there's technique involved, and that one can improve on it over time, is somehow very cool to me, not to mention the fantastic results. What are the chances anyone's ever said, "I'm really getting better at dragging this multi-blade pivot head over the contours of my face"?
So this is my story. I agree with many of you that this is what shaving should be, and we should pass this on to as many who will listen. Won't get into the politics/consumerism aspects of it, but in my opinion there is something wrong when cartridges are so expensive that they become shoplifting targets and end up in locked cases.
I thank all of you here for your time and effort to communicate what you've learned along the way - as a lurker on these boards I'm sure I speak on the behalf of many when I say your postings are invaluable - everything from your evaluations of products to the more esoteric matters (such as negotiating with your better halves on shave den acquisitions).
Thank you all