Saturday, March 30, 2013

Single Guy Essential: The Go-Kit

Who are you? Where am I? Why does my mouth feel like a cat box?

Ever watch one of those cookie cutter rom-com films where the guy & girl meet at some trendy bar or club, are instantly attracted to each other, and they end up at her apartment where they wake up the next morning after a drunken fumble?

Of course you have. Maybe not by choice, but you've seen them.

And if you're like me, you've called shenanigans on the guy who stayed all weekend wearing the same clothes that were sweated in and funked-up at the bar, without his toothbrush or pit-stick, or even contact lens solution. It's total crap.

That's why I recommend every guy who is single & looking to carry a small Go Kit in their car trunk.

No, I'm not talking about some Doomsday Prepper Zombie Apocalypse Bug Out Bag full of dehydrated food and extra ammo. I'm not against having one of those though.

This is more of an emergency, just-in-case, overnight bag. In all honesty, it doesn't even have to be for a night when you get lucky. What if you just get stranded somewhere? Or you're out at a friend's party and get past the point where you should drive, and a cab isn't an option? It's still a savvy plan to have some emergency essentials on hand if you gotta crash on someone's sofa.

First, the bag. It doesn't have to be a suitcase, just a small kit bag less than bookbag/knapsack size to grab quickly. Don't look like you're moving in. I suggest maybe the excellent gear bag from Man-PACK (whom I neglected to include in my Man Bag article) or the flight bags from Rothco. Or, for you old-schoolers, an Army surplus tanker's tool bag or Air Force flyer's kit bag. Don't go all leather and brass; this is gonna sit in your trunk 99% of the time, chummy.

Now, time to fill your bag. This may sound completely & utterly obvious to some, but having a checklist isn't always a bad thing. You're more or less putting together a quick travel shaving kit with a few extras.

Get thee to Target or WalMart and hit up the travel sized items.

*Get yourself a travel toothbrush and some toothpaste.

C'mom, Wingman; she'll have toofpace at her crib...

This may be true. Hell, we pray it's true. But it may not be one you like. And again, you may simply be stuck somewhere overnight, not waking up sticky and confused with a stranger. So do as I say, young grasshopper.

*Get a mini bottle of shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, and body spray. Remember my advice from smelling like a man: coordinate your smells.

But Wingman, she's gotta have soap & shampoo at her place, right?

Yeah, but do you wanna smell like hibiscus & pomegranate & peaberry and Teen Spirit? Smell like YOU...the dude she liked the smell of when she brought your goofy ass home to ride like a cheap carnival attraction.

*Carry a couple condoms. Better safe than sorry. You can laser off a bad tattoo....herpes really is forever.

Aw, Wingman, seriously? Jimmy hats?

Yes. Shut your pie hole and pay attention, troop.

*Pack a clean t-shirt, socks & skivvies in a gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag.

Why the bag, yo?

So you can put your nasty drawers and socks and shirt from last night in the bag and seal the stink in the Ziploc and not your kit bag.

*If you wear contacts, pack a spare lens case and travel size cleaning solution.

I sleep in my lenses, boss.

Okay, touche. Some of you have lenses you can sleep in. Some of you do not, and your eyes will HATE you in the morning after you go hang out at a smoky club and sweat gets in your eyes and then you slept in them. You'll wake up with eyes blurry, gooey, and redder than a baboon's ass. Decidedly unattractive, mate. So as you bask in the afterglow and scuttle off to the john for the after-piss, pop your lenses out. If you have a spare pair of glasses, pack them. If not, go blind awhile. You'll live.

Should I pack shaving gear?

Not really, unless you have a thick pelt that grows back supremely fast. If so, get travel size shave goo and a disposable razor. Otherwise, save the space in your kit and look scruffy.

WISDOM TO REMEMBER: Every so often change out the stuff in your kit with fresh supplies. Stuff can go bad sitting in your trunk waiting for you to use it. And remember to RESTOCK your kit after you use items.

Optional: Spare phone charger. Expensive option, I admit. You could just skip checking your phone and pay attention to your host, y'know. Your call.

WARNING! DANGER! MINEFIELD! -- Now, you may luck out and not get questioned as to why the hell you have a pre-positioned Go Kit in your trunk. Or you may have to explain. You can be up front and say you simply like to be prepared like a responsible adult. Or you can sugar coat it and say that you once got stranded with no gear once and swore to never again be caught without a toothbrush. Or if she gets pissy about it, just say "Hey, you're the one who brought me home."

Herein lies the rub: There is a serious double standard about bringing someone home. If she has to leave your place at 7AM looking disheveled and carrying her heels, it's a Perp Walk or Walk of Shame. A dude leaving a girl's place at 7AM looking like a hobo with a hangover, and that's called the Pride Stride. With a Go Kit you can actually clean up a bit and stay for coffee and look human going home afterwards later in the morning or afternoon and no one is the wiser. Of course, she may still kick you to the curb at sunrise with an empty promise to call you, but at least your teeth will be clean when you stop at Starbucks for a $40.00 double skinny half-caf caramel triple foam moltogrande Crappiato. But that's a blog for another day...

Who's got your back? I do.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Smelling like a million bucks

Dear Wingman, 
                         Can you suggest the best cologne for picking up hotties at the club?
                                                                                                 Scentless in Seattle

Guys, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as your Virtual Wingman, someone's gotta level with you.

Most of you stink.

It's not your fault. You bathe. You use a big name scented body wash. You have a great shampoo that smells terrific. You spritz your coiff with a bitchin' pomade. You use freshy fresh deodorant with a guaranteed anti-perspirant. You toss on the body spray that they say drives the wimminz insane. You add a liberal splash of that expensive trendy cologne they advertised in the glossy ad in your favorite men's magazine you read when you're on the toilet.

Yes, we know you read on the shitter. We all do it. We're guys.

And this, my friend is why you stink.

But Wingman, whatever do you mean?

Smell that magazine you were reading. Smells like a dozen cologne ads fighting each other, right? Because they are.

Think about it, Chummy. You are a veritable cornucopia of clashing scents. You have the natural smell of your body, and then you use a scented soap or body wash, and then your pit-stick likely has another smell, your shampoo (if you have hair) has another smell. If you use a styling product it may or may not have a scent. If you have a body spray that's likely yet another flavor. And then, pile on yet another layer of scent with cologne? Dude, you're so wrong. The phrase "You smell like a French Whorehouse" comes to mind.

If you think about it and do it right, there's no reason for you not to coordinate your products and smell like a million bucks.

First off, a small disclaimer. I do not work for AXE. I am not being paid by AXE to advertise for them. I simply use the stuff and like it. That said, seriously, AXE is one of the smartest things to happen to men's hygiene in years. At first I resisted trying their stuff because the advertising was so totally out of my demographic. They made it sound like all you had to do was roll out of bed at 8PM, spray on some AXE (or their competitor, the now-defunct TAG) and the lay-tays would climb into your lap & start removing their clothes. I mean seriously, the advertising was that overt. The gist was, "Use this and get laid immediately.", no matter if you're a hideous CHUD or not.

As an aside, the downside to this is that  guys who actually were CHUDs were all butthurt when they still weren't getting any, and a lot of guys started to think that a can of spray-on Whore Gravy was a substitute for actual bathing and clean clothes. Dudes, especially teen boys, would SOAK in it.

Gentlemen, allow me to assure you that there is no substitute for washing your ass and wearing clean and serviceable clothes. Proper grooming is essential to being a member of polite society.

The great thing about AXE is that they really opened up their line of products to make a complete grooming line. This allows you to coordinate the fragrance of your body wash, deodorant, and body spray, with neutral-scented hair products, with no need for an expensive cologne whatsoever.

Wingman, why you be hatin' on cologne, yo?

I used to wear cologne too when I was younger. Started as a kid, really. My mom always thought it was cute to drop a couple trial-size bottles of shitty aftershave in my Christmas stocking every year; those great relics of the 70s like English Leather, Brut, and Jovan Sex Appeal (or Jovan Musk). Yes, in retrospect that's kinda creepy, getting Sex Appeal from your mom at age 9 but she was just helping a shy nonathletic bookworm kid feel more manly. In junior high I had a bottle of Goeffrey Beene's Grey Flannel and only used it sparingly, so that after awhile it just smelled like vinegar and spice. (Yeah, guys, cologne needs to be used, lest it go bad). In high school the transition was made to Pierre Cardin and then Drakkar Noir, like every 80s kid.

As an adult, I transitioned over to what was to be my signature scent for awhile, HUGO by Hugo Boss. I wore it the bulk of the 90s.

Then around 2002 I changed over to a different scent from the same guy. BOSS by Hugo Boss. I liked it a lot. Then I met the future Mrs. Wingman and... she hated it. The smell made her gag. And herein lies a lesson:

Just because YOU think it smells good, the lady folk may not like the smell on you. Every scent has to also mingle with your natural body chemistry and smells and some may not go together in a pleasant way.

I now had a $60.00 bottle of Smell Goods that was gonna be a waste. I held onto it until I realized our relationship was headed in a permanent direction and then tossed it out. She loved the original Hugo on me but since I was wearing it so seldom I just kept a small travel bottle for date nights out. Since I started using the AXE products I stopped wearing cologne altogether for the above stated reasons. I came to the conclusion that it was of no need to wear an expensive scent on top of more scents and clash them all together to smell like the dumpster at a French whorehouse.

Guys, here is advice you can stash away as Essential Wingman Gospel: What you think smells good on you may or may not. Seek some smell advice from a trusted lady friend or significant other who will be brutally honest with you. Before you buy a full sized version of ANYTHING with a new scent, try it as a sample first. They make trial sizes of almost anything now, so test-drive it for 99 cents and see if it works with your natural chemistry. If not, move on. If it works, get the larger size and the invest in the corresponding products to coordinate your fragrances in a complimentary manner.

More Gospel: Use the spray sparingly. Do not douse yourself. Despite what the ads say, don't cross yourself arm pit to arm pit and across the chest and verily bathe in it. Less is more. Overdoing it will, again, make you smell like rotting vegetation.

The downside to my use of AXE stuff is that I'll get used to a great scent, and then they discontinue it or I simply can no longer find it. This just recently happened when I could no longer find the TWIST product line. It had happened before when I used CLIX, and VICE. I experimented with EXCITE and it was bland on me. I tried ANARCHY and Mrs. Wingman almost vomited. I smelled that DARK TEMPTATION and I almost vomited. Another downside is that not all of the body washes will have a coordinated deodorant and body spray. I love SNAKE PEEL but there are no sidekicks. The same with SHOCK and DEEP SPACE.

There is also a line of products very similar to AXE from Old Spice, with coordinated layering products of shower gels, deodorants, and body sprays. I played hell finding a scent I liked, and when I tried it out it was pretty weak. Some of you may find them satisfactory though, so don't let my experience dissuade you.

Thus endeth the sermon.

Go forth, minions, and stink no more!

Who's got your back? I do...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Straight Skinny on Shaving

Face it, fellas, nobody actually enjoys shaving. It's a task, a chore, a means to an end, something that has to be done and separates us from lesser primates.

However, it doesn't have to be a disaster. You don't have to look like you got caught in an unexpected fight with a vegetable peeler. I'm a somewhat hairy bastard, and me & the razor have been chummy-chummy for about 25 years now. I'll see if I can impart some helpful tips, both on taming your beard but also the all important shaving of the cranium. I will not, however, give you the How To Shave speech filled with Against the Grain vs. With the Grain crap. You're a grown-assed man and you know HOW to shave. I'm just offering tips to make it easier.

I think most guys experiment with shaving long about the time we hit sixteen, or so. We're desperate to look older and feel more adult, and we somehow think that by growing facial hair and shaving we're that much closer to manhood. Little do we realize that the sooner we start shaving it off and growing it back, the sooner we start a lifetime of scraping our faces with sharpened metal on a regular basis. At first we relish that it grows back faster and coarser, because we're suddenly all manly & shit, and then after a few years you yearn for those childhood peachfuzz days. A lot of us remember either mock-shaving alongside Dad on the weekend or wasting half a can of shave cream messing about with an old Gillette safety razor without the blade in it. That's what gets us in the thought process of needing to shave in the first place.

I had a wee stripe on my upper lip when I joined the Army and barely needed to shave once a week. Boot camp started the daily shaving regimen, as the military frowns upon facial hair, and after my soldiering days were over I let the facial hair grow out a bit. I couldn't bear the thought of a big bushy Grizzly Adams beard circa 1977 so I went with a short jawline beard, longer than the Don Johnson or George Michael stubble but still pretty short. I kept that for a couple years and then decided to go with a Van Dyke goatee, since that was all the rage at the time.

I loved the show as a kid but I can't grow a beard that big.
I kept the goatee for several years before going back to the jawline beard. It breaks up the roundness of my face pretty well. Y'know, fellas, you really have to pick your facial hair design to compliment your face's  shape. If you have a narrow long face, a long beard just makes it that much longer. If you have a Charlie Brown-type round melon, a beard makes it less round. Honestly, I would avoid just a mustache by itself. The solo 'stache is a weird 70's retro throwback that calls to mind skeevy porn stars and used car salesmen.And unless you're Amish, a Mennonite, or a tugboat captain, a beard sans mustache is also a no-go.

No. A thousand times no.
I recommend you get an inexpensive trimmer to keep the facial hair tidy. The average one is about 20 bucks. Mine is a Wahl and works great. To trim things down, start with the guard that gives the longest hair, trim things up, and if that isn't short enough to suit you, keep going with shorter guards till you achieve the desired effect. I myself use the shortest guard.

Something that generally benefits your skin is to exfoliate. That scrubs away the dead skin cells that, among other things, can clog your razor and keep the blade from making good contact. You can go with the St. Ives Apricot scrub, and I hear that AXE has a new scrub. If you're really feeling like treating yourself invest in the minty scrub from Clinique. Yeah, I know, I's from the makeup counter at the upscale mall store but it works. It used to come in a cannister jar but now I think it's in a more manly tube.

Another helpful tip: shave in the shower. Sure, we're used to the tried & true shave-in-the-the-mirror-at-the-sink method. The benefit of the sink is it's usually well-lit and you have a big mirror to work with. Admittedly those fog-proof shaving mirrors for the shower are seldom very clear or very fog-resistant, let alone fog proof, but it's still a worthwhile investment unless you really think you can do it strictly by feel.

Warning: May or may not stay clear as you shave without you squirting water on it often.

Why the shower? Two very solid reasons. First, the key to a great shave without getting razor burn is lubrication & moisture. Your skin (and the shave lather) can dry out at the sink and that can cause nicks and scrapes. I only shave at the sink as a last resort. The other reason is the hot water will soften your whisker bristles and make for an easier shave.

Shave cream vs Shave gel?

 Neither for me. Sure, you can use the cheaper jumbo can of Barbasol we grew up on. It's been around forever and it's easy on the wallet. For me, though, I've found that lathery creams clog the bejeezus out of the razor. And the gels, like Edge or Gillette...they look all cool & sci-fi hi-tech when they hit your palm in a blue gel puddle, but, well, when you lather it, what does it become? Shave Cream. Less thick than the Old School Cream, but still cream nonetheless.

I gave up the gels & what not when I started to shave my head. I was really concerned about razor rash and shaving bumps on my melon, especially the first few shaves, so I decided to try the more exotic approach. I can recommend three products, all readily available and reasonably priced. The first one I tried was Bump Stopper Shave Gel. It's a bit thick and tended to clog the razor almost as bad as shave cream but it's easy on the sensitive skin of your scalp. I then tried Bump Patrol, and it works great, both in the shower and at the sink. I like it a lot. I recently tried the shave gel from Bald Guyz, and it works better in the shower than at the sink.

RAZORS: What to use?

Yeah, that's the $25,000 question. Every time I turn around there's some hot new razor on the market with slick new features and 26 blades and lasers and soothing strips and a latte maker...and they all promise the greatest shaving experience ever. Bullshit.

I can't see paying ten bucks for the razor and twenty for new blade cartridges, and then six months from now the razor is no longer sold and you need to switch again. I honestly get just as good results from disposable razors. Not the cheap-assed flimsy ones. Those are only single or double bladed and will hack you to ribbons. They make disposable clones of several of the big-name 3 and 4-blade refill razors and they work just as good. It's up to you though on refill vs. disposable razors.

This will rip your skin to shreds while leaving your hair intact to taunt you.
What about an electric razor? Honestly, I have never found an electric that gave me anything resembling a clean, close shave. If you have, more power to you.

Straight razor? I'm not that brave. Nope. Sorry. Vintage retro nostalgia cool factor be damned.

How about a splash of after shave? Um, no. Nothing like slapping some alcohol-based stink-infused potion into your open pores and freshly-scraped skin to make you wish you'd been smarter. Ask yourself why you would do that... If you're doing it for the great smell of Brut, slap yourself. That's what will make you smell like a strip club bathroom, layering an after shave on top of your body wash and deodorant combo to clash like hell. (I'll be covering this in an upcoming post). But if your skin is irritated and you need a post-shave soother, that's another matter entirely. There are a variety of products out there, like the ones from Neutrogena and Nivea, but I use the Gillette when I'm irritated from shaving too fast in a hurry. Just get the unscented one so it doesn't clash with your body wash and deodorant. I'm curious to try the new one from Axe though.

Shaving cuts? Invest in a styptic pencil. Trust me.

Some of you will actually go out in public like this, and that makes me sad.
Seriously, go invest.

Okay, gents. That about covers it. Go forth and sin no more. Who's got your back? I do.