Before I write more articles about specific people and products, I wanted to talk about my experience of the Wet Shaver’s Meetup that was held last weekend at Q Bros. and the Chicago Brauhaus. I have to say that I wish I had gone to hang out with everyone all before Saturday but I was at my day job and home with the kids. When I started seeing that people were having fun up there in the Northern Chicago suburbs, I felt the excitement building inside me. To see a fraction of the community getting together was something I really liked.
The Trip Up to Chicago
We took our time getting up there, and Melanie drove. We took our kids up, as we don’t get out of Central Illinois much. For me, this wasn’t just about going up to get together with a bunch of shaving enthusiasts. This was about sharing with my family, the people who I’ve been in so many conversations with about a variety of things. The Shaving Community is a community of common interests. I know personally, when I get up in the morning, I am excited about what I am going to pick out to shave. Is that weird? Not to the Wet Shaving Community, because they truly understand what that feels like. To some people, this hobby could seem a bit excessive. Well, anything can get excessive if you get obsessed, but I can argue that this hobby is more than just getting a bunch of product and spending money to feel better about yourself.
The first person I saw was David Gonzalez of So Sharp Limited. He was wearing a T Shirt he had created especially for the meetup. What an exciting feeling it was to see this. Here’s a guy who, with his wife, has created for himself a business to support himself and his wife. He has the full support of the community and the others who purchased the shirt proved that. He asked me, and this is soooo funny to think about because it has so much meaning to anyone who has seen “Mail Calls” in the Facebook groups. He said, “What’s in the box?”
I opened the box and it was kind of like showing treasure, like silver or gold to a treasure hunter. The box was filled with two products, “Fougere Noir” and “Tobacco,” and I brought it to the counter for Kirk, the Manager of the store. What Kirk asked me was if these were to go in the goodie bags and I said yes. Logistically speaking, that was to happen- but I realized later, I probably should have brought it over to the restaurant as well.
As I started looking around the store, I met in person, some great people I have gotten to know over the last few months. Ray Pope was wearing his Money Pass shirt. The Money Pass shirt has a “Godfather” font to it, so it represents the “Mafia style” interpretation of what Wet Shaving could be interpreted as. This guy is hilarious. His videos all have a sense of humor to them and he is sharing his fun take on the products he uses to entertain and keep us all in stitches.
I talked with Amanda Stott from Tiki Bar Soap who was set up in one of the sections of Q Bros., and she explained each of her products. Her main focus with her products is that she wants the customer to feel like they are on a tropical vacation when shaving. I look forward to purchasing her products soon.
I met Bryon Postlethwait, an Artisan who is also a Veteran who owns Jeeves of Hudson Street. He makes Bowtie Soaps and from what I hear, they are fantastic. He is a dapper gentleman, soft spoken and very polite. I could sense that he was very excited to be there as everyone else was.
I talked with Allan Boyd who owns a company called Friar of the Briar. He takes brush knots and places them into briarwood handles, and he explained that briarwood is most commonly used for making pipes. I have seen pictures of these brushes and they are very impressive.
Another great conversation was with Scott Brennecke of Captain’s Choice Products, who also talked with my wife Melanie about how he got started in creating his aftershave line. He said he didn’t like the aftershaves available so he decided to create one.
My conversation with Anthony of the Q Brothers was very fascinating. He spoke of how the business got started and how his Mother and Father took over the business. I had mentioned that I really enjoyed spending time with Kirk, the Manager of the store, who took me on a tour of the products a few weeks ago. We also talked about how much the grooming industry has grown. We had discussed my knowledge of Threshold Enterprises, Ltd., a distributor from Scotts Valley, CA they order from, as I once worked there and he mentioned his sales rep, David Breckler. who I know. What I took away from that conversation was that he was very excited about the business and he is very passionate about spreading the knowledge. While I was speaking with him, an Artisan by the name of Chris Cullen from Catie’s Bubbles walked up.
Catie’s Bubbles is highly regarded in the Wet Shaving Community and their headquarters are located in Forked River, New Jersey. Products like “LPV – Le Piment de la Vie (Spice of Life) and “LMR – Le Marche du Rasage,” have been referred to as the “Soap of the Gods” interchangeably. The soaps mentioned are “French Style,” that come in large containers for a surprisingly low cost of $20.00 per tub.
I met Arley Canterbury for the first time in person, and he and I were the ones who co-founded “Wet Shaving Times” on Facebook. He has been a shaving enthusiast for many years, and turns out we have lived in the same areas so to meet someone with not only a current common interest, then have similar histories when it comes to where we have lived- well, it just makes it that more special to connect.
Douglas Smythe of Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements was there in all his glory. I think he would agree when I say here that he considers himself a Punk Rock Artisan- that Artisan that is a little controversial but quite brilliant in his knowledge, marketing and communication with his audience. Douglas is incredibly gifted at what he does, putting out products very quickly and of high quality. One of my favorite products of his is called “The Beach,” which is a collaboration with Joseph Abbatangelo of Italian Barber.
I spent a lot of time talking with Todd Fisher of St James of London, a company derived from a label that he bought the rights to. These products are made in the same manufacturing plants as many of the higher end soaps and creams that are based out of London, England. He explained a little about his products to me and we got to talking about something not related to shaving, but pizza- Monical’s Pizza, which was started right here in Bloomington-Normal area.
As it got way past the time I was thinking for lunch, I decided to go over the the Chicago Brauhaus, the pre-planned meeting place to hang with the gang and just enjoy each others’ company. It was there, where I met Christopher Bailey – the Traditional Shaving Evangelist who is from Charleston, West Virginia. His channel on YouTube is part instructional, part is him just expressing his journey and part sharing of what he feels is good or not so good. When I started wet shaving, I discovered his channel and really enjoyed what he had to say. Chris was just as friendly as I had hoped he would be. He was hanging out with Tom Brim, who has been extremely helpful to me in learning about wet shaving, particularly when it came to trading soaps with others.
Across the table from me was David Fernicola (nicknamed The Inspector), a gentleman who came all the way from New Jersey to be there and we had some great conversations. To his right was Michael Bustamente (Aka Busta) and Busta is someone I have really enjoyed talking with, checking out his videos on YouTube and even exchanging soaps/brushes with.
Then there was Rico (Ricos Corner) who came all the way from Oklahoma to be there with us. He also has a YouTube channel dedicated to his excitement about the mass amount of products that are being released. He was helping Douglas Smythe by interviewing the participants for an upcoming podcast Douglas will post on his site, “HowToGrowAMoustache.com”
As I looked around the room and soaked in the German band playing “Roll Out The Barrel,” I realized I was having a barrel of fun. I realized what a great adventure Wet Shaving has taken me on. I thought about all the great conversations I had to get me to those moments that were going so quickly. I shared my family with them and we all swapped small stories, whether it was about how the meetup got started or the great products we just saw in Q Bros.
Douglas gave me a Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements Aftershave called “Tamanu Noir” that he created specifically for the Meetup and I had heard he made a matching soap for us all as well.
Everyone had a great time but I realized one thing that might have happened. Some of the attendees didn’t get the opportunity to get a soap from Wet Shaving Products that had been donated, so what I am going to do is contact everyone who went to see how we can arrange a giveaway for the rest of the leftovers in the box I had picked up from Q Bros.
I have to say this experience exceeded my expectations on what it could be. We talked about how the Wet Shaving Community is starting to gain momentum, the products are getting noticed by the better known markets (an example of this is Fine Accoutrements, whose products were recently featured in Urban Outfitters). The market is expanding and people are really starting to notice the products – but what I am enjoying more and more, are the people behind the products, the people interested in the products and the people promoting them.
I know I am the person who sent out the invite on Facebook for this event, but there were so many people involved in making it what it was. The Q Bros had contacted the local artisans and vendors to make sure if they wanted to represent their products in the store when everyone was there, they could do so.
The popularity of Wet Shaving Meetups is increasing, more Artisan products are coming out at a rapid rate and the enthusiasm is spreading like wildfire. It is not just shaving anymore, folks. There are connections that are being made, these are friendships that are being created and I see so much potential for this industry.
Time will tell, but damn if it’s not the Seattle Sound, Skateboarding, Surfing, Hula Hoop, whatever else you can think of that makes a difference in the world and sticks around because of the innovating Artisans, the loyal fan base and the people who are sharing their experience of what it’s like to be a Wet Shaver or what the products are like.
Charlie Sheen, you know what’s winning? Wet Shaving.