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Q Brothers & 2017 Windy City Meetup

Photo: @mkgray69

This week, I thought about the need for me to learn something new about the Current State of the Personal Care/Grooming Industry and go up to Chicago to revisit Q Brothers. This was an important step for me for a few reasons.

It has been a while since I’ve been to Q Brothers, and I thought that if I need understand & comprehend the Personal Care & Grooming Industry, going to a retail store I have been familiar with would be essential in that process.  I will plan more visits to stores and various events in the coming months, so the more information I can gather about upcoming Artisans and Vendors, the better.

Last year, I didn’t get to go to the meetup and this year, I have been on the fence about it.  When I went to the 2015 Windy City Meetup, I had met a lot of Wetshavers and Artisans and we all got along.  We filled Q Brothers and some of us bought some stuff. We broke bread with one another at the restaurant a few doors down where we all had fun just enjoying each other’s company.

I headed into Lincoln Square where I slowly walked up to Q Brothers. This time, there wasn’t Arley Canterbury outside having a smoke and there wasn’t David Gonzalez inside to recognize me when I walked through those doors.  There was Ramon Vela (Q Brothers Shaving & Grooming Specialist) who had been there the previous time I had gone in alone to discuss things about the upcoming meetup with Kurt (who has since moved on).  He recognized me right away, as we are in similar groups and commented that he reads Wet Shaving Times. As I looked around Q Brothers, I felt the quiet, sacred feeling that sometimes I’ll get when I go into a chapel. It’s now streamlined with fewer products and wasn’t busy when I was in the store.

Ramon told me they are still busy on the weekends, and they get a lot of repeat business, but many times, it’s these first-time customers who come in and just got curious & interested in Wet Shaving that bring people through the gate. The store clerk then shows them the DE razors and the brushes and Ramon said that sales have gone up on the brushes lately.

I looked over at the shelves and saw some familiar brands and products in their Artisan section.  Fine Accoutrements had practically a whole shelf. Catie’s Bubbles, Wet Shaving Products, Tabula Rasa are there, and many other recognizable brands are there as well. Some Artisan brands are in other places. There is a rack that is in the center of the store which carries Stirling products visible right from the checkout counter.

Photo: @mkgray69

Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements weren’t up on the shelf and it did hit me a bit strange. I know they carried it and even at the 2015 Windy City Meetup, they had him there in the store, promoting his product. I already knew that RazoRock were not being carried, but PAA?  That seemed very weird to me and I asked about it.  Ramon was very helpful to me in understanding the situation and due to concerns about private decision making within the shop regarding product ordering, we discussed it without going into too much detail. In the end, it’s simple really.

The retail marketplace is all about supply and demand.  The customers want what the customers want. As inventory managers & owners of the store, they have to decide what they think will sell and what they think they don’t. They have numbers they go through as well as their personal experience of what they see is selling in the store  Also, a few Artisans stopped making and delivering the product, so they just never replaced the stock with new products.

On a personal note, I understand this because my parents owned Gray’s Hallmark for 15 years.  In those early years of the store, we would go to Gift Shows with Mom and Dad where they would be exposed to many different products and decide to place orders based on what they saw and who they talked to.  This decision process got refined over the years and I think they always didn’t have an easy time deciding what to carry.  This discernment process is done carefully and sometimes on instinct. Companies certainly realize that business is business and every business has a right to make their own decisions but they also want to cater to their clientele.  Some may get a little peeved that they can’t get their product in the store, but you must be on good terms with delivering the goods.  From what I heard, they had this problem as well with some Artisans.  What was also discussed was the bottom line in wholesale costs. Every store has their own policy on how much they are willing to pay for wholesale and some companies just don’t allow for wiggle room. If it doesn’t make sense to the store owner to carry the product based on markup and how much profit they will make on the product, they might not carry the product. That’s just common sense to the store owner.

The Windy City Meetup 2017 Dilemma

The Windy City Meetup is coming up in June, so the big question is that well, is Douglas from PAA coming or is he steering clear of it this year? The Big Shave West 3 is happening in April and that takes a lot of work, so I imagine he would be busy with other events as well.  I also wondered if Q Brothers will be involved with this year’s meetup like in 2015?  The answer is that Q Brothers likely will not take a role in this year’s Windy City Meetup. This poses the question…. What the hell is a Shave Meetup in Chicago without a Shave related activity at Q Brothers one of GQ’s top 100 places for Men’s Grooming Needs in the Country?  Esquire has named them as being one of the top 25 stores.

This concerns me.  Is the idea of the Wet Shaving Meetup dissolving or are they now just becoming casual get-togethers of online friends and fellow hobbyists?

Wet Shaving consumers have an interesting dilemma.  They form personal relationships with Artisans by getting together with them and crossing that line of personal and business and then the Artisan is dropped from a store, there tends to be a sense of loyalty to where an event is held in relationship to who is coming to the Wet Shaving Meetup.  This boils down to the boundaries of a consumer. If the consumer doesn’t care about this kind of thing, then it’s not a problem.  What I have noticed within the Wet Shaving Community is that Wet Shavers are a very LOYAL bunch of consumers.  They will stop at nothing to take a stand if they feel an Artisan is being slighted. This was true when RazoRock had a similar issue with Q Brothers before we had the 2015 Windy City Meetup.

If you remember or don’t remember correctly, a well-known YouTube blogger and influencer would not step foot in the store because of the issues that RazoRock had with getting their product on the shelves again.  It was not the Blogger’s fault that he didn’t get the full story, it’s just that if he investigated it enough, there was more to it than just the Vendor’s point of view.  I said at the time that as a consumer, I don’t know if I really want to get involved in an argument between a Vendor and a Retail Owner.  However, as someone who is covering the Wet Shaving Community and Industry, I am curious about these issues because it is an important part of how we feel about shops and Artisans that we love so much.

If Douglas Smythe from PAA is indeed coming to the Windy City Meetup, then the problem that could happen is there could be an argument or an uncomfortable situation right before our eyes when it comes to the store owner and Douglas.  It is kind of like when a friend has been 86’d from a bar and someone attempts to bring that friend in then finds out what could go wrong.  We certainly would not want or encourage that kind of experience as consumers. We simply want to know that a fair shake is involved and perhaps a better understanding by all parties could take place.

I’d like to stop there and just get some feedback on the various things I’ve brought up in this article. If you would like to weigh in, please comment below because I would love to get your thoughts or concerns on the matter as either a Vendor, a Shop Owner or Consumer.  I believe that dialogue is necessary for me to “get the facts straight,” but I also don’t want to be a burden to anyone involved as you all have work to do as well.  If you care to, please comment and I’ll do a follow-up article.*

Have a great day and shave intelligently, my friends.

*Note: This article has been edited.

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Is Product Parody Good for the Wet Shaving Industry?

In the last few months, we’ve seen a rise of wet shaving related products that basically parody products that have already been released in one way or another.  This trend may not have started by How to Grow a Moustache but he was definitely the most outrageous and brash.  He began with Barbasoul, which had a similar scent to Barbasol, who promptly a Cease and Desist letter. He then revamped the line and snarkily named it CaD for “Cease and Desist.”  The Wet Shaving Community rallied around him like they would rally around anyone they felt were “done wrong.”  This product became very popular with Wet Shavers and still is to this day.

Since then, we’ve seen Douglas revamp his brand into Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements, where he has released many Limited Runs of what I would call Parody Products – much like the Wacky Packages stickers we used to collect as children. I would compare this to being the Mad Magazine of the industry, a company that in turn takes a traditional hobby into something much different.  It turns it into a joke.

We’ve seen this before in Basic Scent releases that release copies of the original scents that you can pick up for cheap at the local Dollar Tree Stores.  Last year, I took a gander at the scents there and bought a few copy scents that I still have in my Shave Den now.  Do I use them?  Not really, it was more of just a curiosity for me – Do they smell the same?  I found out they kind of did.

If we look at some of the products released in the last few months, we can rest assured each product from the mainstream will get parodied.

Examples:

HTGAM’s “Steeplechase” – Polo – the original scent.

Grand Crown King Steeplechase Sport (which had been released through HTGAM previously – A limited run based on Polo Sport.

TAMAC – a take on TABAC’s label, but claimed it is not a TAMAC redux. Douglas corrected me and said it’s more of a parody of the label of Tabac, not the scent.

Vloid – Based on Floid Amber, a popular Spain product.

11235 – A parody of the ever popular classic 4711.

Clubguy – A take on the drugstore brand Pinaud Clubman.

Oud Spice – Old Spice Scent.

Cold Spices – Old Spice scent with cooling properties.

Big Shave Soap (Three versions, Orange Spice, Strawberry and Coconut) – which PAA parodied Surf Culture by creating a label that one would be reminded of the popular surf wax “Sex Wax” label.

Enigma Machine – Another take on the Original Sex Wax.

Fougere Noir by Wet Shaving Products – A Take on Drakkar Noir.

Starbucks by Wet Shaving Products – Inspired by the alluring scent of Coffee.

RazoRock/PAA’s “The Beach” – Inspired by the fictional product “Beach” from Seinfeld.

Casablanca – A collaboration with The Shaving Shop – named after the famous movie Casablanca.

 

In my humble opinion, I think Douglas and Fran, Wet Shaving Products, Ginger’s Garden, Mickey Lee Soapworks and others took their spark of idea and made scents already out there just a touch improved. In each case, the product is a slight improvement over the original because of the natural ingredients as well as the additional menthol in some of them which made them much more fun to use during the summer season.

Ginger’s Garden is well known for their willingness to try to capture whatever scent you are looking for and will customize it to your liking.  Many of her stock scents include very familiar ones.  I even decided I wanted an AngelMen clone so I ordered “Angel” from them and I am wearing it today… it reminds me of when I first tried the original version at a department store in San Francisco.

Not only clone scents are being released.  I love the recent idea of creating a product based on nostalgia for a movie or even inspired by a brand.  Number 9 was one of those that had been released last year and it was an exercise on what would the scent of Gun Cleaning Fluid be like on a man’s face.  I haven’t tried it but I have sure been curious about it.  Maybe one day I’ll “pull the trigger” on it.

I don’t think that it harms the industry, as let’s face it, there are only some scents that will appeal more to us than others (for more info on why, check out this article from Mark Herro’s Sharpologist site here.)

It may be a magnet for lawsuits however, but I don’t see a problem on PAA’s part as since it could be construed as Parody, it falls under the law as such, thus the original name of Barbasoul could probably have still gone on, but it didn’t matter at that point because it already did what it was supposed to do – Create a line that attracted the user to the product via Nostalgia of the original and perhaps attract new customers through familiarity.

I applaud all the companies for creating these new takes on old but classic scents. It shows that Wet Shaving can have whimsy & snark while at the same time be very entertaining not to mention innovation.  I remember Douglas once saying that he really wasn’t into revamping old brands at one time, but it seems like he changed his mind and we’re all the better for it.

I’d like to see more.  I can’t wait to see what is coming down the pike.  Makes me wonder what else is coming and hey, that’s also the fun of being a hobbyist and soap collector.

You never know now what is going to be developed and by who.  It sure is a great time for Artisans everywhere right now.  There is room for innovation by everyone and it’s exciting to see everyone working so hard to release quality products, whether they seem like a joke or not.

The spirit of the original products shine through and revamped for a new generation of Wet Shavers who probably would have never thought there were scents like these back in the earlier years.  It is kind of like when we listened to 50’s Rockabilly music back in the 80’s and thought – “Hey, this stuff is pretty darn cool.”  With the help of the Stray Cats and other Rockabilly bands we were then enjoying the newer take on a classic sound.  It wasn’t a negative thing… it was actually pretty awesome!

It could also be compared to say, bands doing covers of the original songs.  They are either a hit or miss and it’s really up for interpretation as well as public opinion on what could be better than the other.

I think there is a fine line – Are the newer products better than the originals?  Well, it depends on what you’re looking for in the first place.  If you’re looking for the classic scent, to go with the originals.  Pinaud finally came out with a line of products that are of similar scent profiles to the popular Clubman scent only after PAA released Clubguy.  Without PAA, perhaps they would have never pressed to release these products, who knows?

So, all you Artisans out there… What’s next?  We all can’t wait to see what you’re going to come out with this Summer!

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Matt Gray @mkgray69 can be reached at WetShavingTimes@gmail.com

The opinions within this blog are solely of my own and if you don’t like it you are free to not only express your own opinions, you can develop your own blog and create something you will enjoy or you can comment below.  I always appreciate the general “Hey man, you’ve got a point there,” as well.  Thank you for your support.

What Happens When You Follow The Money To Get To The Truth

If you “follow the money to get to the truth” in Wet Shaving, you’re likely following someone too closely. This is what I’ve figured out as I became hypnotized into chasing the perfect soap and aftershave.

I decided that the truth is clear. Traditional shaving wasn’t about getting tons of soap and aftershave back in the day.  You know what it was? Finding what you like and sticking with it.

My Uncle Bob for example. He was a Navy man, stuck with Old Spice his whole life, no problem.

My Dad liked a few things by his sink, but it probably at some point was us boys could figure out what we liked.

I’ve been trying soap after soap, aftershaves over and over and yes, variety is indeed the spice of life, but I am done with trying out the novelties of today.

Time to back to some classics for now.

Wet Shaving Products is a line I truly feel is getting neglected by some particular Wet Tubers. I have a few of those.

Also, Pre de Provence 63 is another soap I find to be most soothing to my face.  That will stay in my rotation.

I still have all my creams I got last year when I was on a Shaving Cream kick…. so I will use those. Stuff like the Bed, Bath and Bodyworks Proraso (Green tube), the Kiss My Face 4 in 1 Cream I love.

Oh, and the aftershaves…

I’ll stick with my Pinaud Clubman, Lilac Vegetal, British Sterling, Aqua Velva and all the cooling aftershaves.

Taking a break and going on a freeze.

Not just because it’s an expensive hobby, but because as of now, I have enough to last me a few years already.

I’ll still write about the Wet Shaving Culture because I think it’s fun.  It’s a great group of creative ladies and gentlemen who love spending their hard earned dough, chasing that perfect shave, that fantastic morning where everything will go right.

Now, I have found the things I like and that’s what I have in my Shave Cave.

Enjoy getting your new soaps and aftershaves while you still can afford it. I’m going with just enjoying each shave, day by day with my tried and true products this summer.

Not saying I won’t go back to getting a new soap here or there and most certainly will replace those aftershaves I like and my wife likes, which so far is the Shaving Shop’s Hedonisme.

It’s my journey and I’m camped out for a while, basking in the stuff I love and have.

Spending Freeze begins today.

Until…. my wife says I can get more, who am I kidding?

Happy Shaving y’all.

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Matt @mkgray69 can be reached through the proper channels – wetshavingtimes@gmail.com and as always on Social Media. BloNoDad.com coming soon!  I’ll write there about all the joys of being a Dad to two wonderful daughters and life in the Heartland. Peace out, peeps.

Wet Shaving and Integrity

Integrity is a slippery slope in The Wet Shaving Community. What’s good for one person doesn’t sit right for another. When I saw that a Wet Tuber, who happened to be Traditional Shaving Evangelist Christopher Bailey come up with a system that seemed biased to only people he liked, I wrote about it.

Remember, my blog is not going to be just reviews of products. I document things that I find to be hurting the fabric of the Wet Shaving Community.

What I found by doing this was that rather than be supported in my viewpoint, I saw people calling me an attention whore.  Chris himself said I was riding on his success.

People attacked my videos, saying I was slow. People defended someone who states his opinion time after time without anyone really challenging his way of thinking about how to have Good Form.

So is this then Good Form –  Ridiculing and insulting a viewer and subscriber for challenging someone else’s video?

Let’s talk about Good Form for a second.  The term Good Form is used quite a bit in this Community.  I see it used as a way of shaming others into a group mindset.

The PIF, as decided by the Community is one that must include Good Form that must be displayed by the receiver. If it doesn’t, it’s deemed a PIF gone wrong.  What I have seen are people getting upset over what other people do with products they sent to people to try out. Sometimes, the stories of those people who do this get shared within the groups (gossip) and this person is then blackballed as a person without Good Form, as decided by the group.

Maybe there are people in Wet Shaving who don’t know about this expectation, which it is only an expectation, not law. If it was law, we would be fined or jailed for not following the law.

I want to talk about what it means to be a good person in Wet Shaving for a second. A good person would not attack someone who is stating their views on something they believe to be true…. even if it involves another Wet Tuber’s thoughts about products. Notice I am saying good person and not gentleman.
A gentleman respects another man’s point of view as their own.

I never said I didn’t respect Christopher Bailey. I said his Artists of Integrity labeling was a bit underhanded. This has NOTHING to do with HIM or whether he has integrity.

Let’s look at it from another point of view, shall we?  What if a blog showed up and it discussed and reviewed PEOPLE in Wet Shaving. This someone came up with this idea that they would review the person as a whole and they would label them a PWI – Person With Integrity.

How does that sound to you? It sounds pretty high handed to me. This develops a circle of people from that person’s choosing and then label some as having integrity and some as having no integrity… mind you only ONE person is developing this circle and those who don’t have this label wonder why they don’t have it. It may be that the person never got to know the person left out, or it could be just a way to manipulate a bunch of people to gravitate to certain groups.

I am going to tell you a story. Shave Police was actually brought up as a way to combat trolls. I was part of this group and a few of us discussed what should be done. What was brought up as we got into this was that by combating trolls, then we risked being trolls ourselves. I should know. I was addressed with this by a fellow member. The Shave Police disbanded because it became too focused on gossip and not the problem of trolls. The secretive nature of it was its curse.

What I found in this little exercise of challenging someone else’s views is bullying and defense. I saw people circling the wagons and looking to exclude rather than focusing on what I thought to be an honest suggestion to the Wet Shaving Community. I was floored by what happened.

Luckily, humor set in. I can take a joke and many jokes and memes were developed. One was of Che Guevara and the phrase “Viva Regulation.”

I sit here in my chair, typing this entry knowing there is a slight chance that an Artisan out there actually agrees with me on the point of the need of Guidelines and Regulation.

There is a possibility this has nothing to do with the Blogger. That was just kind of an association with the idea developed by watching the channel.

Look, let’s face it. We can see this as a way of participating and trying to shape the Artisans and how they treat us as customers or we can see it as me trying to latch on to the success of someone else. Either way, please refrain from insulting me for doing my job as a Wet Shaving Culture Blogger with a mission and intention.

I want to see better treatment of customers by Artisans. I want to see better treatment by Bloggers to Bloggers. I want to see better behavior, period. If you don’t see it in what I write or how I write then you’re not grasping the true nature of who I am as a person.

Have a great week. Rant over.

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Matt Gray – @mkgray69 can be reached via email @ WetShavingTimes@gmail.com.

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A Follow Up to My Last Article… and a Message to Artisans Everywhere

I thought I would write a public response to the accusation that I am hitching on to TSE’s success as a Blogger on YouTube by none other than TSE himself, Christopher Bailey.

My blog is well thought out.  I think about what I am going to write before I write it, so when I am writing an entry, I am not thinking of the success of someone else.  I have stated before that I respect Christopher Bailey for what he’s done in the Wet Shaving Community to a point.  He’s brought up some great topics and created some fantastic content.

Now about me and MY blog.  The intention of my blog has shifted from doing videos (which I admit are not up to snuff at this point, I am a rookie still and will likely only do the occasional video now) to what I think about the industry to how it can be improved.  I thought this is was implied in previous posts but evidently, this all got skipped over so I will reiterate what I stated in my previous post.

I simply wrote something down as a suggestion to the Industry based on what he has chosen to do via his blog.  I know he doesn’t need my approval in life – that is clear.  He does his thing and he does it well.  I think if he has the authority to dictate form, what I want to know, is who doesn’t?  I certainly have a right to put in my two cents.

If anyone else did what he is doing currently in their wet shaving video blogs, I would say the same thing, and that is this:  The Artisans need to be regulated by an Association with strict guidelines.  This would then equalize them and keep them in check, so we don’t have people saying “These artisans have integrity, thus you should spend your dollars on them,” without having any comments on how the other Artisans didn’t make the cut.

In conclusion, I want to thank those who have commented and given their support.  I am clear about my intentions to make the Wet Shaving Community a better one.  What I am not clear on is anyone else’s, so they will have to define what a better Wet Shaving Community and Artisan Community is.

Artisans, I challenge you to come together as a team to figure it out by yourselves and not let a Blogger define who you are… or in this case, who you aren’t.

I challenge you to have integrity but don’t brag or silently encourage a Blogger on to tell us you have integrity.  I challenge the Artisans to unite before some random guy who isn’t an Artisan tell us all who to shop from and who to ignore because he’s ignoring them.

You’re better than that.

Here’s a link to TSE’s response over the hullabaloo I created from my post about “people saying he was calling for regulation.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JntvJqY_B0E

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Matt Gray – @mkgray69 welcomes comments that are of quality and not mean spirited and is an Advocate for Wet Shaving Etiquette and Good Form.  Comments are welcomed below or directly to him at WetShavingTimes@gmail.com. Shave intelligently, friends.

 

 

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