I posted this on our Facebook page, but I wanted to post it here as well as I hope you will find it relevant. Andrew, if this is out of bounds, my apologies if it needs to be taken down.

This is something that I’ve been pondering for some time and considering posting, and I thought that now seemed to be the right time with the recent news of closures of two prominent businesses within the wetshaving community (for those not in the loop, Strop Shoppe and Knockout Shave both announced the shuttering of their businesses within the past two weeks). Please don’t take this as market research or shilling. This is a post borne of genuine curiosity, not just as someone who loves the act of wetshaving, but also as someone who literally has dedicated his life and family’s wellbeing to it.

What is the future of wetshaving? Is this a fad that will meet the same end as eight ball jackets, ska, beanie babies, and hopefully very soon skinny jeans for men and lumbersexuals? Is it merely a temporary protest measure against the ridiculous pricing models of Gillette and Schick? Is it a quaint dose of nostalgia we hold onto as we lose our grandfathers, and in doing so lose the last real generation to have grown up in a time when wetshaving was the only option? Is this a pseudo-hobby that will reach an apex soon and then slowly trickle away leaving many with so much gear that they have purchased that no longer holds the same monetary or sentimental value? Or is this a true revival and renaissance of something that is truly better and should have never been lost?

For you, the wetshaver: Do you truly find that your shave is not only more enjoyable from an aesthetic point of view, but also in terms of the end result when compared to multiblade cartridges and canned foam or gel? How much groupthink is involved in all of this, meaning wetshavers who got better results from cartridge razors but are nevertheless plodding along trying to find that moment where it clicks, yet are still enjoying the ride and being a part of the club? How many of you have absolutely found how you will shave until you reach fiddler’s green? How many (especially those who are new to it) are still on the fence? How many of you would go back to cartridges if prices were slashed by 50% tomorrow? 75%? When is enough enough – where acquisition of new goods levels off and becomes something you buy as you need it, rather than keeping enough on hand to wet shave Texas?

Finally what can be done to ensure the future viability of wetshaving? Ok, admittedly this is a selfish question given my chosen profession, but it’s an important question. Buying gifts of wetshaving is a start, but not always something the receiver of the gift will continue. What can be done outside of this to introduce new shavers who may be just as frustrated with their current shaving setup, but may not have ever stumbled upon the wacky world of wetshaving? What can be done for those who are new to wetshaving (and struggling, perhaps) to convince them to keep going, to put in the due diligence to make it second nature? What can be done to make it more inclusive for women, who are so often overlooked as equally important to the future of shaving?
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Excellent points. I think that there are a few things driving the market changes we are seeing right now.

1) Market glut. There's no going around this one, there's just so many different things out there that have popped up within the last 2 years in the world of wetshaving, and the user base has not come close to matching that growth.

2) Personal supply glut. New vendor, cool idea, nice packaging... Sure I'll order a tub or three! Oh, look, another new vendor! Yeah I can swing another order... WHOA that's an awesome concept for another soap over there! Don't mind if I do place an order. Hey an LE! Definitely can't miss out on that! Fast forward six months as you're installing new cabinets to hold the overflow of soaps, creams and brushes when you finally have that moment where you realize you just don't need to buy much more.

3) Burnout. For the part of vendors, I can only suppose, but for the part of consumers, it is just stupidly tiresome to keep up with all the new releases, etc. I've had my fill of camping in front of the computer for the latest sure-to-be-sold-out-within-a-minute brush/soap/cream/razor or whatever. Eventually you just get tired of it and are willing to pass on these things. It doesn't hurt that almost all the new products seem to turn out to me hyperbolic hype trains barely able to stay on the rails.

So will wet-shaving be a fading thing? Nah, I think we're seeing some separation of wheat from chaff, and the "so-so" things (whether it be product quality, customer service, availability, or whatever) are falling off.

I personally never got much of an improved shave from DE compared to cartridge, but I get a dramatically better shave with a SR, so I plan on continuing that. What I'm not sure I will do a ton of is get limited releases of things like soaps and brushes. Thus far I haven't really gotten one I could say was "worth it."
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Thousand Oaks, CA
Rod, you've touched on a very pertinent question. One I've been struggling to word properly myself.
I am very interested in the responses you get and am subscribing.

I've said this to my customers and to mildly curious people: In my opinion, it really doesn't matter what razor you choose to use. The biggest difference you can make in your morning shave routine is to use proper shaving soap/cream and a shaving brush- along with a healthy knowledge on the proper way to shave YOUR face.
I know I might get some flak for saying this, but I believe you can get a decent shave from almost any razor once you learn how to use it properly and you have the proper prep.

This has been my primary focus when introducing wetshaving to newcomers. Soaps and brushes can be used by anyone regardless of how much/little time they spend shaving and will provide excellent results. The same cannot always be said for switching to a DE/SE/SR.
Gareth  | VENDOR TheHandleBarSupply.com 
Vintage Gillettes, Nuávia, Chiseled Face, Fine, Stirling Soaps, THE HOLY BLACK, Mickey Lee, RazoRock, DE Blades, Hair Pomades, and more.
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Gareth, I thought you might be having some of the same questions, given that your business is inexorably tied to much of the same market. I personally don't think it's a fad, nor do I think that the great businesses will go under. I do however think that there will be some market correction in many of the products and services, and some good businesses will close up shop.
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For me, wet shaving was a means to an end to 25 years of razor burn. It was Andrew whom first introduced me to the idea, actually. And since my face has healed and no longer suffers from the cartridge shave, I'll never go back. It wasn't about price for me, it was about health.

Then I discovered the hobbyist side of wet shaving and was blown away by the overwhelming choices of products out there. I had no idea just how big it was, and I teetered on the edge of diving in full force..., but I'm also trying to simplify my life a bit and really focus on putting thought into "do I really want this as a hobby?" For wet shaving, I came to the conclusion that no, it isn't going to be a hobby, but simply a way for me to now enjoy, rather than loathe, a daily chore. Along with that simplification I decided that I was going to pretty much stick to one vendor for my shaving needs and that just so happens to be the OP. I'm looking for great bang for buck and he provides it.

I will be keeping 2, maybe 3, soaps on hand in rotation at a time, so it could be many months between soap orders for me, but I plan on trying different things when it is time to order. I have begun ordering the bath soaps as well, which gives me a chance to test the scents before ordering them as shaving soaps.

But that's just me. There are always going to be people like me for which wet shaving is a necessary part of their lives simply because their skin doesn't agree with the cartridge/canned goop shave.

Then there are the hobbyists. There will also always be hobbyists because this hobby is really cool and I can see how easily one could really dedicate a substantial portion of their hobby money and time to this.

So like any other "fad" that surges for a bit, I do think that wet shaving may slow down, but it won't go away, especially if there are real tangible benefits to be had, and there are. I've converted at least 2 people, so far, that had similar issues as me with "modern" shaving. It's easy to convert them if you show them the more modestly priced options out there..., like 20 dollar razors, 10 dollar brushes, 5-10 dollar soaps/creams, and 10 dollars/100 blades. If you jump in and show them the oneblade, they'll scoff. Big Grin

Word of mouth is how our hobby will stay alive, and in the short time (2 years) that I've been in it, I've found that this group of people is nothing if not passionate about this hobby/necessity. So while it may wane, it won't disappear, and there are going to be casualties in the marketplace.

Life has a melody.
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San Francisco
I like that the OP asks us to step back and take perspective on this whole wet shaving thing. That's always healthy, especially when it's so easy to get bogged in so many (enjoyable) details.

I do not think the wet shaving revival is a fad, no. Fads have to do with fashion, with a passing way to let everyone else know you're in-the-know and playing along, too. I suppose there may be guys out there deciding to use a "grandpa razor" because it fits a momentary image for them, but honestly I haven't seen it (and I do see a lot of hipster fads come through, living in San Francisco, believe me). I also now know a good dozen or more guys at work (and a handful of friends) who use DEs (and at least one happy SR shaver). A few came to it through my introduction, but most found it on their own. I work for a tech company, and it seems many of these fellas read that these old-school razors simply give a better shave, and cost less, and being the rational-minded folks that they are, went with what made sense — optimal solutions and all that. Almost everyone I talk to who wet shaves enjoys it, both for the improvement to their skin and because real lather made with a brush just feels (and smells) really nice.

From all I've gathered from these guys, and certainly my own experience, the return to traditional wet shaving isn't a fad so much as an un-learning of what has been pounded into us by the Gillette marketing department for, what, 30 years now. Wet shaving makes the case for itself very well. Most of us just didn't think it existed as a real alternative until recently.

There is a trend right now toward local supplies, artisan items, hand-crafted goods, and "authenticity," which of course some companies are jumping on in appearance only. But I think the cultural turn toward this is meaningful, as people instinctively want better than what is mass-produced, cynically marketed, and disposable. That trend may not last, but it's doubtless introduced that many more people to traditional shaving, and my bet is they'll stay, even after the bespoke-artisanal thing loses the spotlight.
David : DE shaving since Nov 2014. Nowadays giving in to the single-edge siren call.
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(03-01-2016, 04:34 AM)onethinline Wrote: There is a trend right now toward local supplies, artisan items, hand-crafted goods, and "authenticity," which of course some companies are jumping on in appearance only. But I think the cultural turn toward this is meaningful, as people instinctively want better than what is mass-produced, cynically marketed, and disposable. That trend may not last, but it's doubtless introduced that many more people to traditional shaving, and my bet is they'll stay, even after the bespoke-artisanal thing loses the spotlight.

Oh that is an excellent point (bolded), and something that has become important to me as I start the second half of my life. I just turned 40 last year, and like most people, I started taking a hard look at where I am and where I want to end up when this journey is over. What I saw is that we're surrounded by a lot of crap..., cheap, plastic, toxic, disposable..., crap, and I no longer wanted any part of it.

I decided that for the second half of my life, I was going to surround myself with quality goods made by local craftsman if possible, but at least made in the USA (my country) if I couldn't achieve that. I'm fortunate to live not far from the Strip District in Pittsburgh and am able to source most of my needful things from wonderful and eclectic local craftsman. Supporting artisans and local makers is a new found passion of mine and like you said, it seems to be for many others as well. Wet shaving is another way that one can achieve such goals.

Life has a melody.
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That Bald Guy with the Big Beard
Bishop, CA
I think it is both a fad and not a fad. For some, I am sure there is the "slogging along to be part of the crowd" mentality, regardless of the shave quality. People want to be part of something, and that's just human nature. Like big beards and flannel shirts, some people are doing it to be fashionable, and some people don't realize they are doing anything. It's just the way it is.

Me, I have tremendously improved shaves with DE razors than I ever had with cartridges. I only shave my head these days, but with cartridges, it was uncomfortable, irritating, and full of bumps and ingrown hairs. I hated it, but I suffered through it. Since I picked up a DE and the tradityional aspects of shaving, I get clean, close and comfortable shaves every night with no ingrown hairs, no irritation, no bumps, and no worries. I can keep a very clean dome without sacrificing comfort or skin health.

Not only that, the process of shaving in a traditional manner, is so relaxing to me that it has become my primary means of relaxing after work and on weekends. It is my own personal spa treatment for half an hour every evening, and bugger off to anyone that would try to deprive any of us that personal time.

I think there is a fair percentage of people like that in the hobby, and those folks will be around for a long time, passing it on to anyone they can along the way.

I think part of what we are seeing with companies closing shop is the effects of market saturation. There are hundreds of high quality soap makers out there. How many can really be supported by the market? It's not like we go through a tin of soap every week. Or even every month...
-Chris~Head Shaver~
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(This post was last modified: 03-01-2016, 05:48 AM by steeleshaves.)
Sterling Soaps Great Value..... Excellent post and quandary. Here are my two or three cents after three years "converting" many of my fellow employees, hell we have a shave club at work (400 plus employees)

1. People always change due to cost. Shaving for men is damn expensive in the cartridge world.

2. That being said, after they switch, very few ever go back to cartridges, but even less make it a "hobby". There are numerous guys at work that "wet shave" with one razor and one brush and buy two soaps and aftershaves a year, these gentleman are shaving to save money and they do so. They aren't in forums and they aren't spending thousands a year on shave gear. Their dollars aren't expanding the "artesian world".

3. Recently on our forum, a user posted he got nearly three and a half months out of one tub of soap (4 ounces) using it daily, every day. At the high end of soap cost spectrum, that would be roughly 50.00 a year in soap. That's it.

4. The "hobbyist" you and me, eventually slow down. We buy a bunch and always will, but our dollars alone won't support a hundred artesians. Never will and it won't happen. The "boom" has been great but at the end of the day, wet shavers are a minority and despite the resurrection in popularity, there is only enough dollars in the pool to keep X amount of vendors and artisans solvent. I think 2016 and 17 will prove this to be true. We may end up with more wet shavers and less artesians.
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There comes a time when an artisan will saturate the (small) enthusiast segment. At that point they're met with a handful of options. For a hobbyist/love of the game type guy like myself, I'd (most likely) be fine with it. For someone wanting to grow this as a full time gig, they most likely would not. And that's where, I feel, we are now.

From my observations, those in the latter group have realized the jump to a commercial space is enormous/difficult. Could you get your soaps into Wal-Mart? And if so, could you even supply them? The scale up from artisan to commercial is so daunting that you end up with what we have now: a constant stream of limited editions, huge fragrance catalogs, spin-off products, etc. in attempt to gain more market share.

The problem with that is the market gets put on a bubble. And as it continues, I think it presents two main issues. One, we'll see more and more people falling away from the groups, burnt out from the constant product treadmill. Two, brands will start to create deflation within themselves as people stop buying staple products in anticipation for the next limited edition; a nasty cycle a few artisans are charging steadfastly towards. Neither bodes well for people new to the experience.
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