The wide, rich, argumentative world of Internet shaving forums—and the experts who feed them

By TODD OPPENHEIMER

As with many specialty topics these days, the world of traditional shaving (or “wet shaving”) has become a subculture unto itself. And, as with many subcultures, passions run high. At this point there are roughly a half dozen different Internet forums devoted to constant discussion about the fine points of wet shaving, and many dozens of vendors feeding the arguments, or at least clinging to them. Tempers flare, retributions are threatened. And sometimes punishments are actually carried out.

Perhaps the most prominent example is a young man named Joel Ferman, the wet shaving world’s enfant terrible. Ferman founded Badger & Blade, the wet shaving world’s largest online discussion forum.

Over the years, B&B (as it’s known) has become notorious for playing rough on a number of fronts, primarily for censoring people’s comments. Now in his mid-thirties, Ferman has become so reviled that long discussion threads have been created in competing forums to compare notes on whether Ferman or his forum administrators “stole” money from them; why people were banned from Badger & Blade, usually for life and with no explanation; and numerous other insults—not only to a man’s daily shave but also to his ability to engage in the free market. Eventually, Ferman himself responded to one of these threads with his own attacks, and then a few apologies. “I’m not a bad guy,” he wrote. “Believe it or not, I’ve been in your position.” Having been banned from other forums himself, he said he too had “felt the sting of being kicked to the curb.” And so the fights live on.

Anyone patient enough to wade through these skirmishes can nonetheless find a lot of good advice. Here, then, are a few of the friendlier discussion sites, and some additional links to good shaving gear vendors.

Internet forums and information sites:

  • Wicked Edge– a novice-friendly subreddit for asking questions about traditional shaving with double-edge or straight razors
  • Lady Shavers– much the same as Wicked Edge but with a focus on women shavers.
  • Straight Razor Place – knowledgeable forum leaders, with discussions about much more than straight razors.
  • Sharpologist.com– an on-line magazine/review of shaving and grooming topics published by Mark Herro, aka Mantic 59. Herro first gained fame for his YouTube channel of instructional shaving videos, still a mainstay of this site.
  • Michael Freedberg – another excellent YouTube channel for instructional videos.

Vendors:

  • Men Essentials and Fendrihan – two well-stocked Canadian vendors.
  • Barrister and Mann and Chiseled Face – two exceptional soap vendors.
  • Merz Apothecary – a superb, old-school pharmacy in Chicago that dates back to 1875. The pharmacy carries a wide range of non-pharmaceutical remedies and other products, but its largest selection of shaving tools can be found on its Internet site, Smallflower.
  • On the shaving soap front, I can’t help mentioning a couple of obscure brands that have become my personal favorites, partly because one might not expect a lot given their names. One is Nanny’s Silly Soap, a small vendor run by Sharon Baxter in the U.K. Her soaps avoid tallows and other animal oils, drawing instead from a range of pure, non-synthetic ingredients (such as shea butter). The result: wonderfully natural scents, with relatively rich lather.
  • The other is Nancy Boy’s Signature Scent out of San Francisco. This soap is more of a cream, but its lather is the closest thing you’ll get to Martin de Candre’s, and the Signature Scent is equally woodsy and fresh.
  • And last, if you want to dip into ultimate luxury, get a good scuttle (a mug designed to help build lather). Any mug can do this job, but if you want a real treat, consider a Moss Scuttlefrom Sara Bonnyman, a potter in Nova Scotia. Her scuttleis a ceramic cup with an extra layer on the outside for hot water; the combination keeps your brush, and its freshly built shaving cream, toasty warm throughout your shave.

© 2019 Todd Oppenheimer, all rights reserved. Under exclusive license to Craftsmanship, LLC. Unauthorized copying or republication of this article is prohibited by law.

Published: December 1, 2016