We’ve seen many posts, pictures, and videos of the Big Shave West 2 (TBSW2), held at The Old Town Shaving Co. in Pasadena on April 23, 2016 published in social media platforms. They showed hundreds of happy faces, and that it was a bigger event than last year’s inaugural meet-up with more shavers/attendees and artisans/vendors. With experience and more familiarity with everyone, the ambiance, unbelievably seemed more casual even with a larger crowd. It’s always exciting to see, read and hear what’s going on, but being part of the event is so much more palpable. It also makes my interactions with shavers on social media feel deeper as we’ve met and have this meet-up as a common bond. This is my experience at traditional wet shaving’s coolest event.
When I arrived at 10:30AM, a half hour before the official start, the buzzing ambiance had already started. I quickly recognized several wet shavers; some I had met personally while others I had only interacted with on social media. It was a pleasure to see friends and make new ones. We all share one intense passion: traditional wet shaving, which overcomes all other defining qualities.
I immediately booked a straight razor shave with Victor Bañuelos and Omar Romero (my regular barber from Vinny’s Barber Shop) as I had saved my whisker growth for two days for this shave. It was an incredible shave. Victor demonstrated that he was a pro by first verifying the grain of my whiskers. I barely felt the razor as it glided over my well prepared face. Victor made me feel as if I was in the intimate setting of a barbershop as he used Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements’ traditional shaving-scented CaD shaving soap and aftershave/cologne. Omar assisted Victor by handing him warm towels, and impeccably lathered shaving soap, among other precious shaving rituals. Victor confirmed my belief that I had hard whiskers as he used a second new blade on the shavette. I’ll be less forgiving of blades now!
I picked up my swag bag and smiled at the sight of all the goodies to add to my healthy den. Many items, like the t-shirt and programs will serve as souvenirs of this annual shaving highlight. The samples will be used this summer and likely feed my gluttonous acquisition disorder. There are just so many great products! A lot of products are presented in social media groups, but pictures and scent descriptions are only theoretical. Seeing the actual products and smelling software help form a clearer idea. The Old Town Shaving Co. carries a lot of these products, and TBSW2 showed many new ones.
Aside from meeting shavers and artisans, there were services and demonstrations available for free. Nathan Clark, of Envy Shave, had a lathe and some fortunate people experienced the magic of creating a brush handle – nudge, nudge David Gonzalez! Razor Emporium’s booth provided honing and restoration services, which were also quite popular. Eric Engle graciously honed straight razors while Thaddeus Wells meticulously restored safety razors.
There are so many things happening with so many people, that a documentary film is being made to record the event. Marissa Neel, from Razor Emporium, who also produces all their videos/photos, filmed everything she saw and asked people to submit their footage in order to get as many scenes and as many perspectives as possible. She’s going through nearly 12 hours of footage to produce a 25 minute documentary film that should be completed in early June. This film will make the event feel that much more real to those who couldn’t attend.
The atmosphere was so congenial that Richard Coin, from Rico’s Corner spontaneously organized a fundraiser to support Luke Seibert, Darren & Carrie Seibert’s son who suffered serious injuries in an accident in March. Based on a $50 dare from another wet shaver, Richard got his beard shaved off. The ever-generous Damon Stathatos, gentlemen extraordinaire and owner of The Old Town Shaving Co. stepped up immediately and made the first donation from TBSW2. While Victor was shaving Richard, a Wet Shaver’s Round Table discussion was taking place. A fundraising, a shave to remove a beard, a public discussion of shaving, a gathering of wet shavers – that’s intense. Where else does this happen? How do all these activities happen simultaneously? Simply, and it was beautifully surreal!
The traditional meet-up component of meeting at a bar/restaurant happened later, but my previous engagement pulled me away at 5PM. I know I’ll attend more meet-ups and I can continue to interact on social media, so all was not lost.
I learned about the various experiences people had in shaving, in becoming artisans, and even in travelling to TBSW2. You know you’re having fun when time flies and the only reason you’re stopping is because of other commitments. All these interactions made nearly 7 hours pass as if I had only been there for an hour. It was a pleasure seeing Con Kazantzidis, from The Stray Whisker who came from Australia, Gareth Everard, from Rockwell Razors who came from Canada, Peter Charkalis from The Shaving Shop who came from East Coast, and the many others who came from out of state. It was an honor to meet Darren Seibert, from Soap Commander. He and his wife are exemplary members of this community and when their son Luke suffered that terrible accident, they demonstrated strength and grace that made them legendary in my eyes.
I spend several hours every week on shaving social media groups and enjoy it quite a bit. I discover, I admire, I yearn, and I laugh ’cause we’re a bunch of shaving nerds who know it. When I go to the meet-ups, I get the same pleasure times 100 because it’s intense and verifies that our shaving obsession is normal as it’s enjoyed by all sorts of people – truly a melting pot of society. I encourage everyone, even if you’re introverted to attend a meet-up and realize that enjoying shaving as a hobby is a starting point to learn about other similarities, appreciate differences, and to strengthen a friendship bond with new friends.
See you at TBSW3!
Christian Lévesque has attended 4 traditional wet shaving meet-ups in the past 2 years; all at The Old Town Shaving Co. He’s met dozens of shavers he knew from social media groups and enjoys sharing shaving and non-shaving experiences, and tasting IPAs!