An Interview With Chris Bailey
By Brian Trepka, with Chris Bailey
Fellow traditional wet shavers, I feel your pain. Your family, friends and coworkers just don't understand. They don't see why you'd risk severe bodily injury with barbarian-grade shaving tools. They can't understand why you'd waste your time spending 20 minutes with soap, a brush and an old-school razor when you could instantly create lather from a can and scrape it off with the latest 10-bladed wonder-razor. They don't see the difference between what you see as a self-pampering ritual and what they view as a hateful chore. They think you're weird or crazy.
So we hide in the shadows, discussing the latest stainless steel razor or new soap formulation in the safety of Facebook groups or shaving forums. While there are certainly some that publicly sing the praises of traditional wet shaving, there are others that take it to a whole new level. Enter the world of shaving vloggers/YouTubers... Men and women with razors and brushes as far as the eye can see, and enough tubs of shaving soap to build a soap igloo for their kids to play in. Well... I may be exaggerating a bit, but there is something fascinating to me about folks who not only advocate for the wet shaving hobby, but take to platforms like YouTube to do so, showing (literally) the world how to shave, and giving their thoughts on products, techniques, and the latest developments in the wet shaving community.
I (figuratively) sat down with prolific shaving YouTuber Chris Bailey (AKA, the Traditional Shaving Evangelist) for a brief discussion on his thoughts on wet shaving, the traditional wet shaving community, and what it's like to be a wet shaving vlogger.
Brian: Chris, for those who don’t know, tell us how you got started in traditional wet shaving. What aspects of traditional wet shaving do you enjoy?
Chris: I happened across a Geofatboy video by accident and this piqued my curiosity. A tub of TOBS Sandalwood and an Edwin Jagger razor later, and I was hooked.
Brian: Have you been afflicted with any acquisition disorders? What’s your current favorite setup?
Chris: I fell victim to every acquisition disorder in the hobby, but it started with a love of stainless steel razors. This was followed by Brush and then Software Acquisition disorders, respectively. Currently my favorite setup would be: Wolfman Razor, Wolf Whiskers Seven Seas brush with Plisson knot, Tim's Old School Lime Soap, and Fine/Razorock XXX Aftershave.
Brian: How did you get started doing wet shaving videos?
Chris: I started doing videos because I was a member of a couple of forums where new wet shavers weren't treated respectfully. They'd ask a basic question and subsequently they'd be called stupid, chastised for the question, or called too lazy to google. After seeing this I decided to start doing videos, not only to talk about products but also to shed light on the darker side of the hobby. There are few people in this hobby who are willing to call out the bad behavior and talk about it openly, and I feel it's important to talk about. This is a big part of why I do videos.
Brian: How has your channel evolved over the years?
Chris: I think it's evolved insofar as I have evolved. In the beginning I took a few videos down at the suggestion of the viewers. This was the biggest mistake I ever made in this hobby. If you're going to make a video and put it out there, you have to stand by it and take your lumps when it's unpopular. You just can't put your finger to the wind and produce videos like mine. You've got to speak from the heart and be true to yourself. This, I think, was a necessary and valuable change in the direction of the channel.
Brian: How has traditional wet shaving changed since you got started?
Chris: It's changed quite a bit insofar as the volume of choices we have now. We have tons of options now and I think this is great for the consumer.
Brian: You made a video tour of your shave den a little while back. I was surprised by its relatively modest size. With the volume of reviews you do, how do you keep your stock so manageable?
Chris: When the size of my den grows to an unmanageable level, I clean house. I PIF some things, and then I sell the rest on "Buy, Sell, & Trade" forums at a greatly reduced price. My fire sales are very well known in the Wet Shaving Enablers BST forum on Facebook.
Brian: You recently stepped out of the public eye for a bit. You took a bit of a sabbatical from making videos, and cut back on Facebook. What brought that about, and what made you decide to get back into it?
Chris: Several things let to the sabbatical, to be honest. Firstly, I had a death in the family and then several other family members who were diagnosed with serious illnesses. Secondly, I got busier at work and that took up some of my free time. Thirdly, it was getting close to fall and I needed to do a lot of work on my home while the weather was still good. Finally, I had changed the format of my videos to structured reviews and that just didn't work for me. I wasn't enjoying it as much, and I was burnt out. I enjoy doing videos most when I just talk and let the chips fall where they may. Structured reviews aren't my thing.
Brian: In some of your videos, you express frustration with some aspects of the wet shaving community – the potential for abuse in vendor-sponsored forums, shilling, etc. What do you think are some of the bigger problems facing the wet shaving community? How do you think we can solve them?
Chris: The biggest problem in this community is dishonestly, period. There are some forums that are essentially platforms for sales promotion that are masquerading as forums for open discussion. For example, in some forums you can't even mention a particular product or artisan as they are banned. On the other hand, you can mention products that are sold by vendors connected to the forum ad nauseam. You simply can't claim you're trying to promote the hobby and trying to encourage open dialogue when you're simultaneously banning topics of discussion. How do we solve this issue? We stop participating in these types of forums. I have begun signing off my videos with the saying, "Keep ‘em up [antennae] and keep ‘em open" [eyes and ears]. This is my way of reminding consumers to look a bit deeper and to connect the dots. Don't just take things at face value.
Brian: We occasionally get a glimpse of some of the problems you face in dealing with vendors and artisans – blowback about being left out of your list of top soaps, for example. What other sorts of difficulties do you encounter, and how do you deal with them?
Chris: I have received pushback from two artisans but typically I get more heat from their supporters. When an artisan tries to tell me how to run my channel or what to do, I stop using the product and I stop mentioning it. Now keep in mind, I'm not talking about an artisan giving me feedback or having a reasonable discussion with me. I'm talking about attempted coercion. I can't stand for that and I will not tolerate it. In terms of their supporters, I listen to what they have to say and take it into consideration.
Brian: What advice would you give to new wet shavers?
Chris: The single best piece of advice I can give to new wet shavers is to stick with it, as it is worth the reward. Almost everyone has difficulty when they first start wet shaving and it's important to stick with it. As your technique improves and your face adjusts, it will become a much better experience.
Brian: What advice would you give to aspiring wet shaving vloggers?
Chris: Stay true to yourself and run your vlog the way you see fit. Be firm, fair and honest.
Brian: What do you do when you’re not shaving, connecting on Facebook, or making videos?
Chris: Generally speaking, when I'm not making videos, I'm working. Apart from that, I like to do some target shooting with firearms, and I love to visit New Orleans.
Brian: What do your family, friends, coworkers, etc. think of our hobby and your public persona? Do you have any advice for other wet shavers looking to “evangelize”?
Chris: They look at the volume of products I have and think I've lost my mind. They have a difficult time understanding how shaving can be a hobby. :) As for advice for other wet shavers it's very simple: just spread the word. :)
Brian: With the recent folding of a few prominent artisan shave soap makers, many people seem to think that the artisan shaving soap market has reached saturation. What do you think? Do you see the artisan or any other “bubbles” popping at some point?
Chris: People are making a mistake in assuming these artisans folded because of sales. I believe two of these artisans had full time careers in additional to soap making, and one of them just couldn't keep pace. I think speculation absent facts tarnishes the reputation of the artisans. When assertions are made that these artisans folded due to poor sales, some will assume the product must have not been that good. I think this is absolutely unfair to these artisans.
Brian: What is the future of traditional wet shaving? How mainstream do you think it will get?
Chris: The future of wet shaving is bright. We have a wealth of products to choose from and options are always a great thing for the consumer. The more we evangelize, the larger the hobby will become. The sky is the limit as far as I'm concerned.
Brian: Thanks, Chris for sharing your thoughts with me. You perform a great service to the wet shaving community with your advocacy, tutoring and product reviews, and we're happy to have you contribute to our blog.
Chris: I'm happy to do it. Just remember folks: Keep 'em up, and keep 'em open. :)