A large part of the attraction to wet shaving is the communities that have grown up around the hobby. These communities take many forms. Everything from full blown forums, Yahoo groups, Facebook groups, and local meet-ups. I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview the founders of some of these communities and will be sharing my experiences here.
Today’s guest is the founder of the Facebook group Razor & Brush, Mr. Zach Plevritis.
On the off chance that readers don’t know who you are, please tell us a bit about yourself and how you fit into the wet shaving community?
My name is Zach, I have been a traditional type since my father first taught me how to shave, at the age of 15. I used to tell this story, it will likely answer a few of your questions:
In Greece, like the rest of Europe at the time, there was one kind of soap, and it was called ‘Soap’ and it came in heavy brick form that you would splinter off pieces of in sizes that suited your needs, and your needs from this soap were to bathe in, to wash your hands with, to wash your hair, to do laundry with, to wash dishes with, to mop the floor with, and so on.
So, we came over here, we didn’t know anyone, speak the language, or have any money, AND, we moved into a BAD neighborhood, like all immigrants do. My Dad got a phrase book and would take it with him, to say, the butcher shop, and phonetically sound out words like ‘veal’ and ‘chicken’. We had the luxury of shopping at a supermarket! There, they would look at the pictures on the items, I would imagine recognize some things from Greece, perhaps smell and poke even, and then put them in a cart, but, it was 90% food that we bought.
It was a tough life; I was 6 or 7 before my father felt comfortable enough with my English language prowess to take me with him to the bank whenever he had a problem! Anyway, he bought Ivory soap, and we used it for everything, BUT, we learned quickly about the Ivory for the dishes and the Ivory for the laundry (although my mother did do the laundry in the kitchen of the tiny basement apartment we rented, scrubbing them by hand with a bar of soap on a washboard in the sink, and drying them in the room with the boiler; she was a stubborn, wonderful mother).
So that’s how he came to use Ivory hand soap to shave with. He brought with him an old boar brush from Greece, and a gold Superspeed as well.
When it was my turn to learn to shave, this would have been when I was about 14 or 15, over a dozen years later and with a thin layer of fur all over my face, he had a 70s SS TTO with the black handle and the fluted knob, and a Shulton Old Spice brush with the red and white handle made out of wood, that he undoubtedly bought from the drugstore up the road. He kept the soap in a small plate by the upstairs sink. And with this, he taught me how to shave; at first shaving me, and then, months later when it was time to shave again, watching me shave. Eventually I would shave myself, but he did not want me to use his pre-used blades with my thin facial hair and sensitive skin, he would have me put in a new blade every time it was my turn to shave.
I got a job on my 16th birthday and began to contribute to the family. One day I bought him a puck of Colgate, that I discovered in the supermarket; he liked it a LOT; it had a picture of a sudsy brush and a mug on the outside of it; he knew that this soap was created with the intention of shaving, straight out, and for him, it might as well have been a soap created for Kings; he was very happy, he was an American, and he had the LUXURY of using a SOAP for just ONE thing, to shave with. My mother was not going to soap up a brush and clean the floor with it, this was HIS soap. And even more so, I was happy, because in my heart, I kind of knew what this meant to him, as silly as it may seem to you reading this now.
And I liked it when I could make him happy, and will always wish I had one more opportunity to do so…
He worked very hard for the family; he deserved to shave with a soap that was meant for shaving, I thought.
So I too took to the Colgate, at this time I was shaving every week or so, but not because I couldn’t shave daily and not because I didn’t need to, either; by this time, pre-Miami Vice, mind you, I had decided that I liked the unkempt look.
Anyway, long story short, boar and Ivory, that begot boar and Colgate, that begot boar and Williams or Colgate, and that was the way it was for a long time, until one day in the 80s my girlfriend bought me something from the Big City, something that came in a pot…
And then it all changed.
What is your current go to shave set up?
During the week, when I feel rushed and I have a lot on my mind, I don’t seem to enjoy my shave so much, but I will always use a brush and a quality soap, or else what’s the point? I will do 2 passes, the second pass will have a cold rinse, and then I’ll do a touch-up with just cold water on the face. I will likely use a Witch Hazel and be on my way. On weekend I will take my time, use a straight razor, and do a proper shave. I don’t care much about what I shave with, my acquisition time was about 8-10 years ago (inclusive) and I no longer sit in bed before getting up and plan on what I will shave with.
How has the wet shaving hobby changed since you started?
The biggest change is soap; we are living in the golden age of shaving, where so much amazing quality soap is out there. Who cares if you can’t get any vintage Yardley or Old Spice? No one needs a Holy Grail, if recollection serves that was fantasy.
When did you start your facebook group, and why did you create it?
I left the SMF group a while back because frankly I no longer felt like I belonged there. I was a member of the razorandbrush.com group when Giovanni Abrate ran it, and when he lost interest and gave up the domain, I quickly created a FB group so that about a couple dozen of us could stay in touch. And now we have a couple thousand that do the same.
What do you feel makes your community special?
We have one rule: treat others as you would have them treat you; that’s it. And within the confines of that rule, all can take place. You want to sell stuff, talk about sex, politics, or religion? You can do that, as long as you follow the rule. There is no topic that an intelligent person cannot discuss as long as he/she chooses to do so intelligently. Also, we stand by each other. Shaving might have brought us together, but we are not a snarky forum, we are a community, a brotherhood. When a call goes out to the brotherhood, it is answered. There are more people than I can count on one hand that can attest to that, be it calamity or disaster, we are there for them.
If you could magically give all of your community members one thing in this world, what would it be, and why?
I think we already have; to those who might not be aware, it’s there for the taking.
If you could ask fellow wet shavers one thing and get an answer from all of them, what would that question be?
Any of the YMMV questions; what’s the best/worst will always bring people out; if you’re new to the hobby and ask “which of these should I buy” the answer will end up being “all of them; it’s only a matter of time, so why not face reality, bite the bullet, and just dive in”
Feel free to give a shout-out to some of your power-users or most active members. Does anyone come to mind, and what do you like most about them?
They know who they are, and they don’t care for the limelight, like myself. You asked me to respond to some question, and I am doing so out of brotherhood, and for no other reason.
For someone new to this community, how do they get the most out of it?
Participate, don’t just lurk. Ask questions, don’t be afraid; fools wonder, wise men ask why.
Has anything surprised you about running a Facebook group about wet shaving?
The reaction that some have to the amount of energy some have for the hobby; in order to be prolific you have to spend time and money, and in doing so, you deserve thanks, and nothing else.
What is the most common mistake that you see people new to the hobby making?
Switching up, not adhering to fidelity. It takes you face a while to adjust to a blade or a razor; if you change up every day you’ll never get the hang of it.
If you had one piece of advice to give a new wetshaver what would it be?
There are no Gods, find your own way.
A lot of people have been trying their hand at artisan soap making, restorations, and honing. If you had one piece of advice to give to someone who wanted to start a business centered around wet shaving what would it be?
Don’t quit your day job, we’re a fickle bunch!
I would like to thank Zach for taking the time to respond to my request for an interview. I personally found it to be riveting and even a bit inspirational. I only regret that this wasn’t a live interview so that I could ask more questions and get to know him a little more. Thank you for the community you have created and for the example you set at Razor & Brush.
If there is someone you think deserves a little recognition, please let me know. One of the great things about wet shaving is the community that has grown around the hobby. Have a great day and a smooth shave!