This weeks post is another wet shave interview featuring a well known contributing member of the shave community. This weeks post features Mr. Steve Faragher. Steve is well known for his YouTube shave videos and established the Facebook group The BIG Shave. The BIG Shave Facebook group currently has over 3000 members and features a large contingent of shaving brethren from Europe. Steve was kind enough to do an interview for the blog and sent me a recording of the interview. The full audio recording can be accessed here:
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 Steve Faragher and I live in a place called Liverpool which you’ve probably heard of. I live in a part of Liverpool called Kensington which is an inner city area of Liverpool; quite poor. I was born in Liverpool and apart from a couple of years when I was away at university doing an art degree I’ve been in Liverpool for most of my 58 years.
I run what’s called a community interest company called Kensington Vision CIC and what Kensington Vision does is it engages the local community in things like radio training, digital inclusion training. Also we run Liverpool’s only full time community radio station called LCR; Liverpool Community Radio which can be listened to on www.l-c-r.co.uk
How this fits into the wet shaving community I’m not really sure actually. It probably fits into it in the sense that some of the work that I’ve done in the area is about using media. New media things like Facebook and YouTube to engage local communities and give the local communities an opportunity to express themselves online.
Can you tell the readers anything about your struggles when starting wet shaving or anything you struggle with now?
When I first started, the background is I used to go to Turkey every year, still do. I used to get one of the famous Turkish shaves and I was always impressed by how close the shave was and how refreshing it was afterwards. Then started to look around to see what the alternatives were in Britain.
At the time barber shops taking up wet shaving was quite a new phenomenon and only quite expensive barber shops were doing it in places like London and Manchester. In Liverpool there didn’t seem to be any so then I had to think about how I was going to manage to be able to recreate the Turkish experience in Liverpool.
So I tried teaching myself how to shave with a shavette but unsuccessfully I might add. The shaves were quite close but I couldn’t quite get the technique off so that I could it regularly so I decided to look around a little bit more on the internet. I came across Mantic59 who talks about the three pass method with double edged blades, safety blades. Once I’d seen how that was done and I mastered it I realized that you could do this quite easily and you could fit it within your daily routine.
Started looking at things like how you go about getting the right equipment and the right materials. That all really started around about 2006/2007. And after doing that for a few years and getting the daily shave which was a great way of getting your skin acclimatized and also making sure that your technique is good. I started doing the videos in 2010, the YouTube videos.
What is your current go to shave set up?
My current set up is I tend to use the Big Shave heated scuttle. I do like to use a Merkur Futur, it’s one of my favorite razors and it would probably be the razor that I’d take to a desert island with me. Also the Badger Big Shave Brush which was put out as limited edition last year.
I do like using Arko soap, I know some people dislike it intensely and it tends to divide the shaving community down the middle. From being people feeling it’s absolute rubbish and smells like toilet block; whatever that smells like or people like me who find it very cheap, always reliable. It’s also soap that Turkish barbers use, they don’t go for any of the fancy stuff.
I’ve had fancy stuff, I’ve had fancy expensive stuff and I’ve always been slightly disappointed. I used some Taylor of Old Bond Street last week and I found it quite weak really, quite difficult to get into a decent lather.
I usually finish off with some cologne based aftershave. It’s usually Alpa, I quite like Alpa 378 or Alpa Clove, I think it’s called. I usually finish off with the Arko thick cream which has got beeswax in it and is quite hard to rub into the skin but always leaves the skin looking nice and pink and brings the blood supply to the surface.
I do vary it though because I broke my wrist a couple of weeks ago and I’ve had to play round with different razors and also start to learn to shave left handedly. I’ve only just gone back to shaving with the proper hand, my right hand. Because the wrist was badly broken I still can’t get into some of the positions so I’m swapping razors backwards and forwards. Often swapping hands with the razors which something I never used to do but it’s interesting shaving with your left hand. You should all have a go at doing it.
How has the wet shaving hobby changed since you started?
I think it’s changed quite a lot really. When I first started there was very little on the internet about it and very little available but it seems to have taken off in a very sort of quick way really. Because I think it’s one of the things that people can relate to quite easily.
My background was that I hadn’t learnt how to shave for a long time. I was in my mid-50s and I had many years of having a full beard because I just hated shaving so much. I’d tried virtually every shaving system including double edged, disposable razors, electric razors, two blades, three blades, four blades, five blades with no great success really. Little realizing it was down to just a very simple technique that I hadn’t adopted.
The thing that sticks out most really about the way the hobby’s changed is that there seems to be a lot of new companies setting up. Things like artisan soap companies so there’s a lot more choice than there was. When I first started round about 10 years ago there wasn’t as much to try out but now… although the stuff 10 years ago was old stuff, old brands that had just sort of been forgotten like Palmolive which makes fantastic shaving soap by the way. They were there but you didn’t notice them on the shelves.
America seems to be better at some of the old shaving brands, it seems anyway. But I haven’t been back to America since I started shaving so quite looking forward to going back there in the next year or two and hitting a few of the drug stores and seeing what’s available.
So I think that’s how it changed and it’s an opportunity as well to acquire RAD, Razor Acquisition Disorder which means you want to go out and buy everything because you want to try a different soap, you want to try a different aftershave, you want to try a different cream, you want to try a different razor. So there’s plenty to choose from, it’s never been this good really for a long, long time probably since the 30s or 40s.
When did you start your Facebook group and why did you create it?
I started the group… I think it was in 2011 and it was because I’d been doing the videos for about a year; the YouTube Big Shave videos. I was getting a lot of feedback off people through the videos and also people were emailing me so I realized there was a bit of a group out there who were interested in maybe talking about it and discussing it. So just as an afterthought really I set up a Facebook group little realizing that… since 2011 it’s mushroomed to about 2800 members with something like 30 to 40 members joining every week which is… it’s definitely a phenomenon.
It gives people the opportunity to talk to other shavers in all parts of the world and also try out different types of product and getting feedback off people as well. There has been a few sort of arguments on there and sometimes people use it to get things off their chest; sometimes correctly or sometimes incorrectly. But it all seems to be working out and there seems to be a lot of people setting up alternatives to the Big Shave and what they always say is the greatest form of flattery is imitation.
I was quite astounded when it got to 100, then when it got to 500 I was doubly astounded and then the 1000 I was absolutely speechless really which is unusual for me. I think that’s why I created it to give people an opportunity to talk to other people.
What do you feel makes your community special?
What makes the Big Shave special is… what sort of annoyed me sometimes is people do start arguing over very, very silly things. All of a sudden they all make up with each other and they’re all friends again but people can get into quite sort of deadly earnest arguments about quite insignificant things. But it just shows the passion that’s there I think which people acquire once they start shaving.
I’ve sort of likened shaving and especially acquisition of razors to the way people collect vintage cars. It’s a collection hobby but it’s also a hobby that you can actually use the object. So some people collect antique and vintage things but they can’t actually use them but you can actually go out to flea markets and antique markets and that and buy old razors of all sorts of shapes and descriptions. Especially double edged razors and you can use them because most of them take Gillette blades and even the single bladed ones you can still get blades for them.
I think that’s the key to it all really. It makes you feel good and it also gives you a focus especially people who’ve got Asperger’s syndrome [laughs].
If you could magically give all of your community members one thing in this world what would it be and why?
If I could magically do it I’d like to give everyone a Merkur Futur because I think the Merkur Futur razor is unsurpassed really. You can take it right down to a mild one setting or you can set it up to number six and it does feel very like an open razor. The weight of the actual body of the razor carries the shave really. It takes a bit of getting used to and a lot of people don’t like it but as soon as they do get the hang of it, it usually becomes a razor that people do like and I think it’s a type of razor you could possibly pass onto your son or your grandson. So it’s the Merkur Futur.
If you could ask fellow wet shavers one thing and get an answer from all of them what would that question be?
The question would be, why? Why do you like doing it? I just think people like… it’s interesting to find out what people’s motives are, what turns people on to shaving
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?
Got to mention Michael Smith who lives in Manchester who does… he has got a wicked sense of humor and the video he did a couple of years ago when he impersonated most of the people who were doing shaving videos at that time. Had me in stiches. He had me dressed up like Che Guevara which I thought was quite interesting.
There’s Dub as well, Dub has been around since the beginning. There’s Michael Freedberg, there’s Jason, there’s Kurt. Lots and lots of people out there have given me great help and I think they also give me great support as well in the whole thing. I suddenly realized last year as well when I had a heart attack what the Big Shave meant to me because people were worried about me. Complete strangers, well they weren’t complete strangers but people I’d never met before were actually worried about my health.
I was recovering and wondering what was going to happen if I didn’t make it back so I’d like to give a shout-out to all the members really for getting involved and taking the time out and putting the effort in. Especially for all the Shave of the Day that people do.
For someone new to this community how do they get the most out if it?
Ask questions of the community. Don’t be frightened to ask a question, there’s no stupid questions. Inevitably the question you will be asking will have been asked by someone else or would have been solved by someone else. Also they will have gone through the phase that you’re going through now.
Because what happens is when you do start shaving especially when you haven’t got the hang of the pressure or the angle of the head then you sometimes can hit a bit of a brick wall. It only needs a little bit of advice; it can be something as simple as how steep the head of the razor is. If you have it too shallow then it digs into the skin, if you have it too high it doesn’t cut the skin.
One of the things that people always have trouble with is shaving the neck. The neck area is always difficult do and I think what happens is inevitably is you try and over shave the neck and because of the skins thinness and sensitivity you end up with razor rash. A lot of people… whenever I see that I will always jump in and give people the advice about pressure and not staying on the one spot too long. And not being too precious about it being completely shaved properly at the beginning.
Has anything surprised you about owning a Facebook group about wet shaving?
Well I said before it was the numbers really and especially recently in the last sort of 12 months or so we get a constant flow of people who have found out about us from other areas. It’s knowing where they find out about us from is always interesting and realizing how passionate they are about it.
What’s the most common mistake that you see people new to the hobby making?
Common mistake really is buying too much stuff to begin with and spending too much money. I always say to people get the cheapest decent razor that you can. Cheapest decent soap and concentrate on your technique, three pass technique. The price of the razor is not going to make the shaving experience any better. It’s like driving a car you can learn to drive a car in a cheap car or a really expensive car but it’s the same process.
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?
The advice would be just do it, just have a go at doing and what was it in Field of Dreams? “Build it and they will come”. If you have a go at doing it people will get involved with what you’re doing and especially if you’re doing it with some sort of passion. Because some of these restorations and honing in particular I do not have the patience to actually do anything like that. It’s probably one of the reasons why I don’t use a straight razor but you’ve got to admire their tenacity and their skills as well.
Is there a product you would like to share with the readers?
Well yes I’ve got to say this and people who buy them will back me up on this. The Big Shave market sells a heated scuttle which are handmade by an artisan potter in the Czech Republic courtesy of Adam Massey. Sold probably the best part of two or three hundred of them over the last three years.
I wasn’t a massive fan of heated scuttles before and I couldn’t see the point of them but never having owned one. But as soon as I got one and tried it which I did before I actually decided to start marketing them I realized especially in the winter it gives a very nice feel to the shave. You get a nice hot lather before you start shaving and it also softens the skin as well.
So it’s the BiG Shave Shaving Scuttle really, available for £39.99 plus postage from firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to thank Steve for taking the time to do this interview and share what makes the wet shaving community what it is. It’s nice to touch base with our shaving brethren in other parts of the world.
Once again I hope you enjoyed the interview. I enjoying doing them a lot more than I could of imagined. If you have any suggestions on who you would like to see interviewed, please drop me a note. Finally, if you enjoyed the article please like, share, or comment below. Have a great day and a smooth shave!