Modern wet shaving lost one of it’s pioneers recently, Charles Roberts. Charles was the proprietor of Enchante’ in Austin, TX and the creator of “Method” shaving. But that’s not the whole story.
“Traditional” style wet shaving had virtually disappeared in the US by the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. Oh, you might be able to find an old Gillette double edge razor at a junk store, or a crappy Burma Shave brush with some Williams Mug Soap if you knew where to look, but multi-blade cartridges and shave foam had largely taken over. Charles was one of a handful of people, including the late Ray Dupont (the original owner of Classic Shaving), who were able to import small amounts of traditional shaving soaps and creams (mostly from Britain) for the tiny band of mostly Anglophiles who appreciated quality shaving products.
Aficionados began to find each other when the internet in it’s current form began to take shape in the 90’s. Charles started a wet shaving forum on the old MSN system (long since defunct) in the late 90’s (at about the same time, Lynn Abrams started a Yahoo Group that eventually became Straight Razor Place. But I digress, that’s another story). The MSN group closed but it spawned two other MSN groups, which eventually begat the Shave My Face forum. As these forums began to take hold a second wave of shaving vendors soon arrived (including Lee’s Razors, QED, and Shave Place) and a beach-head of sorts was established.
I mention this history to put his contribution in perspective. He was there, in the trenches, and absolutely passionate about shaving–he made my interest in shaving look casual. He researched product information and did his own testing. He developed his own style of shaving, the Roberts Method of Wet Shaving (RMWS) which eventually morphed into “Method” shaving. At first he used what products were available at the time (the early RMWS variants used Mach3 razors and various combinations of soaps and creams) until he had the resources to begin making products to his own specifications. He created a systematized way of shaving the face that was independent of beard “grain.”
Charles’ passion for shaving was sometimes misunderstood. It didn’t help that he tended to describe things in a perhaps overly-academic way. But he had a degree in English Literature and taught for several years before moving to Texas and becoming an entrepreneur: that was the way he expressed himself. Anyone who came into the store was sure to have a fascinating conversation with him while they were there. But he didn’t push his views on clients–he was just as happy to sell a tube of Trumper’s shaving cream and leave it at that.
I was lucky enough to live within driving distance of Enchante’ and spoke with him at length a number of times. Charles was a good man who positively impacted the lives of many people, and he will be missed.
“The double edge razor (DER) shines forth as an enduring rebuke to an age customarily enticed by the vapid promises of mass technology, Where technology is vague of purpose, the DER is specific. Where technology is often blunt and crude; the DER is elegant. Where the best of technology is for the few, the DER speaks to the average man. Where technology is soulless, the DER renders a man both confident and soulful. This marvelous shaving tool is modern man’s talisman against every wild offense the world throws at him. The DER is a man’s companion and constant promissory of all the best he can hope for in this life. With his razor in hand, any man is transformed into a virtual prince of tides; he is always happiest when enveloped in a watery mix of soap, cream and steel.”