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Reflections On The “Great Shave 2012”

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Merz’s Great Shave Goodie Bag

I thought I would post my thoughts on Merz Apothecary’s second annual “Great Shave” in Chicago last week. Unfortunately I was too busy to take pictures or video while there, but plenty of other people did: Merz hired a photographer and videographer and I saw a bunch of other people taking snapshots so I imagine images and posts will be popping up in the shave-o-sphere over the next week or so.  Hopfully I can link a few here on Sharpologist.
I showed up at the Dank Haus in the early afternoon for my presentation (“Take Charge of Your Lather”). It was held concurrently with Lynn Abrams’ (Straight Razor Place & Straight Razor Designs) presentation on straight razor honing and stropping. I wish the two presentations weren’t at the same time–some people had to choose between attending my session and attending Lynn’s, and I think most who made that choice chose Lynn’s (I can’t blame them though. Hell, I wanted to see his presentation). I spoke to about a dozen people about the ingredients that make up lather, lathering different ways (bowl, face, palm), short-cuts and tricks, etc. Interestingly, there were four professional barbers in attendance! Merz allowed two hours for my presentation. I was kind of worried that I would run out of things to say pretty early, but between demos, Q&A, and general discussion we actually ran a bit long.
The main event started at 6pm.  There must have been about 300 people there at its peak.  Some of these who were also at last year’s event were “underwhelmed” at the venue (though I think it’s kind of unfair to compare the Dank Haus to the Palmer House) and there were some minor glitches with acoustics and food.  But all-in-all everyone seemed to have a good time!
There were vendors showing their wares, including some shaving heavy-hitters from (literally) around the world: Andrew French (Owner of Castle Forbes) and his wife came in from Scotland, Christian Mueller (owner of Muhle) from Germany, and Neil Jagger (owner of Edwin Jagger) from England (I somehow missed visiting with Neil, though I’m told he was there!). Some people closer to home included Howie Woda (Parker/Taconic), Todd Fisher (CEO Truefitt & Hill North America), Scott (and his wife) from Captain’s Choice aftershave, and reps from Caswell-Massey, Jack Black, Chris from Dreadnaught  (Bluebeard’s Revenge in the UK), Feather and more…! Caswell-Massey was showing their new line of shaving products–I hope they’ve improved them from the last time I tried CM a few years ago.  I’m going to pick up some of the new stuff and give it a try….
There was also a lady giving chair massages, a couple barbers (including Jess and her gang from Stag Barbershop in Milwaukee) were doing straight razor shaves, and a couple local restaurants were giving away food and munchies (Chicago-style hot dogs, appetizers, little desserts).

Jess From Stag Barbershop And Me!

I met a lot of great people–many from the various online forums (Wicked Edge, The Shave Nook, B&B, etc.), some etailers there in an “unofficial” capacity (italianbarber.comMen-U USAWS Badger, etc.), and even a couple of wholesale distributors and venture-capitalists (who would like to “fly under the radar,” asking me not to mention them by name but who offered me anything in their stocklists for review).  I even got my own t-shirt, courtesy of shaveology!
There were a bunch of give-aways during the evening and everyone got a bag of goodies (shown at the beginning of this post) that probably cost more than the entry fee:

  • Small samples of Captain’s Choice Bay Rum aftershave, Caswell-Massey hand & body lotion; two Muhle aftershave lotions (sandalwood & sea buckhorn), Ursa Major (shave cream, face balm, and face wash), Edwin Jagger (pre-shave lotion, shave cream, aftershave).
  • Large samples of Taylor’s of Old Bond St. Sandalwood shave cream, Jack Black Beard Lube, Badger hair oil, Kell’s original shave soap (Ultra Aloe Blend), and Trumper’s cologne (mine was Curzon–apparently there were a variety distributed).
  • Full size products including Underburg after meal bitters (88 proof, wheee!), Dr. Hunter’s body cleanser, Blade Glide shaving lotion, Razorpit shaving foam, Osma styptic pencil, Kent pocket comb.
  • And a teeny-tiny Muhle brush!

(I understand there were a few variations to the goodie bags but there was still quite a bit of stuff!)
Overall I think a good time was had by all!  Merz was pretty confident that they will continue to hold the event, having learned from last year and this year that it’s possible to host a bunch of crazy shaving enthusiasts.  🙂
Did you attend The Great Shave 2012?  What did you think of it?


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

9 thoughts on “Reflections On The “Great Shave 2012””

  1. I’ve already told Rob (shaveology) that the tiny Muhle brush will be a new Christmas ornament! It’s so cute!
    Great writeup! It was lovely to meet your wife, too!

  2. Mark let us know when next years Great Shave 2013 date is so we can plan. My wife and I are planning to take our vacation next year during the Great Shave 2013.

  3. I had a great time! I wasn’t at last years event as I just started wet shaving in the past 6 months, so I don’t have anything to compare.
    It was a cool venue, though a bit loud and the acoustics weren’t the best. But the event overall was a lot of fun. The beer was great. The food was very good with a somewhat interesting variety (samosas, chicago style hot dogs, cup cakes and chicken liver pate).
    I think I found my new aftershave and cologne. Caswell-Massey, jockey club and number 6. To be honest I had not heard of them before, but after talking to the rep about their history and sampling some of the products I am hooked. I tend to like more traditional scents so it seems to be a good match.
    The evening presentations were educational and enjoyable to watch. I picked up a few new tips and met some interesting people. I probably spent more than I should have at the pop up store, but by then I was a few beers in and couldn’t pass up such a huge selection of cool stuff.
    And man, the samples! Best gift bag ever. Far more than I was expecting.
    I hope they do this every year.

  4. Why does it seem a little dull compared to last year’s event? I understand Geo and a few others weren’t able to make it.
    Btw, how far along are you with your straight razor video, Mark? Any other videos or awesome and exciting news coming soon?

  5. Thanks for the writeup Mark. Very appreciated from those of us that couldn’t be there. I found it more than detailed enough, by the way. Good job!

  6. WOW! I found youre site last month {newbie} and loved all youre site and reviews but…… I would say this was a disapointing read! mantic i found all your reviews pretty detailed and looked for your opinion being i havent purchased any products yet. guess was loooking for video or something a little more.

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