Reddit has something for everyone (and, some might argue, something to horrify everyone), with over 130,000 active communities – also known as “subreddits.” For many wet shaving hobbyists, Reddit is known as a darker corner of the online community: snark infested waters where the anonymous trolls lurk. However, those who ignore Reddit are missing out on the most incredible annual competition in the entire world of wet shaving. Every June, the folks of r/wetshaving host an event known as The Lather Games.
From a one-man show…
In May of 2015, a Reddit user going by the name of RaggedClaws posted in the now-defunct r/Wet_Shavers community to announce what he called the “June Soap Challenge.” The idea was simple: he had put together a calendar assigning themes to every day in June and whoever posted the most on-theme shave-of-the-days (SOTDs) throughout the month would receive a brand new soap of their choice.
What happened next was, as RaggedClaws had hoped, pure magic. In order to meet the themes on the calendar, the participants began swapping penny samples. Slightly squishy, pleasant smelling envelopes began zipping back and forth across the country. Not only that, but many members of the community stepped up to offer additional tubs of soap as prizes.
When the dust settled at the end of June, 25 shavers had completed the challenge and 24 of them would receive a free tub of soap (Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux fame withdrew his name from the prizewinner list because he was in the process thinning his den).
…to a major event…
The 2020 (Pandemic Edition) Lather Games had 174 participants posting 3722 SOTDs over the course of the month. In order to score the competition, each of the three judges read every single one of those 3722 SOTDs. When the awards were handed out, 63 winners got prizes ranging from $10 Maggard gift cards to “unobtanium” software trifectas to artisan badger brushes from Declaration Grooming and Chisel & Hound. And while the organizers of the Games (the Lather Games Committee, or just “the Committee”) managed to secure prize donations from the two dozen artisan and vendor sponsors, the bulk of the prizes came from the rank and file members of the community.
Before the dust could even settle on the 2020 Games, the Committee was hard at work gathering feedback to use in planning the 2021 Games. March and April were spent planning out the theme calendar and lining up sponsors. The official announcement of the 2021 Games came on April 19th, giving the community 6 weeks to swap samples and plan their paths to victory. For the 2021 Games, participation was just slightly down from the previous year. This year, 161 shavers from around the world posted 3279 SOTDs with 90 participants having posted a shave on every day of the competition. The list of 75 prizes (from 28 artisan and vendor sponsors and, of course, the community at large) includes everything from tubs of soap to custom fragrances to a brand new Wolfman razor.
…with so many ways to win…
But as great as the Lather Games is, the main competition is only half the show. Every year, members of the community announce, track, and judge their own side contests. The annual Feats of Fragrance competition – founded by Shawn Maher of Chatillon Lux and Maher Olfactive – is now in its fourth year of celebrating those who “show olfactory excellence in their post-shave and fragrance routine.” 2021 is also the second year for the Rookie of the Year competition (self explanatory) and the first year for the Ansel Adams Apple Contest rewarding excellence in SOTD photography, and my own Feats of Frugality competition for the participant who got the most on-them SOTDs from a single soap
But the granddaddy of Lather Games side contests is the annual Excellence in Shitposting Award, currently in its fifth year. The award goes to one recipient who posts the single most entertaining SOTD of the Games. Previous awards have gone to a user who perpetrated a month-long con on the judges, a user who posted a pitch-perfect Bob Ross SOTD, and users who shaved with substances that were never meant to be applied to a human face. It’s not always pretty, but it’s incredibly entertaining. This year, my money is on either the Alice’s Restaurant parody, the incredibly scientific shave from the maker of Southern Witchcrafts, or this utter masterpiece.
…but the real prize is…
As hilarious as many of the posts are and as wonderful as the prizes are, the real highlight of the Lather Games for me is the staggering generosity on display year after year. From freely swapping samples and loaning hardware to sponsoring prizes, the community consistently steps up and gives.
For the 2021 Games, the giving has gone beyond the realm of shaving to significant charitable contributions. Reddit user urfrendlipiro (creator of TryThatSoap.com) kicked off the Games by pledging to donate $1 to the Jed Foundation, supporting teen and young adult mental health awareness, for every person that completes all 30 themes. More than a dozen more members of the community have jumped in to match the pledge. At current count, over $4000 has been raised through a combination of individual donations, matching donations, and auctions of rare and not-so-rare (I paid $25 for a used stick of Arko) gear. Over $2000 of that is going to the Jed Foundation.
…doing it all again next year.
Thanks to the hard work of Reddit user phteven_j, the Lather Games now has a dedicated judges’ portal website that will allow the team of judges to better handle reading and scoring the thousands of SOTD posts that will be made during the Games. any minute now, the winners of the 2021 Lather Games will be announced, the final podcast (yeah, there’s a podcast) will be posted, and the planning will begin for 2022. There’s no better time to begin planning your 2022 Lather Games run than right now. Have you got a soap from a company older than you for Father’s Day? How about something highly mentholated for Freeze Your Face Off Friday? Line up your winter scents for Christmas in July (but in June) on the 25th. And it’s never too early to start planning what you’ll use on Wild Card Wednesday (though 2020 results show that neither Frank’s Red Hot nor CLP gun oil have the slickness and protection needed for a really good shave).
And remember, those who trade win. May the suds be ever in your favor.
About the Author:
Rob C. is a wet shaving hobbyist who works in the software industry between shaves. He’s a failed bourbon blogger with degrees from the University of Kentucky and Southern Methodist University. He once wore a chicken suit to box a radio DJ. He lives in Orlando with his wife, kids, dogs, and cats. He can be found bumming around r/wetshaving on Reddit and occasionally posts ridiculous things on Twitter (https://twitter.com/BourbonInExile)