The Art of The Shave
The art of men’s grooming is getting a new edge with implements like your great-granddaddy probably used. “They had it right from the start. Using a bowl and a brush has always been the better way to shave,” says Marty van der Hagen, president of van der Hagen Enterprises of Austin, Texas, manufacturer of premium shave products for men. The family-owned trade has historic roots. Pappy van der Hagen and kin mixed, cooked and cooled their own soap by hand for personal use after emigrating to the U.S. from Holland in 1905. Marty says they put soap-making aside for other entrepreneurial areas such as dairy farming, but went back to their foamy roots later after Marty’s dad found that bulk-made soap irritated his face.
Starting with the Soap
While the family-owned company has been making shaving implements since the 1980s, its handmade, retro-inspired soaps are much like those Pappy whipped up. Using new equipment, but with the same basic process, van der Hagen soap was reborn – this time for the men’s accessories market. Like from a century-old barber shop with a red-and-white pole outside, van der Hagen produces items for men who prefer the art-of-the-shave – yet far more advanced compared to the olden-time era when a spinning pole reflected barbers who performed surgery and tooth extractions. In fact, van der Hagen products mirror those used by white-shirted professionals who styled coifs and trimmed face and neck hair with a straight razor sharpened on a leather strop, then offered hot towel treatments and a slap of alcohol-based aftershave. Those were the days when a “little dab would do ya.”
Marty remembers watching gramps mixing up a froth of shaving soap in a cup. “That is so cool,” he would think. Revival of “bowl and brush” grooming is not just a nostalgia kick. “It also gives you a great shave.” The heaviest demand for products, he notes, is from young men and the affluent. The product line includes badger and boar bristle brushes, scented and unscented shave soaps, monogrammed shaving bowls, post shave balms, lotions and face scrub. “A wet shave with bowl soap is better than gel,” says Marty. Boar and badger bristles hold water better and lift whiskers for a smoother shave. As if responding to the Gillette parrot’s inquiry, “How ya fixed for blades?” the company is about to market its first safety razor – akin to what men used in the 1950s. The heavy, metal shaver will use traditional double-edged blades made in Solingen, Germany, an area known for outstanding blade making. It’s a niche market with a lot of clout, he says. “We’re not just a name. We want the sizzle.”