Mark Herro (aka Mantic59) comes to Stag and brings his razor
Mark Herro — aka Mantic59 — hadn’t been back to Milwaukee in a good decade. Originally from Oconomowoc, the Houston-based internet hero of men who never learned to shave right visited Stag Barbershop on South Delaware Avenue in Bay View to lead a private class called “What your Father Never Taught you About Shaving.” He’s warmly greeted by all and recognized from his numerous instructional videos.
While Herro has been bumping around the internet on forums and his blog for awhile, it wasn’t until he was contacted by fan Andy Tarnoff (of OnMilwaukee.com) that a new website was born titled The Sharpologist. The month-old site was conceived by a couple of Tarnoff’s programmers and is regularly contributed by seven grooming experts including Herro and Tarnoff.
When Jess Stern, proprietor of Stag Barbershop and skilled straight-razor shaver saw mention on Twitter that Herro was going to be part of a sold-out group seminar at the Palmer House in Chicago, she asked if he could come to Milwaukee next.
With a few sponsorships and product from Hector’s, beer philanthropists Pabst/Old Milwaukee/Schlitz, and guest accommodations at the Pfister Hotel – a class was born. An overflow audience learned about different high-end brands and terms (badgerhair brushes, Iridium blades, DE) and advanced methods like the “J-Hook.” They received a communications with your barber lesson with Jess Stern, and got their boots shined by Izzy the Bootblack.
ThirdCoast Digest: First of all, how did the Chicago gig go down?
Mark Herro: I was very nervous, I don’t think my talk went as well as it should.
TCD: (to his wife Gaylyn) Is he being self-critical? [She nods vigorously]
Herro: Maybe. But overall it was an awesome show. It was amazing to see, I’ve never seen anything like it.
TCD: Do you do speaking engagements?
Herro: No. That one was my first ever, and this will be my second. That is, other than my professional job where I’ve occasionally been a presenter at a conference in my industry.
TCD: So this isn’t what you do—
Herro: Not at all. I work in the telecommunications department of a large university. I keep the phones running.
TCD: I saw you sell advertising on the site. Is that so you can keep on collecting or gathering products to write about?
Herro: Partly. It is to fund new purchases, in part. I don’t expect the site to be any kind of full-time career at all anytime soon, unless I made a significant career change. In general, I don’t take any kind of samples or gimmies. If I want to review something or try it, I go buy it. Also, because of my videos I continue to improve my hardware, where I’m a YouTube partner. It’s enough for minor upgrades, but not a career.
TCD: You make a point of it on your website to note that you are not a professional barber. But yet you’re definitely the go-to guy when comes to matters of shaving. How did it get this way?
Herro: (thinks for a long time, sighs) Boy.
TCD: How did get from a guy just shaving in the mirror to—
Herro: I shaved with an electric shaver for 30 years. Zip, zip — two minutes, done. Then in the 90s, I met a young lady who I started dating (Gaylyn smiles) who just adored the feel of freshly shaven skin. With an electric shaver, that doesn’t last too long. I didn’t think much of it at the time.
We got married in 2002, and two years later on our anniversary we went to Las Vegas. One day, she said “don’t shave today I have a present for you”. She took me to this place called Art of Shaving where they gave me an old-time barber shave. And the results were nothing less than life-changing. I’d never felt anything so smooth or comfortable. I didn’t have to shave for three days.
TCD: So from there—
Herro: When I got back I started researching the internet. And I discovered there was very, very little out there about this kind of shaving. There were a couple of small forums that I joined, and that’s how I sort of got started learning about all this stuff. After a few years I even felt comfortable enough to offer advice. At a conference a few years ago, I won a camcorder off the raffle they had. At the same time, somebody on the forum said that someone should use this new YouTube thing and make a video on how to shave. I didn’t think it would work, but I gave it a try and did some test footage…that’s how it all started. It didn’t go anywhere at first, but by coincidence a few months later, the first videos got onto Digg. This back when Digg was really big, and it made the main page. That’s when it started really exploding.
TCD: What’s your motivation in doing all of this? What do you want men to learn?
Herro: I want men to learn that shaving does not have to be the painful chore that it is for many. The ingrown hairs, the razor burns, spending $3 on a cartridge that’s not getting the results they want — it seems that many are unhappy. With a little education and skills that have largely been forgotten because of modern cartridge systems and foam, regaining that skill and knowledge will really change your perception on what shaving can do for you. For many it becomes a Zen-like experience, a thing to look forward to every day.