Tens of thousands of stubbly guys around the world know who "Mantic59" is. He's the first point of contact for just about anyone who has Googled "wet shaving" -- that is, the old-school style of getting whiskers off your face that I've already blogged about twice.
Mantic59 is actually Mark Herro, an Oconomowoc native who now lives in Texas and who has self-produced dozens of YouTube videos on the art of wet shaving -- including how to properly operate a double-edged safety razor and how to build traditional lather.
The videos are nothing fancy; they're folksy, even, but to the subculture of men who like to shave like their grandfathers did, Mantic59 has become somewhat of a cult hero.
I found Herro the same way most guys did. After years of paying $6 per four-blade razor cartridge and wondering if there was a better way, I watched a few of Mantic59's videos and gave it a whirl. Only after he posted a Talkback on my first blog did I realize that he was a native Wisconsinite, and Herro accepted my invitation for interview.
We caught up with Mantic59 via e-mail, and several of his answers surprised me:
OnMilwaukee.com: I'm sure you've heard this many times, but what does it feel like to know that almost everyone who kicks around the idea of trying wet shaving stumbles upon your videos first? I mean, "Introduction to Traditional Wet Shaving" has almost 400,000 views on YouTube.
Mark Herro: I have to admit I'm still amazed, even after four years of doing videos about a topic that most people hardly think about -- except maybe to gripe. I guess a lot of people are unhappy with their shave.
OMC: What is it about your videos that resonates with people? Posters on Badgerandblade consider you a "guru" and actually call your videos relaxing ...
MH: Most people say they like my videos because I try to make them humorous and entertaining while still being informative. I think one main point is that shaving doesn't have to be the mundane, costly, even painful process it's become for many people. With some knowledge and skill -- skill that's been largely forgotten, whether because it wasn't passed from father to son for some reason or because it's been substituted by marketing hype -- shaving can become a pleasant activity, even one to look forward to. Many people find the experience of learning traditional wet shaving to be almost a revelation.
OMC: Four months in, my wife laughs at me when I call wet shaving a hobby -- and an increasingly expensive one at that. How do you answer the doubters?
MH: I simply "dare" them to try it. Many large grocery stores, mega-marts and drugstore chains still carry basic wet shaving supplies like shaving soap and shaving brushes (albeit low-end products) -- they're just often overlooked. I challenge them to try building some traditional lather and use their current razor. Nine out of 10 will notice enough of a difference to pursue more information.
OMC: How did you get into wet shaving, and more importantly, why did you start creating the blog/videos? Are they making you any money?
MH: Actually my wife is to blame. I used an electric razor for 30+ years: buzz buzz zip zip done in two minutes. My wife adored the feel of my freshly-shaved face but it didn't last very long. In 2004 we were spending our wedding anniversary in Las Vegas and as a gift she took me to an Art of Shaving shop and had them give me an old-timey barber shave. It was nothing short of life-changing: my face was insanely soft and smooth and I didn't have to shave again for two days. I was constantly stroking my face in amazement (a few years later Corey Greenberg would describe it as "faceturbating"). After we returned home I started surfing the Internet, trying to learn more about this way of shaving and discovered that there was damned little information out there. I eventually discovered the old MSN Wetshavers forum (now defunct). Over the course of the next year or so I slowly learned (and learned to appreciate) shaving with a brush and traditional lather. I graduated from using a three-blade cartridge razor to a single-blade safety razor, then to an adjustable safety razor.
In 2006 a casual comment on the Wetshavers forum suggested that "someone needs to do a video on how to shave!" The general consensus was that the idea is appealing but probably too difficult to do. A lot of members thought you need to see lather in three dimensions and be able to feel it to truly understand it, and a lot of the background techniques really need to be shown "in person." It was also felt that the video technology of the day wasn't quite up to the quality that was necessary to properly demonstrate shaving. But I took it as sort of a challenge and put together some test footage using a cheap camcorder and Windows Movie Maker and asked the MSN guys to comment. I got some really good feedback and suddenly it didn't seem so impossible. I deleted the test footage and put up the three part "introductory" series that you still see on my YouTube channel.
As for the money, last year I got enough video views and subscribers to qualify for the YouTube "Partner" program, so I do get a small check from them every month. My blog gets a little revenue, too, and I've even gotten a few donations from readers. But it's never been a priority and it's just "beer money," certainly not enough to make a living on!
OMC: But your day job has nothing to do with this, right? If I'm not mistaken, you work in telecommunications but once worked in media?
MH: Right. I work in the telecommunications department of a large university. I do have a bachelor's degree in the engineering part of radio and TV (from UW-Platteville ... Go Pioneers!) but I've been out of that field for 25 years now. I knew the basics of video production, but my skills were way out of date: I had to learn a lot of it (particularly video editing) all over again.
OMC: What does Mantic59 mean? I rarely see your real name published -- are you a private person?
MHL The name kind of came by accident. "Mantic" was an abbreviation of another username I had on several computer systems in the 1980's, long before the "Internet" came along (though the word mantic is a real word in itself). I just kept on using it when the "Internet-age" took over. When I first signed up for YouTube the name was already taken so I just added a random number.
At one point I tried to steer my username to "Shave Tutor" but for some reason "Mantic59" continued to stick with people so I just kept it. I still call my video series Shave Tutor, though.
I'm not a particularly private person but I do try to take reasonable precautions against divulging too much personal information into a medium I don't have a whole lot of control over. I've been online for a long time and I've seen my share of shenanigans.
OMC: And you're originally from Oconomowoc? Do you miss Wisconsin? Do you visit?
MH: Yep, born and raised in "Cooney," though I moved after I graduated college in the '80s. I miss Wisconsin in the fall when the leaves turn. Then the snow flies and I don't miss it as much. It's been a few years since I visited.
OMC: Finally, I'm sure your bathroom has more equipment than most, but what's your current set up? Please describe the hardware and software that you're currently using.
MH: I admit I have a pretty ridiculous "shave den" but my day-to-day shave kit is relatively modest. I have some high-end stuff but I often use a $40 shave brush, a small adjustable safety razor with blades that cost me all of 17 cents apiece, and a variety of favorite shave creams and soaps.
While I haven't heard of Mantic59, I definitely enjoyed the video and will remember him now.
Hey, my distant cuz and MadMen shaving! He was named after me you know! I find the 4 blade fusion the best so far. Used to use a brush and soap with a single blade but find the 4blade lasts a month and the canned cream easier and less spendy than the other way. Great hobby Mark.
3 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published May 7, 2016
I won't lie to you: I know nothing about the current state of professional wrestling. But from 1983 to 1989, from about age 9 to 15, I was a huge fan. So big, in fact, that I wrote a fan letter to WWF announcer "Mean" Gene Okerlund.
Published April 28, 2016
Angry readers, self-righteous writers and surly social media speculators are in a tizzy about an uptick in "clickbait," and in many respects, they have every right to be. In lots of cases, it's a bogus attempt to lure gullible readers, and ultimately, it won't and doesn't work.
Published April 25, 2016
I've known about Mel Brooks' upcoming June 11 visit to Milwaukee for a little while now. Make no mistake, this is a "bucket list" show for me: Brooks is one of my all-time favorites in Hollywood, and "Blazing Saddles" has sat atop my favorite movie list forever.
Published April 15, 2016
For the many dozens of times I've visited the historic Pfister Hotel - for meetings, meals, weddings and drinks - until prepping for OnMilwaukee Hotel Week, I never spent an overnight at this Victorian masterpiece. Cross that off my bucket list - and I didn't even have to meet a ghost to do it.
Published April 14, 2016
As today's the wonderfully-made up "414 Day," or "Milwaukee Day," depending on who you talk to - it's a sexy day to look back at this excellent video from 2014 by the Five Card Studs.
Published April 11, 2016
I've been binge-watching HBO's "Vinyl." During a scene at an L.A. beach party, the camera panned to a sideburned record executive, smoking a joint and talking about Elvis. Even 25 years since I saw him last, I knew immediately that was my friend from high school, Dave Shalansky. I'd recognize that guy anywhere.
Published April 4, 2016
I'm sitting here on Opening Day, in the first row of the press box at Miller Park, and it's quiet. Too quiet. I mean, I can hear the fans in the ventilation over the sound of stands in this not-sold-out stadium. Apparently, other people here are either rolling their eyes in the fifth inning (or they're passed out).
Published April 2, 2016
It's been a long while since we interviewed FOX6 meteorologist Vince Condella for a personal profile, but with the long-time weather man's upcoming retirement, it was time to catch up.
Published March 15, 2016
I'm a big fan of Atlas Obscura, a website that calls itself "the definitive guide to the world's wondrous and curious places." And it does a good job. Yesterday, it took a look at Milwaukee and its 12 quirky treasures.
Published March 3, 2016
Sometimes, the `90s in Milwaukee feel like a distant memory; other times I can't believe they're so long gone. But then I looked at some of the photos I took while building the shell of what would eventually become OnMilwaukee, and these scenes seem ancient, indeed.