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 Oct. 16, 2014
Well before the Chinese eCommerce company Alibaba began making IPO rumblings in America, I was familiar with its offerings. I'd never bought anything from it ... until this month.
Published Oct. 8, 2014
Once upon a time, I figured that the magnificent, serene and beautiful Door County is a place only to be enjoyed by adults. Maybe my priorities have changed, though, because even after 20 years of visits, only recently did I come to the conclusion that kids could fall in love with this magical retreat, too. Turns out I was right. After the summer rush died down, we took our daughter up to Door County for the first time this weekend. It was a wonderful journey.
Published Oct. 7, 2014
Just about a week ago, our sweet little cat, Jabie, disappeared from our Bay View home. Maybe one of us left the patio door open a bit, I'm not sure. But after hours upon hours of walking the neighborhood, taping up posters and talking to every stranger we see, she's still nowhere to be found.
Published Sept. 27, 2014
I've been lucky enough to see the Dandy Warhols live several times over the last few years. But each time, I've had to travel to Chicago or Madison to hear them, which is a small sacrifice for one of my favorite bands over the last 15-plus years. So the opportunity to see the Dandys at Turner Hall was a welcome one, and as usual, provided for a great venue to see the Portland-based band Saturday night.
Published Sept. 23, 2014
Sunday morning, we headed to Mequon to pick apples, although not to Barthel's. On a friend's tip, we visit R-Apples (Roesch Farm), right next door at 12422 Farmdale Rd. What a wonderful, low-key experience. Not only was it peaceful and quiet, we picked apples and pears of many different varieties. Then we headed to their vegetable garden, and picked peppers and raspberries.
Published Sept. 20, 2014
I've had a full day now to play with the brand new iPhone 6. Like most pieces of new technology, it's a mixed bag. iPhones aren't new to me - I've owned every one but the first model, and I use mine nonstop as both a work and personal device. This model is different in many ways, but as usual, the biggest story here is the software, not the hardware.
Published Sept. 16, 2014
Entering play tonight, the Brewers are 1.5 games out of the playoff picture. Right now, all of Milwaukee should be very excited about the Brewers, starting with me. Yet, for some reason, we're not.
Published Sept. 1, 2014
If OnMilwaukee.com was a child - and it many ways it feels like one to me - Milwaukee's Daily Magazine would be getting its driver's license today. It would be a junior in high school. Hopefully listening to the Violent Femmes and not Justin Bieber.
Published Aug. 27, 2014
Back in June, I wrote about the five summer kids trips I couldn't wait to take. Well, summer got busy, and despite my best intentions, I only made it to one of my top five suggestions. But that's not to say I was a deadbeat dad this season. My almost-6-year-old and I had lots of fun this summer, and in fact, we found a few other places to visit as the calendar inched closer to the return of school. All three were just within an hour from home.
Published Aug. 19, 2014
I recently interviewed a former boss, a courageous woman who once hired me as an intern. She's now affiliated with the Milwaukee Masterpiece, a high-end car show. Meet Bev Jurkowski, my mentor, and the woman crazy enough to ask me to be a "celebrity judge" this weekend at the show.