If you are relatively new to traditional wet shaving and lurking about the various shaving forums and groups this issue may not have become apparent to you yet, but for anyone that has been around the shaving world block a few times it is more than apparent, if your eyes are open. The phenomenon I refer to is "trends" or more specifically a product that has become "trendy" or suddenly popular and all the "rage" amongst the crowd. You can also call it a fad, in style, swank, chichi, with-it, swank, stylish, in vogue or simply popular.
When I first started watching shaving forums and groups I had very little knowledge about the various products and variety of equipment available. Everything was new and exciting. If more than a couple of people posted about a particular item, it caught my attention and sent me searching the internet for more information. Because everything was new to me I couldn't tell a trend from a hole in the ground. I thought since a bunch of people was praising and talking about a particular product or shaving instrument that it must be something special and worthy of my attention, interest and expenditure of my limited shave den budget. To a new traditional wet shaver the prime assumption is that "popular" means "good". Almost universal popularity means obvious "excellence" and by it's nature a "must have" item. This is a prime symptom of "Noobie Fever" (New Person Fever) or in other words "New Traditional Wet Shaver Acquisition Disorder Syndrome". This particular illness is different than the run of the mill AD (Acquisition Disorder). It is like comparing a full case of the flu with accompanying pneumonia with a common cold.
I then noticed that there were patterns and cycles of attention and interest in certain products. Something new would appear on the block and it would start showing up in SOTD (Shave Of The Day) postings, first in a trickle and then a down pour leading to almost every SOTD posting displaying that product. A few posters might discount the product's merits but most would praise it as the next best thing since Barbasol started pushing canned goo the the highways and by-ways. This would progress for a couple of months and reach a critical mass until everyone it seems had gotten this product, tried it, loved it, praised it and all was right in the world and the sun was sure to rise tomorrow. The few dissenting voices that expressed any negative reviews were quashed into the silence of the quirky, un-trendy and a wet shaving-blanket. It would then start all over again with a new hot product or merchant product line. Artisan soap makers fell nicely in this pattern as new ones emerged upon the scene.
Over time I've observed this phenomenon repeated over and over again. I could name the current products experiencing the benefits of this phenomenon but that wouldn't serve any purpose and wouldn't be fair to that product's producer. They will benefit from their time in the sun and I only hope that the shine on their apple doesn't fade as quickly as it does for some. The key thing to hope for is that their products will develop a loyal following and customer base before something newer comes along. Sadly many very good products quickly fade into the background to eventual oblivion for no rhyme or reason other than a key high profile negative review that begins a trend in that direction or a more interesting "new" product arrives on the scene. Overall, it is a very unpredictable and fickle process.
Since primarily we are dealing with small artisan small batch producers many of them will have a boost of demand and exposure but due to the niche market size demographics this boost usually isn't overwhelming. Hopefully the artisan producer doesn't take the sudden increase in demand as a sign of "winning the lottery" and consequently go into debt to buy increased production capacity without seeing if the demand trend continues. This "trend" of increased demand usually doesn't continue long and falls off as the newness of interest subsides when the next "favored new trendy product" comes along. Some trends are longer than others simply because a new and prettier face doesn't appear on the block as quickly. A good product can usually withstand the ups and downs and stand alone on it's merits.
Occasionally the hot and trendy product is the creation of an established marketer. In this situation the dynamics are similar but different. The ease of obtaining the product is usually much easier and the investigation into brother and sister products only expands and heightens the twists and turns of the ride. Another interesting nuance of a trendy "name brand" type product is the willingness of many to negatively review these products over and above a more purely artisan developed fare. Nevertheless there are some, far fewer now than in the past, who love to criticize artisan produced products simply due to their micro-brewery nature where small means "worthy of badmouthing" and anything from the big boys (the established houses like Geo F. Trumpers, Taylor of Old Bond Street, and Trufitt & Hill) is beyond reproach and never produce substandard products. Of course we all know that isn't the case, even if some so desperately want to think it so.
When the trend involves a new razor the sole factor many times depends on the price tag of the razor as to whether or not it becomes the new shave den eye candy. A reasonably priced razor can quickly become very popular and rise to fame quickly. A more expensive razor takes a little longer to make the rise to stardom.
I have generally resisted following the "trends" and simply wait to see which products really do have staying power and are interesting enough to merit expenditure of my limited new shaving product budget. My resistance though comes at a cost. While many of my shaving friends enjoy the excitement and banter that's always accompanies the discovery of a new product, I must simply sit on the sidelines as a spectator and not play. That's the down side. The up side is that I can later obtain the new product "post-trend" and evaluate and review it in a calm and non-circus like setting. Outside of the spotlight I can see it with un-influenced eyes away from the glare of the fireworks and hype. The calmer context allows for a more balanced and objective perspective of a product's good and bad points. Sadly, many of these very popular products with their "cult-like" followers end up being simply a run of the mill average item that has been living off the initial cheer-leading styled hype. Occasionally a superior product doesn't get the attention and praise it deserves simply due to it being more "meh" in concept and uniqueness, regardless of its essential characteristics of performance.
The down side of this situation is that some products that are truly superior are simply forgotten in the wake of the next "trend" and for a variety of reasons the producers completely fade from sight and disappear, with some going out of business. I don't know if the disappointment of the lack of sustained higher demand or attention is too depressing for the small artisan producer to handle or any number of other factors. It's good that this isn't the usual result. Most small artisan producers continue in business and those with good products continue and prosper. Good products usually can survive on their own in the marketplace of consumer opinion. Sudden and sky rocketing popularity is not the gold mine that many think it to be. Most popular artisan producers continue to work at full time jobs and their part-time hobby-business making and selling shaving products and equipment fulfills the needs of both customer and producer but the development into career changing status is rare.
This up and down roller coaster ride is precarious for producer and consumer alike. The producer is thrown into the "trend" situation and has no choice but to ride it out to the end. The consumer, you and me, always has a choice. We can choose to get in the game early and take the risk and have the excitement of being one of the first to try new products or we can chose to wait and see which ones to try at a later date. I usually choose the later instead of the former path, unless I just happen to stumble upon something that is on the cusp of an upward trend.
So, what will it be? To trend or not to trend? You have to make that decision yourself and ultimately it will be your bank account that determines what you do. If you have pockets deep enough to take the risk then "trending" with a new product isn't a big risk. If your budget is limited or the patience and indulgence of your spouse is getting thin with your shaving hobby, then the better part of discretion might be to not follow the trend and wait. Those of us with shallower pockets must be more of a follower than a leader when it comes to discovering the next "canned goo" of the wet shaving product world. Just recognize what is taking place when a new product appears and make your buying choices with eyes wide open. You get what you pay for and sometimes what you are paying for is nothing more than the hype and the excitement of being "new". Step right up, buy your ticket, the line for the roller coaster forms up ahead on the right. Caveat Emptor.
Good Shaves, Be Happy, Be Safe