Grooming is a topic that doesn’t get a lot of play around these parts. A few weeks ago the Morning Regimen post elicited a terrific, yet unexpected discussion on shaving. Working to focus more on the subject, I thought it prudent to highlight one of my most-liked skincare and shaving brands, Baxter of California. The company was founded out of necessity (and a void in the men’s skincare market), by Baxter Finley in 1966 becoming the first American men’s grooming company. Fast forward to the year two-thousand when Mr. Finley – who was looking to retire – placed the controls in the capable hands of his family friend and neighbor Jean-Pierre Mastey. Since taking over Jean-Pierre has done an excellent job of streamlining and re-positioning the brand and it now sits as one of the premier players in the space. I had a chance to talk to Mr. Mastey and shed some light on the good things happening at Baxter. Read our Q&A after the jump…
A Continuous Lean: What would you say is the perfect (read: realistic) grooming routine for a guy?
Jean-Pierre: For guys, it’s all about simplicity and results – that is why we offer the skin 123 kit. The kit covers your skin basics: cleanse – tone – hydrate. In addition to the daily regimen, we recommend the use of a scrub once a week and a clay mask for those who have oily skin (which tends to be the majority of men).
ACL: What is your grooming routine?
JP: As the “architect” of the brand, I use all the products we produce, at different times. For instance, I will use the night cream when my face feels dry, and the same goes for the under eye cream which I should start to use on a more regular basis (read: I am getting older). In the shower, it’s the usual suspects: shampoo, conditioner, body wash and the bars. For my hair, I use both pomades: clay when my hair is short, and water when it gets a little longer – on occasion I mix them together for a little ying/yang effect. I do not shave every day, maybe twice a week and that allows me to really take my time to prep with a hot towel and scrub, and I always use a shave brush to apply the cream.
ACL: On top of all of the chemistry that must go into the product, It seems to me that Baxter of California approaches grooming from a design background. How important is packaging and design to the company?
JP: Design is important to me and to the brand, actually “very important.” We see several good reasons to take a design approach. (1) You need to get the attention of the buyer or decision maker at the retail shop; a great design is half of the battle here. (2) On the retail shelf we face a similar challenge in grabbing the attention of our target audience. Overall when given the choice we feel that the Baxter guy appreciates good design. At the end of the day we are selling product not packaging: we could never sustain if the product quality was not on same level as the design. Good packaging grabs your attention, and maybe even convinces you to make the purchase, but product quality is what gives us a loyal following.
ACL: Baxter is sold through some of some really good but small men’s shops. Do you think guys prefer to shop in the comfortable environment of a men’s boutique? And does that give Baxter a different sort of vibe or a competitive advantage?
JP: I do not see this as an advantage, but more of a brand philosophy. We like to remind industry and consumer alike that Baxter is “NOT A BEAUTY BRAND” so retailing in men’s environments… whether that be Blackbird in Seattle, or Freeman’s in NYC, we are able to introduce the brand to what we think is a more relevant demographic than your typical beauty floor at XYZ department store. When it comes to the comfort level, I do believe that small men’s shops are far less intimidating than the beauty counter. In addition to small men’s shops, Baxter can also be found at more traditional points like the apothecary at Fred Segal, and lifestyle shops like Sloan Hall (Texas) and Base (Miami). Baxter has become synonymous with cool men’s shops because we took the initiative to trail blaze that segment, but the brand is not defined solely by this.
ACL: The old time barber shop thing seems to be a pretty strong trend right now in New York with places like Freeman’s and now Tommy Gun’s, but I feel like this has been happening for a while in LA at places like Rudy’s. Do you think LA is cooler than New York when it comes to barber shops?
JP: East coast vs. West coast – we know where that roads leads! Rudy’s is a solid west coast place to get a cut – Freeman’s can offer you a shave in addition to the cut. I will not say which coast is “cooler,” just that both are representing with different vibes.
ACL: Has the decision to keep your production in the U.S. been a positive one for you and the company? Please explain.
JP: Keeping production in our backyard for the most part is vital to me personally. I am very dedicated and want to be hands on as much as possible, whether that be in our lab, or on a press check – keeping it local means keeping our eye on the ball. I am also patriotic and love MADE IN USA. It is not a central theme in our branding, but it is more of a personal commitment.
A few final thoughts from Jean-Pierre:
+ Baxter highly recommends the use of traditional safety razors – OK, maybe a little bit of a learning curve with this one, but once you nail it – you will never go back to a cartridge style razor again.
+ Baxter key philosophy: QUALITY OVER QUANTITY – this applies to the product line up, and the distribution philosophy.
Baxter of California is available online and at men’s shops throughout the U.S.
Comments on “The Interview | Baxter of California”
Nevermind the product (I’m sure it’s worth trying)
the packaging is killer! Love the color blue of the bottle and the imagery.
Pasteur Pharmacy in NYC has a great selection , maybe the best in the city , of men’s grooming and shaving products ; both new and old school.
Uptown store has better supply of shaving hardware such as Simpson brushes , Merkur safety razors , ect…
Pick up a pack of the made in England double edged Gillette blades in the blue package ; very smoove .
53 E 34th Street
Between Park & Madison
806 Lexington Avenue
Corner 62nd & Lexington
Is this an advertisement or editorial?
JP is a good guy – I don’t read their forums that much any more but he was pretty accessible via menessentials.com (a good place for grooming supplies – carries Baxter, Sharps, Merkur DE razors, Menscience, etc). Baxter’s redesign is both elegant and cool looking – tough to hit that mark. Not a fan of their shampoo though, absolutely wreaked my fine hair.
I got baxter as a gift for my birthday from a co-worker, i have no opinion on the packaging that seems to get lots of attention. I do have an opinion on the scrub, its amazing along with the face wash. nice little interview.
Baxter has become my brand of choice. I was lost in a sea of mediocre, over-priced product, using a little bit of this and a little bit of that. 1 by 1 I took a chance on the Baxter line-up and now my bathroom is cluttered with blue bottles. The line is simple and just makes sense. The shampoo & conditioner cant be touched, the scrub is probably my favorite and the face wash is a no brainer. Perfect. These guys know whats up. And yeah, the packaging is sick!!
Yes the scrub and face wash are very good but I have to disagree about the packaging. Since the re-design the quality of the packaging makes the product look very cheap, especially here in England where it is competing against premium brands. For vacations I have to buy another face wash as the Baxter’s is guaranteed to leak in my luggage.
Have to agree on using a DE safety razor though. I have been using a Merkur HD for years now. Takes a little practice to perfect but not as much as you think and the shaves are much more comfortable, especially when used with quality creams and a brush. There is loads of info on this at http://www.badgerandblade.com and http://www.shavemyface.com.
You know how to get a real rise out of JP? Walk into a party in a 1920’s one piece bathing suit and ask his wife if she would care for a swim.
Halcyon Days JP! Great post.
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