Ray Dupont, Traditional Shaving’s Guiding Light, Dies at 54
April 10, 2006
Ray Dupont, whose lifelong fascination with old-fashioned straight razors and safety razors changed the way legions of men shaved every morning and led to the creation of ClassicShaving.com, the Internet’s largest and most successful shaving goods store, died on Saturday, April 8th at his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 54.
The cause of death was cancer. Mr. Dupont had been a cancer survivor for eight years, having successfully undergone surgery when he was first diagnosed with the disease in 1998.
Mr. Dupont’s first exposure to traditional razors and men’s shaving products began as a teenager watching his father shave in the family bathroom with a single-blade safety razor. Despite the evolution of the men’s shaving market in the ensuing years and the appearance of multi-blade and electric razors, Mr. Dupont remained a straight razor stalwart his entire life, believing the old way was the best way. It was a belief that was only strengthened as the blade wars of the last decade led to twin, triple, quadruple, and even quintuple-bladed razors systems which Mr. Dupont felt delivered an inferior shave when compared with a classic straight or safety razor.
A cancer diagnosis in 1998 led Mr. Dupont to sell his first business, Capitol Marine, a Washington DC boat dealership, and after successful surgery he and his wife Laurie bought a new Airstream trailer and set out to travel the country in quiet retirement. But Mr. Dupont soon became restless, and began thinking about turning his vintage shaving collecting hobby into a business. At that time, devotees of old-fashioned straight and safety razors, shaving brushes, and other bygone shaving products had a difficult time finding supplies. Mr. Dupont decided to make it easier for them.
Mr. Dupont launched ClassicShaving.com as a small virtual store on eBay, and when sales outgrew that venue, he re-launched the store with its own web site and expanded offerings, selling everything from hard-to-find English shaving creams and badger-hair shaving brushes to German, French, and Japanese straight and safety razors. Any doubts that a virtual Internet shop could be successful selling old-fashioned men’s shaving products in the age of the Mach3 were dispelled when its first sale, of a $64 straight razor, clocked in at just eighteen minutes after the web site went live for the first time. During its first year, sales doubled each week, and it wasn’t long before Mr. Dupont’s Internet-only venture was bigger than his successful brick-and-mortar boat dealership had been.
Not content to rest on his laurels, Mr. Dupont also taught himself traditional soap-making in order to develop and manufacture his own house brand of traditional hard shaving soap, because as he put it, no cake of shaving soap should cost more than five dollars. So he made his own, and it too became an instant sensation with shaving enthusiasts around the world.
In recent years, Mr. Dupont was instrumental in furthering interest in traditional shaving among the online community, launching the influential Wetshavers discussion group on Microsoft’s MSN site, where legions of men learned how to shave with old fashioned razors and techniques.
In 2005, Mr. Dupont was responsible for successfully pitching a TV segment on traditional shaving to NBC’s “Today Show”, which aired the segment in January, 2005 to great acclaim. Viewer response was so overwhelming that the segment, which featured products Mr. Dupont supplied, caused a worldwide shortage of traditional shaving goods as ClassicShaving.com and its competitors around the globe did a year’s worth of business in just the week following the airing.
In the last year of his life, Mr. Dupont was able to reach millions of people and share his passion for taking a man’s shave as seriously as it used to be by generations past, and by doing so he was single-handedly responsible for the unprecedented boom in straight razor, safety razor, shaving brush, and traditional shaving cream sales which benefited all of these cottage industries, a far-flung community in which he was universally beloved and respected by manufacturer and competitor alike.
Ray Dupont was born in New England to working class parents. After leaving home to join the Army at age 17 he returned from duty in Viet Nam with a Purple Heart for wounds received. Ray met and married his wife Laurie in 1969 and raised his one daughter, Danielle. Other accomplishments include service as a District Commander in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, running a successful Marine Towing and Salvage company, creating and running Capitol Marine, one of the largest Mid-Atlantic bass boat dealerships, and serving on the board of the Accokeek Foundation. Visitors to this site will know him best for the creation and stewardship of ClassicShaving.com, which will continue on under the direction of his family.
Ray Dupont is survived by his wife Laurie, daughter Danielle, granddaughter Samantha, two sisters and three brothers.