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Photos by Jeff Martin, Words by Diana Metzger

Though I briefly scanned his Instagram account, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I met with Fashion Santa (birth name Paul Mason). There are so many mall Santas who don’t even remotely resemble jolly ol’ Saint Nick. Santacon was just last weekend in New York and it’s exactly what it sounds like: Comic-con, but for Santas. This isn’t a small pool here. But this Jew-ess was struck when I met him, as if I was meeting the real deal. Honestly, imagine a Santa who could play Don Draper. He’s sporting a slim, tailored Cerruti suit, with a knit Tom Ford tie, and gorgeous maroon (to match his suit) Scarzza shoes. This Santa is chock full of charisma, even if he admits sometimes he can be a bit of a Grinch. Even his handshake is impressively firm. We chat casually and he tells me about another niche Santa he’s been in competition with out of Portland called Hipster Santa. He laughs affectionately about Hipster Santa’s man bun and cozy winter sweaters. Even though Mason dealt with a lawsuit over the rights to be the only Fashion Santa in town, he doesn’t seem to sweat the competition too much. Perspiration might ruin the gorgeous maroon suit he’s sporting. He does tell me, with a rakish grin, that he did win a competition through his hometown radio station, Toronto’s Indie88, between him and Hipster Santa. Mason, 53, is incredibly fit, which is a requirement as a male model (his profession the other eleven months of the year) but not a deal breaker for playing Santa. Perhaps it’s his svelte look and his penchant for sleighs of the fast sports car variety that get him down the chimney faster than the competition.

He joined me for a chat in the cozy, festive lobby of the Georgetown Ritz Carlton. He’s there as a highlight and special guest of the Ritz and Georgetown BID’s swanky Glow All Night, a free event full of great music, sweets, and cocktails all to support the Capital Area Food Bank (see bottom of article for more details). Fashion Santa is definitely the headliner and will be available for photos. Let me tell you, no one will cry taking a picture with this Santa, though they might swoon. I do regret not asking for a picture myself and no I did not conduct the interview sitting on his lap. But I did get a hug that left me feeling Christmas-y and chic.

How did Fashion Santa start?

I’ve been modeling for 32 years and sadly my mother passed away and I went into a bit of a depression and stopped shaving. I went six months, didn’t shave, and then suddenly I realized… I kind of like this. It gave me something to research. It got me in front of the camera again. It gave me a new look. A new career all over again. I became the ambassador to TOM, which is Toronto Men’s Fashion Week. That’s where I noticed I was getting a lot of attention with the beard. I’m not young, I’m not a young model. I stuck out a little bit. I was doing a lot of selfies with people who were seeing the shows. I thought to myself, ‘what way can I make this work on a charity level?’ That’s how the concept started, but the look started with the death of my mother, but her legacy lives on. She watches over me.

What do you do when it’s not the holiday season?

Because of the lawsuit and not being able to do any trademarking, I couldn’t do much the past two years. Two weeks ago I settled. Just in time for the holidays. In 2018, I get full registration of Fashion Santa in the States, Canada, and Europe. I’d like to publish a book, a Christmas book.

Tell me more about your beard; how long have you been growing it, favorite products, tips?

I’ve been growing it three years but it goes in stages. [reporter’s note: In photos it’s been waist long, today it hits to his collarbone, but still looks very dashing and Santa-esque]. It grows very quickly. It’s odd though because nobody in my family has a beard. [As for products], I’m the beard ambassador to American Crew. They have a serum they just put on the marketplace. I also make sure it shampoo it in the shower.

It’s a tradition to leave cookies for Santa, what would you like people to leave you?

Keys to their Ferrari. Or Vodka… Kettle One.

How does someone get on your naughty list?

Ugh, don’t invite me to a Christmas party. Don’t invite the Santa guy to a Christmas party.

And do you give them coal, or do you give them something else?

Oh, I give them something else. [Laughs] I’m sounding like Sinister Santa right now.

What would you want your elves to wear?

No elves. Not yet.

Is there a dream Mrs. Claus?

It’s Carmen Dell’Orefice. We’ve done work together. If you look on my Instagram you’ll see a shot we’ve done together. She’s my top choice. She’s my lady.

What are your must-have presents this year?

I would like a couple suits from Tom Ford. I would love to have one designer give me their vision for what Fashion Santa should look like. He’d be my dream for that.

What other designers do you love?

Tom Ford is my favorite. Dolce and Gabbana I like. I like a brand named Tiger.

If you can eat Christmas cookies, because I know you have to stay in shape, what’s your favorite?

Shortbread. The most buttery shortbread available. I’m not into Christmas cake or anything like that.

What kind of sleigh would you drive?

Oh, a Ferrari or a Porsche. A red Porsche would be beautiful.

Full scoop on tonight:

  • When: Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017
  • Where: The Living Room at The Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown
  • Time: 5:00 to 9:00 PM
  • Cost: Free entry to all / $15 tickets for photos with Fashion Santa / $15 drink tickets for alcoholic beverages 
  • Specialty Activations:
    • Complimentary Passed Hors d’Oeuvres and Desserts 
    • Seasonal Cocktails and Drinks: Spiked Hot Chocolate, Spiked Eggnog, Champagne and Wine
    • DIY Gourmet Hot Chocolate Toppings Bar 
    • Live Holiday Music: Remixed by DJ Violetta Markelou
    • Professional Photographs with Fashion Santa 
  • Event Partner: Georgetown BID
  • Charity Partner: Capital Area Food Bank — 100% of the proceeds from every $15 ticket purchased for a photo with Fashion Santa will be donated to Capital Area Food Bank. In addition, $5 of every $15 drink ticket sold will also be donated to the charity. To further inspire guests to give back, everyone who donates ten or more non-perishable food items to the Capital Area Food Bank at the event entrance will be offered one complimentary ticket (good for one photograph with Fashion Santa or one alcoholic beverage). Preferred items on Capital Area Food Bank’s “Most Wanted Items” list include: Canned or Dry Beans, Peanut Butter, Canned Vegetables, Grains, Hot and Cold Cereal, Canned Tuna, Salmon or Chicken, Healthy Snacks such as raisins or granola bars, Canned Fruits and 100% juice. By choosing items on this “most wanted” list, guests will be contributing to the health and wellness of the 540,000 neighbors the Capital Area Food Bank serves.