Once in New York, I filled a morning by visiting an old fashioned barber’s shop (not a properly old-fashioned one, though: this had a bad eighties’ feel to it and those hysterical turquoise shots in the window of guys with perms and aviator specs) and get my face shaved.
I had never undergone such treatment before: it was unnerving, pleasant, painful, relaxing and frightening all at once and at different times. But it is rather nice to know that someone has shaved you. Back in London, I decided to repeat the procedure, and visited a place near my apartment. This time it was unambiguously horrendous, and the most pain I have experienced at the hands of an older man. I was left raw, stinging and absolutely hopping mad, with spots of blood coming up all over my neck. Never again, I thought, furiously leaving a tip.
A few weeks later, and disappointed that my latest effete pursuit was to be curtailed, I got into discussion with the staff at GF Trumpers of Jermyn St, (I didn’t know the original Curzon St branch at the time) which is a quite excellent place for securing all things gentlemanly. Soon they had me convinced that they could do a better job, and after one initially very nervous session, I emerged ever the smoothest, creamiest, most trimmed and talcumed young psychological illusionist to ever read a mind or influence a behaviour.
On alternate Saturdays I would return to Trumpers and receive the hot-towels and cut-throat safely and precisely. Now that I am no longer a single man and cannot pre-book half of all my Saturday afternoons to be spent in this ludicrous way, I have forgone the luxury of a professional touch and shave at home. Too nervous to use a cut-throat, I use the more pedestrian Gillette Fusion Power razor, which plays less darkly upon the imagination. I am, as you will guess, a shaving enthusiast, and I thought that you could all do a lot worse than pay attention to my shaving tips, because I have met some of you, and frankly most of you need it. I realise this may be of less interest to my lady-fans, but, again, I have stood quite close to many of you after shows, and some of those hirsute upper-lips could stand a little pruning.
So, for those who struggle with their morning toilet, my thoughts are as follows. As ever, recommendations and thoughts appreciated. I am indebted to the various barbers at Trumpers and the long discussions we have had while I was in the chair.
1. Preparation is all. Exfoliate in the shower, and do so every day if you can.
2. Do not use any shaving oils: they will clog up your razor. The idea is to first open your pores, (which is what the hot towels will do if you visit a professional), so avoid anything cloggy. Trumpers sell a ‘skin food’, which is essentially glycerine and one of various pleasant scents, and this nicely and lightly prepares the skin for the razor without recourse to oils.
3. Next, lather up. You should use soap in a bowl and a proper brush, for this is where the joy of the whole experience resides. If you use cream or gel from a commercial can, you should still use a brush to apply it. This is because you wish to lift the hairs from the face: smoothing your hand down your cheeks and chin has the opposite effect. A hand-made badger brush will not moult like a machined one, and the best have firmer hairs inside which help the lather build quicker. Brush the lather in little circles around your quite exceptional face, lifting those pesky hairs, and then, if you have time, rub it all in with your fingers and start again with the soap that is still on the brush.
4. Hair-raised, you can pick up your razor. I use the Fusion Power, but have no idea if the buzzing function really makes any difference. I am somewhat committed to it, as I found a fancy one that has a little light on it, which I just love. Others complain that the 5-bladed Fusion brand clogs up too easily, and swear by the old Mach III. They may be right. I have shelves of faux bone-handled and chrome razors, for every brand of blade, most far more beautiful than the light-up gizmo, and would love a tortoiseshell handle for the Fusion Power… you know where to post a comment if you’ve come across anything nice.
Some people have hugely sensitive skin, and no amount of care seems to stop the old rashes and in-grown hairs. A dermatologist I spoke to explained that the trouble with the multi-bladed razors is that they can pull out and cut the hair so closely to the skin that if you are one of a small percentage of people to have stubble that grows at a shallower angle to the skin rather than straight out, the pull-and-snip action can actually make the hair grow again underneath the skin. So – and this advice has been invaluable to a couple of friends – the answer is to eschew these modern razors and stick to an old-fashioned top-loading single blade model. There you have it. It won’t be quite as close, but it will be close enough and might stop the in-growing if you can’t seem to stop it after taking on board all my handy hints.
Meanwhile, when I pluck up courage to use a cut-throat, I’ll let you know.
5. Start shaving. Stretch the skin where you can, and shave slowly: they shave too fast and casually in the adverts and it’s a bad example. Keep the blades rinsed, and go slowly and carefully. Above all, SHAVE WITH, NOT AGAINST, THE GRAIN. This is a very common mistake. It will feel closer if you go against the grain, but you’ll end up with ingrown hairs all over the place. Always with the grain. For most people, that will be DOWN the cheeks and UP the neck to meet under the jaw, but we all have our personal hair-grain maps. Be aware of any areas you tend to find rashes: usually this is where you’ve been shaving the wrong way.
You should be changing your blades every four shaves at the very most, but with the current economic climate and the cost of Fusion blades, you may have to make compromises.
6. After the shave is complete, PAT your face with a towel, don’t rub.
7. Moisturise your face and neck, and treat any nicks with a styptic pencil or similar product.
8. For a super-silky effect, go for the talc. Yeah, baby.
I don’t use an aftershave balm, as it’s best to minimise the number of products you’re pushing into your face every time you shave. Stick to the same products, and don’t use more than are needed. Avoid shaving every day, (every other day is best). Exfoliation is an important part of the regime, as it’s primarily all about stopping those hairs from growing the wrong way under dead skin or clogged pores.
Those, then, are my top tips. Do with them as you wish, but I can assure you I was raggedy-rashed and spotty before I discovered the pleasures of doing it right. And my life was poorer too, because shaving was a chore rather than a delight. I hope you’ll find your way to enjoying it too. Especially those ladies: you know who you are.
Right, next time it might be perfect egg-poaching.
Heavens, is that the time. Ner-night.