2011-01-27 / Features

Close Shave: Old-Fashioned Ritual On Cutting Edge

By Susan Jurgelski

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) – Say bye-bye to bristle.

No cutting corners, guys.

If you’re seeking a babyfaced shorn identity – lather up and do as your granddaddy did.

The old-fashioned barber’s shop shave – hot foam applied with a badger hair brush followed up with a stropped and gleaming straight razor – was a male ritual for years. Now the traditional shave, often depicted quaintly in movies and on TV, is getting a closer look from men willing to forgo convenience for quality.

Call it a retro ritual, a back-to-basics, environmentally friendly, skin-healthy trend.

“It can be a Zen kind of thing,’’ said Brian Hugel, owner of Country Knives in Intercourse. His shop carries an assortment of shaving items, including straight razors, also known as open or cut-throat razors, which were in vogue in the Victorian era before the safety razor was introduced in the early 1900s, and single-blade, double edged razors (crank it open to drop in a new blade), all ranging in price from $35 to several hundred dollars. “Men who have the time to do it get into the whole process.’’

Beyond use for head shaving and fine designs, the nondisposable razors are finding a new niche. An oldschool subculture dedicated to the finer points of shaving blogs on the subject and there are websites with products and tips.

Ever since prehistoric man first scraped a seashell across his cheek, shaving has been part of the male experience, wrote Corey Greenberg, then an NBC Today Show tech editor, in a 2005 online wet-shaving tutorial. Greenberg called proper shaving a lost art and the disposable razor a step backward.

“ The perfect shave is what all men strive for every morning when they bring their razor up to their chin – an effortless shave that’s baby smooth, and without any of the usual skin irritation, redness, and that burn- ing sensation most guys seem to feel is par for the course when it comes to shaving,’’ Greenberg wrote.

“Shaving is one of those glorious male traditions that used to be passed down from father to son, but somewhere along the line, when shaving became more about cheap, disposable razors than a nice, precision-made metal tool in your hand, it became a brainless routine to rush through in the morning without even thinking about it,’’ he said.

Dan Williams, manager of online sales for Country Knives, has been on a threeyear odyssey of sorts in search of a seamless shave and has experimented with many different products. From experience, he believes that the older-type razors definitely leave the skin feeling smoother and more stubble free. But he said there are multi-edged shavers on the market, like the muchtouted Gillette Mach and Fusion lines (costing $10 to $20), that, with the right cream, can do a decent job.

But there’s nothing like the old way, which is definitely making headway.

“Guys are still interested in this,’’ said Charles Adams, owner of Charles’ Hair Studio in New Holland, a traditional, walk-in barbershop. “I get customers all the time who want this type of shave.’’

Destinations Spa at the Inn at Leola Village even offers the straight razor Royal Shave, a luxurious 45 minutes for $55, which begins with a hot towel and includes an After-Shave Mask.

Most barbershops will honor requests for a classic shave, but a representative of Champ’s Barber School said that while barbers are trained to give these shaves, many shops utilize straight razors with disposable blades to prevent contamination and transmission of disease. Some areas prohibit the use of straight razors, but there is no such law on the Pennsylvania books.

Indeed, straight razors can be hazardous for the unseasoned and take practice to master, Hugel said. In other words, don’t do this at home without proper preparation – and definitely don’t do this in the shower.

As men embrace the grooming boom, skin products in general and high-end shaving sets and accessories like lather-heating devices are increasingly more common and easier to find. Sephora (a store of this chain is at Park City Center) sells the Power Shave Set (priced at $150) from The Perfect Shave, which includes a preshave oil and an after-shave balm. Boscov’s offers a Braun Flexible Shaving System, which incorporates “pulsonic technology,’’ for $179.

Guys are even snapping up vintage razor models on eBay for 10 and 20 times the original 1950s and ‘60s cost.

“Now that men of all ages are paying more attention to their appearance,’’ Greenberg wrote, “it’s no wonder that the hottest trend right now in male grooming is a return to the traditional wet shave – and millions of men have been shocked to discover that the ‘old-fashioned’ method of shaving they thought went out with the Hula-Hoop is actually the best quality shave you can get.’’

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