Shaving is not an innate skill men are born with. It must be learned. If we’re lucky, Dad will have sat us down to teach us this manly art. If we’re unlucky, he handed us the razor, a bottle of Old Spice, and hoped for the best!
But shaving doesn’t need to be a painful ordeal or a boring daily ritual. The men’s shaving and toiletry shops around Piccadilly, in the very heart of a gentleman’s London, offer up everything a man needs for his morning ablutions. They’ll even teach him how to do it better!
Just blocks from Piccadilly Circus in the heart of London’s West End lies a masculine enclave. Up and down Pall Mall venerated men’s clubs still line the streets. The area was even once known simply as Clubland for this reason. On nearby Jermyn Street and Savile Row, men still buy the best shirts and suits. Just the name Savile Row has even come to mean quality tailoring and classic styles around the world. And throughout the districts of St. James’s and Mayfair, men still treat themselves to bespoke shoes and hats, the finest wines and whiskeys, and superior toiletries and shaving supplies as they have for centuries.
For a truly timeless experience he goes to one of the city’s finest establishments devoted to male grooming. Catering to kings and commoners since 1805, Truefitt & Hill is even Guinness certified as the oldest barbershop in the world. Just blocks from St. James’s Palace, the very epicenter of a gentleman’s London, you can do no better than to start your day under the practiced hand of one of Truefitt and Hill’s master barbers with a relaxing classic hot towel shave. They even throw in a shoeshine!
In the days before safety razors made shaving safer and easier, many men were regularly shaved by their local barber. But before savvy marketers rooted the fear of the five o’clock shadow into men’s minds in the twentieth century, a few days’ growth of whiskers was easily acceptable. And even men who submitted to the ministrations of a barber and his razor often only did so only twice weekly. Many men would have agreed with an old Russian proverb that said, “It is easier to bear a child once a year than to shave every day.”
But in those days before disposable razors, men’s only choice each day was to face the glinting steel blade of a straight razor, not so affectionately known as the “cut-throat razor.”
So, while many men fear a razor-sharp, well, razor, against their jugular vein, others recognize that this is probably one of the best shaves they will ever have. But use of the straight razor is fast becoming a lost art, and many men never really learned how to shave properly. To remedy this oversight, barbershop and gentlemen’s perfumer George F. Trumper’s Open Razor Shaving School offers one-on-one straight razor instruction for the uninitiated, or the curious. Each 90-minute session instructs men on the proper use of an open razor and the best shaving technique for their skin type. Master barbers even offer advice on selecting the most suitable shaving products. And with a dizzying range of razors, brushes, soaps, creams and skin foods at Trumper’s, it’s hard to walk out of the shop without experimenting with some new shaving preparation.
For the uninitiated, however, a few shaving tips will go a long way toward a smoother shaving experience. The first thing is to remember that wetter is better. The best shave is one in which whiskers are drowned with water and never allowed to dry. Shaving after a shower or bath is best, but if this isn’t possible, just make sure to use plenty of hot water. Also, use long even strokes and avoid repeated passes over the same areas of your face. Ideally you should minimize the amount of contact the razor has with your face to avoid skin irritation, razor burn, and nicks. And finally, possibly the greatest improvement to your shaving experience will be achieved by using an old-fashioned shaving brush like Grandpa used. This will massage and hydrate every single whisker on your face for a more pliable and shaveable beard. While the most expensive badger hair brushes can cost a fortune, you should notice an immediate improvement with even an inexpensive, easily-available synthetic shaving brush.
A gentleman is made not born. He is made in the experiences he pursues and in his attitude toward life and living. In London, top shops for men’s clothes, toiletries and shaving goods make this the perfect city to experience the gentlemanly ideal, even if only passing through for a day. And if only passing through for a day, remember that a gentleman experiences each day with verve and vivacity, and each day can only begin with a great shave!
For the Gentleman visiting London
- Truefitt and Hill offers a traditional wet shave at its St. James’s Street location for £42.
Call +44 (0)20 7493 2961 for appointments.
- George F. Trumper shaving school is currently available only at its Mayfair location. It costs £75 for 90 minutes, and includes a 20% discount on any shaving products purchased that day.