One of the most common responses I hear from men when talking about a professional straight-razor face shave is, “Why would I pay to get something that I can do at home for free?” When I hear this I always chuckle to myself because I already know that they have never had this experience before in their lives. The art of the professional shave in traditional men’s barber shops was almost lost in the past decades of the unisex salons. But in recent years demand for the services of the old-style traditional barbers have made a strong comeback. Rich Kletting – Salt Lake Barber – is one of only a few Salt Lake City barbers who now offer the traditional hot steaming towel straight-razor face shave.
Although the advance of safety and electric razors over the past century has made it more convenient for men to shave at home, there will always be those men who choose to indulge in a professional barbershop straight-razor face shave on special occasions. A full straight-razor face shave, complete with hot towels, oils, lotions and massage, is one of the most relaxing yet rejuvenating services that men can enjoy in the barbershop. It is something every man should experience at least once so he will know what he is missing.
At Salt Lake Barber in downtown Salt Lake City we use some of the following tools to perform a professional straight-razor face shave. First, there are two types of razors used to perform a shave today. The disposable blade straight razor shown in the photo has blades which can be used one time and then be thrown out and not used again. This type of razor is used for several reasons. There is a consistent sharpness and quality of each blade when it is brand new. A barber does not have to be an expert at honing and stopping to keep a traditional straight razor at it’s maximum sharpness. Also the disposable blade is very convenient for sanitation purposes. It does not have to be treated in barbacide or other chemicals to sanitize the blade for future use.
The other type of straight razor is the traditional, non-disposable razor which has been used forever by barbers who straight-razor face shaveprefer that incredible feel and performance of the permanent blade made of the highest quality steel. The photo has examples of the permanent blade which delivers a superb straight-razor face shave as well has great looks for the traditionalist.
These razors have to be sharpened by an experienced barber on a regular basis. The strop used to sharpen the straight-razor has one side made of linen and the other side of leather and the blade is constantly fine tuned on a daily basis. Honing is done on a less frequent basis where the blade is shaped on various types of stones to grind the cutting edge. If your barber is skilled honing and stropping these types of razors, it is enjoyable to watch him work as the old-time barbers have done forever. Everyone has seen this done in the old black-and-white movies and it creates a strong nostalgia for the good-old-days.
Another tool used in performing the hot towel straight-razor face shave is the hot-lather machine often called a latherizer. It is a must for the traditional face or head shave. These expensive machines use a special liquid which creates a perfect thickness and wetness for a professional shave.
From the customers point of view, hot lather is far more desirable to the cold lather that comes out of a can for use at home. It also feels far superior and the hot lather also softens the face and hair to be shaved better than the cold alternative.
An absolutely necessary ingredient to a superior hot towel straight-razor face shave is the proper use of pre-shave oils. Pre-shave oils and after-shave balms are an extremely important part of your professional barber shop shave. My personal opinion is that a very high-quality pre-shave oil is one of the most important aspect of a smooth and nick-free shave.
At our Salt Lake City barber shop I like to start every face shave with a hot, steaming towel to open the pores of the skin so that I can massage in the pre-shave oil thoroughly. It is only after the pores of the skin are opened and I have massaged in the pre-shave oil thoroughly that I begin to apply the hot lather to the face.
The hot steaming towels are the most popular part of a professional straight-razor face shave. Each towel must be laundered with a sanitizing agent so they are not only clean and fresh…but sanitized against any type of germs or impurities. The towels are placed in a hot towel machine to be heated to the precise temperature which will be effective in softening the beard… but also be comfortable and enjoyable to the customer. It is extremely soothing and relaxing when a hot steaming towel is placed upon your face. It is like all your cares and worries disappear. Once you have had this experience, it is definitely something that you will want to do again and again.
The professional barber should have been trained in performing the 14 strokes in a standard straight-razor face shave. This time-tested method usually factors in things like facial landmarks, directional growth of hair and other considerations which will contribute towards the best possible outcome for the client.
Difficult areas may include the sensitivity of the neck, areas of the chin and jaw as well as the upper lip under the nose. The best way to avoid nicks and cuts or skin irritation in these potential problem areas is to do thorough shaving preparation before the razor ever touches the face.
I have found that when I take the necessary time to do the prep work thoroughly, then the actual shaving is relatively easy. If I get in a hurry and cut corners in the pre-shave preparation, then I often encounter a tough, somewhat dry beard that is difficult to cut closely. It also leads to increasing pressure (pushing harder) on the blade which can lead to skin irritation or even nicks or cuts to the face. I will not do a shave anymore unless I have the time to do adequate and thorough preparation.
Immediately upon finishing the shave, I like to put a cool, wet towel on the face for a few moments because it feels so refreshing and soothing. Then I like to use an after-shave balm or a moisturizing astringent cream to restore the moisture to the skin and to make it look and feel it’s best. The one I use has a great smell which my customers usually comment on in a very favorable way. I massage it into well the skin much like a facial would do.
Then I apply the clients preferred after-shave lotion from the several that I keep on hand in the barber shop. This further refreshes the skin and serves to complete the total straight-razor face shave experience.
The last thing I like to do is apply a premium talc (powder) such as Pinaud to the skin. This serves to take the shine off the skin as well as to reduce any redness which is natural after a face or head shave. Besides, it just smells great along with the after shave or cologne that was previously applied. Many clients comment on these smells that it revives memories of their past when they were at the old-time, traditional barber shops.
Most men leave our barbershop in Salt Lake City feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after receiving the entire hot-towel, professional straight-razor face shave experience. You can tell from this article that it is not something that you will be doing at home anytime soon. It is a pampering for the man similar to a woman going to have her nails done or getting a massage at a day spa.
Men–you are worth it! Take time to take care of yourselves once in a while. You owe it to yourself to at least give it a try. You might find that you make a hot-towel, professional straight-razor face shave a regular part of your personal time activities.