On the instructions of my ex-wife several years ago, I was told “you should go pamper yourself, put some time into your own wellbeing” I’m no Metro sexual, so the thought made me recoil at first, but as I thought about it, I decided she was right and that I would book an appointment at Salon Roma, the Italian Barber in Rosebank for a shave, and that experience began my minor obsession with shaving.
In the modern media we are constantly being sold newer better, more blades on your razor, foam that’s not foam but gel that becomes foam that moisturizes and sanitizes, electric razors that make shaving in the shower easier or in your car as you drive to work, or at 100 meters under water, lubricating strips and it just goes on and on and on, while you pay more and more for an experience most just want over as soon as possible.
Sitting waiting for my appointment dusty fake roses adorn the reception, Ferrari posters on the wall, well worn chairs and that wonderful smell of aftershave in the air, it felt great, like manliness, this was doing it like a gentleman.
Nino called me through and ushered me to his booth, chatting all the while that it had been too long since I had been in, and I remembered how surprised I was that he had remembered it had been several years, even recalling my name, it was such a comfortable place to be. He seats me, the booth is small and I’m a big guy so panic sets in for a moment, but as he effortlessly gets me comfortable and laid back in the chair, I notice that he is organized and everything is exactly where it should be. The chair is beautiful, and old dark wooden chair, the leather is Ox blood and had become that lovely well-worn deep colour. The chair is lifted, and I settle in, still chatting away Nino whips out a hot towel he airs it and with a well practiced flourish he takes either end, cupping my chin and placing either end upwards over my face, so just my nose peaks out. It feels so good, and I’m now melting into the chair, my mind drifting and in the background Nino is preparing I hear the sound of him muffled by the towel, which he now removes, he has prepared a lather in a large ceramic mug, it’s heavy, with a thick rim and slightly off white from age. He has a brush in hand and he now lathers my face up, it’s warm and thick and the clean smell of soap fills my nose, he keeps lathering my face using warm soap.
Nino picks up the strait razor in his right hand; in his left he takes the end of a leather strop and placing the blade flat against it the leather and slides the blade back and forth, lapping the leather with the steel back and forth.
He’s now ready to shave me, in his right hand he holds the razor between thumb and index and middle finger, the handle splitting the ring finger and pinky and with the left fore finger and thumb he pulls my skin tight and with a slow deliberate swipe the blade glides over my skin, it feels smooth and clean my skin tingling as the cool air reaches it. Little by little he methodically works he’s way around my face, till he’s happy, sometimes dabbing a little lather and re-shaving an area. On completion, he magically whips out another hot towel and quickly wraps my face again and lets me soak under it again for what feels like eternity and now I catch myself falling asleep, almost snoring I’m so comfortable.
Nino slowly takes the now luke warm towel of my face, he wipes my face removing any excess lather as he goes, he lifts two bottles of after shave and asks which I prefer, I like the fresh clean citrus one and he pours some into his hands, rubbing them and then briskly slaps my face, it stings, and it wakes me instantly and I feel fantastic, relaxed, just amazing.
Nino sits me up and in he’s broken English says “I’m done” and I feel fantastic which is often hard in this jaded life to do.
As men we just don’t seem to be able to make the time for this, as there are few things in life a man will do more than shave. Everyday I fix boiling water for my shave I have a soap mug and a beautiful badger hair brush, I make lather and then sharpen my strait razor before shaving. It does take a little time, but it’s a little “me” time in a day that will be spent giving everyone else my attention.