Shaving, for most men, is often described as both an initiation ritual into manhood and as a necessary, at times painful, chore. The antagonistic attitude that exists between a man and his razor (nowadays probably his electric shaver) is the source of many an early morning dispute and embarrassing telltale red spots or – worse! – tissue paper adornments whilst at work. However, whilst shaving is at times a taxing performance, we have sought out the advice of some professionals to make the morning, or evening, shave that much smoother. Enter the barber and hairdresser.
Whilst the barber’s heyday has since passed, and despite the belief that there is a direct correlation between manliness and facial hair (perish the thought), it is still possible to find such a man in Melbourne. The rarefied but warm atmosphere of barber shops, at once a casual retreat and a refreshing pit-stop, have since been replaced by the hustle and bustle of hairdressers. This state of affairs is bemoaned by Herr Blick (aka Steven) who views his profession as a bespoke service.
The relationship between client and barber was cordial and long lasting, as opposed to the often-autonomous visits to hairdressers today. Barbershops, Steven notes, used to be the sites of ‘quasi-surgeons’, whose red and white poles represented blood and bandages. Whilst Steven no longer acts as a barber – but will give his faithful clientele classic, individual haircuts – he suggests that good barbers are still to be found in areas such as Northcote or Brunswick with their high levels of ethnically diverse residents.
One such barbershop in Fitzroy (and Richmond) is Dr. Follicles, a fusion of unisex hairdressers and mens’ barbers. There is a distinct, retro feel to the décor and they play their vinyl records loud and proud. Dr Follicles will happily whip out the cut-throat razor for a scruffy gent and no appointments are necessary. A wet shave will cost roughly $30, and once you get over the initial anxiety of a man holding a razor to your throat, the experience can be quite relaxing. Warm wet towels cover your face to soften your beard before cream is applied with a real badger-hair brush and the shave commences in earnest. Of course, closeness of your shave and the thickness of your beard will determine the length of your visit but don’t expect to be there for much longer than 20 minutes.
One of the few remaining barbers in town can be found sequestered in the basement of the Henry Bucks Flagship Collins Street store. Leo does haircuts and shaves but ask nicely for a shave (this author was rejected for a shave for possessing mere ‘bumfluff’). Leo, as befitting his position at Henry Bucks, is very popular with bankers and businessmen around town and is rumoured to occasionally attend to a certain Murdoch. His small office is warm and cosy with a vintage barber’s chair and stocks an assortment of classic men’s colognes and aftershaves to try on afterwards (brands include Canali, Zegna and Taylor of Bond Street). Aside from shaving, his number one tip for retaining the shape of your new haircut is to brush or comb it whilst it is still wet, helping to ‘train’ your hair.
Whether you choose to venture forth into the comfortable old world of barber shops or rest at home with your trusted Gillette razor, it is important to have the best tools for the job to keep well groomed. With this in mind, a visit to any Shaver Shop, which stocks the largest range of razors and grooming products, is recommended. They also stock the Italian Pro Raso brand (widely favoured by those with sensitive skin). In addition, Harrolds stocks covetable men’s brand The Art of Shaving and colognes such as Creed, whilst American Tailors stocks Dr. Harris.
Leo The Barber
320 Collins Street, Melbourne
(03) 8102 4706
Prices from $40 for haircut and shave
240 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
143 Swan St, Richmond
Prices from $30, no appointment necessary
Shops around Melbourne