For an awful lot of us, shaving has become a chore, and razors a five-bladed joke. The best answer to this nonsense—and a razor that looks like a matchbox car is nothing but nonsense—is a traditional wet shave.
If you’ve never been for a shave at a real barbershop, this probably sounds like contrived nostalgia. The truth is, a good shave is an art as much as a skill. The process starts with multiple warm towels, to soften the skin and hair. Skin is treated with balm or oil. Lather is made in a mug—and at this point, usually, your barber will explain why the soap he uses is the best—and applied with a brush. The brush will be made of badger hair. Don’t question the badger hair. Then, you get a few passes with a straight razor. The process will take between half an hour to an hour, and only afterwards will it occur to you that it’s possible to relax with a razor at your throat.
Don’t know where to begin? Try one of these three great spots.
Truefitt & Hill
Barbers to the British Royalty, Truefitt & Hill is the enclave of the executive class and has devoted themselves to men’s hair since 1805. If you’ve got money to drop, make an appointment and get your shoes shined at the same time. 40 King St. West, 416-214-4646
Gus the Other Barber
This guy didn’t have to rediscover the lost art of shaving like the rest of us. Gus has been on Bloor since the 60s, and he’s as much part of the neighbourhood as Ed Mirvish. Honestly, I’d never thought of shaving (or haircutting) as a real skill until visiting Gus, who started apprenticing as a barber at age twelve. 596 Bloor St. West, 416-534-9077
Garrison’s By The Park
This upstairs shop displays antique men’s accessories, has a great view of Trinity Bellwoods Park, and there’s no flatscreen TV in sight. Proprietor Doug Stewart thinks they kill the conversation, and he’s probably right. Garrison’s, which smells of wood grain as much as shaving soap, feels like a local pub. A hot toddy (or a beer in the summer, I’m told) comes with your shave, and there’s a cosy deck out back. 907 Queen St. West, 416-703-8602