I’ll never forget the first time I picked up my mom’s disposable razor blade in a pathetic attempt to rid three or four pieces of fuzz above my upper lip. I was eager to join the bearded tribe and embark on the shaving rite of passage—a tradition that has been passed down since the dawn of time. My feeble efforts resulted in several cuts and a burning sensation that left me wondering, “How could shaving ever be a pleasurable experience?”

Shaving, beard trimming, and even hairstyling have carried cultural meaning for men for centuries. Egyptian murals depict men with full beards, scraping their hair away in early times with crude items such as stone, flint and even clamshells. Men later began to shave their beards to avoid being grabbed in the face during battle. As shaving spread through the world, men of unshaven societies became known as “barbarians” meaning the “unbarbered.” Years later, the service for a shave became what we know today as barbering.

A cadet shaves in front a tent at West Point, circa 1913. Image credit: Library of Congress.

According to veteran barber Bobby Rutlledge, barbering was performed as far back as 296 B.C. in Rome, where men could get anything from a cut and shave to tooth extractions, but also provided a social forum for discussing daily news and political issues. The custom continues for people all over the world and we’re seeing resurgence in barbershops now more than ever.

In speaking with several experts and barbers across the globe, there is one thing that seems unanimous: men are showing a newfound appreciation for authenticity when it comes to grooming. Dr. Allan Peterkin, Dove Men+Care Face Range expert and author of several men’s grooming books including One Thousand Beards, states, “Modern men take care of their bodies and they now feel comfortable taking care of their faces. This means getting expert advice from their barbers and getting pampered from time with a straight-razor shave.” The barbershop is the only place exclusive to men where you can find this true, classic treatment. It’s tradition, not a trend.

BARBER in Amsterdam. Image courtesy of BARBER.

Greg Kristopik, a barber at The Belmont Barbershop in Chicago says, “Guys are seeing classic styles start to pop up again, from [TV] shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire and [films like] The Great Gatsby—even Justin Timberlake has adopted a barber cut into his current style.” He also observes, “The older barbershops are being updated with younger, hipper guys who realize that their customers want affordable service, but more importantly, want to have some style.”

A classic American barbershop, circa early 1900s.

The art of barbering is not only trending in the United States. Shops have popped up throughout Great Britain and Europe and continue to gain momentum. Martjin Zijerveld, a barber at an Amsterdam shaving salon BARBER, mentions, “Facial hair and beards in general have made quite a comeback with younger men. It’s quite a trend in the fashion scene and part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll image often seen today. In the last year or so we’ve seen at least five or six new shops pop up in the area.” He also states, “you can have a corporate job now with tattoos and a beard, where in previous years, it wasn’t as easily accepted. Times have changed.”

A professional shave is possibly one the most self-pampering acts a man can indulge in. “Men are showing a large interest in straight razor or safety razor shaving,” states Kristopik. “Customers are asking where they can get these razors and how to go about it at home. It’s a way to take your time and really get a precise shave.” And with the resurgence of the barbershop experience, it’s only natural that new trends and techniques follow suit. In this digital age of social media—it’s that much easier to share and seek out styles for shaving techniques, which have surfaced on sites such as Ape to Gentleman and Life’d.

A man receives a straight razor shave at Chicago’s Belmont Barbershop. Image courtesy of The Belmont Barbershop.

Whether it’s a little scruff, or a full-on beard, there’s one rule of thumb every guy should know prior to executing a clean shave. Make sure you soften the hair before applying product or any type of blade. If you can’t get the pampered hot-towel treatment at a shop, the easiest way is with hot water, thus making for an efficient swipe once the blade passes a stroke. Details says it best, “shave in the shower or immediately after one. Steam is the key—it opens pores, which in turn causes whiskers to rise so they’re easier to lop off. If the bathroom mirror hasn’t fogged up, the shower isn’t hot enough.” Depending how deep of a regimen to follow next is up to the individual’s skin sensitivity and the amount of time one wants to spend. However, it’s always imperative you begin shaving with a well-cleansed face.

Petra van Roon, BARBER shop owner, carries Hudson Made’s Beard and Shave Soap and states, “Clients tend to go for products that have multiple functions, or products that stand out in function, and there aren’t many products like this on the market yet. Since we look out for the golden combination of the very highest quality ingredients combined with a pleasant smell and brand experience, the Beard and Shave Soap has been well-received by our clientele. It helps us give a fresh twist to the traditional barber profession.”

Hudson Made’s Beard & Shave Soap for sale at BARBER in Amsterdam. Image courtesy of BARBER.

Zijerveld states, “I love using the soap when I’m performing a shave on my clients because it gets the job done right with one application. Other products can dry out and you have to re-wet it, but the texture is perfect and it’s the only product I use for shaves in our shop.”

Above all, a good clean shave requires you to take your time and pay attention to the details. And that’s anything but barbaric.

Dale Pimentel is a fashion copywriter at Levi.com, and a residing native of San Francisco. He grew up as a hip-hop/backup dancer, with a degree in SF nightlife, and has more sneakers than one could fit in a NY-sized studio.

Related Post:
Reclaiming Men’s Vanity by Sloan Rollins

Upgrade your shaving routine with these products from Hudson Made.

The Beard & Shave Soap Trio Patriot with Panache Citron Neroli Beard & Shave Soap + Shave Mug