The Tallow Chandlers Prize

December 22, 2011

'The tallow what?' you say? Is this something to do with the ingredients of shaving soap?
Alas no, but it is something MUCH more exciting...

Yesterday I came home to a letter lying on my bed. I opened it up to discover that I have won a prestigious 
Tallow Chandlers Prize for Excelling in Gaining my City & Guilds Barbering Diploma!!! 
At first I though it was some sort of joke or junk mail but it turns out all to be true! My tutor back in college nominated me and I won! It's a huge honour to receive this award and, from what I can tell, only somewhere between 4 to 6 prizes are given out in the hairdressing and beauty therapy sector each year from all of the nominees across both the UK and Ireland. The nominees are both tutors and students who excelling in gaining or teaching the City & Guilds qualifications.

So next February I get to go to London with two family members, and my tutor, to an awards luncheon in the magnificent Tallow Chandlers Hall (photo below). I'll get a medal, a framed certificate and a cheque!:
(Photo from www.tallowchandlers.org)
It looks like something out of Harry Potter! The whole building is gorgeous and has a deep history. The original building is believed to have been the Governor's Palace from which all of Britain was ruled. In 1476 the Tallow Chandlers bought the building. However when a fire broke out in 1666 the whole building burnt down (not surprising due to the high levels of tallow, candles, soap etc. in there!). The current hall dates back to 1672 and it's where 30+ of the 108 Worshipful Companies (which are kind of like Guilds) hold their Court Meetings.

So I'll have to get dolled up to the nines and my best smile in place for the countless photos I'm sure my dad will take. I'll no doubt have a blog post about it too once it's all done and dusted, but for now I'll be walking around with a big smile on my face. I feel really proud of myself and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

Happy Holidays Indeed!
- BE

Happy Holidays!

December 21, 2011

Well what a crazy year it's been. This'll be the last post until after Christmas so I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has read my blog this year. I know your numbers are few but each visit makes me smile so thank you all agus go raibh míle maith agat!
No matter where the holiday season takes you, or what you do, I hope you have a joyful and peaceful one.
- BE

Face Mapping For Shaving

December 14, 2011

My most frequently visited page here on my blog is this one: Razor Bumps and Ingrown Hairs
The sheer volume of traffic to it shows me that it seems to be a very common problem with little information on the internet about the difference, and how to treat them. So I wanted to make this short add-on entry about face mapping in the hopes that it will help some people.
Irritation and ingrown hairs can often be caused by cutting the hair too closely and/or in the wrong direction. Though it's often touted as being the only way to get a 'really' baby-butt smooth shave, shaving against the grain (A.T.G.)(ie. the direction the hair grows in) isn't suitable for everyone. Some people have strong skin and fine hair so they can take this shaving direction, but others will have coarse hair, or thin skin, and ATG is just too harsh.
Often young men learn to shave by going out, buying a razor, and just giving it a go. But really every man, whether he's new to shaving or doing it all his life, should take the time to map their face before next putting blade to skin.
A facial map takes the key areas of the skin and breaks them down into sections. Print one off, then go through each section and run your hand along the hair to find out which direction the hair grows in. There are so many ways! Some grow all left to right, some men grow hair down the cheeks but up the neck. Some even have swirls like you have at the crown of your hair on your head! Just because the left check grows straight down doesn't mean the right side will.
To help you do this, and get to know your face better (and to remember each time you shave!) there is a fantastic application online here: Interactive Facial Hair Mapping
For anyone having trouble loading the link above the map looks link this: 
So take the time and get to know your face. Find out what works... maybe you just need two with the grain passes' when shaving? Maybe one pass 'with' and one 'across'? Or maybe you can take the full 'with, across and against'? Some men, no matter how hard they try, will find that an electric shaver will be the only way to have a comfortable shave and that's fine too.
Either way your face is your own and only you can find out. Good preparation of the skin before you shave, finding products and a razor or blade that suits you, and providing good aftercare to your skin will have you looking your best. Remember that a day's worth of irritated skin is not worth suffering through for two hours of extra closeness! 
- BE

Grease Is The Word

December 5, 2011

Yeeeah... not that kind of grease I'm afraid. But oh how I wish it was...
By and large I don't mind a client coming in with a bit of product in his hair, especially if it's light enough to be brushed out. Heck, I don't even mind if he comes in with enough pomade to drown a hamster in in there once he'll let me wash it out first! But I have two pet peeves... the first being people who want a dry cut with a lot of product in their hair. Not only is this bad for my tools, gumming up my scissors and clippers, but the hair also simply won't cut as well. In a way I feel this is a type of karma. I'll explain this to a client, and if he still insists on just a dry cut... well, it's not my fault that your haircut isn't as good as it could be. The hair clumps together, will slip on the scissors edge sometimes, and won't part correctly when I comb and section it. You wouldn't go in for a hot towel shave and cover my hands and razor in chicken fat before letting me bring a blade near your face now would you?!?

But by far, my second peeve is worse. And if you've a sensitive stomach maybe skip the rest!
People with greasy hair. Now I mean reeeaaallly greasy 'haven't-washed-in-a-month-or-two' hair. You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm sad to say not. I really wish I was! I've had clients actually tell me they only wash it every month or so as if that were the normal thing to do. I've had clients who's hair I've sprayed down only for the water to run straight off. I've had to pick out leaves stuck in the hair, try and comb through matted sections and when you 'dry' the hair it still looks soaking wet. These clients are scarce but they are there. It's unpleasant to handle this kind of hair but it's the SMELL that's the worst. It doesn't smell like dirt or anything per ce... it's a unique smell of grease, sebum and natural oils. But old grease, sebum and oils *shudder*. It's very distinctive and grows stronger as I comb the hair, releasing a fresh batch of oil onto the old and heightening the smell. Now you can tell me all you want about how it's good for the hair to 'self cleanse' with it's own oils but if I have to touch it and smell it then I want it to be clean. If you hair makes me gag, and I've had that happen on occasion, then I'm going to want you out of my chair asap. So the cut will be quick and will be minimal. Ask any barber to tell you honestly and they will say the same. I've worked with one barber who was pregnant and she literally couldn't stomach it sometimes, and when she could, she'd have to wear gloves. Now I know that would be embarrassing for the client, to have their barber wearing plastic gloves, and I've yet to get that far luckily, but could you blame us? I don't want to give the impression I work in a low-class barbershop. I actually work in a very nice one and you'd be surprised the types of gents who seem to forget about the top 5% of themselves when washing! So please... either wash your own hair thoroughly or pay the extra bit for us to introduce your follicles to detergent and don't ask for just a dry cut! If you are concerned about the SLS and chemicals in shampoos then look around and find some natural shampoos in your local health store. Your barber will be happy to use your own shampoo if you bring it in.
Be clean and glorious - not as if you lost a fight with a turkey baster!
- BE

In The Thick Of It

November 28, 2011

When it comes to hair it seems like the mid-ground is sweet spot for most men.
Too much hair, or not enough, and people feel a little hard done by. Now I've discussed thinning hair a little previously but what about thick hair? It can cause just as many problems...Troy Polamalu knows what I mean!:
Thick' hair can actually be more accurately classified by looking at the hair more closely. There are two main types of hair that fall under the general description of 'thick':
- When the individual strands of hair themselves are thick, as is often the case with afro-carribeann hair types, the hair will be hard to manage, hair to style and give direction too and will often feel dry or coarse. 
- If the individual strand are of average to fine thickness, but there are simply a lot of them on the head, then people often use the term 'thick'. However the correct term for this is 'dense' hair. It can have the same problems are thick hair (hard to shape or style etc.) but it's more likely to be in better condition and very strong and healthy. As I like to joke with my customers, "it's not going anywhere anytime soon!".
Some barbers will use a thinning scissors to take some of the weight/thickness out of the hair but it's important that they know what they doing when using these (and you might be surprised at how many will use them willy-nilly!).
Thinning scissors should really be used more commonly to add texture to the hair, and will often be referred to as texturising scissors instead. They can be safely used through the top fifth of the hair, however, if used incorrectly and brought say, half way down the length of the hair or more, then what will happen is that you will end up with the thickness still at the roots, and then whispier bits of hair as the style grows out. If this is done a few haircuts in a row then the top gets wispier and thinner each time and will look very bad. I've done up a diagram to show this progression better:
So what can be done? Well a good barber will know how to use a thinning scissors well, when to use point-cutting and texturizing techniques, and when to use a shaper razor. Not only that, but if you ask, they will be able to explain to you what they are doing.
But take pride in your strong locks! Keep them well groomed; chose short and sharp, an afro, or long (the weight will help bring the hair down rather than out). And if you find a barber who cuts your hair how you like it, well, remember we are cutting a lot more hair than the average head so we won't say no to a tip at the end of our hard work! Your luscious locks will thank you.
- BE


November 21, 2011

I don't know what it is about me but I have an allure I can no longer deny. Maybe it's my welcoming smile, my friendly banter or some invisible pheromone. In fact in both barber college as well as my work now I get a little bit of teasing about it.
(image from www.annetraintor.com )
The truth is I seem to attract some (hopefully) innocent attention from men of a considerable more mature age! I get sweet little gifts of teddy bears and chocolate. I have one client who glances in the window every day on his way to work to see if I'm there (the other barbers tease me by telling my when my “admirer” looked in for me on my days off). But they are harmless. I think they just enjoy the bit of a chat, some attention and, of course, a nice haircut.
I honestly don't care if who sits in my chair be they young, old, short, tall, whatever. I had a transgender client in the other day and had a cool conversation with him about how he loves getting his hair cut short in a barbers and about hormones for vocal changes. I have a girl who comes into me as she has a very short shaved style at the back of her head.
I'm just as happy chatting about 'kids these days' as I am about current fashions or popular TV shows. I don't follow sports but I pick up bits here and there and if you wanna talk I'll gladly listen.
Some clients like to simply sit quietly with no conversation at all. And that's fine too. In fact I've had a few clients fall asleep in the chair they were so calm and relaxed!
But the best thing for me is seeing those faces return. Having my own set of regulars is great and I'm always especially happy to see one of this growing group of people come in the door. I need to work on my memory so I can start recalling exactly how each of them likes their hair (I know just a few my heart by now) but they walk out happy and having them return 6 or 8 weeks later is a true sign of a job well done to me. Put it down to the cut, the chat or a combination of both, whatever this secret I have is I hope I can hold onto it even if I never find out exactly what it is.
So here's to the regulars! Thanks to you for always brightening my day.
- BE  

The Strands Of Time

November 14, 2011

A little riddle for you:
What goes from ear to ear but isn't a smile?
What grows as it's peers disappear?
What is a source of confidence to some yet disgust to others?

Have you figured it out yet? How about a little visual clue?
(Image From The Baldy Man TV Show)
Yup, it's the comb-over. A source of despair for many yet, for those gentlemen who chose to sport one, it's a keystone in the pride and confidence they have in their appearance. On a strictly personal note I dislike them as I feel they never solve the problem, however I will gladly cut one if it's what the client wants. However here's the real puzzle... when I talk to men who starting to thin on top or recede they all say how much they dislike comb-overs and how they will just keep it short and tidy and clean on top. So riddle me this: for those gents who have one, did they see a picture of someone with one and think “yup, that's the look for me. My, how natural it looks and what a practical solution”?
I honestly don't understand how someone begins to grow one. In fact I've yet to have a client in my chair who's in the mid-stages of growing one. Would they ask me to keep a it longer as they hope to grow it into a comb-over? Or do they have hair that long all around and one day cut it all short bar a little bit on one side? These questions genuinely baffle me. Perhaps a more experienced barber can shed some light on the matter for me. I certainly would never ask a client! So if you read this I'd love to hear your option on the matter. Just drop me an e-mail or comment below.
- BE

This Little Piggy

November 7, 2011

Aching shoulders, knees, feet and backs are a common complaint amongst barbers. 
We work in an industry in which we are on our feet all day and constantly raising our arms up to work.
During my first week in barber college our German teacher got us all to stand up. She taught us a series of exercises to help loosen our shoulder, arm and wrist muscles and taught us about correct posture while working. At the time most of us did the movements halfheartedly and, dispite her telling us it was one of the best lessons she could teach us, and that it would determine whether we'd be working for the next 10 years or the next 40, I'm sure that we all fell out of practice and rarely did them after that day.
Personally I can only speak for myself and now I'm back in Dublin I do try to do some stretches before and after work. In fact I've started doing Nia classes which has been great for my posture and will be beginning Bikram Yoga this month too. I've been beginning to feel the twinges and really I should have started before this point.
While it's easy enough to pick a class that'll help with our upper half, we often ignore our lower halves and in particular, our feet. I had been wearing these shoes for FAR too long:
When I bought them (many moons ago) they were the most comfortable thing I owned. But, much like growing a millimeter a day, without me noticing they slowly got tighter and tighter and more and more worn down. My pinky toe on my left foot began to get cramped in and turned slightly. It took month and months for this to occur, long after I should have gotten rid of the runners in the first place, and it was only once it began to hurt that I thought I really needed to take action. Being able to stand on my feet comfortably is crucial and yet I kept putting of getting new runners. So after 2 weeks of pain reminding me every day to save my poor soles, I just took the runners and threw them out. I went straight into the city and into a place that a nurse which foot problems had recommended to me. The lady in the shop looked at my feet, measured and pressure them, and explained that my right is a whole size bigger than my left! Not only that but my toes splay out when I walk so the toe-box on most shoes is too narrow for me and thus are cramping my wee little piggy. Then, like some sort of chiropidistic angel, she emerged from the stockroom with a box containing heaven for my feet. Okay, so they are pretty ugly lookin' heaven, but maaaaan, they are comfortable.
I've been wearing these for the last two weeks and already I think my pinky toe has forgiven me enough to be on speaking terms with me again. I no longer feel like I have to rest my feet after work and my posture is a little better too. These shoes came with a hefty price tag but I honestly can't put a price on having foot comfort in my work. I'm learning to listen to my body now so that I can have a long career ahead of me. So tell me; is there anything your body's telling you?
- BE

Move Over For Movember!

November 1, 2011

Remember, Remember, the Bro's of Movember!
Happy Movember everyone! For those of you who don't know what I'm going on about here's a little summary of what Movember is all about:
Each November men from all over the world begin the month with a smooth upper lip and then proceed to grow a stylish (and often hilarious) 'nose neighbour'. Call them what you will: 'crumb catcher', 'tea strainer', the risqué 'thigh tickler', or the simple 'mo', these facial fuzzies abound during November and it's all for a good cause.
People sponsor a 'tache wearer to grow his mighty lip warmer all month and the money raised goes to support research into, and awareness of, prostate cancer. Victims... emmm I mean Participants can set up a profile page on the Movember website and collect donations through that. In 2010 alone Ireland collected €1.6 million for the cause! Many barbershops get involved often holding events at the beginning or end of the month. One of my favourite barbershops of all time, The Waldorf, held quite the shindig and also made this simply wonderful video for Movember. It truly says so much about the art of shaving:
So find a bro' growing a mo' near you and donate! And if any of my readers are participating please send me and e-mail with your finished 'taches and if I get some photos I'll do a little feature at the end of the month. Until then – be it curly or long, grow it full, grow it strong!
- BE

Brief Update

October 27, 2011

Hi everyone,
This is just a brief apology as I've been very quiet on here this month. I've had a ton of things going on and covering shifts for several people in work so busy, busy, busy!
Please bare with me and starting November I have a ton of great topics and news to fill this blog with.
Have A Spooktastic Halloween!
- BE

Having The Decorators In

October 17, 2011

Hi everyone...
Apologies for it having been so long since I last updated. I'm typing this with a horrible head cold, a nose that could run in the Olympics, and my busiest week in a long time ahead of me. Despite all these recent developments, everything is keeping well in the barbers and we are in the middle of redecorating the place! A complete change of colour scheme.
The big boss man has decided to go for a light grey (with a tint of blue) and navy colour combo and I have to say the jury is still out on my decision as to whether or not I'll like it. It's very classy but a little cold feeling. I'll hold judgement until it's finish though. Things have been a bit all over the place as a result with the shop looking like this most days:
However the above image is even a good day! I went into the barbers this week to find the chair at my station was gone! We are getting two new Belmont chairs in (mmmmmm... Belmont) and they have taken out two of the ones we had to make way. I had to seat my clients on one of the much older chairs that they had in the canteen-ish area, which, to be fair, wasn't all that bad and did the job just fine.
Anyway I'll take another photo once the final spit'n'polish is put on and let you all judge for yourself. Right now I'm off to bed with a Lemsip and a warm blanket.
- BE

Product Review: Men-U Synthetic Shaving Brush

September 28, 2011

It's been a little while since I reviewed anything so I though I'd give a review of the Men-U Synthetic Shaving Brushes, which are the type of brush we use in my barbershop (it's spelt with an umlaut over the 'U' but I can't figure out how to do that on my keyboard!).
(image from Men-U website: http://www.men-uusa.com)
The first mayor 'pro' of this brush is it's low price. They retail on the Men-U website for only $20 including a free mini-shave-cream and stand. Which is incredibly good value for what you are getting. The next big plus is the fact that it is synthetic. Some people dislike shaving brushes as they don't like the use of animal hair (more commonly boar or badger, though occasionally horse) but these are a fantastic synthetic alternative. It won't retain water to the same degree as animal hair but I yet to find that a problem as I don't have to soak these before use, just a quick run under the stream and it's good to go. The fact that it's synthetic also means you can clean them. In work we soak everything we use in Barbacide after each shave and these little brushes clean up well. 
Which brings me nicely onto the 'cons'. These are a small knot brush. Now I normally prefer a larger knot for my personal use as my legs have a large surface area but I find that this brush splays quite easily and covers as much as a large brush would as a result. Which, in turn, leads us onto the fact that there is little backbone to the brush. The bristles bend quite a bit and splay out, yet it returns to it's normal knot shape once dry. Some people may find it doesn't "scrub" the bristles enough for their liking as it's so floppy but again, both having used one personally and also on my client's faces, I have to say I personally don't mind. Shaving your own face though I can see how it wouldn't give as much application control as an animal-hair brush.
In terms of lather generation I find it does a fine job. Whips up lather as quickly as my good badger brushes and, while I notice the softness of the bristle quite a bit, I found I got used to it quickly.

It comes in a variety of colours too and overall I think it's a great starter brush, travel brush, or an everyday brush for someone who is looking for a synthetic option.
- BE


Arthur's Day Street Celebration!

September 23, 2011

Like it or hate it you have to admit that Arthur's Day is a brilliantly successful marketing gimmick. For those of you outside of Ireland, Arthur's Day is a day in celebration of Arthur Guinness, the creator of that famous black beverage from this side of the water. Quite simply, at 17.59 crowds gather in the street with a pint in hand to rise the drink aloft and proclaim "TO ARTHUR!". 
It began a few years ago to celebrate the 250th year of Guinness and took off from there, becoming a yearly event. The pub shown at the start of this advert is just beside my barbershop!
Some big name bands play venues all around the city and, to give the massive corporation it's due, they donate all the proceeds from these gigs to a charity that helps start-up companies and charity businesses. 
This year we stayed open during the celebration and as the day progressed we could see them setting up for the celebration outside of the barbershop window. There are at least 6 pubs on our street so the buzz started early on. It began with a few chairs outside, expanded to a whole green area (for some 'Living Streets' festival?) and slowly a few people took a seat and sipped a drink:
Now I must stress that this is RIGHT outside the window of the shop. I took these with my phone while kneeling on our waiting bench inside the shop window. Time went on and the crowds began to gather and by 17.30 we had to take the latch off the door to stop random merry people wandering in! 17.59 stuck and a gentleman dressed as Arthur called time and the cheer went up!:
We all kept snipping on for another hour with the hubbub of the throng filtering in, and then closed up shop and squeezed our way out the door! That's one thing I love about the shop's location - every day brings a different view!
- BE

Missing Person - Steven Trainor

September 22, 2011

Steven's remains were found on the coast of Cumbria. Our friend Steven Trainor’s remains will be brought 
home to Limavady Co. Derry, on Wednesday 2nd of November where his wake will take place at his family
 home. The funeral will be held the next day Thursday 3rd of November at 12:00pm.
For all who can’t make the funeral in Limavady. There will be a Dublin ceremony held on Steven’s 29th 
birthday Tuesday 8th November at 7:00pm in St Mary's Pro Cathedral on Marlborough Street Dublin 1. 
Afterwards there will be a gathering in his honor in one of Steven’s locals The Dame Tavern pub, Dame 
Court Dublin 2.
~~~Hi everyone, I don't normally post anything overly personal on here but I figure the more people who know about this the better.
I went into work on Wednesday to find this poster in the shop window:
Steve is one of the barbers I work with, and on Sunday night he took a taxi to Howth and he hasn't been seen since. His phone has no signal, though the Gardaí were able to trace it's last activities to Howth. We are asking anyone who might have any information at all to please contact Bridewell garda station. Steve is about 5 foot 5 inches and has dirty blonde hair. He has a heavy Northern Irish accent. His family are extremely upset and increasingly worried as each day goes by. There is a facebook group here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=280896815271446 where you can download a poster to put up.
Thank you for your help.
- BE

Hair, There and Everywhere

September 14, 2011

One thing they should emphasise more in barber college is how, once you have a career as a barber, you will find hair clippings EVERYWHERE on you for the rest of your life!
Barbers must be very careful not to get hair-splinters trapped under their skin as they will itch and may get infected. I was changing my t-shirt the other day (on my day off, in clean clothes and I had showered that morning I might add) and I felt a sharp needle-like stab in my arm and I looked down and there was a hair sticking into me! However the worst so far was when I was cutting a client's hair last week and I suddenly felt a little hair snipping caught right in between my two front teeth - ugh......
Apparently the girls in work keep their cheap underwear for in work and have a whole other set for their days off. Hair destroys bras they tell me so I must start doing the same.
It really makes me wonder how this woman copes!: Woman Weaves Clothes Out Of Own Hair

Towel Folding Tricks

September 5, 2011

Despite the current state of my bedroom I am, at heart, a bit of a neat freak sometimes. Which is why I love folding the towels in work. My boss always comments on how tidy the hot towels are when I do them and one day I was just feeling a bit quirky and decided to alternate the grey and navy stacked towels I put by one of the sections so that they look like a giant liquorice sweet! And I did rolled towels for another section:
I was chatting to one of my workmates and she was saying how she was making various animals out of towels with her daughter the previous night, so for fun she also showed me how to make a dog!:
Apparently this type of thing is most often seen on cruise ships where the people who clean and tidy your room will often leave your towel(s) in the shape of something cute on your bed. If you go to YouTube you can find tons of videos on towel folding techniques such as this one : Animal Towel Folding Video but I love this very simple one using just a face towel:
I hope you all have some fun at least watching these!
- BE

Barbering Humour

August 24, 2011

Us barbers have a ton of jokes about barbering, the most well known of which is the "but I only have one comb" line. I came across the comic shown below, the other day, and I loved the style of it so I did a bit of browsing and here's just a few mid-week giggles for ya!
(From The Perry Bible Fellowship Comic)
(Off The Mark Comic)
(Conroy Cat - DToons Comic)
I find the last one especially funny as I used to love Jem (80's cartoon).
Finally, here's a well known paradox conundrum to get you thinking... (I was told this and instantly came up with the answer I've written below - the person who told me it said that they'd never thought of that!)
The barber shaves everyone who does not shave themself. 
The barber never shaves someone who shaves themself.
Who shaves the barber?
Answer? Highlight here to see: No one! The barber is a female!
- BE

(Work-)Station In Life

August 11, 2011

I've found that the barbers I work with take pride in keeping their workstations neat and tidy, and this makes me really happy. At the end of everyday (and sometimes during also) the counter-tops get fully cleaned down and the mirrors polished. Combs and shavettes are kept in Barbicide in between cuts, clippings and tissue-paper are swept away after each client, and used towels and facecloths are put in the wash-bins (one for the navy towels, one for the whites).
However everyone has a slightly different way they like to lay out their tools: 
The barber beside me lines up her clipper guides from big to small, I like it the other way around. 
One of my other colleagues puts their scissors vertically on their mat, I like mine horizontally.
I like to use Black & White Pommade so I have two different tubs of it at my station (I also like the shaping cream and the beeswax cream but we only have one of those open at a time so they hop from station to station).
I use an old Ever-Ready shaving brush to clean my clippers with, the barber beside me uses a nail brush.
Here's my station at the start of the day (the shavette is put in the Barbicide with my combs after each use):
Every place has a spray bottle, a container of talc, a can of Clippercide and a sterilising jar of Barbicide. The white on the left of the image is the sink. I love laying out my tools and having a clean, presentable station. I hope your barber does to!
- BE


The Tipping Point

August 6, 2011

A quick observation:
When people are paying for a service, no matter how small the cost, they frequently tip.
When people receive the same service from free, 9 times out of 10 they won't tip.
Unfortunately I can not charge people for haircuts etc. as I'm doing my final year apprenticeship so it means I never get any tips either. It's interesting the difference in mentality we have towards getting something for free and getting it cheaply. I got my first tip today and the customer felt the need to ask if it was ok to tip me before giving me it. I guess my service is a bit of a grey area of confusion for people. None the less, I love having someone in my chair, and having a good chat while snipping away and then having them pleased with the end result makes me really happy. Most of my clients seem to be students or unemployed people and I like knowing that I'm helping them save a few euro that they probably need for food more than they do for 'luxury' things like haircuts. Funnily enough, in a vice versa comparision; when my friends come into me they often buy me lunch as a thank you - so I get paid in food! Huzzah!
- BE

Sideburns, Locks and Mutton Chops

August 4, 2011

I was in work last week and I noticed that the barbers would alternately use the term "sideburns" and "locks" when speaking to a customer and it got me thinking; there are many terms for those pieces of hair that grow down the side of a gent's face but what is the correct term and where did it come from?
I used my Google-Fu and found out that originally the word "Burnsides" was used, taken from the name of Sir Ambrose Everett Burnside who was a Civil War General in the 19th century. He was also a well known politician who was noted for his considerably hairy facial sides and smooth chin! Over time the term got switched around to the more common term "sideburns" that we know and use today.
In Judaism the curls men wear are called "sidelocks (or payots)" which is most likely where we get the abbreviation "locks". The length, thickness and presentation of a man's payots are determined by his sect. Yemenite Jews will wear them long, sometimes down to their forearm, while the Gur tuck them under a yarmulke.
As for the term "Mutton Chops"... well that comes from the fact that the mutton-chop style sideburn looks like the aforementioned cut of meat, made out of hair, and stuck on either side of one's face, much like the lovely Wolverine in the picture above.

So call them what you will; grow them bushy, groom them close, or see how many meat products you can fashion out of hair! Whichever way you choose to style it, it seems that cheek hair is just as versatile as the hair on your head!
- BE

Product Review: Almon Loos World Famous Knock-Out Shaving Soap

July 26, 2011

I recently received this product to review from the man himself, Almon Loos after a chat on Facebook about a mini-documentary I saw on him. (You can read more about what else I got in my blog entry here: Almon Loos Rockabilly Barber.) And while I did receive it for free, I was under no obligation to give it a good review, or to even post anything positive about it at all. These are my conditions for all of my reviews. I'm honest in my blogging because really what would be the point otherwise?
(I used this soap with my GBar SE Razor and Badger Brush)
Firstly, this product has to get some sort of brownie points for having the longest title of any product I've reviewed to date! Almon Loos World Famous Knock Out Shaving Soap! Phew! Secondly, props have to be given to Almon for his home-made feel to the product. He makes this stuff by hand and, while the packaging is unlikely to win any awards for innovative design, I like it. He uses simple aluminium trays for the soap which give you the handy option of either using the soap straight in the tray given, or to take the puck out and pop it in your regular shaving mug. If, like me, you use it in the tray, then the lack of replaceable lid can be a little annoying but I was lucky enough to remove it's initial plastic cover carefully enough that I can just pop it back on after each use. In fact, while writing this, it just occurred to me to simply pop the paper lid back on and just bend the edges of the tray around it - much like you would with take-away food! Wow sometimes my own genius amazes me!
Okay so onto the product itself. The first thing I noticed was it's lack of scent. It was a little disappointing but I should have expected this as Almon markets it as being suitable for use on all skin types, and I have to agree that I doubt anyone with hypo-allergenic skin would have a problem with this. The ingredients of the soap are all recognisable and described well, so the lack of fragrance makes sense. Still, as a personal preference I like a scent, but ya can't have everything.
Now I have to be honest, upon opening the soap and looking at it I figured it'd perform just like a regular melt-and-pour glycerin soap, as I think I've been biased towards soft soaps as of late. But boy was I wrong!
I whirled my brush on this puck for a few seconds, not even sure if the lather was loading properly, but once I put the brush to my skin this stuff lathered epically. Thick, slick and plentiful. In fact it's one of the only lathers I've found that, while leg lathering, built up a huge amount of lather in the brush also! Normally the lather will just form on my skin and the brush remains a bit soapy - but with this I had a full brush of lather too. And lots of it. A few swirls on the puck gave a tons of lather and it was lovely, white and smooth. I liked it so much I made up a batch in a bowl so I could post a few pictures on here for you!:
I call this one "El Diablo" because of it's horns and it's rockabilly maker.
As you can see it has nice self-supporting peaks and the lather was thick and cushioned like a meringue. I had a lovely smooth shave and tried the soap with a couple of different brushes and it performed well with both. I reckon the puck is big enough to last a good long time and this will be in my regular rotation for sure. You can find it for sale here: Knock Out Soap ... Rock'n'Roll!
- BE

Almon Loos - Rockabilly Barber and Soap Maker

July 25, 2011

A few months ago a friend of mine from The Waldorf Barbershop shared a cool video online of a Californian barber called Almon Loos (I'd link to it here but is seems to be set to "private" now). It was a rockin' little documentary about his career as a barber, a rockabilly musician and a businessman also makes his own soaps and shaving products. In lieu of the documentary here's a link to a video of his band playing "Hollywood Babylon":
I was so intrigued by this guy that I contacted him on Facebook (Click here for his page ) to find out more about his shaving products and to compliment him on the documentary etc. After a few e-mails back and forth he kindly said he would send me a sample of his "World Famous Shaving Soap" so I could give it a whirl and review it on here, under no obligation to like it or give anything other than an honest, unbiased review. After a couple of weeks I got a big package in the post containing all of THIS!

What a haul! Almon was kind enough to include not only a full puck of his shaving soap, but also a puck of his tattoo soap, a t-shirt, posters and stickers, and even a record of his band with a handwritten note on the sleeve! I was blown away by the generosity of this guy and his dedication to promoting his products etc. It's independent vendors like this that really make me appreciate the kindness of the shaving community. Anyway, you can read all about my review of his shaving soap in my next blog post... until then...
- BE


Product Review: Dr. Harris Lavender Shave Stick

July 20, 2011

Time for a product review!
I received this lovely shave stick as part of a gift trade on Badger & Blade and have to admit that I was reluctant to give it a go for a while. I'm not normally a fan of lavender scents but once I opened this and gave it a smell I realised it was a nice fresh smell, not the old-granny scent I was expecting!
(image from Dr Harris Website )
Now I have used Dr. Harris products before in this Shave Of The Week entry but only briefly commented on the soap. Despite my hesitancy toward lavender, I was hoping the scent would grow once lathered so that I could decide just how much I liked it however the scent faded very quickly in the lather and didn't linger on my skin at all afterwards. On smelling the soap itself though the scent is sweet, floral and quite light. I expected more of a musk and heaviness but don't find that at all. The soap goes on fairly clear onto my skin so it's hard to tell if I've applied any, also I used to be a big fan of shave stick but have gone off them quite a bit as rubbing a hard soap on my soft skin just isn't as nice and just going straight to a brush loaded with soap/cream. I could just load the brush from the stick, or put the stick in the tub, but that kind of defeats it's purpose as a shave stick! Despite not being able to see the soap on my skin, one I put my brush to it it lathered up fine. Not the explosion of lather I get some some other soaps, nor the cushion, but it gave a nice smooth shave. Not stunning but not terrible either. Not moisturizing but not drying either. Something I think I'd use again if it was to hand - but maybe just I'm getting too picky in my "old-age"!
- BE


July 17, 2011

(AKA: How I Learnt Very Quickly To Never Wear Wool When Cutting Hair!)
The barber shop I work in now doesn't have a uniform, which I like, as it means you can express a bit of your personality in what you wear. One barber wears light summer dresses with Doc Martin boots. Most of the guys wear jeans and a t-shirt. However when going through my own wardrobe I noted that I have an awful lot of black clothes as in barbering college, as well as my last job, I had to wear all black. In college I would have theory one day a week and be cutting for the rest so I knew that on the theory day I could wear a healed shoe or jewellery etc... something that would be impractical on the shop floor. One day, when we were due to do theory class, I wore in a lovely woollen dress. Clients were booked in however, and I ended up cutting, and it felt like every single hair I cut got stuck in that bloomin' dress! I've never been so itchy!

Then back when I did my first barber training (the basic evening course) I bought a white tunic to wear. Here's a picture of me wearing it giving one of my models a hug! Its a nurse's tunic as the chef's ones which they wore in this barbers didn't come in my size:
When cutting hair most barbers will have a set of clothes they wear in work only. Because no matter how many times you wash a top you'll still find little cuttings caught in the fabric. Polyester is a popular choice however it's not as breathable as cotton in my opinion. While most of the barbers I work with wear t-shirts, one of them wears a smart looking black tunic top that looks like the one of the left below, however I quite like to look of the one on the right as it looks like a bowling shirt!:
I need to think about my image, but to also balance that with comfort and practicality. I have some things that I'd love to wear in work but once I do then they'll be come a "work item"! Forever banished to the Land Of Trapped Hairs Shorn From The Head's Of Many-A-Man! The same goes for shoes. While I do work with one woman who wears open-toed sandals, personally, for health and safety as well as comfort reasons, I prefer flat-soled, closed-toe shoes or boots. As a barber are on your feet all day so comfort is key. One girl only wears high heals and says her feet hurt when she wears flats! Madness! 
I'd love to hear any of your opinions on how important you think appearance is in the barbering profession.


The Most Important Tool Of The Trade

July 2, 2011

Forget about the scissors, clippers and razor, any barber will tell you that the most vital tool of their trade is their hands. We often forget about just how important they are, but when something happens to them the reality of this fact hits home fast.
( image copyright to Vincent Tsang: http://vincenttsang.com/ )
I was in work the other day and one of the barbers came in to open up the shop. He was the only barber on that morning but he had caught his hand very badly in a door the night before but hadn't realised it was going to be as bad as it was come the morning. He could barely move it and it was swollen up more than double it's size with the bruising around the knuckles already turning dark purple. Luckily he could still slowly move it a small bit so we hope it's not broken, but the realisation that it would be weeks before he could cut hair again hit him hard, as he saw the fragility of primary tool of his trade and how suddenly they can be put out of service.
Like a dancer injuring their leg or a singer losing their voice, if you injure your hands as a barber there is nothing you can do other than to wait for them to heal; and to be forced away from your craft, let alone your income, can be both tough and upsetting. So I look at my hands, these wondrous things capable of so much, and I appreciate them fully, and I wish our barber a speedy recovery.
- BE

Barbershop Types and Tunes

June 29, 2011

Well my first big news is that I have a job in a barbershop! I'm so, so happy about this. It's a really great shop (actually shops plural, as they have a couple of branches), the barbers are really nice and the owners are cool. I'll be going between two branches, one which is a bit more "salon" feeling with black granite surfaces and chrome finishings, and the other is very traditional with green shop front with gold lettering, and cream interior with wooden furnishing, leather chairs and bits and pieces all about the place. I'll be doing most of my cutting in the second place and doing my shaves in the first.
As I was working away in the traditional branch the other day, grooving to some music by The Doors that the owner had put on, it struck me that most barbershops tend to fall into one of four categories:

 - The Sports Barbers: sports magazines in the rack, big plasma screens with the sports channels on (or at the very least a radio tuned into the game), flags and jerseys and probably the odd autograph on the wall, everyone chatting about which team is better and who won what.
- The Chop Shop: these are the barbering equivalent of a McDonalds. Over here at least, they generally have blue lighting in the window (and often inside too... though how you can cut well under neon blue strip lighting is beyond me). They are in-and-out as fast as you can and rock bottom prices to reflect this. These barbers will cut up to 40+ heads of hair a day. You don't go in there for conversation and a bit of relaxation time. It's a wham,bam,thank-you-m'am job that won't cost you more than a few euro.
- The Gent's Salon: essentially the same a ladies' salon these types often will also have a beautician in the back doing gent's waxing etc. While not as expensive as a ladies' salon these are the higher end of the price range in gent's grooming. While some of them do have the lovely traditional interior, others will have a uber-modern funky décor. So I guess this type has two subcatatories: 
      A.) The High End Gentleman's Grooming Room, with interiors that drip class, luxtury and the finer things in life. Private rooms for shaving services. Staff in immaculate uniforms. and 
    B.) The Funky, Trendy Men's Hair Design Salon. Both will specialise in more creative cuts and techniques and will generally offer advanced colouring services also. The interior will be chrome or plastic. Brightly coloured or stylishly designed. Modern chart music will be playing and plasma screens showing music videos are on the walls. 
B. is more likely to play up it's modern trend-setting cuts while A. will probably market itself as a bespoke service and will have elaborate hot towel shaving services also.
 - The Traditional Barbers: Often with wooden furnishings, to me at least, these barbershops feel comfortable the minute you step inside of them. The barbers are efficient but you never feel rushed and having a sit and a chat with other customers while you wait is the norm. Music-wise anything from 50's swing to rock 'n' roll to classic rock is common. While a radio might be playing there is unlikely to be any tvs. Often the walls will have shaving memorabilia and other curios on display, each with a bit of history behind it. Some of these shops also go in for a more rockabilly style neo-1950's feeling but I still put them into this category.

Each has it's pro's and cons and there is a market for each, and a plethora of shops that combine elements of each of the above. Personally though I'm incredibly happy to be in a traditional shop, run by fourth generation barbers. It makes me smile being in there so to get you all in the mood here's a tune I was dancing along to with the broom just the other day, from the fab Kitty, Daisy and Lewis!:
- BE

Receiving My First Hot Towel Shave!

June 20, 2011

So with the rather exciting news of me finally starting work in a barbers, the icing was put on the cake to find out that I would be fully trained in giving hot towel shaves also. For someone who knows a fair bit about shaving already, and who loves it as much as I do, this is long overdue!
(stock photo)
My training in these will begin this week and the lovely Chinese lady they have doing them who will teach me is gooooood! Technically though, I had my first real lesson last week when I received a full hot towel shave! I can see why you guys out there like them so much.
I was steamed and lathered and massaged to within an inch of consciousness. No blade was used in the shavette obviously but I was lathered twice and given a WTG (with the grain) and AGT (against the grain) pass. Head, neck, arms and shoulders were all massaged. Preshave oil used, arko (yeay Arko!) used for the lather, and nicely scented balm at the end.  It was really interesting to be on the receiving end, and very important to experience from a barbering point of view. From having a towel wrapped around my face I learnt just how important it is to leave the nose clear to breathe through for the client's comfort. Also I could feel her movement and noticed how close she gets to my face (and though she smelt pleasant, I already knew the importance of personal hygiene, this helped to reinforce my awareness). Also, warning the client that the final towel will be cold is a must too as it can be quite a shock!
So now it's time to turn the tables and to learn all of the techniques. I can hardly wait!
- BE

Product Review: Nancy Boy Replenishing Shave Cream

June 15, 2011

A long over-due review of this product that's been tickling my fancy as of late. In fact it's so good it's the only thing I've used in a nearly a month!
(image taken from the Nancy Boy Website)
Firstly there's one thing that most people comment on before they even open a tub of this stuff and that is the name and the branding. Personally I tend not to care what a product comes in (though I would possibly explode with excitement if a product came in steampunk packaging), or what name is on it, but some guys are put off this product straight off the bat by the name. It doesn't roar of manliness, raw meat and bear wrestling. All I can say to that is it's their loss. This stuff is amazing. 
The company don't spend money on advertising, they rely on making a product good enough that people recommend it. They don't plough money into fancy packaging either, instead putting profits into ingredients and research. And they don't pack it full of cheap chemicals, this stuff has ingredients you can understand. I also have to mention that I love the fact that they say on their website what people like and don't like about the product! Finally a company that isn't full of "oh all of our products are amazing for everyone"!
The scent of this cream is cucumber but it's fresh and light. The cucumber smells a touch... odd... but it's light enough that the scent doesn't grow with the lather and it doesn't remain on the skin.
As for performance - I'm not normally a gal who likes creams but the Nancy Boy boys have gotten this product perfect. I drip and swirl my brush just once and I have enough cream on my brush to do both my full legs, underarms, and more! The lather explodes, and even though they say on the website that "The cream won't radically build up in volume like a gel, but it will lather up a bit and spread" I found the opposite to be true - try lathering your product with a shaving brush guys! Lots of thick, luscious lather produced very quickly and evenly.

Now here's something I don't mention too often in my reviews - but, quite often when shaving my lather will have become a bit watered down on my second leg. I shave in the shower so my second leg stays wet adding more water to the product as I go, so sometimes I have to re-load my brush or, more commonly, I just use the weaker lather. But with Nancy Boy shave cream my lather was thick right to the end! I'm harping on a bit and it sounds like I'm sponsored by them or something but I got given this cream, along with some others, in a gift exchange on Badger & Blade  so this is an unbiased review. 

So I've had many a lovely shave with this and the icing on the cake is it is one of the most moisturising products I've used to date. I definitely have a new favourite. Now at $18 a tub and whatever shipping would be, it's not the easiest on the pocket, so I'll for those reasons I'll leave this out of my regular rotation for a while (as hard as that will be, fingers crossed I win the lottery!). But I know each time I reach for it I'm gonna be happy. Now if only they did some nicer scents! (I have a sample of their signature scent and it's a bit menthol-y. Make a lime scent!).

 - BE

Head Shaving and Hair Loss Of Cancer Patients

June 7, 2011

The other day I was presented with a new hair cutting situation; a close family friend is currently undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and she has started to lose her hair (we will call her Claire, though that's not her real name). Claire had just undergone her second round of chemo and her hair was falling out quicker each day. She would go around with a bucket beside her and put the hair in that. She would find herself running her hands through her hair while watching tv, just pulling out the loose bits, occaionally getting a large clump which would give her a big of a shock. We all knew the hair loss would happen and I had said to her that when the time came for her to shave her hair off, that I would gladly come to her house and do it for her.
I went over a couple of days ago. She still had nearly all of her hair at that stage but it was falling out more each day. She has a wig already bought and she was just sick of finding loose hair everywhere so decided to shave it off now rather than wait for it all to fall out through the chemo.
We chatted for a good while before doing it. I had no idea what to expect emotion-wise from her in relation to this. I know some people find it almost a relief once it's gone, others find it to be one of the most difficult aspects of the cancer. To say it is more often a hardship for female patients sounds sexist but it is true as society rarely bats an eyelid at a bald man, and indeed, it is often considered sexy and desirable by future partners. We talked about how hard it can be for people, about the practise of tonsuring (which I wrote a blog post about before  click here to read it ) , about how society is one of the main reasons why women who lose their hair decide to wear wigs (their own self confidence and identity being the other big one). 

Claire had cut her hair to above shoulder length so I began by using the clippers to cut off all of the hair down to a raw blade / bare stubble. Once done she still had lots of noticeable stubble on her head which in itself gives a hairline frame to the face yet we knew this would go once the hair left the follicle so we decided to shave it smooth. She looked really good like with the stubble actually as she has very pretty facial features and a good jawline. I then lathered up her head and shaved off the stubble (I used Cremo cream as it's brushless and I didn't know how sensitive her scalp would be, and a Gillette cartridge razor as the head pivots and, though it clogged like crazy, it was pretty fool-proof against nicks). The shaving went well and she found it quick relaxing. I could tell the areas where the hair was much weaker and ready to fall out as the hair was practically just brushed out of the follicle with the razor, leaving a stubble free smooth skin. 
She was shocked to see herself at the end with a stubble-free head but, at least while I was there, kept up a brave front and said it wasn't nearly as bad as she would have thought. She was glad I could do it in her house though as the thought of having to go to a hairdressers to do it was too much for her. Personally I think she looks lovely this way and her eyes look so pretty!

When I got home I got to thinking more about this. I was reminded of a YouTube video I had seen about a little girl getting her hair cut to support her grandmother who had lost her hair through cancer. I had heard of Locks Of Love before and St. Baldricks too. The internet has so many video and articles about people shaving their head to support those with cancer, but what is more difficult to find is people talking about how they feel about doing it because they have cancer. This video made by a woman with breast cancer, is really good I think (it's long so takes a minute to load):
And also this article : Shaving cancer patient's heads
I can not relate to how this must feel. Unless you live through it I guess you won't know how you would feel about it. The cancer takes away the choice you have as to whether or not you have hair. It's not the same as shaving to support, you are shaving to pre-empt the chemo causing full hair loss anyway. 
The above image is from the great photo-blog entry which you can read Here: Carissa's Journey  . 
Again I find it easier to find blogs and videos of women with cancer discussing their hair loss then any with men discussing it. 
I can't begin to give any kind of informed information about this at all but I encourage people out their to click one of the links in this article, or watch the video, and learn a little. And I hope, that during my career, I can be there to provide this small service to others who might be in need of it and who are going through this experience. 
- BE