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 d├ęcor. 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