January 31, 2012

Though it's true to say that the day-to-day is often a '3 back and sides',
Occasionally a spark comes out of the dark and inspires the passion inside.

We all have days where it seems like every customer in the chair wants the same haircut. It doesn't mean we don't enjoy the cut any less but personally I love to go and look at various sources every now and again to get some inspiration and to stoke my barbering flame. I wanted to share with you some of my favourite inspirational resources.

1. Hairdressers Journal (online and in print)
...specifically HJMen. http://www.hji.co.uk/blogs/mens-hairstyles/
This gets top of my list as I also subscribe to Matthew's blog feed and he posts some fantastic stuff at the cutting edge of men's hairdressing trends and fashions. Matthew has his eyes open and ears to the ground for new styles coming up and helpfully keeps Joe/Jill Soaps like you and me informed! Not only that but he is 100% top guy who is kind enough to send me on copies of the HJMen magazine (which is part of the standard HJ magazine but only gets published a couple of times a year which is a shame). His most recent post included a fantastic video of the awesome Chris Foster:

Hair By Chris Foster from Classique on Vimeo.

I love his use of concept and colour. It makes me want to go out and get a bunch of guys willing to let me do crazy things with their hair, hire a photography studio and snap away (I used to be a professional photographer so it's a double yearning for me!).

2. Jim Chapman on YouTube
I've been watching this guy's videos on YouTube for a long time and what initially drew me was his reviews of products. He has now branched out into doing hairstyle reviews and a few other things too. Though the hair related videos have become somewhat diluted by clothing and other topics they are still in there and worth a look. But for genuine honest reviews on styling products check him out first. His bathroom cabinet must be overflowing!

3. Fashionising.com
This website is a great resource of photos of current hair trends. They also include short articles and even a few 'how-to's which can be a rare find out there! It's also nice to see that they have a whole section dedicated to men's hairstyles. It seems most places will give a ton of womens and then you have to go searching to find the odd man in there. It's like Where's Wally!

4. BarberStyle.com
This wonderful website/blog/general bag o' information posts some wonderful documentaries along with great interviews, competitions and pretty much just a mixed batch of barbering related snippets of interest. I subscribe to their feed so rarely look at the website but it's great whichever way you choose to view it.

5. Google!
Ah yes good old Google. Or to be more specific: Google Image Search. It's a fantastic way to find vintage styles, contemporary styles and everything in between. They won't tell you much about the cuts even if you go to the source page, but as eye candy for inspiration it's a virtually limitless resource. 

As for number 5? Well... that's another blog post altogether and I've gone on long enough already, so stay tuned for the grand finalé!
- BE

Product Review: American Crew Moisturising Shave Cream

January 23, 2012

I think I'm overdue a product review! This time it's a product from a globally recognised brand and it's surprisingly my first time trying them out!
At Christmas my boss bought a load of American Crew gift sets so in his January sale I decided to pick up a set containing a couple of shampoos, their grooming cream (one word review: stiiiiiiicky!) and of course, a shaving cream. They have two different creams for shaving that we stock but I chose the "moisturising shave cream with a herbal formula for normal to coarse beard types".
(photo from American Crew Website)
This cream is non-lathering which is disappointing, but, having had success with non-lathering creams in the past (Cremo), I decided to keep an open mind. My first impression was that the cream goes on very thinly and quite transparently so it's difficult to see where I have already shaved (the legs are a large surface area so it can be hard to keep track) so I was relying on touch as well as visuals to ensure I didn't miss a spot. Also, as it's non-lathering I felt like I was using quite a bit to cover my whole legs. You don't put a pea sized amount in a brush and it suddenly bursts into bowls full of lather. Nope, a pea-sized amount will spread over a fairly small amount of skin.
As for the scent. I really wasn't sold on it at all. Hard to place or describe, the words "artificial" and "herbal" spring to mind. Not the worst I'd smelt (I've gotten shaving soaps that actually made me retch so much I couldn't use them at all!) but also nothing I'd like lingering on my skin. Looking at the back of the tube as to a gain a clue to the scent I see it contains aloe juice, bark extracts, clove, peppermint, avocado, and sweet almond oils, and also a fragrance with no detail given other than "parfum". When I open the tube and sniff it smells quite pleasant but out of the tube it turned a little to artificial for my liking and I wasn't anything I savoured which was disappointing as their peppermint shampoo smells lovely. However the main downside to this product has to be how badly it clogged up my razor. I have never seem a stickier, more resistant, residue left on my razor after shaving. I had to give my razor a full thorough clean before its next use instead of the lazy rinse and dry I normally am fine doing.
Performance wise it does the job. Nice and slick and not drying at all. Its a good, functional cream... but something to be enjoyed as part of shaving zen? It just didn't do it for me and for the price I feel it wouldn't last nearly long enough. Ya win some ya lose some...
- BE

Vintage Style (for a good cause!)

January 19, 2012

Well last weekend I polished my shoes, curled my hair and put on my glad rags! Why? For a wonderful night of music and entertainment all in aid ALONE.
My friend Chris organised a fantastic charity night called The Good Old Times last Saturday night to help raise awareness of, and money for, the charity ALONE. ALONE helps elderly people who may have no close family and who live in isolation, to help support them and maximise their independence. ALONE relies purely on donations and volunteers to keep it running and to keep providing help. They are amazing cause and you can read more about them here: http://alone.ie/vision-values-history/

There were tons of acts involved on the night: singers, dancers, burlesque acts, magicians and escape artists. And yours truly? Well she was recruited to set up a table doing vintage hairstyling! Yup! I had to do a lot of learning in preparation for the night but I got some great compliments on the styles I created and everyone had a wonderful time. Would you like to see some photos of the night? Of course you would! My great friend Rosco was the photographer on the night. You'll have to 'like' his photography page on Facebook to see them but it's worth it: https://www.facebook.com/oyster.zepplin

Now, as it so happened I only had ladies in my chair on the night, but I was more than willing to dapper up any gents who might have requested it so in preparation I went looking online for some nice, smart, vintage hairstyles and I put together a collection of the classics:
Smooth, sharp and swoon-worthy gents indeed! What do you think? Gene Kelly sure was a handsome man! Have I missed anyone obvious? Look at those sculpted finger-waves on Donald O'Connor - he's one of my favourite actors for his wonderful performance in 'Singin' In The Rain'... he could dance almost as well as Kelly but was fair more skilled in my opinion in the fact that he could prat-fall and clown about without missing a beat - some serious talent to look so silly yet be physically pushing yourself to the limit. Honestly, check out the last 30 seconds of this clip for an iconic scene of running-up-walls dancing!
Do who would you have in your top list of vintage gents? You might have guessed by my selection that I like musicals - They sure don't make 'em like the used to! (Though I'm looking forward to checking out The Artist). Drop me a comment above and let me know!
- BE

Product Review: Dr. Rubin's Lip Balm

January 9, 2012

It's been a good while since I reviewed a product but this one, or rather this company, just jumped out at me for their wonderful customer service so I had to give them a bit of a shout out. Sorry for the long into but here's the story:
Before Christmas I was online browsing around on the "Old School Barbershop" facebook group. One of the vendors, Dr. Rubin's, put up a post saying they had an offer on so I went over to their website ( http://www.drrubinspomade.com/ ) to have a look at the pommade and other products they stock. Now I didn't spend long on it as I use Chrome as my browser and found there to be a few glitches (scrolling issues and page links not working - they seem to all be fixed now) so I though I would inform them about these issues. I commented on their initial facebook post and they replied almost instantly apologising and saying they were working on it and would I like a free sample of their lip balm for the inconvenience?! Now THAT is customer service.
I should note that they didn't know about my blog or anything, nor did they ask for me to review the product. My review and opinions are purely my own, but in the interest of honesty I feel I should mention the product I received was free.

Now for customer service they get five stars, and imagine my surprise when a package arrived in the mail shortly afterwards with a FULL SIZED lip balm in it for me! Not a sample size at all but a full tin:
You can see some of the ingredients list there too... all good stuff - beeswax, sweet almond oil, coconut oil. The texture and colour itself is similar to most vaseline/petroleum jelly based balms... a cloudy white colour with a slick texture. Now a lot of the time I can put lip balms into one of two categories: sticky or drying. So many products out there either dry out my lips over time, or make my lips tacky and sticky, but I am very happy to say this balm does neither. It's smooth and slick and you only need a little each time as it spreads out well. Its got a lovely mint-coconut scent and works well by itself or over lipstick to add a shine.
Personally I like quite a thick balm with heavy hydration and staying power, and to date have only found one that I use every single night (and I've tried a lot - I'm a former lip-balm-junkie of sorts!) so the only downside of this one for me is that it's not a touch more hydrating. But, considering how little you have to use, reapplication isn't a problem as this tin will last a long time. 
In conclusion: Not ideal for quenching your lips overnight but a perfect everyday style balm. It doesn't tint your lips so can go over anything and the scent isn't feminine so it's a very unisex product. Good Stuff!
- BE

City & Guilds Medal For Excellence!

January 8, 2012

HAPPY 2012!!!
Welcome to 2012 everyone! I have some more wonderful news that I received just a couple of days ago.
Remember how in this post just before Christmas  I mentioned that I had been lucky enough to win a Tallow Chandlers Prize? Well, what happened is that my tutor had actually nominated me for a City & Guilds Medal Of Excellence. The C&G people then forward a few candidates onto the Tallow Chandlers Committee for consideration for their award. The winners of the T.C. award are announced first, but, I just found out a couple of days ago that I have also won what I was originally nominated for:
A City & Guilds Medal Of Excellence!
The design of the medal is quite interesting. The image you see above is on one side of the medal and it shows the original City & Guilds Seal designed in 1880 and it bares the coat of arms of several of the founding guilds. You can read the list of then, and which seal is theirs, here: http://www.cityandguilds.com/43627.html .

So... another awards ceremony and another trip to London await me! The event is called the 'Lion Awards' and this time it's in March with a drinks reception, a 3 course meal, a stage show and the awards ceremony hosted by a celebrity guest! Also each winner is given a double/twin room for the night in a nearby hotel - so I can dance the night away afterwards! It's all held in the Roundhouse Venue in London:
(photos found on google image search)
The Lion Awards themselves are additional awards given out on the night for things such as 'Small Business Learner of the Year', 'Community Supporter of the Year', etc. and I don't qualify for any of those...
HOWEVER... there is also the main award of the night (which is being held this year for only the second year running) and that is the 'People's Choice' Award. This is an award given to the person who gets the most public votes so I'm going to be counting on all of my readers to vote for me. It'd make my whole year to win that and I'll post on here with information on how to vote as soon as I get it!
So gather up your troops ready for voting and keep your eyes peeled for an update. I hope your new year started as well as mine did!
- BE