Written by Puff Staff

Sunday, 22 May 2011

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shave1Indulgent, luxurious and exceptionally close, ‘real shaves’ are back on the agenda for America’s modern gentlemen. With more and more sophisticated gents opting for professional shaves, the American barbershop is making its way to the forefront of luxury living. Highly-skilled barbers are offering exquisite shaving experiences from the comfort of plush, contemporary salons and nostalgia-inspired clubs.  Sit in deep leather chairs, wrapped in steaming towels, with a whiskey in hand, modern men are being trimmed, shaved and buffed, before being sent out to face the world looking fresh-faced and suave.

A long way from the days of grimy blades and lamp-lit alleys, modern barbers have been perfecting traditional techniques, while new products have been adopted for a luxurious twist. With a wealth of stubble-stripping salons to choose from, we’ve taken a look at what our favourite barbers have to offer, and put together our pick of America’s best shaves...


The Shave at the End of the Galaxy

Aidan Gill for Men, New Orleans

For an out-of-this world shave, it’s definitely worth sampling the brilliantly-titled ‘Shave at the End of the Galaxy’. Perfected by Irish barber Aidan Gill, it’s a meticulously devised hot towel shave which promises to be “so luxurious that Irish poets fall to tears describing it”.

The shave is performed from the ‘Shave Rooms’ of the two New Orleans barber-shops. An art-deco sanctuary of leather Koken chairs and antique steamers set within a restored 1860s building, it’s an angrily anti-feminine back-drop for the manliest of male grooming. As if the name didn’t say it all, Aidan Gill for Men has adopted the slogan ‘Unisex is a dead word’. Spending over 25 years assembling classic furnishings and memorabilia, Gill has created an all-male hide-away reminiscent of the barbershops and gentleman’s clubs of the past. And it’s strictly no women allowed!


Gill begins his extra-terrestrial shave by vigorously massaging hot shaving foam into the face. He then takes a hot towel from his antique chrome steamer and allows the vapours to drift across the face, before wrapping the steaming towel around the chin and jaw. Gill applies the hot towels three times before the first pass of the shave, which he says helps “soften the beard and the skin.

With the bristles of the beard nice and soft, Gill turns to his trusty blade. Gillette blades, he says, are “the finest blades in the history of Christendom and the world”. Preferring them to straight blades, he says the craze for cut-throat razors is the result of “romantic machismo ideas, spaghetti Westerns and gangster movies”. Keeping the face softened with hot oils, Gill sets to work with his Gillette razor, promising “the most relaxing half-hour that one can legally enjoy in the United States”.  A fan of shaving ‘against the grain’, he says the technique is fine to use after the blade’s first pass. “Shaving this close and shaving against and across the grain is possible because of the softening effect of the cream, the hot towels and the hot oil.”

The shave is finished off with a generous application of shaving balm, followed by another hot towel, followed by more shaving balm, followed by a final hot towel. Then, to bring you firmly back to reality, the shave is rounded-off with Gill’s “coup-de-grace” - a towel pulled from a tub of ice water and “a warning to the customer to brace himself.” But it’s not just a cruel end to cut short your thirty minutes of bliss - Gill says it “calms the skin, closes the pores, and invigorates.” Having been brought firmly back to earth after your supernatural shave, you’ll emerge from the shop feeling fresh, clean and smooth, and you won’t have compromised your masculinity in the process!

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