I have been thinking about the hot shave I had yesterday. It was only the third time in my life, all in recent months, that I have tried this particular experience. Going into it, I held a romanticized image in my mind of what the hot shave was all about. For me, it conjures up a more genteel time, centered around the 1920’s, dressed in three-piece suits and spats. In this image, there are men reading the newspaper, talking, laughing as the barber deftly moves the straight razor across their face without hesitation. In real life, for me it is a bit more akin to listening to the two sides of Heart’s Dog & Butterfly simultaneously.
As the butterfly side begins, you are reclined in a barber chair and experience a wonderful hot oil massage on your face. After a few moments, the barbette gently wraps a hot towel around your chin and up around your forehead. On a cold January day, it is an incredible feeling. You are completely relaxed as you listen to the clicking of shave cream being whipped by the brush in a porcelain mug. It would only take a few extra minutes, or one more hot towel, and I would undoubtedly take a trip to nap land. That would, of course, require we stay on the butterfly side of the album.
It is now time for the dog to make his appearance. The towel is removed and the cream is applied. As I feel barbette’s fingertips pull an area of skin taught, the blade takes the first bite of whiskers. It probably goes without saying, but blade technology has advanced tremendously over the years, and the experience of a straight razor versus a safety razor is very different. The safety razor is engineered to glide and cut at the optimal angle to achieve a close shave, requiring only a modest amount of skill. The straight razor scrapes along the skin and is really an instrument requiring years of practice, likely more years than this particular barbette has been walking the earth. I feel anxious and uneasy as the dog chews my beard and skin in short patches. Instinctively, I know that a loss of concentration by the barbette will result in a substantial blood donation.
Don’t get me wrong, the butterfly hasn’t completely left the scene. As the process continues, she uses her fingertips to search for remaining stubble to shave. The bizarre combination of searching massage and biting shave, is what conjures up the thought of listening to the melodic ballads of one side, and hard rock songs of the other side, simultaneously. This relaxing and anxiety producing process continues until the whiskers become scarce. Finally, you are coddled and soothed by a cool wrap and after-shave lotion, and then sent on your way.
So you are probably asking yourself, after such a strange recounting, am I saying that I like or dislike getting a hot shave. I guess I would have to say the answer is ‘yes’. If you have never tried it, give it a shot and let me know.