Anyone who knows me (or my dad or brother) knows that managing the Dickerson beard is a near-Sisyphean task. The Dickerson beard is absolutely relentless (as I sit here writing this on Sunday afternoon, I haven’t shaved since Friday, and I could easily be cast as someone who has been stranded on a desert island for months). I seem to recall my dad telling me that long ago when my grandfather approached the barbershop in small-town Bunn, NC, the barber groaned and began sharpening his straight razor furiously. A “5 o’clock shadow” late in the day would be a wondrous gift to any of the men in my family. For me, I’m pretty sure the shadow sets in as I’m rinsing my face after a shave. For this reason, I’ve taken an unusual interest in the search for the perfect shave. By pure excellent happenstance, I stumbled into one of the most hallowed halls of shaving on my recent trip to London. My shave will never be the same.
The topic of shaving seems to pop up in the blogosphere somewhat regularly. Merlin Mann’s Shaving tips, or, “how I remain Gillette’s bitch” is a must-read in the genre, as is this MSNBC article (which Merlin references) that pushed me down the path of old-school shaving with a badger brush and a tub of shaving soap early last year. Like Merlin, I tried the Merkur safety razor, but after a couple of tries, I decided that bleeding so profusely early in the morning just didn’t sit well with me, so I went back to the trusted Mach 3. The badger brush/tub of shaving soap/Mach 3 combo is a winner, I tell you.
I’ll admit that along with the functional appeal of the new method of shaving, there was a certain aesthetic satisfaction I got from doing it the new (yet old) way. It’s hard to explain to the uninitiated, but the morning is just better when you lather your face up the old-fashioned way instead of rubbing cold Edge gel on your face. While the Mach 3 made my shaving ensemble complete functionally, its $5.99 drugstore aesthetic appeal never quite rose to the seriousness of my shaving task. The Merkur safety razor caused a facial bloodbath, but it sure did look good in the bathroom.
Fast-forward to the London trip. . . I was walking down St. James Street in London (a swanky area — we were just cutting through on our way somewhere else) when I noticed an entire display of beautful old-school shaving gear in a shop window. I swear that the clouds parted and God himself spoke to me. I had stumbled upon Truefitt & Hill, home of the Guiness-certified oldest barbershop in the world. Their tagline is “grooming men for greatness.” Truefitt & Hill claims that its barbers have given shaves to Sir Winston Churchill, John Wayne, Charles Dickens, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, and Danny Kaye. I was quite possibly at ground zero for shaving in the world. (Ask Nancy, it was all I could talk about for the rest of the trip)
Now, I had shaved just a bit earlier, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to go into the world’s oldest barbershop (!!) to get another shave, but that didn’t prevent me from having an immensely fulfilling half-hour conversation about my shaving needs with a nice woman behind the counter there. This was a long way from sitting in my PJs piecing together an order on classicshaving.com (fine people there, no doubt). I quickly found out that the fine folks at Truefitt & Hill sold absolutely beautiful and elegant Mach 3 compatible razors. Sold! They weren’t cheap (~$90), but all you need to know is that the shipping weight for these things is one pound and the look is timeless (see the photo with this post). I was so totally sold that I had to get a new matching badger brush and stand to complete the set. I even bought some new Truefitt & Hill shaving soap (and the tub I already had will last at least until 2010). The packaging says “Many of our fine preparations have been formulated for almost 200 years and are still sold to the nobility.” (Classic shavers: Truefitt & Hill was on Old Bond Street in 1811, perhaps even preceding Taylor of Old Bond Street!) Somehow, I didn’t feel like nobility in my Austin City Limits t-shirt, but I’m glad they were willing to so generously share their shaving excellence with a plebe like me. Generations of male Dickersons to come will henceforth receive a package from Truefitt & Hill at birth.
I have been shaving with my new Mach 3 compatible Truefitt & Hill razor for a couple of weeks now, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. The combination of the Mach 3 blade with the quality heft of such a well-made razor is unparalleled. My Mach 3 has never felt so classy.