Shaving Brushes: Part 2

In the world of wet shaving, knowing how to use a shaving brush is very important.

Once you have a brush, you need to use it properly. To start, you will want to ‘pre-moisten’ your brush.  This is very important especially for lower quality brushes, as they tend to be much more brittle. Despite the quality of your brush, soften your brush when you first buy one. To do this, run it under warm water for at least 60 seconds. Do not manipulate it as it can potentially break the bristles. It is better to leave the brush soaking for around 5 minutes. Then, shake off the excess, and hang the brush upside down on a brush holder, or else on its side.

Do not place it right side up. Proper storage of brushes should always be upside down. This will prevent water from collecting at the base of the bristles, which accelerates deterioration of your brush. Remember,  a quality brush made of badger should last several years.

After this, you will only have to soak your brush for several seconds before each shave. Remember to use hot water which will fully expand the bristles.  When bristles are fully expanded, they hold more water and offer a more luxurious lather and shave experience.

In order to properly lather, be sure to use a circular ‘whisking’ strokes against the grain. This will lift your beard off of your face making it more easy to shave.  Once you get the hang of shaving with a brush, your skin will benefit tremendously. Who knows? Maybe shaving will be something men can enjoy again.

Happy shaving!

6 Mustache Shaping Tips for Movember

With Movember hitting the midway point, many of the gentlemen that have been growing a mo’ are (finally) seeing some results. In fact, some of them may be at the point where they can start to look at shaping their growth into a more stylized shape.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re looking at shaping your ‘stache:

  1. A fine tooth comb. You’ll need this so that you can comb your moustache evenly. This will make it more precise, which will allow you to shape without the fear of overtrimming.
  2. A good beard trimmer. Failing that, you could use scissors. But you’d better have a very steady hand.
  3. A design in mind. Shaping your ‘stache without a planned design is one of those things that falls into the category of “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. Chances are when you started to grow your moustache you had a design in mind. You’ll need to have it at the ready when you’re shaping your growth so that you don’t lose sight of why you’re growing it in the first place.
  4. Enough fullness to work with. If the mo’ hasn’t come in yet, sometimes it is better not to trim it until it is long enough to work with. This will require patience on your part, but it will be worth the wait.
  5. Take off small amounts as you trim. Don’t rush this. Take your time and trim gently. If you cut too much to start, then there is no going back. And you’ve waited long enough, right?
  6. Perspective. When cutting, get close to the mirror. Then step back to see how it looks. Cut slowly. Then look. Again, don’t rush this part. If you’ve got someone around who can be a “second set of eyes”, then this would be a great time to use them.

Keep this routine up until the desired look is attained, and then maintain the look of your ‘stache once you’ve got it down by occasionally trimming. If you need it, you can use moustache wax to finish both during the shaping and then once you’ve got the look you’ve been going for.

Oh, and once Movember is done and you’ve decided that maybe the mo’ isn’t for you, treat yourself to a hot shave. After all, you (and your face) deserve a treat for what you’ve done for charity…right?

How often should men shampoo?

This is a question that I am asked time and time again, and believe it or not, it is a very important question.  How often we wash our hair directly affects our hair, and more importantly, how much hair we have.

The first thing to consider is the time of year.  Yes, the astrologers were right, the seasons do affect our lives. Think about it, during the summer, there is usually more heat.  Heat usually creates more humidity.  Higher humidity forces us to perspire.  Perspiration releases toxins, which can then get caught and built up on our hair and scalp.  Built up toxins can lead to a variety of scalp and hair issues, including dermatitis, itchiness, oily scalp and hair, bad odor etc.  This means that when we are exposed to higher humidity environments, we will probably have to wash our hair more often.

Of course, the opposite is true for the winter.  Normally in the winter, there is more heating and less moisture in the air.  Also, the air is usually drier.  This will cause the opposite effect of high humidity, and washing our hair becomes less necessary.

Another important factor is our own genetics.  In other words, do we have oily hair or dry hair.  Often times, men with oily hair think they need to shampoo all the time.  This is a BIG MISTAKE. Here is what happens.  Our scalp has a whole bunch of oil glands.  These oil glands regulate the amount of oil that is released onto the scalp, which becomes a natural barrier against environmental stress.  When we continuously wash this natural barrier off, the oil glands go into panic mode.  They start saying “Uh-oh! We need more protection! Quickly!  The scalp is defenseless!”

The oil glands then go into “hyper-secretion” mode.  They start pumping out oil onto the scalp to restore the scalp’s defenses.  In fact, they do such a good job, that our hair is soon more oily than before we shampooed.

So what does all this mean? Genetics. Oily versus dry. Winter versus summer.

It means…shampoo LESS.

This may sound funny coming from a man who sells shampoo for a living, but the honest truth is: less is best.   In the summer, I recommend  shampooing once or twice a week.  In the winter, once a week should suffice.  But keep in mind, you MUST rinse you hair as often as you can with warm to hot water.  That’s right. You MUST rinse your hair everyday, just as you would wash your face or brush your teeth. I am not advocating a ‘never wash again’ regime.  This is very damaging to your scalp and hair.  I am advocating keeping your scalp clean with warm water everyday, and use a good sulfate-free shampoo once or twice a week.

You will need to experiment though.  Figure out what works for you.  Some of us will need to wash more often, and some of us will need to wash less often.  If you have any questions, just shoot me an email: info@uomomb.com.

Interview with Steve

Recently, the Beauty Council asked me some very important questions about shaving and the workshops I teach:
The origin of the word barber is the latin word ‘barbam’ which means beard.  Traditionally, barbers have been ambassadors of fine gentlemen’s grooming.  This includes straight razor shaving.  As a modern barber, I find great pride in being able to offer this service.  It is the fulfillment of an ancient craft that has been passed on for centuries.1) What do you like about straight razor shaving?

  • From a more hands on perspective, I truly enjoy being the instrument of men’s grooming.  As a modernist barber, I really enjoy showing men how truly indulging and relaxing a fine straight razor shave is.  Pampering is for everyone, and a straight razor shave is a uniquely masculine opportunity to be pampered. I also really enjoy educating beauty professionals how to train their male clientele in proper shaving practices.  Men often suffer from bad shaving practices, and it is extremely rewarding when a client comes to me and says “Steve, you’ve really helped me improve my shave. Thank you”.

2) What are the benefits of straight razor shaving compared to others like the safety razors?

  • There is a real reason why the straight razor was replaced by the safety razor.  The safety razor is much easier to wield, anyone can do it, and but it cannot produce as close of a shave as a straight razor.  With the straight razor, the practitioner is able to adjust the angle of the blade. This allows for more control and a closer shave.   Another big benefit of the straight razor is that it has a minimal impact on the environment.  With a fixed blade straight razor, there is no metal or plastic waste whatsoever.  Modern safety razors, and cartridge razors, are usually throw away products which end up in a landfill somewhere.  Less waste is best.

3) What was it like apprenticing under Pasquale Giordano?

  • Pasquale was like a father to me.  He took me under his wing, despite my flaws, and trained me into the barber that I am today.  He was by far the best teacher I ever had.  No one could match the closeness of his shaves, and I have had shaves all over the world.  He was a gentleman with kind patience.  But he also had Italian passion, which really inspired me to seek perfection in my work.  His criticism was hard to take, and my ego was often to big to take it. But any student who is the presence of a master must swallow his pride, and take the lessons given if they are to grow.

4) What steps would you recommend for someone looking to learn about straight razor shaving?

  • Practice. Practice. Practice.  Straight razor shaving is a perfect art, which is never perfected.  Even after a decade of shaving, my touch continues to improve and become more adept.  Pasquale had over 50 years of shaving experience.  His touch was impeccable.  This can only be achieved by lots and lots of practice.  Start with yourself (ladies, try your legs).  When you feel comfortable enough shaving yourself, ask some friends.  Seek perfection, even if it is ever elusive.

5) What pre-requisites or skills (if any) should someone have prior to getting into straight razor shaving?

  • Anyone wishing to learn straight razor shaving must have very good hand to eye coordination, and a very gentle touch.  A strong understanding of integumentary system is also imperative.  Shaving requires a solid knowledge of skin and the different types of skin.

 

6) What is the price range for straight razors? What are your recommended brands?

  • Straight razors vary in price ranges.  It all depends on how much you really want to spend.  On the low end, $5 will get you a very low quality, beginners disposable straight razor.  On the high end, $350 can get you a Teflon coated Jatai straight razor. Personally, I use and sell the Parker SR1 or SR2, which will cost around $25.  The Dovo Shavette is also a great choice, but its plastic blade holder limits its use in a public setting, as it is difficult to fully sterilized it. It retails at around $50.

7) How should you maintain your straight razor? How should they be stored?

  • If you are using a fixed blade straight razor (not for public use) you should store the razor in a dry environment, and coat it with a thin layer of shaving oil.  This helps to prevent oxidation of the blade and keeps its edge sharper for a longer period of time. If you are using a disposable straight razor, then it is important to dispose of the used blade in a Bioharzard Sharps Container, and sterilize the razor in a strong sterilizer.  This is the preferred choice for public use because the razor’s hygiene can be guaranteed.

8) What supplies (i.e. soap, brush, mirror, etc.) would you recommend to accompany a straight razor shave service?

  • Shaving as a service is a great opportunity to up-sale your clients with a variety of men’s grooming products.  The first thing a man will need is a good badger brush.  These vary in price, but a good mid-range brush that should last several years would cost around $50.  In terms of shaving products, many people don’t know this, but I have developed my own brand of shaving products called OM. I created this because I truly love what I do, and I wanted to bring a product to the market that was made in BC, respects the environment, and addresses the needs of men’s skin. Part of my line includes a pre-shaving lubricant which helps to prepare the skin for the shaving process and make shaving more comfortable.  I have also designed a lye-free shaving cream (this took me six years to develop). Lye can be very harsh on skin, so this cream is great for sensitive skin.  To finish of the shaving process, I also recommend an alcohol free aftershave splash to soothe and rehydrate the skin. Finally, an aftershave balm helps to restore moisture and make future shaving much more comfortable.

9) Do you have any quick tips you can share for someone starting to do straight razor shaving (i.e. before, during and after the shave)?

  • The best advice I can offer is to use the “Four T’s of Shaving”: Technique, Touch, Tension and Tempo.  I cover these in my workshops, and they are the foundation of a good straight razor shave. They are a checklist that every shaver uses, and they ensure the comfort of your client. Also, I would recommend that you get as much practice as possible, and explore different techniques.  Talk to other barbers who shave, and exchange ideas and advice. It is important that as professionals we talk to each other and continue to pursue perfection in our craft.

Safety razor or straight razor?

I am often asked:  “Steve, what do you recommend: a straight razor or a safety razor”

The first thing I will ask is how much time they want to spend shaving in the morning.  For men that are always rushed and do not have allot of time, then the safety razor would be ideal.  This is because it handles very much like a cartridge razor.  There are a few subtle differences that you should be aware of.

A Safety Razor available in store.

First of all, a safety razor is a long term investment.  Over time, you will save A LOT of money.  Nowadays, the average cartridge pack can run upwards of 20-25$.  As you may know, one cartridge lasts a few shaves, and then you need to replace it.  After a while, this can really add up.

The replacement blades for a safety razor can cost as little as $3.99 per pack.  If you invest in a platinum tipped blades, then they can last a little longer, which makes the savings even more profound.

Another similarity of the safety razor to the modern day cartridge razor is the ease of use.  Once you have prepared your face with a good shaving soap, then shaving is almost the same.  The biggest difference is that with a safety razor, it is important to apply LESS pressure.  The blades are usually sharper, and pushing the razor into your skin will cause irritation and nicking.

Of course, if you are gentleman of greater leisure, you could forgo the safety razor for a straight razor.  This is another animal entirely.  The learning curve with the straight razor is much steeper.  It normally takes a new shaver 6 months to feel comfortable shaving.  Just make sure that you are well awake and have and at least one espresso before you get going. It would also be advisable to talk to us about training. We often train new shavers how to use a straight razor, which would be a wise investment.

Either way, the safety or the straight razor is a great option for men who want a more nostalgic (and less expensive) way to shave.  Just make sure that you pick a razor that is best for your lifestyle.  If you ever have any doubt about which one to pick, come on down to the store, and we can help you choose from our in store selection,

British Barber’s Association

Before 2000, there was a British Columbia Barber Association that ensured the quality standards of the barbering trade.  All barbers had to have appropriate credentials displaying that they were trained in the craft.

After 2000, things changed, for better or for worse.  The BC government absorbed the BC Barbering Act eliminating the need for barbers to have credentials.  This had a  two pronged effect:

  1. The BC Barber Association was extinguished
  2. The newly deregulated world of barbering was left open for new entries without qualification

How has this affected the barbering world in BC?

To answer this question, all you have to do is look around.  Barbershops are popping up everywhere.  Having been in the industry for most of my life, and having owned my own business for over ten years, I have seen a huge growth in interest in the barbering industry.  Before the changes, most people interested in the beauty/grooming industry were more drawn to hairdressing.  I assume this is because hairdressing may have a more glamorous appeal.  Maybe the lure of money is the culprit.  Or maybe industry professionals prefer to deal with woman than men.

Well, things have certainly changed.  Now it seems ‘men’ are all the rage. With slick shows like ‘Mad Men’, and movies like ‘Mansome’ it seems men, and the professionals that service men, are coming back in the spotlight.  Suddenly, there is a insatiable need for all things men.  There are colognes for men, hair products, shaving products, clothes, cars etc., etc. Men are the new ‘it’ thing, and the barbering world in BC is left without a strong barbering association to support this demand.

So where do barbering professionals turn to.  Where is the ‘rock’ for barbers?  Where do they go to find support and exchange? Where can they go to talk men’s grooming with like-minded industry leaders?

In BC, there is the Beauty Council which advocates the rights and standards of all beauty professionals.  In fact, this is where I teach a number of barbering courses designed to give would-be barbers the education they need to further their skills.  It is a great place to start.

But as a hungry and passionate barber, I am always looking for different perspectives on my craft.  This is why I chose to become accredited with the British Barber Association.

What does this mean for Uomo Modern Barber and its customers?

As the first and only barbershop in Canada to attain this accreditation, it means that Uomo and its staff has first hand access to the latest barbering trends and education coming out of Europe.  Normally, what hits Europe first, arrives to Canada a few months later.

Secondly, accreditation means that we are a business that has fully qualified and licensed barbering professionals.  We take our craft seriously and our service to our customers seriously.  It means that we have a high standard of cleanliness (yes…we clean our combs after every haircut and use disinfected equipment including disposable straight razors that are never used twice).  It means that when you walk into Uomo, you can rest assured that we are passionate and creative professionals that care about our clients, their safety and their style.

Finally, we did it because we love all things barbering, and to be associated with the BBA is a strong gesture of our commitment to the industry.

Shaving Brush: Part1

At Uomo Modern Barber, we  get asked all the time about men’s grooming products.  One big question that arises is: what are the benefits of using a shaving brush for shaving preparation. Here is a quick rundown.

1. A shaving brush exfoliates the skin.

a. Imagine a hair follicle. Around the base of each hair follicle are layers of skin. The outermost layer is often a stratum of dead or nearly dead skin cells. If our goal is to have a close shave, then these layers can get in the way. When we use a brush to lather in swirling motions, this acts to remove and slough off these cells. This makes for a closer, more comfortable shave.

2. A shaving brush raises the hair upright.

a. Have you ever tried to mow a wet lawn? It usually doesn’t turn out very well. Why? Because the blades of grass are lying flat to the ground. It makes it hard for the lawnmower to catch the blades. In contrast,  when you mow a dry lawn, it is much easier. This is because the grass is standing straight up. The same goes for shaving. When we apply a shaving foam or gel with our fingers, the beard is flattened close to the skin making it harder to cut. Using a shaving brush lifts the hairs upright, making them much easier to shave.

3. A shaving brush moisturizes and softens the beard.

a. When coupled with a moisture dense shaving cream, such as the OM lye-free shaving cream, the moisturizing agents are worked into the beard much more effectively. This in turn softens the beard. Boom! Shaving is easier and more comfortable.

4. A shaving brush moisturizes the skin

a. Another benefit is that a good badger brush can help to moisturize the skin when coupled with a pre-shave conditioner. This makes the skin more elastic and flexible. If you can imagine the shingles of a roof. Under dry circumstances, the shingles are brittle and crack. The same goes for your skin. With good shaving preparation, the skin cells are ‘hyper-hydrated’, making shaving much more enjoyable.

5. A shaving brush saves you money

a. When we look at the cost of most shaving brushes, the price range for a good badger brush can start as low as 30$ and go up to 1500$. Now, I am not suggesting you go for the 1500$ brush, unless you are a man of formidable taste. What I am suggesting is that when you purchase a brush, it is an investment in yourself. Most brushes over the 30$ price tag will last at least 10 years. Most last much longer. Some will last a lifetime. Not only will this investment make your shaving ritual more comfortable, but it will also save you money on shaving blade costs. When your beard is properly prepared for shaving, your beard is softer. This causes less damage to your shaving blades. And guess what? Your blades last longer and you spend less on blades over time. It’s that simple.

In the end, it is up to every man to decide what is best for them.  I recommend a good badger shaving brush if you are looking for a better, more comfortable shave.

 

Five Pillars of a Manly Bath

The following is a guest post by Mike Vardy. This article originally appeared on Life As A Human in March of 2011.

I don’t know if you know this, but there seems to be a preconceived notion that baths are made for women. I blame television for this. Not once have I ever seen a scene where a father of two has a Calgon moment or springs out of a sudsy tub to grab a ringing phone. Yet I see it with ladies all the time. It’s really unfair, and borderline stereotypical.

There is no reason why baths cannot be seen as a manly thing to do. I’m not saying that the networks are going to start airing commercials where a guy emerges from a clawfoot and wraps a towel around himself to dry off just before putting on his Fruit-of-the Loom briefs. But I think that if men were to approach taking a bath as they do other masculine activities, some bathroom barriers would break down in the process.

I’d like to smash the first shower tile, if I may.

I take baths. Have for years. I know how to take a bath like a man and how to enjoy it like one, too. Allow me to share with you the five crucial elements you’ll need to take a manly bath, or as I call them…The Five Pillars of a Manly Bath. (I call them pillars because of the whole Greek imagery. Well, that and “pillars” has good keyword value. Clever, no?)

The First Pillar: Hot Water

A manly bath isn’t lukewarm. It isn’t even somewhat hot. It is piping hot, as in “it just came out of the hot water pipe without being mixed with the cold water pipe” hot. Your limbs should be steaming as you raise them in and out of the water. Not only does this illustrate how you’re able to take the heat, but if you hold your hand out in the right light it looks like you’ve just shot a fireball out of your hand. And what man doesn’t want to imagine themselves with that kind of superpower?

The Second Pillar: Sound

I’ve left this one somewhat vague for a reason. Some men like to be alone with their thoughts while bathing. That’s a sound, according to Simon & Garfunkel. Some men, like me, like to listen to podcasts. Whether they are tech podcasts, inspirational podcasts or just plain manly ones, that’s up to you. I’d recommend that you don’t try any of the tech tips you may hear on one of the tech podcasts while bathing, though. You want to focus on the bath at hand. That, and you could get electrocuted or something.

The Third Pillar: Lighting

The lower the light, the better. This is your time to relax as a man. If you have a television in the bathroom (yes, some do), remove it. You can watch it later in the comfort of your recliner somewhere else in your home whenever you want, anyway, since as a man you have first right of refusal to the remote control. With that in mind, you can rest easy to some moderate candlelight as you soak away.

It’s important to only use candles that give off a manly scent when you bathe. A good rule of thumb is to stay away for candles that are pink, red or any colour that contains the word “baby” or a type of flower in its name. Also avoid white candles: they are stealthy in appearance as they often have the “girliest” scents.

The Fourth Pillar: Booze

As we all know, a relaxing time isn’t complete without a decent amount of alcohol. But if you want to have a manly bath, you need to pay attention to the type of drink you bring along with you. Below are some acceptable “bath-time beverages”:

• Scotch (single-malt is best)
• Whisky (again with the single-maltness)
• Bourbon

You’d think that gin would be acceptable since so much of it has been made in bathtubs, but neither it nor vodka make for a manly bath. Beer should be a last resort, and wine is never an option. Unless you’re not a man, that is.

The Fifth Pillar: Bath Salts

Notice I said salts, not suds. The only suds that should ever appear near or in a manly bath is if you have to use beer as your last resort bath-time beverage (it will only wind up in the bath if spillage occurs — a cardinal sin on its own). Again, steer clear of “lady-colours” and you’ll be fine. Any salts labelled with a name of a tree or with the word “musk” or “wood” in it are perfect for a manly bath. If you are concerned that adding any scented salts to your bath could compromise the manliness of the bath (or if you’re not ready to take that step yet), simply go with Epsom salts.

Keep in mind that the reason there are five pillars is so that if you don’t have all of them available to you, the bath will still be manly because it does have four pillars to stand on. However, if you have only three pillars then your bath will be lopsided, and unmanly as a result.

Of course, if you only have two pillars…well, that’s a shower. And that’s also a whole other story.

5 Great Winter Haircuts for Men

Now that we’re into the colder part of the year, it’s time to look at what men’s hairstyles are trendy for the winter season. That way you can arrive at your holiday party, office mixer or family dinner looking nice – rather than naughty.

1. The Minimalist Look

This winter season, short sides with long lengths above are in fashion. (Isn’t that just the way – as it gets colder and you’d love the idea of having more hair to keep your head a bit warmer, you discover it’s not in vogue).

While the most common way to don a classic minaimalist look is to have shorter hair on the sides and rear, you can “edge” up the look by adding a bit of length on top of the head. You can have a more polished look by going with a side parting and use styling products to comb the hair back.

2. The Fringe Look

According to Thomas Bushnell, Head Barber at Shoreditch (one of the esteemed Murdock chains of barber shops in London), this style is coming on strong for the winter months:

“…gently parted fringes, a great way to wear hair slightly longer and a reaction to the omnipresent slicked back styles that have been so prevalent over the last 12 months. A good, frequent cut is essential for this style – let it grow a few weeks and the effect will definitely be lost; you want to avoid looking like a student at all costs.”

Because nobody wants to look like a student – unless they are one.

3. The Unkempt Look

If you don’t want to go with a classic minimalist style, you can take some of what’s above and add a bit of “wildness”. This will require some product as well, and the understanding that you don’t want the unkemptness to look to “choreographed”.

So make sure that you vary up the wildness, meaning that you need to get a cut that allows for this. Then you can go a little crazy with your look – without looking too phony (or crazy) while doing so.

4. The Long Cut

Another classic, but of the longer variety.

From Esquire, who calls this look “The Johnnny Depp”:

“This is a layered men’s haircut, and the perimeter isn’t tapered. Done well, it can look cool. And down poorly, you’ll look like a member of the BeeGees. Either way, some grooming cream will stop it from looking too contrived. It should almost look a bit dirty, like second-day hair — never blow-dried.”

The columnist does provide a dsiclaimer: If you’re looking for a job, avoid it.

5. The Elegant Grunge Look

Grunge appears to be making a comeback – 21st century style. (Does that mean that the look is now considered a a “retro” look?)

This style is all about “colour contouring”, which is coming back into fashion when it comes to male grooming this season. However, this time around (unlike the days of yore when Kurt Cobain ruled the day) there’s a tad more elegance and refinement put in place; that way the details of the cut are enhanced. Sweeping fringes and lighter tones throughout are all par for the course with this style – if you have the nerve to pull it off.

If you’re still rocking the mo’ for Movember  – bear that in mind when choosing your style. Some of the above work better with facial hair than others.