The cut throat shave: It's a ritual not a chore

AIMIE CRONIN
Last updated 15:33 30/01/2014
cut throat shave
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

That’s service: Glenn Mashlan of The Barber Club gives Mike Barnett an old-fashioned cut-throat shave.

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I first caught wind of the next male grooming trend when I discovered a place about as hip as it gets on a trip to Melbourne late last year.

Everything is cool around Little Bourke Street. Down a little side alley called Somerset Place lives a gentleman's clothing store, a barber shop, a cafe - all nestled within four walls of wondrous style.

It's owned by a Kiwi who has lived in Melbourne for the past 15 years. Thom Grogan has slicked back hair and stubble that's just so. He started down this line four years ago, when he sold made-to-measure suits from home and managed a bar. One night, at the end of the shift, he got talking to his mate and they decided to open a one-stop-shop for men. Now, small businesses operate under the Captains of Industry banner - it's like a co-op that's been handpicked by Grogan. He has good taste. So good, in fact, that his business has been profiled in Vogue Living, Wallpaper and The New York Times' T magazine.

It was supposed to be a haven for hip young men. But the audience is much wider than that.

Grogan says top lawyers and young tattooed kids and tourists all frequent the space for a coffee or a new pair of handmade shoes, a suit, or a shave.

The 30-year-old grew up in his granddad's barber shop in Greymouth and was inspired by the community it created.

"It was a bunch of guys sitting around having a yarn.

"My granddad knew everyone by name. He would go to the local parish and cut the brothers' hair. He'd do 15 cuts in a couple of hours and would get paid with a sponge cake. I hold those ideals close to my heart."

Sam Fordyce, the barber at Captains of Industry, started shaving the way most men do.

"It was something where I was never sat down and taught to shave, it was more like I got handed a shitty can of foam and cartridge razor and was on my way."

He blames popular razor brands for the demise of cut-throat shaving, saying they advertise shaving as something you can do on your way out the door, and because of that, the ritual has faded over time as we have stopped slowing down.

But the cut-throat shave is making a comeback.

"It's a nostalgia thing," says Fordyce, "a return to the old days."

He learned to cut-throat shave from a few of the older guys in the community where he grew up and says it's "one of those things that doesn't take long to learn, but a lifetime to master".

Back in Hamilton's Alexandra Street, owner of The Barber Club Glenn Mashlan estimates he's done 5000-6000 cut-throat shaves in the 14 years he has been a hairdresser/barber.

He's noticed a younger crowd has been trying it out, while he has always had a solid client base of older customers who come frequently.

Mashlan says male grooming was huge in the late 1990s and he blames the media for its demise.

"I worked in a place in Auckland that did manicures and facials for guys until the media got hold of it and the ‘metrosexual' phrase was used and that killed it a bit in New Zealand. It took a wee while to come back and it's definitely coming back in force."

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And more of them are investing not only in skincare, but quality razors - or, of course, a trip to the barber to have it done for them.

"We get quite a few wedding parties coming in over the season," says Mashlan.

"It's something for the guys to do to chill out and it's part of their prep for the day."

And then there's the species of male who grows his beard. We have Prince Harry to thank for encouraging this trend further with his recent endeavours in the facial hair department. But Mashlan says a beard takes a lot of upkeep and most men end up looking like they've spent the last few weeks sleeping in a bus shelter. When Mike Barnett arrives at The Barber Shop, he is ready to rid himself of the beard he has kept for the past 2 years. His is the good kind of facial hair, but he has a job interview, so wants to tidy up a little.

It's his first cut-throat shave and he's looking forward to sending his beard out in style. He has only one request for Mashlan and that's to leave the moustache intact, for a bit of a laugh.

THE FACTS: A cut-throat shave at The Barber Club is $36 and takes up to one hour. Here are some of Mashlan's tips for those who want to improve their shaving experience at home:

Make shaving a ritual not a chore

Take your time

Do the prep before you do the shave

Make sure you get your face nice and hot

Invest in a decent face cream and a decent shave brush

- Waikato

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