Old-school Style

« Blog posts

Posted by Staci Lehman on June 14, 2018, 6 a.m.

It may be that men are finally catching on to what women have known for a long time – or maybe it is just more acceptable now – but more men are spending time and money on salon services that feel good, like traditional straight razor shaves.

While the straight razor shave used to be a barbershop mainstay, men are starting to come back to it for a different reason than your grandfather or great-grandfather.

“Mainly it’s something they enjoy, something they’ve always wanted to try,” said Stacie Bishop, owner of the three Locker Room Men’s Salon locations in North Idaho. “They do it because it’s relaxing; men are starting to take care of themselves more; pamper themselves."

Man getting a shave from a barber

Chris Banka, owner and barber at the Brickyard Barbershop on Monroe in north Spokane, agrees.

“I think one of the things that men are learning is to enjoy the experience of going to a nice place and getting a quality service … they’re learning to enjoy that and embrace the traditional art of going to the barbershop,” he said.

It also forces them to slow down a bit; a shave takes about 45 minutes start to finish.

“Because you’re moisturizing before and using the hot towels to soften everything up,” said Banka. “We’re not trying to rush through it.”

The traditional straight razor shave involves several steps. It starts with softening the skin and opening the pores to avoid razor burn, usually done by applying a hot towel to the face. Many barbers then use a pre-shave oil to condition the skin and a shave cream or gel.

Then the shaving begins, often taking two passes over the entire face for optimal closeness. Cold water is sometimes splashed on the skin afterward to tighten the pores, followed by applying a shave balm or moisturizer to keep the skin soft.

Some shaves, such as at the Locker Room in Post Falls, include a facial massage.

Not just any beautician or cosmetologist can do a straight razor shave though. It requires a different license than what most stylists get in cosmetology. While both barbers and stylists can cut, color, perm or style hair, only barbers are licensed to perform razor shaves. And, at least in North Idaho, barbers aren’t always easy to come by.

“Barbers are hard to find these days but they’re making a comeback,” said Bishop. Their salon’s barber is “starting to build a clientele. People are starting to know she’s here.”

Barber prepares a man for shaving with hot towel

Banka says a lot of his clients have expressed an interest in learning how to do it at home and he usually directs them to their computer for that.

“With the internet and YouTube these days there’s a million tutorials. Number one, take your time. Go really slow.”

The trend in straight razor shaving Banka says he is seeing is to do group appointments for wedding parties. Instead of buying groomsmen the traditional flask, grooms often bring them to the Brickyard for haircuts and shaves – the man’s version of a spa day.

With the beard craze the past couple years, though, many people are going from a really close shave to the other extreme: large bushy beards. Banka’s barbers perform a lot more beard trims than straight shaves. They also sell a lot of beard oil and mustache wax, something that wasn’t popular until recent years.

“There’s a difference between just not shaving and growing a beard,” he said. “And taking care of your skin that’s under the beard.”

When the beard trend ends and you are ready to go smooth-shaven, a traditional straight razor shave costs anywhere between about $20 and $40. A price many men are starting to see as an investment, according to Banka.

“I think that just they’re learning to take care of themselves better now and their significant others are appreciating that.”