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Report on barbershop shave.

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So there's a downtown barbershop in Des Moines, it's called the Executive Forum, been in operation 15 years. Owner's a nice guy called Scott, and I've had a great shoeshine there before care of Sabino. There's a little display window that shows a Monsieur Charles shavette, so I booked a pre-work shave for Friday morning.

The prep was normal, very relaxing hot towels, and some nameless, nonfoaming cream was rubbed on. An injector blade was used in a shavette type handle. I noticed there was no slickness, the cream seemed more like a paste and figured it was one of those fancy new things shaveblog talks about sometimes.

Immediately there's a scraping on my face, I can feel the angle is all wrong, the blade feels perpendicular to my face, and I can _tell_ no hair is coming off (from long experience with blunt bic disposables :blushing: )

He dabs on a bit of water that temporarily helps with slickness. The whole experience was so godawful that I'll just skip to the end. I endured it patiently though I felt like running away screaming :eek: and mentally was chalking it up to one of those days in life that you just accept turned out rubbishy.

At the end my upper lip was raw. The middle had hair that was uncut, the sides were somewhat trimmed (left side more trimmed than right). Visible stubble on the cheeks, he hadn't even tried there -- that is to say he didn't cover all the cheek. Under jaw -- totally unshaven (he just gave up halfway through, I think). Chin: raw, but shaved, far from BBS, but at least evenly shaved. Lower lip -- haha, he didn't even go there.

Now, I didn't notice this during the shave because I was mentally sedating myself through this torture (the hot towels made it easy), though I did notice that he stopped halfway.

Walking away, $20 lighter, I felt my stubble and almost stumbled in surprise. Back at the office I was so embarrassed by a check in the mirror I sat at my desk the whole day and luckily my only meeting was cancelled by someone else before I did it :001_rolle

I did a bit of a net lookup and it turns out the shop was owned by a Don Wagner for most of its 15 years, and Scott's probably had it for a lot fewer. In retrospect, and to be kind, perhaps he saw he wasn't getting anywhere with my face, and for liability issues decided to quit while he was ahead. While talking to him before the shave from hell, he said he uses a Mach-3 and shave foam (no brush) himself and offered to show me a straight someone had gifted him, as well as the straight that came with the shop when he bought it.

Here's the predicament though: I said I'd come in for a haircut later next week -- but I don't want to show up clean shaven and get into a pissing contest. Either I never go back there (nice people and place, just incompetent at shaving) or just go back acting like nothing happened (and now I cannot be sure how good the haircuts are either, though the shoeshine is superb).
Sounds like you should possibly attempt to convert the owner to proper wetshaving.

I can't believe he even attempted to shave you without knowing what he was doing.


The wife's investment
nichhel said:
Here's the predicament though: I said I'd come in for a haircut later next week -- but I don't want to show up clean shaven and get into a pissing contest. Either I never go back there (nice people and place, just incompetent at shaving) or just go back acting like nothing happened (and now I cannot be sure how good the haircuts are either, though the shoeshine is superb).

I guess I would keep the commitment for the haircut. Hair cutting and shaving are very different procedures. I believe it is easier to shave one's own face than someone else's. But cutting hair is the opposite.

Since most guys do their own shaving, I don't see any problem showing up for a haircut with a clean shaven face.

Regardless of how the next appointment turns out, as long as you don't make any further commitmants, you should not feel obligated in any way to future services.
Nichhel, the last time I had a shave in a barbershop, the guy shaving me was so heavy-handed it was awful. He tried to stretch my skin and I was literally screaming in unbearable pain, and he even nicked me slightly on my chin, and I felt very queezy, and I came very close to throwing up. (pardon my point blankness) When he finally finished torturing/shaving me, he sprinkled talc over my face and neck, which almost made me choke. I must say one thing, he didn't charge me a penny.

Please do not go back for a shave- the haircut yes, shave no. In fact, go back in clean shaven(BBS) so that he can ask how did you accomplish that. if he does not ask, that's all you need to know about his technique.

When you are spending your hard earned money, you have the right to expect competent service at a minimum. If that is lacking, do not sit and bear it- you just encourage mediocrity. Speak up( kindly but firmly) and if the actions do not change, where you spend your money should.

I live in a neighbourhood with many Turkish and Morrocon barber shops. I've heard claims that they still provide a traditional wet shave, but they never do: it's just canned goo and disposable bic or gillette razors: they're nothing but a bunch of imposters trying to make a buck. Hardly anyone still knows what a traditional shave is: since most men use lawnmowers it is thought that canned gel+cartridge is 'traditional'. Try telling someone about using a brush and bowl and they will look at you as if you're insane. :mad: :confused:
I guess it's off to London to be pampered in one of Trumpers comfy chairs...
htownmmm said:
When you are spending your hard earned money, you have the right to expect competent service at a minimum. If that is lacking, do not sit and bear it- you just encourage mediocrity. Speak up( kindly but firmly) and if the actions do not change, where you spend your money should.

Wise words.

I have never had a barber shop shave that has bettered the shave I can achieve at home.
You should point him to this forum, though odds are he doesn't use the internet; it's surely a lost cause.

Then you should never visit him again.

Don't try to save him.
If when you go back, he brings up the previous shave, you should be tactfully honest about the poor quality of it. Let him know what made it so. If he wants to improve it, he'll continue the conversation further. I'd also like to think that he would make up the $20 fee to you as well.

Otherwise, you at least know where to get a good shoe shine.
I've always heard of how great barber shaves are...but in my (ahem) years, I have never seen a barber giving a shave to anyone :confused1

Which leads me to this question - where and on who do they practice? ...I can tell you for sure; not mois.
I'm in a similar boat. I went back to my barbershop where I had gotten one great shave before, and my second shave was beyond horrid. *sighs*
Only 2 barbershops in Montreal actually do give real, traditional shaves, but they charge 20 bux, so thanks, but no thanks.

I had one of the greatest shaves of my life in a barber shop, in the tiny village of Coli, in Italy. The fellow used, of course, Proraso, although I didn't know it at the time. He massaged that stuff into my face for what seemed like thirty minutes, although it was probably five. He then shaved me with a proper straight. It was amazing, and I probably only paid $5 for it. I'd go again in a second.

I too had a really bad shave at a high-end barber here in the states and paid $20 for it and walked out feeling very let down, of course expecting the experience I had in Italy. That was when I realized I needed to step up my wet shaving technique and get a DE and a good brush. Now I can shave as close as the Italian Barber of Coli !!!

Sorry you had the same bad experience I had.
Sounds like I need to go to Italy! After reading this thread, and becoming more aware of better shaving techniques, I would probably ask to see the barber's shaving supplies before he started.
I've often wondered how many barbers still even attempt to give a straight shave to customers. Apparently the answer is "More than are able to." With few customers coming in to get one, I'd imagine few schools even bother training students in the lost art. One would think higher-end hotels might offer a shave service- at least those who still offer in-hotel grooming services. Btw, Crackstar, if you're ever looking for place to escape while downtown, the St James offers Penhaligon products to its guests.

Having recently experienced one of the more bizarre haircuts I've ever been given- and I have had some bizarre ones, but this one wasn't requested- I called the stylist the next day and just told him, "This hair is not doing it for me." He had me back in that day for a repair job. No feelings hurt, no additional fee. I think if you go back for your haircut and just politely say, "Do you do many of those straight shaves?", he'll probably know right away what you mean and level with you on his inexpertise. Yes. He should have done that before, but he may have figured it wouldn't be so hard to shave a guy. If he is offended then he could well be delusional and shouldn't ever be trusted with scissors!
After a series of coincidences that began connecting their fateful dots yesterday, when I first replied to this post, I have also joined those who've had the misfortune of going for a straight shave that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Last night, around 10, I found out that an appointment for a shave had been made for me at a new men's spa that has opened in town. My first reaction was to have the appointment cancelled because I'd gotten such a great, BBS shave Thursday morning and didn't think I'd have enough beard grown in by the next day. Turned out re-scheduling wasn't an option. I was also assured the woman giving the shave was "pretty good at it."

Spa was pleasant enough, as was the woman doing the shaving, but from the very first swipe of the blade (disposable straight-edge) I knew it wasn't going to turn out well. On top of the flawed technique, there was an air duct above the chair that was blowing cool air on me throughout, which dried my face in seconds. Imagine vigorous blade buffing done on a dry face, but with a straight razor. Somehow, though, no hair seemed to have really been removed. To add to the scenario, repair men showed up half-way into the shave to fix the lights, so I was staring up at a guy, 18-feet above me, trying to bounce his ladder over to burned out bulbs.

When I got to work and started telling a friend about the experience, I got to the bit about my apprehensions on going because I'd had such a close shave yesterday and he said, "Why don't you go now?" I told him I did go. He looked at me, confused, and said "I don't think I've ever seen you this unshaven."

Did I voice my displeasure? Nope. I even tipped her. In retrospect, I should have taken as forewarning a book they had in the waiting area that said the best shave a man can get is from a two- or three-bladed, swivel-neck shaver.
Hi All, my first post here. thanks to everyone for leading me to such an unknown and wonderful pleasure, WETSHAVING> I hate to get dramatic, but it has changed my life. I enjoy the "art" of shaving now, the focus of it, the quality of my limited stock, (Proraso, E&C Brush, and 1940's superspeed, and my favorite, the splash of Pinaud Bay Rum, THANK YOU LEISUREGUY!!!!)

I actually found this forum and leisureguy's awesome gourmet shaving page by accident, while I was looking for a place to get a shave for my wedding!! Now, I don't think I will bother.

But I digress, I have always wanted to get a proper barbershop shave, but all I hear are horror stories. Maybe we could all post where we have gotten a Badger and Blade Quality shave from a Barber!?

I personally would love to hear of a place in Metro New York area, preferably Westchester County. So if you know, please share. Thanks:biggrin:
I managed to get one, good, honest to goodness barber shop shave in the early '90s. There was a run down barber shop in a run down neighborhood of San Francisco (6th Street, at Brannan or Bryant). The cool thing is that the shop, and the barber, were straight out of the 20s! Everything in the shop was hospital white, except for the peeling yellow plaster walls, and there were bottles of hair products I'd never heard of all over the shelves. Mr. Giannini (his name was in gold letters on the window) wore a starched white smock and stood bolt upright -- quite surprising considering he must have been 80! His price board seemed to have been updated some time in the '50s, and he listed a shave at $2.00. The second time I went in for a haircut, I had stubble (I was in law school, and only had time to shave about twice a week), so I asked for a shave. "You wanna shave?". Giannini asked with some trepidation. "Yeah, sure, I mean you do shaves, right?" I asked with even more trepidation. I don't think the old guy had shaved anybody in decades, but he warmed up a towel and draped it over my face, got out a mug and brush, and honed his straight razor. His hands trembled more than I care to remember, so I just closed my eyes. I think it all must have come back to him, though, because he gave me an extremely close shave with only two small nicks. I still remember the surprisingly loud scraping sound of the razor, that the lather was thick and luxurious, and the scent medicinal. The aftershave came out of a tall, old botte, was sort of bluish, and smelled like it had lavender in it. He also put some balm on when he was done, which also smelled a bit medicinal. I tipped him more than he charged, and I didn't need to shave again for two days. Sadly, Giannini's shop closed about 2 months later...


The wife's investment
When I was in Chicago last month I almost got a shave at a new mens' spa in the Loop, http://www.316barberspa.com/. Now I'm glad I couldn't work it into the schedule. Besides it would have been $50! For half the price I took a tall ship ride on Lake Michigan. On the other hand... I was only a few blocks from Truefitt & Hill.:001_unsur
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