This week, Gareth Lindsay our resident fashion assistant heads to The Refinery in Harrods for a traditional wet shave for his upcoming usher duties at a friend's wedding.
I'm sitting in a leather barber's chair in The Refinery in Harrods about to experience my first ever wet shave. Having spent the last couple of weeks investigating the world of the wet shave, my expectation for a razor sharp new 1950's-inspired look have suddenly been replaced with images of Sweeney Todd. At best I will leave nervous; at worst I leave looking like I've done a round with Ricky Hatton.
Male grooming had until this moment been somewhat an enigma, a fearful metrosexual maze of over-plucked eyebrows or the ultimate back, sack and crack by a junior beautician.
But whilst attending an usher's meeting for my friend's wedding, we were shocked by how many of us had never been taught how to shave. A sportsman hero endorsing a 5-blade pimped out razor and a can of foam was as close as anyone had got to a cracking the shaving code.
This was not the order of the day at The Refinery: Rafik my Algerian barber was about to change all of this. Taught from the age of twelve I was in experienced hands.
The first lesson is that prepping is key to a good shave - with my face wrapped in a hot towel to soften my beard hair and lift the London grime from my pores, I was ready for step two. A few drops of The Refinery Shave Oil were massaged vigorously in upwards strokes to cover every hair and create warmth for a smooth application.
Next came a well-lathered badger shaving brush which gently lifts the hairs and exfoliates the skin in preparation for the shave. The main pleasure so far was the speed and charm at which my face was being prepared. While looking up at the original 1930's art deco ceiling in the basement of Harrods this time it was not the desire for an escape route occupying my mind but one of relaxation and ease. My head was gently tilted with accuracy from one side to the other. At first I was unsure if the shave had started - it all felt so smooth and continuous without a drag or pull insight.
This smooth technique was helped by Rafik using his fingers to map out the direction of my beard growth, which from home-shaving looks as close to spaghetti hair junction as you can get. Identifying the direction of growth eliminates in-growing hairs and razor rash. The razor ducked in and out of the dimple in my chin with complete precision and skill.
Next my face was prepped for the second application of shave cream. Shaving against the hair growth will ensure a close shave so any lip-locking on the day will leave your bride blushing not bashed. Holding my skin taught with short strokes, Rafik cleaned the blade of the razor after every stroke for a totally smooth '5 o' clock shadow'-free face that had long been a thing of the past.
My shave was finished with a facial massage to tighten and tone the face, then an ice cold towel to close the pores and invigorate my skin.
My reflection impressed even this jaded grooming junkie. Pleasure and perfection a hard combination to beat!
Find out more at www.the-refinery.com or www.urbandretreat.com.