Despite a brief flirtation with facial hair at university, I’m generally clean shaven. I’m a staunch anti-pogonophile- and with just cause. Three days after shaving the hair on my face becomes thicker across my top lip which extends around my mouth down to my chin and forms an unfortunate concentric circle, overnight I come to resemble a young David Brent.
Consequently over the past decade twice weekly I’ve reached into the bathroom cabinet, picked up my trusty Mach 3 and drawn it across my face to rid it of the goatee truth lying in wait beneath. Despite my relative experience in wielding sharp metal through 20 mm of cream, I’m still at some point during the week stood on the platform waiting for the 7:48 with Andrex stuck to my chin.
Given my distinctively poor shaving track record I thought what better way to bring a halt to my shaving woes than indulge in a cut throat shave. So I got in touch with the chaps at Murdock and asked them to book me in.
I arrived a little early for my appointment at Murdock, Covent Garden so had time to take in my surroundings. The shop has a faux-heritage feel to it, there’s oak and leather aplenty, it’s hard to place what year you’ve stepped into, its part Victorian, part post war Britain. It works though, nothings too contrived, from the barber’s friendly yet respectful welcome right down to the subtle hints of black tea in the air.
I was greeted by Alex Glover, Master Barber at Murdock, a veteran of 3,500 cut throat shaves. Alex’s interest in shaving he told me stemmed from the tales his father recounted of trips to the barber shop to have his quiff styled (during his Teddy Boy days) or for a hot towel shave.
Alex explained before he could take a knife to my throat he’d have to prepare the canvas by cleansing the skin, this would remove the dirt accumulated during the day, free trapped hairs and remove any dead skin. The skin cells and beard hairs are able to breathe and are readied to absorb the pre-shave oil used to soften the beard hair, providing a smooth surface for the shave.
By this point as the proud owner of a clean, well lubricated face, my pores were going to be opened up with some steaming towels.
About 15 minutes and three hot towels to my face later, I was completely relaxed. Just before I nodded off, Alex re-emerged and told me it was time to lather up with the help of some Murdock skin calming shave cream and a “best” badger brush. Best badger hair is taken from the middle part of the badger, it absorbs plenty of water which helps to make plenty of shaving lather. To create the lather Alex used his index finger to measure out how much cream was needed and mixed it with the badger brush which had been soaked in warm water.
The benefit of another pair of ( very skilled) hands soon became apparent, before each careful stroke of the blade Alex stretched the skin to get as close as possible to the base of the hairs on my face. The blade moved effortlessly. To avoid irritation or cuts Alex said its best to shave with (or parallel) to the growth of the hair at a thirty degree angle and to clean your razor before each time you reapply to steel to your face
Alex had a brief once over to make sure he hadn’t missed any bits (he knew he hadn’t) and then washed my now almost glacier smooth face with a cold flannel. To finish, Alex applied Murdock post shave balm, loaded with moisturisers, cooling agents and Calendula which helps to repair your skin.
A brilliant, sensual experience. I’d learnt the rudiments of shaving (albeit a decade too late), travelled back in time and for once looked my age.
I’ll be back for sure.