A while back I was sent to a new men-only, man-centric man cave of a barbershop where I was to write manly things about my man-sperience. When I arrived, it was sort of like the barbershop version of Hooters: bubbly, young girls in clingy tank tops tended to my needs, there was a TV tuned to ESPN at every chair, and I had a cold can of Bud Light in my hand. The whole experience was, well... loud. Not just in the sense of volume of the sound (which was true, too) but the volume of the atmosphere. It all felt forced and overwrought – like some fist-pumping, over-testosteroned Maxim magazine editor’s vision of the good life. So it was with some trepidation that I approached my next man-signment: to visit Roosters Men’s Grooming Center in East Greenwich. I prepared myself for cock puns and “Thrift Shop” blasting in the background.
Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to find quiet music, lots of dark wood and a generally soothing atmosphere at Roosters. There was even a history of the barber pole framed on the wall. My barber, Steven, greeted me warmly and we got down to business. “This is a lost art,” he told me before beginning my Signature 7 Step Facial Shave, a good, old fashioned hot towel and straight razor (and a few others steps) treatment. Already this was far more Esquire than Maxim.
Before he went to work on my beard and mustache – which were to be groomed, not shaved – Steven asked me how much shaping he wanted me to do and offered suggestions. We agreed to keep everything neat and more closely follow my jawline. As he began methodically brushing and trimming, he told me a bit about his background. A former instructor at a school for barbers and hair stylists, he was presented with the opportunity to open the first Roosters location in Rhode Island. (It’s a national chain.) It was difficult to find stylists with the skill set of a classic barber, so he began cherry-picking students from the school and training them in the “lost art.”
Throughout the process, Steven was informative and chatty without being a distraction. Though soft-spoken and calm, he operated with the expertise and steady assurance of a doctor. If he had told me he was going to use that straight razor to open me up for heart surgery, I think I would have trusted his judgment. After the brushing, trimming and sculpting, he laid back the chair and prepared me for the centerpiece of the treatment: the straight razor shave. He lathered my neck with shave cream below the jaw line, and dabbed a little high on my cheeks above my beard as well. Then he applied not one, but a succession of two hot towels with another lather in between to soften the hair and open my pores. Once the second towel came off, it was right to work with the straight razor, which Steven wields with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.
Once the shave was finished, Steven applied the cold towel to close the pores again, followed by some aftershave and moisturizing cream, both of which were soothing and redolent of fruit and natural goodness. Then he trimmed my, at times, unwieldy eye- brows – not before asking my permission, mind you – and gave the back of my neck a line-up (which counts as a separate treatment apart from the Signature Shave). Finally, Steven proudly showed off the results of his work. There was no denying it: my beard was perfectly groomed and styled, my skin felt soft, a job well done. But as good as it looked, the feel was the best part. I felt both relaxed and rejuvenated at the same time. For the better part of an hour I was able to just kick back in a quiet place and cede control to a trained expert. Now I felt refreshed and–dare I say it–manly. It was as if I had taken part in a great tradition of gentlemanliness, like drinking whiskey while reading Hemingway in a leather armchair or smoking a cigar while playing bocce.
The Signature 7 Step Facial Shave is not inexpensive ($26), but it’s a worthwhile treat, a quick escape from the demands of the day. Trust me, guys, you’ll look great – but you’ll feel even better.