The sign on the front door of "Shave: A Gentleman’s Barbershop" is explicit and a little Saudi Arabian-sounding: “Leave your wife in the car.” But the fact is you won’t be needing a wife here. Or possibly ever again. Because by the time I left shave I was ready for a sordid tryst with Stanley, a veteran barber with a sizable blade who made my face feel like no woman ever has. 

I’m joking … I think.  Sigh.

No, I didn’t leave with Stanley (sweet as he is), but I did exit Shave with the sinking suspicion that – 12 years into a shaving odyssey that began towards the end of the Clinton Administration – I have never actually had a proper shave. Until now.

In the meantime there were lots of overpriced blades, razor bumps and, during one regrettable spell documented in prom photos, a chin patch thingy for which I ‘m still atoning.  What can I say? It was a simpler time.

Anyway, in recent posts I've quibbled over the effectiveness of various razor blades, but the fact is nothing on the market compares to a trained barber with years of experience and a $300 Japanese blade known as the "Feather Artist." That much became clear a few minutes into my experience at Shave, which lasted exactly 1-hour from start to finish. Here’s how it went down:

1)  As soon as I arrived I was offered a complimentary drink. This is standard practice. Had I not been hard at work I would’ve enjoyed a whiskey. Instead I got my shoes shined by a small, friendly man whose name escapes me.

2) After sitting me in his chair, Stanley spent the next 20 minutes artfully trimming my scruff with an electric razor. I had a lot of growth so this took a bit longer than usual. Stanley explained that he'd honed his shaving skills at varous training centers in Las Vegas, which are like the Harvard of shaving, as it turns out.

3) Next it was time for a series of hot towels doused in ginger to open my pores. At this point I was laying horizontally and Stanley said it would be entirely appropriate to take a nap, which I resisted for the sake of accurate reportage.

4) Stanley used his thick, manly hands to rub vitamin E and A oil all over my face next in preparation for the shave. This was accompanied by a facial massage which felt damn amazing, even though it was being delivered by married man named Stanley and not, say, my ex-girlfriend.

5) By the time shaving commenced I was feeling saturated by seratonin, a bypoduct of extreme relaxation. Stanley used small amounts of shaving cream, focusing on tiny patches of skin, moving centimeter by cenimeter. It was a methodical process.

6) More hot towels and vitamin oil followed. And then a second shave with a smaller blade, allowing Stanley to make my edges ever more precise. By the end, he said, my beard would look as if it was painted on my face (picture Lebron James).

7) Finally a series of cold towels to close my pores, another neck massage or two (I lost count) and an after shave balm with a final edict: "No face touching for 30 minutes!" My beard looked great in my (objective) opinion. Not too short to look sleazy, but not too relaxed either. I could've slipped into a corporate meeting or an interview without thinking twice. I also could've gone super casual and not felt like my face clashed with the rest of my slovenly appearance.

8) Finally, time to pay: $55 (before tip). Pricey, but you deserve it.

Shave is only seven months old, but it's popular with corporate types downtown and, increasingly, bachelor parties looking for something to do besides stare at strippers. The shop uses the "Gentlemen's Refinery Product" line, which is all organic for guys with sensitive skin. Make an apointment ahead of time. Ask for Stanley. 

Shave: A Gentleman's Barbershop. 702 W. Dallas Street, 77019. Mon–Fri 10am–7pm and Sat 10am–3pm. 713-487-0034.

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