There are some things in this brave new world that, by the grace of technology, will change lives for the better. Advanced genetic technologies will soon allow us to feed billions more people. Cars will drive themselves. Domino’s will deliver pizzas before you even know you wanted one. Biker facial hair styles.
And then there are those things that are best done the way your Grandaddy did.
“People are stepping back with the fashion and the hair, and with it bringing back this kind of barber shop. That tradition of going to get a cut, get a shave – but taking the time to do it right,” straight shave specialist Emma Lewis tells me.
She opens Bones Barbers on Saturday – with free cuts, free beers and maybe even a free whiskey if you ask nicely. And if her scissor skills have their roots in a sepia-tinted era of scotch and trilbies, don’t expect her barbershop to look like a set from Mad Men.
Trained cutting and shaving homeless men and City Boys in Shoreditch – the vaping, East London district that is home of more twirled moustaches per square mile that anywhere in the world (“people will cringe, but the hipster revival brought back a lot of this”) – Lewis herself is an ex-nurse, and a card-carrying member of the Harley Davidson Owners Group.
“If you’re a member of HOG, you’re a peaceful rocker on your bike,” Emma says.
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Hanging in her shop, opposite The Barrels on St Owen’s Street, is 4’ x 2’ steel plate with a skull, its fleshless knuckles gripping the handle bars of a lowrider, looking over the punters through the middle of that classic Harley logo.
“Bike culture’s great at the moment,” she says. “There’s definitely still an issue with gangs, especially in Germany. And even Ross, and into the Forest. Most of the guys if you meet them, they are really nice guys. But even now if you wear the curved patch in the wrong position of the jacket, they will rip it off your jacket.
“But the slicked back hair, the beards, the tattoos – and the likes of Sons of Anarchy – has brought a load of that back. You get asked for it a lot. And those cuts are fun, running a more modern tight fade into that 20’s/30’s-style big quiff.”
The plan at Bones is also to help out gents from the eyebrows down.
Taught wet-shaving by lathering up balloons and meticulously removing it with a straight-razor – “They were full of water, it’s your fault if you got a wet lap” – Emma is bringing the throwback art back with her.
“The first guy I ever did was in Shoreditch. He asked for a zero all over. Face and head. It was a hell of a way to get into wet-shaving.
“It is hard to learn. But it’s something I really enjoy doing. It’s about not having fear with it.”
A straight shave at Bones means hot towels, exfoliating and, importantly, two passes with the razor. The whole process takes about 30 minutes.
Away from Turkish barbers of South London – who brought the old-school routine across with them from the heat of their Mediterranean homelands – straight shaving is enjoying its own renaissance across the country.
“It’s about bringing back the tradition, and giving guys their own time to be guys,” Emma says.
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“Hairdressers aren’t trained to cut in that 30’s style, but they aren’t trained to wet shave either. They aren’t even trained to beard-trim to be honest. And I found in London that, more and more, guys just didn’t want to be sat in a salon anyway.”
If you fancy a free trim, Bones Barbers will be open tomorrow 8am – 4pm. And then from Sunday onwards – check out their Facebook or Twitter for more info.