The 1990s saw the creation of the metrosexual stereotype: A young, hip, well-groomed man who cared as much about his outward appearance as he did other parts of his life. It was a natural reaction to the grit and grime, “tough guy” image of the time.
Though the term has fallen by the wayside (along with any negative bent once tied to it), the elements metrosexual represented have made their way, more and more, into the mainstream. It’s much more common now than it was 20 years ago for men to pamper themselves and engage in acts of self-care that, in the past, would have been marked as unmanly.
One of the by-products of this revolution has been the resurgence of barber shops offering specialty services for men—one of the most popular, and iconic, being the straight razor shave.
“I think guys aren’t afraid to take care of themselves anymore,” says Joe Kudla, a barber at Crockett & Co. in North Buffalo who does a few shaves a week. “For a long time, salons took over and they just weren’t offering the service and it kind of became a lost art. Now it’s becoming popular and guys are excited about being able to come get a shave.”
The service differs slightly from shop to shop, but generally the barber will prepare your face by wrapping it in hot towels to open the pores and relax the hair. Next comes a cleanser to get rid of any oils and dirt that can get trapped in the pores. Then the lather is applied, and the hair shaved. After shaves and a cold towel are the finish in order to help close the pores and prevent ingrown hairs.
“You don’t have to worry about doing it yourself. You get the nice warm towel, the razor feels nice, a little massage, a little hot lather. It’s a spa experience and it makes you look and feel great,” said Rachel Garcia-Casey, owner of Rust Belt Barber in Elmwood.
Though there are some health benefits to the shave—namely exfoliating the face and reducing the likelihood of ingrown hairs—the spa-like experience of the entire procedure is a big draw as well. And it’s not just for guys who keep their face smooth. Those sporting beards are absolutely encouraged to enjoy a shave as well.
“Beards are trendy, and beards are cool, so keeping them trimmed and keeping them groomed is really popular,” said Michael DiNino, owner of Architect for Men in the Theatre District. “To get that clean crispy line, to get that squared-off jaw or the devils point, you can’t do that at home.”
Barbers recommend that a guy has at least three days of growth on his face before he comes in to get the service done, otherwise the skin can become irritated from the razor.
Though everyone agrees that a straight razor shave is not ideal for daily maintenance (and at $20-$30 on average for the service, it would add up quickly), there’s no real consensus to how often it should be done.
“Some people come every two weeks, some people come for special occasions. It’s a personal preference thing,” Garcia-Casey said.
With straight razor shaves (also known as wet shaves) now available at dozens of barbers all over Western New York, more and more men are taking advantage of the opportunity to look good—and feel good while doing it, too.
“Who doesn’t like to go to a shop and hang out with other guys and talk cars and sports and motorcycles and they can just be themselves during those appointments,” said Jaclyn Elson owner of Cuts and Lather in Williamsville.
What about beards?
In a city as cold and windy as Buffalo, beards are bound to be a popular option. They protect your face from the biting cold and keep skin from getting chapped and irritated by the harsh elements.
But beards require their own tailored maintenance, or they can become unruly and a nuisance. (Almost every guy has had the experience of shaving off facial hair because it’s become itchy and uncomfortable.)
Beard oils and balms can calm those issues and allow you to grow a thick, healthy, comfortable beard.
“You have grass in your yard and if you don’t water your grass and maintain it and take care of the ground, the grass isn’t going to grow and it will look ugly,” said Luigi Fagiani, the one-man machine behind of Buffalo Beard Company. “Beard oil is like watering your grass. You’re conditioning your beard, you’re keeping it healthy, you’re letting it breathe. It will grow fuller, healthier, it won’t get itchy, you won’t get dandruff.”
Oils and balms are generally a mixture of oils like coconut and grapeseed that are good for conditioning the skin and hair. A balm also has shea butter and beeswax added to it, making it more like a gel.
“A balm will condition your beard a little more, and you can form and style your beard,” said Fagiani.
Beard maintenance products are typically scented and can be worn like a cologne. Buffalo Beard Company sells 11 different scents, from Old Fashioned, which smells like your granddad’s Bay Rum, to Cigar Room, which has notes of vanilla and tobacco. Fagiani makes, packages and ships all the oils and balms from his Arizona apartment (the Niagara Falls native moved to the desert a few years ago for his day job).
Beard care like this has been a bit slower to penetrate daily routines than barber-based services like the shaves and trims. But according to Fagiani, once people give it a try and see the benefits, they’re hooked.
“You’ve got a lot of guys who have never tried it and it can be a bit of a hard sell,” he said. “Once they start using, it they love it and start buying every couple of weeks.”