WHAT IS IT
Let’s preface this by addressing the pink elephant in the room – yes, this review is for boys with beards (fine, maybe that could be phrased better).
But hear me out. I think there’s a damning dearth of grooming-related reviews geared towards gents … and the long-suffering ladies who have to put up with their facial fur. Not everyone can pull off a manly mustache, more’s the pity, which is why the new crop of old-school barbers setting up face shops here is such a delightful development.
Truefitt & Hill is a great place to start your beloved’s initiation into blue-blooded manhood. Sure, there’s just the faintest whiff of flamboyance about Truefitt & Hill’s achingly hip Ann Siang Hill address, but the interior is all quiet, refined masculinity – as it should be, given the British bulldog pedigree of the brand name.
If your bloke is the sort that’s besotted with bragging rights, bait him by informing him that this barber shop has the distinct advantage of being the Guinness-certified “oldest barbershop in the world”; its first shop in London was servicing the genteel class back in 1805 (and still is, with the barber brand being Royal Warrant holders to H.R.H., The Duke of Edinburgh).
As for what your man is in for, well, if he has a wicked sense of humour like me, you might coax a nervous smile out of him if tell him that he’s in for a darkly elegant Sweeney Todd experience, sans buckets of blood.
All joking aside, Truefitt & Hill’s Traditional Hot Towel Wet Shave is a study in what I like to call sensuous utility, of which more below.
WHAT WE THINK ABOUT …
THE AMBIENCE & SERVICE
Fabulous tiles, fawn-coloured walls festooned with sepia-tinged portraits of important-looking gents, mood lighting and four soul-stirringly handsome leather-and-mahogany swivelling chairs. A quick check with the staff confirmed that these Wallpaper-worthy beauties were the real deal: Collins Commander Barber chairs cost well over $3,000 per pop.
Being the unapologetic alcohol appreciator that I am, my eyes immediately zeroed in on a most beguiling bar at the back, which appeared well-stocked with spirits in every shade of brown. Sadly, points have to be docked for the all-too-modest waiting area – essentially two single-seater chairs pushed up against the wall – which offers little to no privacy.
I also have to note that this joint may be a tad too masculine for some tastes, if that makes sense. I was intimidated by the very “gents-only” vibe the place emanated, and wished dearly that I was decked out in something a little dressier …
Best for eligible expat types with deep pockets and Grandpa’s pocket watch to match (of which there were quite a few to titillate a single girlfriend’s eyes with the last I was there), the service was not at all snooty; on the contrary, it was superb.
My barber Shane was chipper without being chatty: A fine calibration every cabbie should master. I was also asked if I would like a drink; in a bid not to appear too booze-dependent, I coyly requested for iced water (which was served in a bevelled glass receptacle that was just begging to be filled with an aged Scotch, but I digress).
Other odds and ends: When Shane noticed that I was fiddling with my smartphone, he offered to charge my device on a pull-out drawer next to my chair. Perhaps sensing my apprehension – razors are quite literally lethal contraptions – I was reminded to relax, given a hearty pat on my tense shoulders and walked through the process in a reassuringly gravelly baritone.
Very nicely done. Canvassing the contours of my face like a muralist contemplating his medium, Shane pronounced my skin as being too thin for withstanding the rigours of a “double” shave; my barber says he usually runs the blade down the faces of hairier clients twice.
Because I was donning warpaint – a beauty scribe’s occupational hazard! – my mien was first cleansed with a sudsy foaming gel. The accompanying facial massage was most lovely and, not to get too lyrical about things, felt just like lithe fingers tinkling the ivories of a piano.
Next, my embarrassingly modest stubble was lifted and softened with a really warm towel, before being anointed with a sumptuously scented pre-shaving oil. A soft-bristled best badger brush was used to scoop shaving cream from a bowl, then slathered onto my jawline and upper lip.
As my three-day shadow was hardly hirsute enough for a double shave, Shane skimmed my skin with the gentlest of force, explaining that this was so he won’t take off my skin.
After he had had his way with me, a refreshingly cold towel was draped around my facial contours to tighten my pores and ease redness. The shave concluded with Shane administering a restorative splash of aftershave and moisturiser onto my face.
My skin is unreasonably sensitive, so I was bracing myself for ingrown hairs the couple of days after my shave. For this review, I took one for the team and resisted augmenting my daily grooming regimen with say, a pore-decongesting mask.
As it turned out, my face needed no pre-emptive soothing salve for it to stay smooth. I was fuzz-free for at least three days after my shave, which was very nice – I “shaved off”, so to speak, a few minutes off my morning routine.
No razor burns or breakouts for a week after the shave, either, but I did suffer a wee cut under my jaw. Minor boo-boo aside, what will keep me (and, by extension, your man) coming back for seconds and thirds is the revelation that the ritual of shaving is one to be truly savoured, with all of the accompanying bells and whistles and then some.
The “good”, at a glance: Substantially stocked bar, nifty phone charging port at each shaving station and complimentary shoe shining service. Other great add-ons: There’s a private room with a manicurist on standby – perfect for a little polishing on your part! – and your man has the option of hopping into a shower while waiting for his shirt to be pressed.
All told, very impressive for a space that’s hardly larger than a typical two-room apartment. The best bit of the whole shindig? My barber offered on his own accord to wash and style my hair, in the event of a “hot date” that evening (his words).
Total score: 22/25
Truefitt & Hill Traditional Hot Towel Wet Shave, $60 for approximately 30 minutes, is available at Truefitt & Hill, 9 Ann Siang Road. For more information, visit www.truefittandhill.com.sg and follow Truefitt & Hill Singapore on Facebook.