Jeremy Freed is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. Over the last decade he has traveled from Paris Fashion Week to the glaciers of Greenland in search of great stories about fashion, travel and culture.
Hot towels, a sharp blade and Sinatra make for the ultimate barbering experience
On a Thursday morning Brookfield Place in Toronto’s financial district is a bustle of activity as men and women in suits, coffees in hand, hurry towards their offices. Tucked away off a busy underground thoroughfare is the wood-panelled oasis of Truefitt & Hill. I have an appointment with the shop’s Master Barber for one of their signature services: the Hot Lather Shave.
David, Truefitt & Hill’s resident Master Barber, dressed in a waistcoat and bowtie, greets me with a warm handshake. Overhead Frank Sinatra is singing “Come Fly With Me,” and as David tilts me back our journey begins. After trimming my moustache and sideburns, the barber massages my face with cocoa butter, then applies a palmful of hot lather. Next David skilfully wraps a hot towel perfumed with a dash of Truefitt & Hill 1805 cologne around my face, followed by a few gentle massaging taps to the forehead.
Sinatra has moved onto “It Was a Very Good Year” as David begins my shave, skillfully moving his straight razor with the grain of my stubble before applying another soothing layer of cocoa butter, more hot lather and another hot towel. “First we remove the rough stuff,” says David, “and now we go against the grain.”
David has been barbering for 46 years, with Truefitt & Hill for the last 18, and he has shaved countless faces. “Every face is different, it’s a wonderful world!” he says, explaining the importance of reading the direction of each customer’s beard.
David alternates between the razor, lather and cocoa butter for 45 minutes until I’ve lost count of how many steaming hot towels he’s wrapped around my face (there are nine total, he later confirms).
“I can tell you that 80 per cent of my clients snore when I shave them. Right out!” David says. Sure enough, tilted back in his chair, surrounded by music and warmth, my eyelids are growing heavy. A dash of Truefitt & Hill aftershave on my baby-smooth cheeks brings me back to my senses and brings our time together to a close.
“So, what do you think?” he asks, as we look at each other in the mirror. I think I’ve never looked better, but I suspect David already knows this.