It was in 1975 when I first stumbled upon the world's finest shaving products.
I was a college student back then, in London to study writing and English Literature. At the close of a school day I often walked through Central London, whose old streets brought me past rows of traditional, high-end shops: bespoke tailors, fine tobacconists, and a hand-made umbrella store right out of a Dickens novel. Along the way I also happened upon several classic shaving establishments — and there on St. James’s Street I discovered London's oldest barbershop, Truefitt & Hill.
I stopped in, sampled the cologne and browsed the handsome shaving gear. The history, the aesthetics, and the quality all cast a strong appeal — but my meager student budget caused me to postpone a purchase. (“Just temporarily,” I told myself.) Although I returned to America empty-handed, my intention was clear: I would invest in first-rate British shaving equipment one day.
Little did I know that decades would pass before that day arrived. Not until I had a son — and it was time to teach him to shave.
The prospect of introducing my son to the art of shaving caused me to reexamine my grooming practices, which — truth be told — had become a tired routine. As a father, would I instruct my son, Charlie, with a disposable plastic razor and canned shaving cream? Clearly, my uninspired workaday shaving practices wouldn't provide quite the rite-of-passage I had in mind for him as a father-son bonding practice.
I had some catching up to do — and my first task was to assemble the proper shaving kit. For starters, a local shop sold me a simple shaving bowl (of water buffalo horn) that had the classic, heritage feel about it that I so craved. Pleased with my purchase, I next sought a quality razor — possibly of similar material? After considerable online searching, I happened upon photos of a shaving set that was exactly what I wanted.
Clicking through the company’s website, I glimpsed a familiar looking exterior photo of the original Truefitt & Hill shop in London — and it dawned on me — I know this place! Other photos showed the shop’s familiar interior, and memories of my long-ago visits to London’s classic shaving establishments came flooding back. By stumbling onto Truefitt & Hill once again, I was given a second chance to experience the firm’s legacy — shaving gear made to live along with you — many generations over. But this time I didn't hesitate: It was time to embrace the lasting pleasure of classic shaving.
Soon I was enjoying my first Truefitt & Hill shaving experience — with a razor, a badger brush and shaving cream unlike any I had used before.
Now that I was reacquainted with Truefitt & Hill, I also learned about the storied history of this venerable firm — whose clientele has included notables such as Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, and Frank Sinatra. And with every subsequent product I tried, the firm’s pedigree of quality and tradition was evident throughout. After all these years, Truefitt & Hill had at last become my go to brand for toiletries and shaving gear. Better late than never…and just in time to pass the tradition along.
Since I had my shaving act together, I now was ready to instruct my son and grooming protégé. Charlie's first shave was with my Truefitt & Hill faux horn razor and a thick bowl of that fragrant, sandalwood lather. To my lasting pleasure, our shaving ritual made for a memorable rite-of-passage — and the photograph I snapped always makes me smile. We built on this experience, as well — as it opened the door for ongoing conversations about grooming, style and masculinity as we know it.
By demonstrating to my son what shaving can be, I had every confidence that he would choose well for his own grooming practices. As you'd have it — when Charlie left for college in 2014, he packed a Truefitt & Hill razor of his own. Today, my son happens to be just about the age I was when first strolling down St. James’s Street in post-Beatles London. Unlike his father, however, Charlie hasn't wasted any time in laying the foundation for a lifetime of enjoyable shaving.
When I revisit those memories of my student days — wide-eyed on discovering Truefitt & Hill’s London shop — do I regret not having adopted their shaving products and practices way back then? Yes, sometimes I do. (After all, I have missed out on thousands of excellent morning shaves.) But what an unexpected pleasure to rediscover it — and at the perfect time to pass this grand tradition along to my son! A poignant reminder that life sometimes surprises us with the gift of second chances.
It's never too late to groom for greatness.