I’ve only ever had three proper cut-throat razor shaves. The first was in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1987. I had been travelling around Yugoslavia for a month and was in need of a haircut. In a pleasingly antiquated barbershop near the famous old bridge, a nice young woman gave me a brisk, unfussy cut.
As she executed some finishing touches, she asked whether I would care for a shave, too, while I was there. “Why not?” I said, and since neither of us could think of a reason why not, the deal was done. She patted my shoulder and went out the back of the shop saying something along the lines of: “I’ll go and get my grandad.” I thought I must have misheard, until she reappeared with a gentleman who was either her grandfather or great–grandfather. He was plainly the head of this shop’s shaving department. The girl brushed on some shaving cream and disappeared outside for a smoke.
I hadn’t realised cut-throat razors were still a thing; I had only ever seen them in films. As far as I was concerned, they belonged to the olden days, and this old boy’s bit of kit was from those olden days.
The blade gleamed but the rest was rust and I was disappointed to note it was shaking in this grand old barber’s hands. As he moved his instrument towards the side of my head, I fancy my eyeballs swivelled so far towards him that only the whites of my eyes were visible. Then, as soon as blade touched skin, my fears vanished, along with his tremor. I was plainly in the hands of a master; deftly, wordlessly, he went about his business. Before long, I was strolling away with a chin as smooth as a baby’s bum. During the coming war, every time poor, devastated Mostar came on the television, I always thought of my ancient barber and his trusty, rusty razor.
As sublime as that first shave was, my second was ridiculous. It was live on The One Show when, for reasons that escape me, a fancy barber was challenged to shave me in 90 seconds flat. This turned out to be not enough time. I was lacerated and he was embarrassed and that was that.
All of which brings me to last Saturday, when I was passing a new place called Golden Barbers near me. My eye was caught by the serenity of the chap in the chair being bathed in steam …….