A Gentleman Needs But One Blade: Taylor of Old Bond Street
Throw you double, triple, or fourple-blade or greater razors out, chaps. Chuck the advanced micro-nutrient Whiz-Tech cream out with it too. You only need one blade, a good brush, and some soap. Much has been written on the classic and oft-forgotten art of wet shaving, so I shan’t be adding to the literature. Should you want more information, check out this handy guide from the Art of Manliness. No, today I sing the praises of the Temple of Keeping it Old School, Taylor of Old Bond Street, St James’s, London.
Actually located at 74 Jermyn Street (the epicentre of men’s non-suit tailoring), Taylor’s have been plying their trade masterfully since 1854 – “during the reign of Queen Victoria”, according to the site – long before the retro-pretentious Art of Shaving started appearing in stateside shopping malls. Primarily focused on shaving goods, this is the place to go for vintage-style razors, finest silvertip badger brushes, among the best shaving soaps (lavender in a wood bowl gets my recommendation), as well as numerous other sundries, such as real ebony brushes, moustache wax (!), natural sponges (yes, an animal), and shoehorns several feet long so that you don’t ruffle your trousers bending over to put your shoes on. Quick: how to tell that a besuited man hath not a several-foot-long shoehorn? Ruffled trousers.
But back to the blades. While they do sell rather silly decorative Mach 3-type handles (Edwardian-style Mach 3 anyone?), they carry a full line of vintage, turn of the 20th century safety razors as well as straight razors. Straight razors, AKA cutthroat razors, AKA “Ol’ Sweeney Todds” are certainly the hardest balling way to shave, but they require extra care and attention, both in maintenance and in use. The 100+ years old in design safety razor is a worthy alternative, still only using one blade, which, while disposable, is a HELL of a lot cheaper than the new stuff Gillette throws out, and in my experience provides a closer cut. Cheaper and better? Wicked! Plus, with a hectic schedule, they’re quicker to use than a straight razor, too.
The attendants at Taylor’s will inform you of all your options without pushing you in any given direction, unless of course you ask them to guide you. They aren’t temporary mall-type employees either – I’ve seen the same salesmen and women year after year. Consistency and expertise are Good Things, and I’ve never felt any pressure to go for the most expensive (and not entirely necessary) items in the shop. Should you desire, they also have a barber shop in the back, wherein they steam the hell out of your face with a boiling towel, lather your face up, and come at you with a shiny 5″ blade. Slightly scary, and a bit steep at £30, but you won’t need to shave for days afterwards they do such a good job.
There are undoubtedly other places in London and other great metropolises (though none are quite so great as the aforementioned) where one can find similar wares. In this techno-age, I must admit I often prefer online commerce, but my devotion will always go to an on-the-ground establishment that sticks to tradition and does everything perfectly generation after generation. Needless to say, Taylor’s are quite with it and offer worldwide shopping on the Interwebs, but if you find yourself in London, do yourself a favor and visit. And ladies, a gift from here would be appreciated by any man in your life.
Taylor of Old Bond Street
74 Jermyn Street, St James’s
London SWIY 6NP