Sharpening the Shave

From the return of the mustachioed man sprouts a renaissance of men-only shops and products.

Sharpening the Shave

Since electric razors buzzed into our bathrooms, men have had two cut-and-shave shop choices: a quick fix that doesn’t even address skin issues, or a feminine (and expensive) salon visit, complete with cup of tea.
“I would find myself last minute walking into my wife’s salon and getting charged exorbitant amounts of money in an environment that was not geared towards me, or going to one of the low-priced competition types and absolutely gambling with my head because they work on time,” says Michael Boyle, owner of Gent Cuts and Grooming in St. Paul. Clean-shaven (and in a suit), Boyle oversees Gent, a “man-centered” salon with a putting green and a big screen TV tuned to sports.
It’s an old tradition, but a new generation, Boyle says. Many men come in unsure of what they want and new to the world of straight razor shaves. “This is an experience here, it’s not just a haircut and go,” Boyle adds.
What can a man get for a shave in this town? Starting with a hot towel application to soften the hair and a pre-shave oil to prep the skin, such as Jack Black Beard Lube, a typical straight razor shave takes around 30 minutes, Boyle says. The entire process involves a shave with the grain, a re-lather, a shave against the grain, and a cool towel and aftershave to finish. (Jack Black Beard Lube, starting at $10.50,
In other words, it’s not just a shave—it’s a mini-facial.
And, like each woman, each man’s skin is different. “A lot of men have different sensitivities,” says Jim Carmouche, a barber known to clients as Mustache Jim at the Art of Shaving in the Mall of America. But a master barber, says Carmouche, can find the right product and technique for each man. (Art of Shaving even offers a decadent Royal Shave with a rose clay purifying mask to finish off the traditional shave.) (Art of Shaving After-Shave Mask, $50,
Heimie’s Haberdashery in St. Paul has been cleaning men up since 1921, and barbering them for about four years. Today Michael Ader, or Mustache Mike, is behind the barber chair, handlebars and all. And if his clients want a ’stache as stunning as Ader’s, he recommends a tin of sculpting mustache wax to perfect the look. (Firehouse Moustache Wax, $12,
Ader credits the recent fuss over hair with shows like Boardwalk Empire and spreads in GQ and Esquire. Boyle also sees a certain parallel with years gone by. “With the [economic] downturn, people have started trying to set themselves apart by being well groomed and well dressed,” he says.
That means a run on chairs. With only 2,500 master barbers in the state, according to the Minnesota Board of Barber Examiners, you might want to book a chair sooner rather than later. Master barbers must pass a second barber examination with written, oral, and practical components after training under another master barber for a total of 1,500 hours.

Pro Tips for Shaves and ’Staches:

Michael Boyle at Gent: He tests all the skin and hair products on both himself and his wife, and he swears by German company Murker’s straight razors. Both Boyle and his wife love the complete Jack Black skin care line, including its Double Duty Facial Moisturizer. (Murker razors, starting at $130; Jack Black Double Duty Facial Moisturizer starting at $17,
Jim Carmouche at Art of Shaving: He trusts Truefitt & Hill’s shave cream. After a shave, he finishes the process with a cool towel and lavender essential oil to close the pores. This helps skin recover and curbs any irritation. (Truefitt & Hill 1805 shave cream, starting at $22,
Michael Ader at Heimie’s: He swears by proper prep pre-shave (“A beard well lathered is a beard half shaved,” his mentor used to say) and Firehouse Moustache Wax for the perfect finish. (Firehouse Moustache Wax, $8.00,

The Shave and ’Stache Experts

Gent Cuts and Grooming
867 Grande Ave., St. Paul

The Art of Shaving, Mall of America
125 W. Market St., Bloomington

Heimie’s Haberdashery
400 St. Peter St., St. Paul