Truefitt & Hill turns tradition on its head by creating an experience outside of time
Mark Men's Grooming Day with the royal treatment at the world's oldest – and most elegant – barbers
The traditional men's haircut and wet shave. It's a staple in every true gentleman's grooming routine and, in leading establishments, a time to refresh and get back to your best. It can seem like a lost art in our modern world, where time is something that is becoming quite a luxury.
In a day and age where we're often looking for the quick fixes – the faster food, the instant messaging – it's easy to satisfy our immediate needs without thinking about taking time for ourselves. Yet we know a calm, attentive approach will produce far better results in almost every realm of life – and a trip to your barber should not be excluded from that fact.
Founded in St James's in 1805, Truefitt & Hill is the world's oldest barbershop – its proprietors even have the Guinness World Record to prove it – and still maintain the traditional values that have seen it hold a Royal Warrant throughout the reigns of nine consecutive monarchs, most recently granted by the Duke of Edinburgh. After 212 years, Truefitt & Hill is proving to be just as popular as it was back when it all began, so naturally I was delighted to step away from the rush of London just outside its doors and leave myself in the barbershop's capable hands.
Set in a gorgeous Georgian building on St. James Street, I felt like I've stepped back in time as I walk into the traditionally decorated shop - warm, rich paneling giving way to the light cream ceiling, which allows for a great balance of warmth and light. And the aroma is absolutely consuming - the shop's own, sophisticated sandalwood cologne recipe contains a fresh zing of lemon, lime and bergamot top notes, with sandalwood, cedarwood, tonka and musk beneath.
As I'm deciding on my treatment – the barbershop offers everything from a simple haircut or facial treatment to the 'Ultimate Grooming Experience' including a haircut, hot towel wet shave with cut throat razor, facial treatment and manicure – I can't help but take in all the history that surrounds me. Sir Winston Churchill, Alfred Hitchcock, Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde were just some of the names who had sat in my chair – not to mention Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. >>
My treatment began with a relaxing consultation. My barber David determined the best cut for me by precisely feeling the thickness of my hair and shape of my head. His expertise was immediately apparent – the level of detail with which David advised me made it clear this was a true gentleman's barbers. To relax me even further, while David trimmed my back and sides his colleague Michelle offered up a soothing hand massage and manicure.
Paying great attention to the shape of my head and contouring each area to make sure there was a consistent shape throughout, I felt like the canvas to a Picasso. Things were really starting to shape up. the more I looked at myself as the cut progressed, the more I couldn't help but think maybe, just maybe, I could be handsome under this mane of hair I've had covering my face so unflatteringly? We won't get too ahead of ourselves, but I was looking and feeling much better than I ever have done.
Curious to find out more about the values of which Truefitt & Hill hold close to home, Michelle told me that they believe in doing things the old-fashioned way, from the range of treatments and tools to keeping the books by hand - in fact, there isn't a computer in sight. Strangely, this is actually quite refreshing to see. Technology is just another testament to the fast-paced lives we now live, but everything slows down within these walls.
Once we were done, I was sprayed with a bit of Truefitt's most popular cologne, the Sandalwood – the same delicious scent that I had been intending to track down since stepping through the door. Finally, I was done with my experience, and an experience for the senses it was. The final product is produced through a simple yet effective formula of tradition, passed down from generation to generation to ensure the oldest barbershop in the world maintains a legacy that will always live on – no matter how busy the world outside becomes.