This month’s “Guest Post” comes from Diane Wood. Diane is a Master Barber working at the Paul Molè Barber Shop in New York City. Perhaps more famously, Diane shaved off David Letterman’s beard on TV a couple years ago, and more recently has appeared as “Barberella X” for King Of Shaves in the UK. I asked Diane to share her inspiration for learning to shave with traditional products, and to pass along any tips she may have for the shaving “newbie:”
Growing up as the youngest daughter of a Master Barber/barber shop owner/shaving aficionado definitely had an effect on why I am so interested in wet shaving. My father Adrian Wood has been the proprietor of the iconic Paul Molè Barbershop for over forty years so it is safe to say I grew up in the industry. As a young girl I loved spending my free time during the summer at the shop while I was off from school. I would spend hours folding towels, cleaning out hot lather machines, sweeping hair off the shop floors and whatever else I could just to spend some quality time in the shop along side of my father.
When I was about fourteen years old one of our old school Italian barbers brought in a photograph of him shaving someone when he was only ten years old. Right there it hit me! If he could shave other people at the tender age of ten why couldn’t I shave men at the age of fourteen? Well, other than the USA child labor laws there were a couple factors holding me back from putting a straight razor to someone’s face. The most important detail being that I had no idea how to hold or use straight razor of course! But the simple thought of learning how to shave with an open razor fascinated me and I knew it was something I had to accomplish. After a couple days of nagging my father he finally gave in and decided he would teach me how to shave. It was then a dream was born.
Did I learn how to shave with a cut throat using a balloon covered in shaving cream? Nope, not me. Instead, one of our barbers volunteered to sit in the chair and let me shave him as he was thrilled I wanted to learn the real art behind shaving. My first shave was a success! I learned how to prepare the skin to be shaven, how to stretch the skin to get the closet shave, what directions to shave in and more by the end of the summer.
Fast forward a couple years I knew I wanted to be a barber. However, my parents insisted I graduated college to get a degree which I did, while I attended Atlas Barber School. After sitting through hours and hours of lessons at barber school I still wanted to learn more of the secret tricks of the trade. I then apprenticed at Paul Molè Barber Shop under the watchful eyes of twelve Master Barbers before taking and passing the Master Barber exam myself.
Words from the Wise: My advice to a new barber or anyone interested in wet shaving would be to keep the traditions alive but to also stay on top of the current trends with new techniques and new products. Although shaving is an ancient ritual that has been preformed for many years there are always new products that are worth a try. So if you hear about a new shaving gel, oil or razor – give it a go. Don’t underestimate the performance of new shaving technology just because you were taught that shaving can only be done with a traditional razor and a bar of soap!
For example, shaving oil is one of my favorite grooming products (which I highly suggest for anyone who shaves) but it is considered a relatively new item in shaving and not everyone has tried it. Using shaving oil creates a super slick shaving surface which allows for superlative razor performance and glide. Shaving oils weren’t mass produced until the 1990’s and then it took some time from them to gain a space in the multi-billion dollar shaving industry. Today you can find shaving oil at mass retailers and I can safely say that it can make a HUGE difference in shaving results – especially those with sensitive skin.