Until about a month ago, everything I knew about shaving I'd learned from my dad. As it turns out, it wasn't a whole lot.
Dad approached shaving solely as a DIY endeavor. When I was little, I'd watch in awe occasionally as he went through the routine. He shaved methodically and comically, making what I considered the funniest faces ever as he stretched his skin into shaveable planes. He focused on the man in the medicine cabinet mirror as if in a trance, snapping out of it only when he had nicked himself or otherwise somehow broken the spell of concentration a close shave requires. Sometimes he'd unload the blades in spare shavers and let my brother and me lather up and pretend to bust our nonexistent beards. Such was my education in the art of shaving.
As a whiskery adult, I've abided by Dad's example; in his book, cleanliness was next to manliness. Except for two bearded periods (one did last six years), I've been an everyday shaver, weekends excluded, for decades.
Only recently did I learn that, as accustomed as one is to shaving at home, as comfortable with the skin-stretching contortions, as much as you think you know your face, you cannot come close to the experience of a professional shave done by a real barber in a bona fide barbershop.
The shop shave involves lotions, balms, warm lather, hot towels, cold towels, putting your feet up, kicking back, and placing your trust in the hands of someone who's holding a straight razor to your throat. It can include a glass of Scotch, a beer or an espresso. It elevates the mundane to the sublime, like a mini spa visit for your face.
In these hirsute times, facial hair is everywhere. It springs forth on the faces of athletes, rock stars, actors, businessmen and many others in the public eye. So much so that one might assume that old-fashioned barbering has gone the way of the buggy whip and the compact disc.
Not so, according to the proprietors of several barbershops where I tried shaves. Despite the contemporary proliferation of facial hair, or maybe because of it, there's a measurable and nostalgic return to the art of barbering, including beard trims and shaves, lest one look like a Civil War re-enactor.
So, for all the dads out there who shave and shape diligently and dutifully, alone and unheralded, why not give a Father's Day gift that breaks the routine? A shave by a pro is an experience like no other, filled with sensory signals that will soothe and relax Dad, and help him put his best face forward.
Gift certificates, shaving and grooming products are available from each of the three establishments I visited for my shaves. None of the barbers who attended to my whiskers tried to upsell me on their products during or after the appointments. Now that's what I call refreshing.