As he follows up a treatment of conditioning cream with a carefully applied hot towel to a stubbly face, Joe Bruno admits that the main point of a barber shave may not be to get the closest, smoothest trim possible. This intimate service, which used to be a regular part of a man’s grooming, is now a nice luxury, a bit of occasional pampering. “It’s a time to relax, it’s time to zone out. We don’t do a lot of things on their own nowadays. It’s six or eight things going on at once. When you’re getting a shave you can’t answer your phone, you’re forced to exhale.”
Whatever the reason, the proprietor of Bruno’s Chop Shop in Beverly Hills, California, is seeing an upsurge in request for shaves. Long after safety razors made home shaving a viable option and in an era when beards are in vogue, men are increasingly choosing an old-school service even if not on a daily basis.
As Bruno starts the next phase he explains that the traditional service has some new twists. “This is a clear gel that makes the blade slide smoothly. People expect hot lather, but I’ve never encountered one that doesn’t dry the face.” And if you’re expecting a shave with a long straight razor, you won’t get one—at least not in California, where state sanitation laws forbid reusing blades. Instead he inserts a single-sided blade into a holder that’s shaped and handles like a straight razor.
For health reasons, some barbers don vinyl gloves, but Bruno applies sanitizer to his bare hands as he prefers the sensitivity it affords. His strokes are a combination of the expected grand sweeps and short swipes. The reason: to adjust to the fact that men’s beards grow in different directions on one face. Some even have cowlicks. The neck area is particularly erratic on many men. For optimum smoothness, his longer, deluxe shave includes two passes in each area: one with the grain and another across it.
When Bruno is satisfied with his tonsorial work, another towel comes out—this one is cold to shut the pores and reduce irritation. Two aftershave treatments include a skin astringent, applied as a disinfectant, and then a soothing balm.
The by-now-groggy client opens his eyes, strokes his face to check for smoothness and wonders if anyone falls asleep during the barber’s ministrations.
“That’s the best compliment I can get.”
Bruno's Chop Shop
8383 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 50, Studio 54
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Hours of operation:
Wednesday through Friday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Custom appointments are also available