I’m not the kind of guy who pampers himself. I’ve never had a manicure or a massage and the only comb I’ve ever owned is the one that works the stick shift in my car. But once a year I’ll indulge in a little me time in the form of a nice, hot towel shave, usually for special occasions. In this case I was giving a reading at a friend’s wedding, so I called upon Gents in Cranston to make me look respectable.
Upon entering I was greeted by a cheerful receptionist. “Hello. Can I get you a drink?” What kind of monster would I be if I said no? I went for a glass of red wine and my barber, Francisco Perez, showed me to my chair.
“What are we doing today?” he asked. I told him I wanted to go tight on the sides and the back, leave a bit of play up top. “And I think I’m due for a shave,” I said as I tugged at the two months of unkempt beard my wife had been suffering with. Once Francisco went to work, the true test of a barber began: the chatter.
My time in the chair played like a barbershop greatest hits record. What do I do, how long had he been cutting hair, we each touched upon our families. Eventually the journalist in me kicked in and we started talking about recent trends in men’s styles and the seeming resurgence in the more traditional kind of barbershop.
“It’s that old school thing,” he said. “Styles come back around. And it’s elegant.” He said that last bit with a noticeable degree of pride. Francisco’s a good-looking guy, and he clearly enjoys helping other guys look their best. Even a schlub like me can’t help but appreciate how a good cut makes him feel.
At last we came to the shave. Francisco made short work of my beard with the clippers before wrapping a steaming hot towel over my face. Next he applied a menthol-laced pre-shave oil to moisturize my skin and soften my stubble, then the lather. His razor work was exquisite as he quickly returned my face to a state of pre-pubescence.
After the shave comes another hot towel and, really, this is the part that feels like pampering. Another round under the steam, a quick face massage and a splash of aftershave; nothing better. But my man had a surprise for me.
“This is part of the Royal Shave, but I’ll give you a little treat.” The treat was their After Shave Mask, a natural, soothing mini-facial that helps to reduce razor burn and acne outbreaks, both of which I’m prone to.
Shaved to the bone and caked in some kind of magical facial cream, he wrapped my face in a third hot towel. Under that warmth and the impossible blackness of the towel, having freshly been made a new man (seriously, babies don’t even come out this smooth) I slipped loose from time. Smokey Robinson, The Penguins and other ‘50s staples were playing in the shop as I soaked under the luxurious weight of an amazing shave. Only the occasional buzz from the smartphone in my pocket kept me tethered to the 21st century and its tuna can lid-grade Dollar Shave Club razors. Progress be damned. This was how man was meant to shave.
Francisco pulled me out of the Lazarus Pit with a cold towel, hit me with a spritz of rosewater and slapped on some lavender scented zero-alcohol, zero-sting aftershave. With a little pomade he made me look like a real adult person.
“I hope your wife likes the haircut,” he laughed. “As long as she’s happy, right?”
On my way out I bought a can of pomade.
“Can I get a comb, too?”
A comb? I don’t even know who I am anymore. But I feel awesome.
Gents Barbershopand Spa
1000 Chapel View Boulevard #136