Chelsea Barbers When someone's holding a straight razor to your throat, it can be hard to get comfortable. But reclined in a vintage-style, 1,000-pound barber chair, I started to relax. I was under the soft-spoken but firm-handed care of Bertilda (Betty) Garcia, and in seven years of professional shaving she has yet to draw blood. The shop has been open only since December, but it has found a niche. "The shave is coming back," says Betty. "People want to take care of themselves again." And for $12 a shave (no appointments), the neighborhood packs the shop Fridays and Saturdays, with regulars under the knife twice a week (the effects of a professional shave usually last twice as long as an amateur one).
At the end, Betty applies the time-honored dusting of talc. When the chair is cranked back upright and my shiny mug appears in the mirror, I can see that, along with a little tension, Betty has stripped me of every trace of beard. CHELSEA BARBERS, 465 W. 23rd St.; 212/741-2254.
NEWS FLASH: SHAVE ACROSS THE BORDER
London's old-world shaving institution Truefitt & Hill (71 St. James's St.; 44-171/493-2961), which also has a shop in Chicago (900 N. Michigan Ave.; 312/337-2525), launches a new store in Toronto this spring.
A SHAVING MUSEUM IN MILAN
If there is a single personal instrument that reflects the changing mores of male taste, it must be the razor. Its history-- an unceasing effort to make a brutal act more civilized-- is celebrated at the world's only museum of shaving, the Lorenzi Collection. On display are the most splendid of razors, including one model with lights in its handle, and another that provides a fine spray of water to the blade. The exhibition of 3,200 razors and shaving artifacts, the product of three generations of the Lorenzi family's passion, is a natural extension of their 70-year-old grooming accessories store next door. LORENZI COLLECTION, 18 Via Montenapoleone, Milan; by appointment: 39-2/7602-2848.
THE BEST SHAVE PRODUCTS
If you must shave at home, try these:
Decleor shaving foam -- Karite butter and glycerine moisturize all day.
Kiehl's aftershave moisturizer -- Delivers its promise to keep your skin soft.
Aveda aftershave balm -- With mint, chamomile, and bergamot.
Georgette Klinger two-step restorative -- From the doyenne of skin care.
Philosophy shaving gel -- With silicone, for heavy beards.
Kiss My Face anti-bacterial shave creams -- Olive oil, and a twist-top that's ideal for travel.
The Body Shop for Men shaving cream -- The fragrance is sandalwood.
Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet aftershave -- A scent favored by Churchill.
Nickel Contre Feu -- Relieves razor burn, true to its name.
Geo F. Trumper shaving cream -- Sublimely soothing, and violet-scented.
—Mario R. Mercado