Singapore

The great shave off! Luxury v old-school barber

This article was originally published in The New Paper On Sunday, November 24 2013. TNP visited two very different types of barber

  • Sultans of Shave
    11, North Canal Road

  • Monday to Friday
    10:30am – 9pm

SULTANS OF SHAVE

PRICES

Two types of shaves, the “Deluxe Shave” which costs $40 and the “Sultan’s Shave” which costs $60.

Opened by three friends who decided that they wanted to start an upscale barber while they were still young and energetic, this four-month-old establishment bills itself as a space where men can “pamper themselves and network”.

DECOR

The shop itself is tastefully furnished with a plush, custom-made sofa.

Owner Lewis Lim, 27, tells TNPS: “We are not only selling a service but we are selling an experience.”

Part of that experience is luxury.

The shop has four fully swivelling black leather barber chairs.

The shaving room is decorated with an industrial theme.

Sultans of Shave
Mr Lewis Lim, co-owner of upscale barbershop Sultans of Shave,.TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The floor is bare concrete with squares of parquet panels.

The lower half of the wall is covered in diamond-shaped slick-black tiles.

Customers can check out their haircuts on the tall golden-edged mirrors.

THE JOB

The “Deluxe Shave” costs $40 and for that price your face gets pampered with a pre-shave oil that helps soften facial hairs and makes the skin much more supple.

Eye cream and cotton pads are put over the eyes to help you relax. Even the music is set to a gentle tempo.

To further ensure a closer shave, your face is wrapped in a hot towel. The heat softens the bristle and opens the pores giving the blade less to do.

Sultans of Shave
A badger hair shaving brush is used to apply shaving cream on Mr Lewis Lim’s face at Sultans of Shave.TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The barber employs a straight edge razor with a disposable blade to perform the shave.

There is no rush. It is a calm, methodical process. The barber sizes up the skin contours like a sculptor approaching his clay.

Post-shave, the pampering continues with a cold towel press and balm.

Sultans of Shave
Items used for shaving at Sultans of Shave.TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Mr Lim says: “The cold helps to close the pores and gently moisturize the skin. The balm acts as a layer of protection against dust and pollution, moisturising the skin and helping it recover from the shave.”

TIME TAKEN

The whole process takes about 45 minutes.

CLIENTELE

According to Mr Lim, the shop mainly attracts professionals from the surrounding Central Business District.

A first-time customer, fund manager Tim Loh, 31, says: “My hair cut was great. The barber knew exactly what I wanted. I didn’t have to give him too much instruction – he got it spot on.”


SHAM HAIR SALOON

PRICE

$5 for a full shave.

If you’re looking for a straightforward shave minus the fuss and pampering, then this is the place for you.

“Although the price of my services is cheap, I still do good work,” says owner-operator Steven John.

The 38-year-old barber says: “How can my business survive if I give anything other than my very best?”

 

DECOR

In a word – colour. A riot of eclectic hues.

In fact, if not for the colourful lights you could easily miss the shop, which is just a doorway when seen from the bustling street.

Sham Hair Saloon
The colourful interior of Sham Hair Saloon. TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

It is a very small operation. Inside, as Bollywood music fills the space, there are two barber chairs, both of which have seen better days.

There is very little room to move around. Only three clients can wait at a time.

A mix of Hollywood and Bollywood posters adorn the walls of the L-shaped shop. It is not spacious but then you do not come here to lounge.

THE JOB

A full shave here certainly is cheap.

This is a no-frills place. Get in, get out, job done. It is a high-energy operation and Mr John rarely stays still.

Everything here is about practicality. To apply the shaving cream – the same type that is found on supermarket shelves – he uses a small plastic container .

“I use this because it’s easier to clean than a normal brush,” says Mr John.

For the shave, using a straight razor with disposable blade, Mr John makes short, quick decisive strokes. The pace is quick, but accurate.

Sham Hair Saloon
Mr Steven John with  a customer. TNP PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Mr John approaches each client with the confidence you would expect from someone who has shaved thousands of faces over the past two decades. The skills are there to see.

Shave done, Mr John uses a splash of Butterfly Florida Water as aftershave.

The experience is completed with a powerful head and neck massage.

TIME TAKEN

It is about 20 minutes, but it is a clean shave. He works to speed and volume.

CLIENTELE

Most of Mr John’s clients are the migrant workers who live in the area, but he says he also sees clients from the many backpacker hostels there.

“I’ve been coming here for my haircut for two years,” says Indian national Mr Karthik Raj, 29.

“I not only trust his skills but also how he styles my hair.”

* Held every November, Movember is organised to raise funds and awareness for men’s heath issues. To contribute, visit sg.movember.com

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