Winter Suit Storage

rubbermaid-garment-bag

Here in the American South the flowers are blooming, the leaves are popping and the temperatures are rising. I decided over the weekend that it was time to put my winter wardrobe into storage. I won’t need those flannel suits or tweed jackets until the weather turns cold again next fall. By removing those items to a storage closet, I am sure to have plenty of uncluttered space in my main closet. Those clothes are also protected until they are again needed.

In preparing to put your winter clothes into storage I would first suggest taking stock of your inventory. Do you have clothes that are worn out? Get rid of them. Ill-fitting? Donate them. Winter clothes that you didn’t wear all winter? You won’t wear them next winter either. Get them out. Inspect whatever is left for loose buttons or other repairs that should be done before the clothes are placed into storage.

Insects are the biggest enemy to your winter wools. Moths and carpet beetles are attracted to the natural fibers as well as food stains embedded within those fibers. It’s an awful experience to pull a favorite jacket out of storage and discover that it is full of holes. Before clothes are stored, stains should be spot cleaned and the clothes should be dry cleaned to kill any egg deposits. It is also a good idea to vacuum and/or steam clean your storage closet’s carpet that may also hold egg deposits.

It’s a good idea to store your suits in canvas bags. The canvas breathes, but adds a layer of protection against insects. I personally use the pictured Rubbermaid canvas suit bags that come with a natural cedar insert. They retail for about twelve dollars each.

The final line of defense is an insect repellent. I prefer cedar; it puts off a pleasant scent, but repels moths and carpet beetles. I use a combination of the canvas bag inserts and hanging cedar blocks. Cedar hangers or a cedar-lined closet are also effective options. Keep in mind that the cedar can be refreshed with a little sandpaper if the scent fades.

Get Closer To Shaving

closer-to-shaving

Whatever the morning, shaving is never part of my routine. My toilet consists of a shower, mouth cleansing and moisturising followed by a dash of fragrance and a little combing. Shaving doesn’t feature. The reason? I dislike shaving and my skin is far less sensitive in the evening than it is in the morning. A shave before sleep, though unconventional, allows time for my skin to rest after the ordeal. And what an ordeal. Squeezing out a cheap spurt of cream, washing off a nasty little razor, applying a stinging aftershave all makes for a thoroughly unsatisfactory experience and sets us in longing for a visit to Truefitt & Hill. For those that can afford a professional shave (and the time it takes to complete the job), I would recommend nothing else; idle millionaires take note, your barber is your true friend.

For the rest, such a visit is likely to occur once in a blue moon; as most men need to shave every or every other day, racking up barber bills is likely to be something of an inconvenience to the bank balance. Therefore, upgrading the kit, and the experience of shaving, is essential to bear the rigors; we shall start with the shaver.

The shaver

There are two kinds of shave; a wet shave and a dry shave. The dry shave involves no lathering, padding or splashing of water but it does involve electricity; the shaver must be powered. I have tried the ‘power shave’ and I must say I find it unsatisfying and the results uncomfortable. Though ideal for ‘trimming’ excess beard to achieve a contrived stubble look, I do not recommend it for the ‘smooth as a baby’ close shave; for that it always needs to be wet.

If any man is capable of using an original razor blade on his own face, I tip my hat. The day I dare to try it will be the day I, quite literally, die; seeing one in action at Truefitt filled me with an utter fear and my common sense of conquering a skill escaped me entirely. For me, like millions of men, the safety razor is the next best thing. It offers the quickest and cheapest solution for a wet shave.

The only trouble with a dratted safety razor is that it is a dull little thing; a cheap lump of an unidentifiable metal with a gauche logo. It has no place in a gentleman’s bathroom. Likewise, that sad can of shaving cream, rusting at the top, looks equally inelegant; what good are calacatta marble and chrome taps when one is to partner them with such things?

After all, your favourite razor blades are compatible with more than the nasty little handle provided.

How about an ebony handled razor, or a horn handled one or polished chrome with your initials? Or perhaps a white porcelain to match the sink into which your hairs will splash? Mr Trumper, Mr DR Harris and Messrs. Truefitt & Hill can surely help with your selection as they offer beautiful razors in a variety of handles.

The shaving cream

The nasty tin of shaving cream that sits on the shelf need no longer disgrace your bathroom. When you have discovered the pleasures of a badger hair brush, you cannot imagine how a supermarket aerosol was ever your preferred product of choice. Though cheap, such aerosols should be for emergencies only; a shaving bowl and brush, which caresses your skin with a refreshing and satisfying almond lather, should be the daily choice. The best thing is to purchase an attractive non-porous shaving soap bowl and thenceforth to purchase shaving soaps of the correct size. The aforementioned Messrs. Trumper, Harris and Truefitt & Hill are the finest retailers of bowls, soaps and badger brushes.

Scented Odyssey Continued…Czech & Speake

czech-speake

As I have mentioned before, I’m on a mission to track down some new scents. This week I’ve been trying out the range of colognes from English company Czech & Speake.

Founded by a chap called Frank Sawkins in the 1970s, the aim was to create a luxury bathrooms and fittings retailer. Seeing the bathroom as a sanctuary, quality and craftsmanship were to be the hall marks. Continuing this theme it was only a matter of time before the company set out to provide fragrances and oils.

I’m still not sure whether reporting on scents works. After all, whether something smells good is a matter of personal taste, and how do you describe a scent really? However, in the case of this particular company they have a nifty way by which everybody can test their scents for themselves at a minimal cost.

Go onto their website and for £2.50 you can order a pack of their sample scents – 9 in total – to test in the comfort of your own home at your own leisure. You also get a £5 voucher redeemable on any purchase you subsequently make. Such a wonderfully simple and convenient method I cannot believe more firms don’t offer this service. Selecting a scent has to be done over time, simply dabbing some on one of those white paper strips in the shop doesn’t tell you anything.

Well this week I’ve been wearing a different scent each day. My views are mixed, but runners include Cuba, No.88, and Oxford & Cambridge.

Cuba: has hints of tobacco and peppermint with wonderfully spicy top notes, and is the longest lasting of the scents. It’s manly but light once the top notes fade.

No.88: On the spicy side thanks to Bergamot, but feels older, darker and heavier than Cuba.  In my view it has manliness written all over it.

Oxford & Cambridge: Heavily weighted by lavender this eventually fades to provide a crisp, clean soapy aura which I could see working rather well in the height of a sweaty summer.

Still plenty more scents to try, but these are certainly contenders. I just wish more houses made it as easy for customers.

Cutting it Close

Men have been shaving for thousands of years, using everything from seashells, to sharpened rocks, and eventually metal tools. These metal tools changed many times over, but the modern Double Edge (DE or Safety) Razor was developed and introduced to the market by King Camp Gillette in 1901. Before this, there had been various attempts at alternatives to the straight razor, but they were largely unsuccessful. Until the cartridge razors of the 1970s, Gillette’s razor was the gold standard, and while most men now use either a cartridge razor (Mach 3, Fusion, etc.) or dare I say it…an electric shaver, a man by the name of Charles Roberts is trying to take us back to a golden age of shaving, but with quite a few improvements.

method-shaving

Over the last few years, I personally have used most of the major brands of shaving cremes, various pre and post shave treatments, and have been a Fusion, Mach 3 and DE shaver at times, but nothing comes close to Mr. Roberts’ “Method Shaving.” Now, it is a bit daunting to get in to, but I have been Method shaving for over a month now, and can safely say I can’t imagine ever going back. Bear with me, there are quite a few concepts involve (yes, I’m still talking about shaving here):

First, and foremost, is the idea of “cutting forms.” Instead of cutting with, across, or against the grain of one’s beard, there is a standard set of three forms one cuts with their DE razor, regardless of the direction the hairs are growing in. The first is essentially top to bottom, the second cutting on a downward diagonal to the center of the face, and the final form cuts from the outside diagonal up to the center line. Try this with a traditional creme and you will end up in ribbons.

That brings us to the method shaving products, bottled by Mr. Roberts’ under the “Hydrolast” label. There are quite a few steps involved in the process, and you can find all of the information on Mr. Roberts’ website www.enchanteonline.com, but I will give you a brief overview here. Essentially, you use a combination of proprietary blends of oils and emollients to create a “shaving mix” (the term shaving creme is anathema to Mr. Roberts’) that is 90% water, which allows you to hyper-hydrate the face and cut repeatedly with little to no resistance. The result is a shave so close and comfortable that it is called “Gloss” in Method Shaving terminology. You finish up with a two step series of aftershave balm and a spray tonic that cools the face down and leaves it feeling like a clean, lightly fragrant sheet of glass. The advantages are obvious: products that are carefully hand blended, with all natural pure fragrance oils personally added at your request, you get a closer shave, and escape with no irritation.

That said, there are a few sticking points. For me, the biggest problem was the idea of giving up my shave brush. I love the aesthetic joys of the badger brush, as well as the feeling of it on my face, but it just doesn’t build shave mix nearly as well as the cloth. Also, it is a bit more messy, involves using your hands to mix and spread the creme, and doesn’t feel quite as elegant as a shave with a scuttle, brush, and creme. That said, I quite enjoy my daily shave, and have quickly found that I am not missing my brush nearly as much as I expected to. Also, to me, getting my hands a bit messy is worth having as close to a perfect mug as I can get. Lastly, getting started is a bit pricy, but not drastically more so than using any high quality shaving products, and if you think of it as an investment in the future of your face, it hardly seems disproportionate at all.

Ok, ok, I’ll stop proselytizing. If you have questions, I recommend either contacting Mr. Roberts, who is always happy to talk to excited shavers, or consulting one of the many shaving forums out there. I am still an amateur as far as Method Shaving is concerned, but trust me on this, your face will thank you.

Maintenance: The Cotton Bud – A Mans Unlikely Best Friend

cotton-buds

When I talk of cotton buds I’m referring to those little plastic sticks with cotton wool on each end; most of us use them to clean our ears, despite the box telling us not to and they having no other conceivable use. Although, when I was a kid I remember they did make useful replacement lightsabers for Star Wars figures – provided you removed the cotton wool.

Anyways, two tips for why any well set fellow should have a couple of these in his kit bag.

Removing beer from leather

Wherever men gather there’s a good chance beer won’t be far away, and these two ingredients can make for the ruin of leather shoes. The other night I got a little beer on my Albam loafers, and having done a little research came across this tip, which works like a charm.

Mix a solution of warm water and washing-up liquid in a glass.  Then dip one end of the cotton bud into the solution and roll it across the stain. Leave it for five minutes and then use the dry end to dab up the excess moisture. Allow it to dry naturally and the stain should have gone. Obviously test it first on a less affected area before going all out.

Removing blood from shirt collars

Before I picked up a beard in New Zealand it was often the case that having shaved I’d have a myriad of little nicks, this was most acute when using a new blade. Too numerous and too small for the old tissue paper gambit, invariably the blood would find its way onto my collar.

Take a cotton bud and dip the end in cold water, then roll the wet end over the blood. You should see the stain begin to fade and keep going until you no longer see it. Job done.