This coming January will mark my sixth anniversary as The Night Barber.
The photo on the left, taken by Master Barber Sam Aydani, as he sat blissfully tranquil while I, having never shaved anyone or any thing in my life, spent nearly 90 minutes trying my utmost best not to slit his throat.
This was my very first day as Sam's apprentice and only an hour or so after having arrived at the shop for my first day of training.
When I arrived, Sam showed me a few shaving videos on YouTube, drew some diagrams in the notebook he told me to bring and then we sat in his beautiful vintage Chesterfield armchairs and enjoyed Cappuccinos before going back to the barber chair, a gorgeous, restored, original Koken, manufactured in St. Louis, Missouri in the early part of the 20th Century.
Sam instructed me to take my straight razor (which of course did not have a blade in it) and pretend as if I were giving him a real shave.
So, I applied a layer of Sam's transparent eucalyptus shaving gel to his face and, as he instructed me, made short, precise, three-stroke movements, as Sam called them: cha-cha-cha!
After finishing the fake shave, Sam said he was pretty impressed (not a single nick or drop of blood, he joked).
Then, he instructed me to open the top drawer on the bureau and remove the small box that had Derby printed on it.
"But these are razor blades," I said to Sam.
"You're pretty sharp to notice," Sam replied, with no pun intended.
"But the plan was for me to do simulated shaves until Sunday, when I would start using blades," I said nervously.
"What day is it today?" asked Sam.
"It's Tuesday," I replied.
"That's close enough to Sunday, so take a blade out of the box and insert it into the shavette like I showed you."
And only having been in the shop for what seemed like only minutes, I inserted the blade into the shavette, re-filled the water reservoir on the steamer, reset the towel over Sam's chest, steamed his face as I applied a fresh layer of gel and – though it took me more than an hour and a half – I shaved Sam clean. And without incident.
Over the next five and a half months, I would give 100 shaves and 100 haircuts, finishing my apprenticeship in early June, a few weeks shy of my 55th birthday (I know, old dog, new tricks!).
Today, nearly six years in, I couldn't be more pleased with the choice I made back in 2018 to leave the comfort and security of my 26-year teaching career and start a new journey by becoming a professional barber.
While every day brings new experiences and teaches me more and more about the age-old craft of barbering, I feel I have settled in and, more often lately than ever before, feel comfortable and confident in that role. And if nothing else, the confidence that the thousand customers who have sat in my chair over the years have placed in me – and the nearly 300 regulars who have become so much more than customers – has made the journey up until now one of the most fulfilling of my entire life. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. 💈