A close shave in Mayfair

John Windsor, stubble freshly badgered, says the secret is heat, moisturiser and TLC

If Tony Blair sometimes looks grey-jowled, it could be because he has not yet summoned to No 10 Ian Matthews, the Mayfair barber who shaved John Major and cut his hair throughout his six-year premiership.

Mr Matthews has a mission: to revive traditional wet-shaving. A thousand aspirants have each paid pounds 35 to learn his secrets. He is master of the ritual of lathering up, using heat and moisturisers. Abroad, he is something of a celebrity. Just back from wet-shaving missions to America, Canada and Hong Kong, he is soon to appear before 50 million viewers on the Regis and Kathy Lee chat show in New York. There, demand for wet-shaving has increased threefold in 18 months.

Trumper's, where Mr Matthews is manager, is like a gentlemen's club with mahogany cubicles; it is 120 years old, and is hung with satirical political cartoons by Rowlandson and Cruikshank.

Shaving has long had an Italian flavour. I half expected men in fedoras with machine-guns to burst in and pump lead into one of the cubicles - a silly fantasy inspired, no doubt, by having taken a coffee in Renzo's Italian cafe on the opposite side of Curzon Street. Its proprietor, Roberto Di Giuseppe, told me: "Why, I started as a lather boy myself. My father is a barber in Clerkenwell, and back in Salerno my grandfather used to practise by shaving pigs' heads. But it was not for me."

On arriving at Trumper's, I found that traditional barbers have lost none of their garrulousness. Had not the Blairs run into some criticism for taking the hairdresser Andre Suard to Denver with them for the four- day G7 summit, at a cost of pounds 2,000? "Why go for a wayward suburban barber instead of Mayfair quality?" sniffed Mr Matthews. "Downing Street has always been associated with gentlemen's barbers, but Mr Blair has not followed the tradition.

Gossip over, I consented to be swathed in a hot, wet towel by Mr Matthews' assistant.

The insidious ardour with which the hot-and-moist lather is visited upon one's stubble is enough to inspire pity for it: it does not stand a chance. After the hot towel comes a badger-hair brush that has been soaking in hot water, with a dab of moisturising shaving cream inserted in it. Then shaving cream is rubbed into the skin by hand, to "knock the resistance" out of the stubble.

A second application with the brush makes the stubble stand up proud - to be scythed down with a razor running with the lie of the stubble, the skin stretched taut between fingers.

No, not an old-fashioned "cut-throat" blade, but a modern, disposable, double-bladed Gillette Sensor with bendy, "responsive" blades. Inserted into a faux-ivory handle is a heavy bolt, to give weight; the instrument is a Trumper speciality.

The difference between shaving like this and my own scratchy, aerosol- foam technique became obvious. Shaving foam contains more air than moisturiser and does not retain heat. The only way I can get a decent shave is to wash my face with soap and hot water three times, then splash hot water over a handful of cold shaving foam before smearing it on and proceeding to scrape. No wonder I have so many grazes and scars. Heat plus moisturiser, and a good, thick lather: that's the secret. Otherwise, Mr Matthews explained, the skin remains brittle and the stubble hard, so that the second blade, instead of cutting the stubble closer and exfoliating dry skin, will tend to graze it.

Final stages are a cold towel and an application of moisturising lotion. "It may seem time-consuming to go through four or five stages," says Mr Matthews, "but each stage takes only 30 seconds or so. You get a really close shave and it leaves the skin without spots, lumps or bumps. Not a great sacrifice in a 24-hour day."

This is, after all, the smart lifestyle decade: the dressing down of the Seventies and Eighties is over. Which makes one wonder whether Mr Matthews had a hot, moisturising hand in sustaining the Tory government for as long as it lasted.

As I left, two bodyguards swept in. Oh, God, I thought, it's going to be fedoras and machine-guns after all. But no; it was Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan arriving for a shave and haircut.

Trumper's, 9 Curzon Street, London W1 (0171-499 1850/2932).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Almost 15,000 people died last winter through living in cold homes that they couldn’t afford to heat

Social tenants locked into energy tariff for 40 years

Many Londoners who live in social housing estates are not allowed to switch because their landlord has ‘locked’ them in to buying from one supplier

Will your credit card rewards be scrapped following new EU rules on charges?

Providers are unhappy with new EU rules - but ultimately it is customers who will have to foot the bill
There remain more than a million unclaimed Premium Bond prizes worth collectively around £48m

Have you won £1m in the May Premium Bonds draw?

More than £60m was paid out to more than 2 million prizewinners this month

The 0 per cent introductory deals that credit cards offer are one of the most odious tricks

Beware credit card firms’ odious tricks

Why can’t we just have open and honest charges, without all the cross-subsiding?

The pound’s recent strength against the euro could be hit by economic uncertainty under a new government

How planning can make your travel cash go further

With the pound at a high against the euro, it pays to buy now before uncertainty post-election

Put the phone down on the coldcallers who see pension liberation as an opportunity to liberate your pension from you

Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers

Sean O'Grady offers advice on keeping your money safe
Switching to a better bank account is much easier than it used to be

More people are switching current accounts – but what do the figures mean?

Experts disagree about the 7% increase over the past year

The chance of getting what appears to be free money can be hugely attractive, especially to first-time buyers who can be fooled into thinking it’s extra cash to buy the essential new items they need for their dream home.

Beware the boom in cashback mortgage deals

Too many mortgages are being sold with misleading gimmicks

The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in a disastrous 2014

Wonga results could get even worse this year, chief admits

The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in 2014

The cost of a buildings policy has dropped by 10.1 per cent over the year, with the cost of a contents policy falling by 8.2 per cent

Simon Read: Mild winter cuts the cost of home insurance

The average quote for a buildings and contents policy has fallen by 3.6 per cent

Don't count your retirement money yet: employers will stop receiving a pension rebate next year and their staff may lose out

Defined-benefit pension schemes: Rebate change in 2016 may leave you out of pocket

Employees in defined-benefit schemes are held up as the lucky ones, but the state pension scheme will be overhauled in April 2016
Labour will raise the national minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019 (EPA)

Barclays new Blue Rewards hands cash to customers. What’s the catch?

Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month

New research reveals that despite the recovering economy, four out of five low-income households have seen no sign of their financial situation improving

Hard-up families could be eligible for financial help

A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state

When is the best time to buy foreign currency?

Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling

General Election 2015: Vote for the party that will boost your finances

Experts warn that the general election is unlikely to lead to stable markets. Simon Read talks to two investment managers who are advising caution
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

    £215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

    Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before