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Truefitt & Hill (Chicago)

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"They'll make you feel like a mob boss," promised a friend of mine. He was speaking of Truefitt & Hill, "Barbers to the British Royalty Since 1805." Having lived in Chicago for seven years, he got to know the place well. Being scheduled to visit Chicago, I made an appointment.

When in Chicago, I wandered up Michigan Avenue from my hotel and found the six-story mall at 900 N. Michigan. When I arrived at the Truefitt & Hill shop on the sixth floor, I was about fifteen minutes ahead of my appointment. The timing turned out to be nearly perfect as I was in need of travel shaving gear. I was offered cup of coffee and accepted, sipping it as I looked over the wide variety of manly instruments before me. Not only was the store well-stocked with all manner of shaving instruments, but I noticed a rather nice collection of bow ties for sale, including a couple that I recognized from Beau Ties Ltd, whose catalog I am happy to receive at various points throughout the year. They're convenient to have for sale, I was informed by the manager on duty, as bow ties are part of the employees' dress code.

As for the shaving gear, there were straight razors and single-blade safety razors. There were even (sadly) multi-blade razors. There were lotions for shaving preparation. There were creams and soaps of all sorts for shaving, as well as badger-hair brushes for lathering and applying said creams and soaps. There were after-shave lotions in abundance. In relatively short order, I picked up a shaving kit optimized for travel, including a single-blade safety razor, small badger-hair brush, shaving cream, and after shave lotion.

After making my purchases, I was directed into the barber shop itself and was delighted at the sight before me. Not a queue of regular neighborhood guys engaged in a giant multiparty blather-fest on the state of the world. Not a (gag) “unisex salon.” A proper barber shop, with masculine decor, exclusively male clientele, and a set of services specifically designed to cater to the needs of gentlemen.

Every sense reinforced this clear picture. Generous amounts of wood ran throughout the shop, colors indicating such varieties as cherry and mahogany. The scent of sandalwood ran subtly throughout the shop, with just a hint of other potions in use including aloe, limes, and musk. Discreetly-placed speakers carried the sounds of Mozart, Bach, and Puccini. Scissors, clippers, and running water could be heard, as could the brushes used for shining shoes.

I spent just a bit over two hours in the barber's chair (to be precise, I was actually in three chairs), getting a haircut, beard trim (and hot lather shave), anti-stress head and neck massage, and manicure. Each of the six chairs in the shop was semiprivate, curtains separating each from its neighbors, giving everyone just enough space to play their role without doing so in front of an audience.

Once finished, I returned my neckwear to its proper state and headed out of the shop, elated by an experience nearly perfectly presented, one that I feared had become extinct, an artifact of a time long gone. Without hesitation, I can say that no gentleman's trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to Truefitt & Hill.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2007-07-29 10:19 PM
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