Q&A with Barber Charles Lenox
- September 26, 2012 |
Hot shaves now available Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Walk-ins welcome but not guaranteed. Call (312) 646-7870 to make an appointment.
In an effort to officially kick off our new schedule for hot shaves at EDC, we sat down with our skilled barber, Charles Lenox, who’s been doing this for the last 26 years. “I’m in my own world as soon as I turn a pair of clippers on. I feel like I’m an artist, a tonsorial artist.” It’s only been a couple weeks since Charles first landed at EDC, but he’s already deeply entrenched in the store and the neighborhood. “It’s such a great mixture here. There’s so much energy,” says Charles.
How He Got Started
Charles’ mom bought him his first pair of clippers at the age of 16. “My friends cut my hair off, but their hair always looked better than mine, so I started cutting my own hair.” From there, he started cutting a family member’s hair, then a friend’s hair, and so on. Shortly after, he was introduced to an older gentleman who owned a barbershop at 86th and Racine, who hired Charles to work under him: “I was so excited, but nervous. I only had one pair of clippers. He showed me the first pair of clippers I needed to purchase, and I still own those today.”
“As time progressed, they taught me how to use a straight razor. My boss told me to go to the store and buy a bag of balloons,” says Charles with a smile, “I had to fill a balloon with water, put shaving cream on it, and shave it with a straight razor. Every time I popped a balloon, that was a customer I’d be cutting. And I’d end up with a lap full of water and lather. I shaved and shaved until I got it right.”
A large part of the philosophy Charles brings to Haberdash seems to have been forged in that barbershop, what he calls an old school barbershop: “These days, a lot of places will just be about getting the customer in and out. I take my time, and I work to build that personal relationship.”
The Perfect Shave
According to Charles, the key to a good shave comes before he ever picks up a straight razor: preparation is everything. “After the shave, I’ve asked people if they noticed that the preparation took longer than the shave itself. When you’re shaving, you’re taking off that top layer of skin, so you need to make sure it’s prepared, and after that you have to treat the skin. Close the pores, keep the skin supple and soft.”
Years of experience have given him a knack for spotting issues at a glance: “I can look at someone’s skin and tell whether they’re taking medication, how their shaving, whether they’re drinking enough water. I know skin, I’ve studied skin, the muscles and tissues in the face. This is my trade, my craft.”
The Perfect Products
“To me, Baxter of California is the best,” says Charles, “And the Truefitt & Hill Ultimate Comfort Pre-Shave Oil. That’s love right there. That’s golden.” According to Charles, some of his clients will come in and mention shaves they’ve had at other name-brand barbershops. “People can put a name on a place, but it’s the barber with the products. It’s the combination of my experience and the products we have. You can have a good product and not know how to use it.”
“Sometimes you don’t have the time to come in for a shave, to come in and have your skin treated,” says Charles, “But, when you do, you can’t just let anyone shave you. Not everyone knows the art and skill of shaving. They think you just put lather on the skin and shave. There’s more to it. I give a massage when I shave, and I treat the skin like it should be treated.” And for those guys who don’t have the time to come in as often as they’d like, Charles will give them some pointers on how to achieve a better shave at home. You might also notice the jars of Baxter samples that Charles gives out to each client—the perfect way to try out the Baxter Method when you can’t make it in to EDC.
While the ultra-comprehensive Baxter Method Shave is $29, Charles jokes, “You can go to sleep for free. Most guys will say they’re not going to fall asleep, but they do. It’s the chair.” At this point, we noticed that he does seem to be very much enjoying the vintage barber chair our apothecary section is known for.
“Let me show you how much I love this chair,” says Charles, pulling out his cell phone to show a photo of the same chair, in his dining room. “That’s how much I love this chair. These chairs are better than any of the new ones you’ll find. You could sit in this chair and have me stand on the foot-stand, and the chair won’t move.”
“The best part is having the customer say, ‘Wow. I’ve never had a shave like this before.’ I want people to see how it is to actually have a real shave,” says Charles, “It’s a lost art, and I’m all about putting it back the way it used to be.”
“I guarantee you’ll be back for another shave, and I guarantee it’s the best shave you’ll find in Chicago.”