Mr. Woolf doesn’t always entertain novices but he can be kind.
He also genuinely believes if you give a man a random shaving tip, he’ll remember you for a day; help him solve a problem and you will be remembered for a lifetime.
So what happened was that a gentleman to be was sitting with me the other day. A very bright kid, very ambitious. Moonlights as a CA during the day and as a graphic designer/ web developer/ SM architect/ innovator at night. I knew him through a common friend, always very straight-forward, humble, well-maintained with polished medium brown Oxford shoes.
Mr. Woolf was sitting as usual in his study, I knew our banter would be audible to him but I wasn’t prepared for what was coming next.
I am not sure if the unsuspecting gentleman had any idea either.
It started when he opened up about having grown a beard as it took him 30 minutes to gather the tools and gather up the courage to do a shave, because without fail he would always, always end up cutting himself.
“Do you watch the National Geographic?”
I knew whose voice had just made an entrance but I don’t think the gentleman to be was prepared for this. I had an inkling that Mr. Woolf would like him, with his attention to details and all but I did not know this would move him enough to get up from his study and walk out to the sitting area.
Not that Mr. Woolf is into eavesdropping, he’s too passionate about shaving. I am not trying to speak for him, it is just that this hasn’t really happened before, and so I am not sure.
The young man was startled at this and turned his head to find the source of the voice, finding Mr. Woolf’s towering persona looking at him, he could muster up a subtle nod sideways.
Followed by a “Why do you ask?”
“You’ll find out,” said Mr. Woolf and came around the sofa to sit with us and began a conversation with an almost stranger. Sometimes, I can’t figure out how he can start a conversation on a topic with anyone.
“What do you use for shaving, could you tell me?”
He was slightly taken aback but then he started speaking up- “a disposable razor, shaving foam from a can, and an aftershave, god it stings.”
“And how much time would you say, you dedicate to the process” Mr. Woolf continued.
“Process?” The young man wasn’t prepared to acknowledge that his 2-minute job that usually took 30 minutes could be called a process. He said “I would rather like to get done with it as soon as I can, and also now that I have a beard, I don’t put myself up with that at all. Nicks all the time and my skin was rebelling. Why would you let that happen to you every day? “
Mr. Woolf took a deep breath and continued.
“Well if you see these wildlife channels you’d know that when a baby bird decides not to step out of the nest, she needs to be pushed. What I am going to tell you now, you’ll only get benefit out of, in short, be able to get the flying experience with your daily shave if you take a leap of faith, I can’t really push you. But it’s kind of the same feeling for you.”
The gentleman who had an air of evasiveness, in the beginning, seemed to have grown some interest in the matter.
Mr. Woolf turned towards the young man and began –
“First of all discard all that you’ve been using. Throw them away, they are of no use. Shaving foam is nobody’s friend. Like I say to all men old and young, you need to invest in yourself and just like you have an excellent pair of jeans, a fine pair of shoes, you need to invest in the right shaving tools.”
He went on…
“And process. Everything that’s worth doing and has a result sought after has a process. I don’t repeat it for everyone but I will do it for you. You can ask me to stop now if you are not interested.”
The young man seemed to have settled pretty cozily on the sofa by now and had no intention of letting go of the wisdom influx.
“I want to learn Mr. Woolf, it’s easy to say it doesn’t work for you but you also secretly wish that someone showed you a way for it to work.
So please continue.”
Mr. Woolf I think was a little more impressed the young man’s humility and hence continued,” A good shave begins with cleaning the skin and applying a pre-shave oil. The oil creates a barrier between the blade and the skin that helps prevent cuts. After the oil, use products like a shaving brush and a shaving cream not a shaving foam. All good, self-respecting shaving creams will have moisturizer as well that allows creating a further barrier to help shave effectively. The rich & thick lather will allow the razor to glide on your skin without pulling or tugging and help provide you with a clean, comfortable shave.
In the first pass, always go with the grain. In the second pass, go sideways or against the grain depending on the pattern of your hair. Once done shaving check if any spots were missed, wash your face with cold water and apply an aftershave balm or lotion that has a moisturizer in it.”
I noticed the young man hiding his gaping mouth quickly as he no longer heard the old man’s voice.
“And start watching some National Geographic, it teaches you a lot”
Saying which Mr. Woolf got up and went back into his library.
The young man and I shared a look which shared an emotion similar to ‘did this just happen.’