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Is This Your Summer to Love Patchouli?
Fifty years ago, San Francisco's streets filled with flower children during the Summer of Love. Today, that same Bay Area bursts with global tech innovation. Just like San Francisco, patchouli left its hippy past behind. This stereotyped fragrance quickly changes minds with its modern expressions. So, if you think patchouli’s only at home in vintage stores these days, read on.
Part of the mint family, patchouli originates in Southeast Asia, where it long carried a reputation of healing properties. Most historic texts particularly note the herbal oil’s benefits for skin conditions, such as dermatitis, eczema, acne, chapped skin and even dandruff. However, the oil’s earthy scent also became associated with anti-depressant and aphrodisiac properties, increasing demand for the warm, spicy fragrance base.
A High-End Past
Between patchouli’s association with ancient love potions and 1960s flower power, it enjoyed a regal, and even royal, past. Both Louis XIV of France, who had perfumeries make him a signature fragrance for each day of the week, and Marie Antoinette were said to be fans. Yet while few French probably caught a whiff of Kings and Queens, the herb’s scent became synonymous with quality in both French and British markets. Fine, imported Asian fabrics often carried the scent of patchouli, as it’s an excellent moth repellant. Before long, French and British vendors started adding the scent to their common, native textiles, trying to bring in the higher prices paid for the more exotic, fine fabrics.
We Will Sell No Patchouli Before It’s Time
That’s right. The essential oil of patchouli benefits from an aging process just like a fine wine or spirit. This is true also of Frankincense, Cedarwood, Sandalwood and Vetiver. As patchouli oil ages, it turns from a pale yellow to a robust amber. Along the way, it loses some of the harsher elements and adds sweeter notes. Those who claim aversion to patchouli most likely recall exposure to cheaper oils distributed prior to full maturity.
Today, St. James of London’s Mandarin and Patchouli fragrance line carries one of our most loyal followings. Oddly enough, many of these die-hard fans previously claimed an aversion to patchouli. When they smell it, they often claim in shock, “THAT’S Patchouli?” We blend the matured spicy tones with the mild sweetness of mandarin, producing a soft complexity most would associate with high culture, not counter-culture. So leave your preconceived notions behind with the Summer of Love and experience the warmth of a modern patchouli scent. Absolutely no tie-dye required.
How Well Do You Know Your Shave Brush?
While razors and shaving creams seem to commandeer most wet shaver’s attention, your shave brush deserves your reflection and appreciation as well. Even though most Brits hate to admit it, the proper shave brush as we know it today was most likely of French origin. Today, a variety of shave brushes exist, from serious to slight, pretentious to no-nonsense. Most of these, and all of St. James of London’s brushes, are made in Great Britain and Italy (sorry, France). This month, we’re taking a look at and helping you explore aspects of that perfect shaving brush.
Shave Brush Essentials: Natural or Synthetic
These days, the differences between natural and synthetic shave brushes really come down to personal style and preference. Those “testing the waters of wet shaving” typically start with synthetic brushes for a legitimate reason: the price of a quality synthetic brush typically runs less than badger or boar hair brushes. The vast improvement of synthetic brush quality in the past decades also appeals to clients attracted to St. James of London’s vegan grooming products.
At some point, most wet shavers find a badger brush in their grip. However, not all badger brushes are created equal. Protections of badgers in most of Europe now dictates a market where the majority of the badger bristles originate from China. Although several grades of badger hair exist, there’s little consistency among brands. However, you can gain a general notion from looking at differing categories: “pure” – a course, and rougher brush, “best or super” – a softer and lighter-colored sample and “silver tip” a popular, two-toned hair commonly referred to as the ideal blend of softness and performance. If looking at an actual badger pelt, pure comes from the back, best of super from the belly area, and silvertip from the upper neck. The source location denotes both quality and corresponding price. Side note, there’s often references to 2-band, 3-band, White Mountain, brushes, etc. Keep in mind there is some marketing behind these words but some firmly believe there’s a noticeable difference. However, there are only such select areas on a badger where hair comes from, and they are fairly distinct in both quality and color.
While the classic movies often show characters quickly, mopping their entire face with their shaving brush, this often produces waste and ineffective shaves. The loft – bristles seen from the base to the brush tip – controls much of the accuracy due to its length. A shorter loft obviously allows for a more precise spread of cream. The drawback to this – for some – is it typically means you’ll find yourself reloading your brush more frequently during a shave. A longer loft tends to cover a larger area with less time. Still, it’s more of a personal expectations issue as opposed to a better or worse performance.
A brush’s knot, enclosed within the brush base, becomes the second factor demining the firmness of your brush – a direct connection to the amount of precision and control you have when applying your cream. Smaller knots allow for greater control. Larger knots seem to be the preference of those who value speed of lather. Many point to a 24mm knot as the sweet spot between speed and control. However, for those new to wet shaving, we suggest gradually increasing from a smaller or medium knot toward larger as your comfort and skills increase. Knot item of Note: Not all knots of the same size feel the same in comparable loft lengths! This often occurs due to differences in bristle packing density. Also, some brands locate the knots deeper inside the brush handle in an attempt to add sturdiness to fewer bristles or those of lesser quality, thereby giving similar knot sizes a different look and feel. We suggest you determine any brush brand changes by feel, not simply comparing knot size.
This information offers a proverbial tip of the brush only. Most wet shavers typically experiment with a brush or two until they find their perfect fit. The good news? With proper cleaning and storage, that perfect brush will last you for many, many years to come. Check out our selection of handcrafted St. James of London shave brushes here. http://stjamesoflondon.com/usa/hardware/shave-brushes
St. James of London’s Five Things a Young Man Should Possess Upon Graduation
With graduation season upon us, many scramble and search endlessly online and in stores for the perfect gift. This is often complicated by the fact that graduates and those giving the gifts often seem light years apart in taste and style. If you’re wrestling with this congratulatory conveyance, here’s our guide of what we feel every young man needs as he begins his independent journey.
Good Table Manners
When graduating from cafeterias and taco trucks to power lunches and board dinners, a good primer in charming conversation and cutlery goes a long way. A memorable gift might be an experiential one. Treat him to a formal dinner to go over the ropes. If that’s geographically impossible, check out numerous guides for the graduate’s quick reference, such as “Brooks Brother’s A Gentleman at the Table” by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis.
Classic, Always-Polished Shoes
Nothing ruins a good suit like an improper cut or worn shoes. While a good tailor can work wonders with the suit, investment shoes, such as a wingtip or a high-quality dark loafer, as well as a decent polish kit are must-haves. From interviews to brunch, make sure the graduate puts his best food forward with classic styling.
Rudyard Kipling’s “If”
Of course we have a soft spot for the poet, journalist and short-story writer Kipling because he’s a Brit. However, his famous reflection on conscience and morality speaks as much truth today as when he wrote it in 1895. Whether you frame a nice copy or reduce one to wallet size, a gentleman should always have this reminder close at hand, IF it slips his mind.
A Decent Watch
We know. The digital generation prefers to synch devices instead of wristwatches, but a decent watch in a classic style tells more than the time. With the exception of a few Silicon Valley shops, the watch still stands as a symbol of maturity and attention to detail. This investment need not be huge to be noticeable. Remember, the Apple Watch disappointed because a classic watch never does.
A Real Wet Shaving Set
Although youth is with them, good grooming habits now will lead to a lifetime of great skin. A moisturizing wet shave helps keep skin youthful much longer than the discount store aerosol creams of school days. We offer a variety of classic wet shave sets built to last. Pair that with our all-natural products, and he’s off to a great start.
So before you give up and slip a gift card in that envelope, think about gifts that truly turn the page in a young man’s life. Teach him one last lesson with your gift: timeless, not trendy, sets a lifetime of style.
Tips for Taking Shaving and Grooming Supplies on Holiday
There’s no place like home – especially when packing shaving and grooming supplies for a trip. But this time of year, many hit their busiest business travel seasons or plan family Spring Break vacations. Whether you’re fighting for luggage space on a road trip or packing for air travel guidelines, you might rashly consider reducing your shave to a plastic multi-blade and a mini can of soupy foam. Not necessary … not necessary at all! Here are some tips for taking that great shave experience on the road.
Packing your shaving kit turns tricky when you take to the air, but it’s not impossible for wet-shave enthusiasts. While TSA only allows cartridge razors in carry-on luggage, you’re permitted to pack blades in checked luggage. Extremely opposed to baggage carousels? Consider shipping your blade(s) to your destination, which is probably cheaper than the airline bag fee anyway.
Next, let’s talk about shaving cream. It may be tempting to forgo your normal routine and pick up a few drug or discount store “essentials” for your trip. However, abruptly switching from a richer shaving soap or cream often irritates skin. Aerosol cans of shaving cream tend to dry normal skin, so manufactures load them up with artificial lubricants, many of which can clog pores. That, along with an ingredient list full of unnatural preservatives, can irritate your skin and put a damper on your journey or holiday.
Finally, you must take your shaving brush’s care and cleanliness into consideration. If you travel often for work or plan long excursions with multiple stops, consider investing in a brush specifically designed for traveling. These brushes use protective cases, designed with ventilation to guard against mold. If you don’t feel you travel enough for this investment, you have two good options. First, make certain that you give your brush adequate time to dry before repacking. Second, transport your brush in a sturdy container with ventilation. Many suggest an empty prescription bottle with holes for this. The good news is that men’s travel grooming doesn’t need to be a voyage of sacrifice and suffering.
Here at St. James of London, we offer safe, sturdy travel sizes of most of our popular shaving products and fragrances. They all meet TSA requirements for carry-on bags and are resilient enough to withstand the roughest baggage handler. We believe every journey –whether across the pond or down the road - should be one of comfort and style. Shave well and look great anywhere you go. Cheers!
A Deep Clean for Your Shaving Routine
Spring cleaning should absolutely include your shaving tools. Even with those of us who are pretty obsessive about daily rinsing and drying routines, small amounts of soap scum, dead skin, hair and blood can accumulate. It’s a good idea to undertake an occasional detailed cleaning and disinfecting. Here are a few quick tips – don’t worry, none of them take very long.
Cleaning Soap Scum from Your Razor
The cleaning question usually asked – and receiving the widest range of answers – usually concerns what to use for removal of soap scum. Depending on who you ask, answers can range from toothpaste or vinegar to an array of commercial cleaning products. The risk is that while not all cleaners are made the same, neither are all razors. Harsh cleaners can damage painted numbers or lacquer. Vinegar damages nickel. Toothpaste, while usually too mild to cause distinctive damage, doesn’t deliver the top results and makes your razor smell like a mint leaf. The most universally safe cleaner appears to be a mild dishwashing liquid. Note this is soap for hand washing, not your dishwasher. Dilute a drop or two of the liquid in warm water. Mix with an old toothbrush then give the razor a good scrub in all nooks and crannies. Rinse well with warm water.
Disinfecting can rid of any lingering germs, certainly, but if you’re not careful it can diminish your razor’s beauty as well. Avoid bleach-containing solutions that may damage a razor’s finish. Ammonia is a bad idea also, as any exposed brass will suffer. Your best bet is a scrub with a strong isopropyl or rubbing alcohol. We suggest a toothbrush rub again, as a full soak can be overkill. The quick-drying properties of alcohol leaves you with a clean, dry and shiny result. Let’s be clear, disinfecting your razor is not really a matter of life and death. Blood borne pathogens typically don’t survive long on a clean, dry surface, and that’s assuming they survive your daily soapy water cleaning. However, for long-term maintenance or acquisition of a vintage piece, disinfecting provides nice piece of mind.
Brush care starts with good daily habits, but soap can still build up in hard-to-reach spots. Start a deep cleaning with a five-minute soak in warm water mixed with either a bit of dishwashing soap or shampoo. After soaking softens any residue, grab another old toothbrush and gently brush along the bristle base in the direction of the bristles. As always, allow the brush to completely air dry before placing it away in a dark cabinet or shave bag.
Fortunately, investing in a proper shave requires minimal maintenance for a lasting return. However, if it is time to explore new tools for your routine this spring, we just introduced our new “Cheeky B’stard,” line that combines enhanced ergonomics and contemporary sleekness with our British shaving traditions. Learn more about this new line here: http://stjamesoflondon.com/usa/hardware