Before the days of the safety razor or electric models, manual shaves were the norm. A hot towel, a bare throat and an open blade… it’s funny how something that can go so terribly wrong can also be so relaxing and therapeutic at the same time. Of course, this role shouldn’t be entrusted to just anyone, and fortunately for us, there are a few spots around town with sharp blades and steady hands. These are the best places to get a cut-throat shave in Hong Kong:
While this may be the new kid on the block, by no means is Asylum Barbershop new to hair. The place is owned and run by hair-stylist-cum-barber Gordon Lee, who has more than 20 years in experience. Step inside his semi-retro store and you’ll find the ultimate man den complete with bare concrete floors, vintage barber chairs, a whisky shelf and tattoo desk. Everything from the light and wooden door to every last nail hammered into the store sign was hand-crafted by Gordon himself. Here, the service starts from 8:30pm five nights a week and includes the customer’s choice of whisky, gin or cocktail, as well as a styled finish — perfect after a long day. The menu includes cut-throat shaves and beard trims for $320 as well as classic cuts for $450 (6-cut packages from $2,300). Sticking with Hong Kong tradition, there is a heavy focus on the use of scissors — but all cuts will include a quick clip and straight-blade finish.
38 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, 5976-9992. Open Thursday-Monday 8:30pm-2am; Tuesday-Wednesday 11am-8pm. facebook.com/Asylum-Barbershop-679970222143115.
Hair House Barbershop by Adam Chan offers a simple yet clean shave with the customer’s choice of whisky. It begins with a hot towel to open pores and soften facial hair, followed by a short massage with pre-shave agent and a second hot towel to further prepare the skin. Then the barber will massage warm shaving lather onto the client’s face by brush and hand while assessing the customer’s hair growth and pattern, lifting hairs which may be stuck to the skin. The shave itself includes two passes: first the barber will shave with the grain of hair; second pass includes another round of hot lather and a shave perpendicular to the grain of the hair that allows a close shave without irritating the skin. A few squirts of aftershave follows to disinfect the skin, and a cold towel is provided to close the pores ($240).
20 D’Aguilar Street, Central, 6255-5450. Open daily 11am-8pm. facebook.com/hairhousebyadamchan.
Slick and savvy, Gentlemen’s Tonic brings the posh stylings of London’s Mayfair to the heart of Hong Kong. Upping the macho factor, each service is named for a famous, pioneering male – think Shackleton, Edison and Hemingway. The joint offers everything from wet shaves ($375) to bespoke haircuts ($585), but to go all out, book The Rubio ($2,100) a 165-minute package that includes a haircut, wet shave, facial, hand treatment, and Swedish massage.
42-49 Wellington Street, Central, 2525 2455, gentlemenstonic.com.
This little red shop on Pottinger Street stands out a mile away and inside is a traditional barbershop run by an authentic barber and hair guru named Paul Gerard. Era Barbers sports a retro-style offering with a straight-to-the-point menu that doesn’t skimp on style. Tame your mane with a cut ($550-$650), or buzz cut (from $350), then get your facial hair perfectly on point at the Era Traditional Wet Shave ($390). Also on the menu are a few different pomades that includes some local brands.
36 Pottinger Street, Central, 2577 3080, erabarbers.com.
On the basement floor of Radio City in Causeway Bay, you’ll find 80s Barbershop, a tiny one-seat barbershop with just one service on the menu: an all-inclusive cut and shave combo ($300) which can take anywhere between 1 to 2 hours. The style is Shanghainese, the theme is rockabilly and the promise is you’ll return home with the exact same cut you had when you left. The service here — although the owner insists we don’t call it a service — is slow and tailored to the style you like, which means you’ll spend less time product-styling it in the future. The shave here begins with a little shaving cream followed by some foam and a hot towel. Next comes pre-shave oil followed by Indian crabtree foam, and then the shave begins. After the first shave, some more pre-shave oil and crabtree foam is applied before a second shave to ensure the skin is smooth and hair-free. Next, you’ll get a cold towel wrapped around your face to close your pores, followed by a few drops of after shave. All this happens while you sip your choice of Heineken, Hoe Garden, coke or tea.
503-505 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay, 6135-0717. Open Wednesday-Monday 10am-8pm. facebook.com/80s.barbershop.
Located out in the New Territories and proving you don’t need to be close to the city to get a trendy cut, 890s Brothers Shop is a hip new spot run by a couple of suave young men with a keen eye for detail and the passion to go with. Co-owner Hunter Lee first began washing hair as a salon junior when he dropped out of secondary school before later graduating as a senior stylist. After meeting Steven Tsang, a young stylist with a similar flair, the pair decided to open their own shop where they offer everything from cut-throat shaves and beard trims ($168) to wedding photography (upon consultation).
Shop 3070 3/F, 8 Tin Sau Road, Tin Shui Wa, New Territories, 5966-3926. Open daily 10:30am-8:30pm. facebook.com/890BrothersShop
Behind OI KWAN Barbers is a story which began half a century ago, in 1962, starring one Chinese refugee who owned little but a razor and a skillful pair of hands. After escaping an unstable China, he began his barbershop with few supplies and built it up following the Cantonese barber model. Old-school barbers like OI KWAN offer cuts and and shaves, but also carry more responsibilities like ear cleaning and nose trimming as well as cutting hair for the older community in Hong Kong. A hot towel wet shave here will set you back $460.
Side Door, 20 Spring Garden Lane, Wan Chai. Open daily 10:30am-7pm. facebook.com/OiKwanBarbers
Calina Barbershop has a long history in Hong Kong with staff who’ve been with them for more than 20 years. Originally it was located in the Hilton Hotel before it was locked down, and then it was located in the Bank of America building from 1995. Earlier this year, it moved to Sheung Wan. The decor’s not too fancy, nor is there a whisky shelf or pomade selection — there’s just an old-school no-thrills store offering Hong Kong-style cuts ($180) and shaves ($190). Inside, you’ll be sat down, given a copy of the South China Morning Post and a cup of Chinese tea while the barber gets to work on your hair.
15 Fl Sam Cheong Building, 216-220 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan, 2526-2474. Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-7pm. facebook.com/CalinaBarberShop.
Thug Barbershop is a rather handsome edition to this old school neighborhood, which the owner chose specifically for its unique restaurants and atmosphere. His 10th floor factory store, decked out with Guns N Roses pictures, vintage paintings and his Gibson 1960’s classic, requires entry via a fireman’s lift down a small alleayway on How Ming Street. The man behind it all is Don, a hairdresser turned barber who’s been cutting hair for more than 8 years both here in Hong Kong and for our laid-back friends down under in Brisbane. His only wish: To leave men feeling like cool gentlemen upon exiting his shop. A cut-throat shave comes at $100 on top of a $200 cut which includes a wash, cut, hot towel neck shave, finish and customer’s choice of sake or wine with a side of B.B. King on record.
10th Flr How Ming Factory Building, How Ming Street, Kwun Tong, 9601-2194. Open daily 12pm-9pm. facebook.com/thugbarber