Ever since the goatee craze of the 1990’s, male fashions for facial hair seem set to have one of their most sustained periods of visibility since the nineteenth century as the permeations of a hip hairy face just carry on coming; the full beard, the handlebar, the revival of the Dali moustache, et al.
One would have thought that times were tough those in the business of producing razors fit for producing the clean-shaven, allegedly hygienic slickness that constituted the masculine ideal for much of the twentieth century. However, there will always be many men – or their partners- who simply find unchecked facial hair a monstrosity, abrasive, inconvenient or a little too close to our barbarian roots for comfort.
And there will always be companies producing shaving apparatus to suit their needs.
Some, like the niche brand Hommage, understand that for certain men, it’s not simply a matter of bamboozling the male punter with the latest fads offering crypto-scientific promises of why some new-and-improved razor is so much more effective than anything that came before. Fundamentally, a good razor remains based on the same application of a steel blade to the surface of the skin that has been with us since Roman times. Producing something in plastic that looks like a handheld version of a sports shoe or better suited to putting together flat-pack furniture might take in some with its promises of improved performance. But for many men, the real essence of shaving lies in its ritual, a private moment as grooming in an otherwise frenetic day.
Around for quite some time now, Hommage understood this implicitly. It’s not like the company ignored the more empirical approach to dealing with facial hair. On the contrary, the precise balance of its razors and easy-to-hold broad handle shapes are designed expressly to get in close to the skin. One sees this very clearly in the Monaco razor, the deign that first hurtled famed industrial designer Wolfgang Joensson into the limelight for his new endeavour. It has remained a classic must-have design ever since its first arrival almost thirty years ago.
But, perhaps more importantly, Hommage have understood the importance of good design and aesthetic appeal. Producing a range of luxurious design objects in top-quality metals fits perfectly with the psychology of the ritual for which they are needed. What could feel better than savouring a private grooming moment with only the best design available?
Ironically, though stooped in its appeal as a design object of desire, the Monanco also acquired a reputation for practicality, not only for shaving, but also for traveling: its broad handle tended not to pierce the other contents of one’s washbag in a bulging suitcase.
Monaco’s razors are stocked internationally by a broad range of luxury product stockists and, of course, in Hommage’s own ‘ateliers’, their new concept stores-cum-male grooming service. Hommage razors come in seven different designs. They range from the classic Monaco in its shiny chrome finish to models with knurled or gun metal finishes. Most models remain based on the wide-handled practicality of the original Monaco design whilst some, such as the Madrid, have adapted this to offering a smaller head end to the razor.
Though one could hardly doubt the precision design of Hommage’s razors, the whole offer and feel of the brand shows that, perhaps much more importantly, it understands how a self-image of masculinity is constructed through ritual. It’s there in the way in which it profiles the services of its ateliers and the functions of the other luxury grooming products that it now offers in addition to its razors and shaving sets. Perhaps the subtle underlying psychology of male ritual is most clearly elaborated in the Monaco shaving kit gift set that comes in a handcrafted wooden humidor.