Truefitt & Hill Ultimate Comfort Shaving Cream
January 9, 2006
I hate Vegas — god, how I hate Vegas — but I love the Forum Shops at Caesar’s. Specifically, the new multi-level wing they just put in a little over a year ago. If ever Vegas had a mitigating factor, this is it.
There’s Il Mulino, the best restaurant in Vegas (after Baja Fresh), and Vosges Chocolates, and Penhaligon’s, the venerated British perfume house with the impossibly elegant upper crust colognes that all smell like James Bond’s bollocks.
I was in Vegas for CES last week, so as soon as I got my fill of the non-news this year’s show had just oodles of, I cut out and headed over to Caesar’s Forum Shops to decompress. And as I always do, I stopped by the Truefitt & Hill shop in Caesar’s.
For those of you who haven’t been, the Truefitt’s shop in Vegas is a shavegeek’s paradise, with a full selection of shaving creams, razors, brushes, and leather shaving kits in the front, and an old-school barbershop in the back done up in dark wood and overstuffed leather barber chairs where Truefitt’s master barbers dish out straight razor shaves you have to experience to believe. This is where I got the closest shave of my life last year (and at $65 a pop, you bet your ass I wanted bone to show), and where the straight razor shave is so pampering and relaxing that most guys nod off in the middle.
My pal Daphne runs the joint, and before I left she gave me a tub of Truefitt’s new “Ultimate Comfort” shaving cream to try. She said it was a very different kind of cream than Truefitt’s traditional mainstays like West Indian Limes, Trafalgar, and 1805, and that it was part of a whole new line of men’s grooming products aimed at younger guys who want high-end wetshaving without the strongly scented products us older shavegeeks love so dearly.
Now, this is the part I don’t get. Truefitt apparently did some research and found that young men prefer unscented products when it comes to shaving, so that’s why the new Ultimate Comfort shaving cream is mostly unscented (I say mostly because it does have a bit of lavender essential oil, so there’s a pleasant but extremely subtle lavender note way down there — about a 1 on the volume control compared to traditional lavender creams like Taylor, Harris).
The thing is, every young guy I run into smells so strongly of CK1, Axe, Polo, Joop, or whatever the hell other godawful mall men’s counter crap they’re into that I just find it hard to believe these same guys would shy away from scented shaving creams. Hell, I wore Obsession too, back when I was a 20-something idjut. It’s what young guys do. We think a spicy, piercing spoor is going to get us laid, and if memory serves, it did. Nowadays that stuff smells like paint thinner to me, but back then I thought I smelled, um, doable. Ah, youth.
Really, if a younger guy somehow wears cologne that’s actually subtle and elegant, he’s probably like my 5th grade friend Henry whose parents were in their 60s when they had him so he had a haircut like Dagwood and wore cardigans and loafers and said things like “If Stassen hadn’t given his delegates to Ike, Taft would’ve taken this country back to the horse and buggy”. I mean, it’s not normal for young guys to wear grown-up scents. The jackass years are meant to be spent acting, looking, and smelling like a jackass. That’s why they’re called the jackass years. It’s a stupid, smelly period in a man’s life. So why Truefitt & Hill thinks young guys don’t want scented shaving cream is beyond me.
All jackass theorizing aside, the new Ultimate Comfort cream is an interesting animal. It’s a whole different thing than Truefitt’s classic shaving creams, which are thicker, drier, and more dense. The Ultimate Comfort cream is what I call “new-school” — creamier and “wetter” than the traditional English creams like Trumper, Taylor, and Truefitt, less about soaps and artifical colorants and fragrances, and more about essential oils and skin-friendliness. Nancy Boy’s excellent shaving cream comes to mind as the standard-bearer of this new breed, and I’d add the brushless Cremo Cream to the group as well.
The new-school shaving creams are creamier than their forebearers and much easier to lather with — they’re practically halfway there right out of the tub, so you don’t get that newbie learning curve that drives so many budding shavegeeks nuts as they flail around trying to get the water-to-cream ratio right in order to make lather with a shaving brush that’s not so runny it drips down your chest, but not so dry it doesn’t lube your skin.
The new Truefitt’s cream comes in a grey plastic jar that’s a dead ringer for the white plastic jar Nancy Boy comes in, and sure enough, when I flipped them both over, they have identical markings and molding on the bottoms of the tubs. Truefitt’s version is grey with raised “TRUEFITT & HILL” lettering around the edge of the lid, and the cream is made in Canada, while Nancy Boy’s is made in the Bay Area. Sourcing its new cream from Canada is a radical move for Truefitt & Hill, England’s oldest barbershop and one of the most tradition-minded of the old-school English shaving firms. All of their classic shaving creams are made in the UK by Creighton’s, which also makes Trumper’s, Taylor’s, Harris’s, and most of the other old-school English brands.
Daphne told me that the Ultimate Comfort cream has more glycerin than Truefitt’s old-school creams, and sure enough, when you crack the lid, the cream positively glistens. The formula is more “pure” as well, with no colorants or perfumes, just a touch of lavender essential oil to soothe the skin and add a bit of scent to the cream. This is the kind of shaving cream the Fisher King would like a lot, I’m guessing. He’s a champion of the new-school, skin-friendly creams like Nancy Boy and especially Shaving Gallery, which happens to have a very similar formula to the new Truefitt’s cream.
I’m right there with Fish. I love some of the old-school English creams (you can have my Trumper’s Violet, Taylor’s Avocado, and Harris’s Lavender when you pry my cold, dead fingers from around them), but these new-school creams really spoil you for anything else. I’ve been using Nancy Boy for weeks now and it just blows me away how astonishingly excellent this moderately priced shaving cream is. It practically bursts into full-blown lather by the time you bring the brush up to your face, shaves like a dream, and leaves my skin feeling soft and moisturized instead of dry and tight the way many of the old-school creams do.
The new Truefitt cream reminds me a lot of Nancy Boy — it’s a very similar shave, but without the NB’s strong lavender/peppermint.rosemary scent. You just get a subtle whiff of lavender, way down there in the mix. The shave itself is right up there with Nancy Boy’s — instant perfect lather, all the lubrication you’d ever want, and afterward my face feels great. If my skin felt a tad less moisturized then when I shave with Nancy Boy, it was a very slight difference. For all practical purposes, these two creams (I haven’t tried Shaving Gallery’s yet) give the same kind of shave. If you love Nancy Boy but wish it came in a (mostly) unscented version with just a soupcon of lavender, Truefitt’s Ultimate Comfort is what you’re wishing for.
Now, Truefitt’s new cream does cost around double what Nancy Boy’s does — $22 plus $8.13 for UPS shipping to my address on the East Coast, while Nancy Boy’s cream is $13.60 and you get free shipping with orders over $25, which is easy to do if you peruse the rest of their line. On price alone, Nancy Boy’s the clear winner.
But I know a lot of repressed shavegeeks who just aren’t down with the whole Nancy Boy schtick, and wouldn’t be caught dead using a shaving cream designed by a gay couple in San Francisco and based on the lavender, peppermint, and rosemary they grow in their herb garden outside their apartment, where, I think it’s safe to assume, a man makes love to another man. It’s not exactly Sir Winston saving the world between brandies and Romeo y Julietas, which is the template lots of shavegeeks have in their mind when it comes to wetshaving. It’s all Churchill all the time, not “Brokeback Shaving”. So for these guys who just can’t get with Nancy Boy, at least they can get the same kind of new-school shaving cream from Churchill’s own favored brand.
I really like Truefitt & Hill’s new Ultimate Comfort shaving cream. This is my kind of cream. In fact, I prefer it to Truefitt’s old-school creams — especially in these dry winter months, my skin is much happier with creams like the Ultimate Comfort and Nancy Boy than it is with many of my favorite old-school creams. It’s a nice surprise to see an old-school English shaving firm with such a long, hallowed history as Truefitt & Hill adapt to the times and deliver a new-school shaving cream that’s in many ways superior to its own classic products. Highly recommended.