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  • Beard Tales: From Alexander the Great to President Lincoln

    Here at Neville, we might shine a light on the skills of the sure-eyed barber and insist on the very best products for shaving at home. But we’re not all about the clean shaven. The merits of a good beard hold our attention too.

    Despite our penchant for a well-groomed visage, we can’t deny modern man’s love affair with covered chops. In recent times, well-kept facial hair – from neatly trimmed sideburns to waxed and curled moustaches – have made a comeback, scything down out-dated clichés of lumberjacks and wild men with haloed-haired hair-rimmed grins.

    The beard is back – and with it, a heady (and hairy) history. The truth is, as hyperbole as it may sound, beards can win you elections or lose you wars.

    Alexander the Great knew all too well the importance of the beard, or more precisely, the military advantage of not having one. During the conqueror’s reign (356 – 323 BC), the Great encouraged his soldiers to remain clean shaven, insuring the enemy didn’t grab their hair and gain an advantage in hand-to-hand combat.

    Others, such as 17th and 18th century pirate Blackbeard (Edward Teach), saw an opportunity to exploit their facial locks. The infamous pirate, already feared for his heinous acts, would strike terror into his seafaring foes by placing lit candles or fuses amongst his facial fur. Smoke would bellow out from within his black thicket playing up the idea that Mr Teach was one of Satan’s favourite demons.

    If military men such as Alexander the Great and Blackbeard understood the impact of facial hair on the battleground, statesmen have understood its prominence on the political landscape as well.

    During Julius Caesar’s reign of the Roman Empire (100-44BC), men would rid their face of hairs by strenuous plucking and the use of homemade depilatories. Ingredients included goat’s gall, bat’s blood and powdered viper. Something you won’t find in our products, gladly. But Wwhen Roman Emperor Hadrian (76-138AD) took to the throne,, shaving (which had been the norm since Julius Caesar’s reign) suddenly became out-dated as men all over the land mimicked their new leader’s look. Hadrian’s beard was no style statement however.

    Through his beard, Hadrian associated himself with Greek culture – where a beard was commonplace – and in doing so subliminally declared to his intellectual followers his desire to grow ties with the great democratic thinkers of Greece. An act which swiftly made its imprint on Roman fashion, as every subsequent Emperor until Constantine the Great (272-337AD) bearded up.

    It is perhaps no surprise that an entire culture can influence one man’s grooming habits – think long-haired hippies of the sixties. But can the same be said of one solitary correspondence with a stranger?

    On October 15, 1860, the clean shaven Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln received a letter from 11 year-old Grace Bedell. The young fan wrote: “If you let your whiskers grow… I will try and get the rest of them (talking of her four brothers) to vote for you… All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”

    Lincoln , who was running for President of the United States at the time, replied to Bedell four days later asking the little girl: “As to the whiskers… dDo you not think people would call it a silly affection if I were to begin it now?”

    Less than a month later, Lincoln had swept to power becoming the 16th President of the United States. The young girl had clearly swayed the great man, as photographs of his early presidential days show him with a beard. The next eleven presidents, bar one, would sport fur.

    Facial hair may come and go, cut down by the gliding kiss of the razor, but so to do grooming fashions; worn thin by the trends of the time, removed and grown back again, at the call of a military leader or at the whim of a little girl. The tale of the beard, so it seems, is far from over.

  • Barber Bio #1: Jason Hecker

    Our barbers have been busy getting to know the members at Shoreditch House through Barber & Parlour, a unique grooming space on the fourth floor but we thought it was high time the rest of the world begins to put a face to the talented men and women putting Neville into practice.

    Meet Jason Hecker, South African born this handsome fellow brings some of the finest barbering skills with him to his role specialising in luxurious shaves and precision cutting. As far as we're concerned there is nothing Mr Hecker can't handle.

    His story is simple... After completing a degree at the South African National School of Photography he turned his talents towards shooting for a top modelling agency.
    It was through this that he discovered his passion for hair. Studying at the Carlton Hair Academy he learnt the art of men's and women's hair cutting and styling.

    From this he really tuned in to the needs of the modern male; "I felt at the time the modern male needed more in grooming with traditional techniques, such as wet shaves and old school precision barbering". A man after our own hearts here at Neville Jason is focused on the refinement of the past mixed with the performance of the present.

    After realising a need to make men look their best he decided to travel to London.   Jason has continued  to excel in  barbering and is now an asset at Barber & Parlour, Shoreditch House.

    We look forward to introducing the faces behind Neville as we continue to bring our products and our techniques to the world.

  • Shark teeth and bronze blades: our ancestors and their ancient razors

    At Neville we cherish tradition.

    To us, the act of shaving is a ritual; a cornerstone of what it means to be a man. Don’t get us wrong, we don’t discard the movements of modern grooming circles – far from it. We’re walking that progressive curve, we’re just keeping one foot in the past at the same time.

    We find it fascinating to think how 32,000 years ago our ancestors were shaving their sloping jowls with the same steady hand that we do today. Let’s put that date in context. 32,000 BC – before Japan was inhabited; before the bow and arrow was invented; before the discovery of the Venus of Dolní Věstonice, the oldest known ceramic in the world, Neanderthal man was shaving his face with flint. That’s some heritage.

    Although the removal of hair from the body goes back to 100,000 BC – when seashells were used as rudimentary tweezers – the first indication of shaving can be found in cave drawings some 70,000 years down the line.

    What do these ancient chronicles tell us? That the metal razor of the modern day is a far cry from the Neanderthal’s wash bag. Prehistoric man shaved with clam shells, sharpened and oval-shaped flint and shark teeth.

    Sourcing shark teeth may well have been fitting for a close shave, but as man evolved so to did his grooming habits and the tools used to fulfill them.

    From the Early Bronze Age (about 3300-2200 BC) the development of metal work, as well as pioneering techniques such as smelting and alloying metals, meant that the first copper, iron and even gold razors could be created. In fact, solid gold razors were commonly found in ancient Egyptian tombs as it was believed that kings should be buried with a razor and a barber so that they could be as well-groomed in the afterlife as they were in this one. Whether or not the barber shared this sentiment we’re not so sure, but if ever there was proof that shaving was an act of great importance, surely this is it.

    Further excavations reveal even more opulence. Excavated burial mounds in Denmark, dated between 1500-1200 BC, presented razors found in leather carry cases with carved horse-head handles and mythical murals etched into the bronze blades. Here was the razor taking its rightful place in the pantheon of man’s prized possessions.

    From sharpened clam shells to decorated knives, the humble razor’s beginnings show we’re not so different from our ancestors. As with the act itself, shaving isn't only about following the contours; it’s about being part of them, moving with them, and moving with the times.

  • Meet Neville

    Let's begin by setting the record straight: we've got nothing against the modern metrosexual male. We're as interested in looking our very best as the next man. (We might draw the line at men wearing eyeliner, but that's another story).

    But here's the thing: we want to do our grooming in an unashamedly masculine way. And we don't think we're alone: the recent revival of the classic barbershop only proves that there are some things men like to do in their own company, and quite frankly grooming is one of them.

    You know where you are with a barber's chair and a wooden-handled razor. But there's more to it than that: one thing we love about the old-fashioned approach to male grooming is the pride in the precision; the fact that there's a real art to a proper close shave and its reliance on the very best, time-honoured tools of the trade.

    At Neville we don't like messing with tradition; we just like updating it a bit. And the other thing we love is how good, old-fashioned grooming can just make you feel so damn great. It's no wonder that men are investing more time than ever on their grooming regimes. That little bit of extra time invested, a dab of scrub, a splash of face tonic - they're the things that set you up for the day.

    It's a cut-throat world out there: a man needs to be ready. 

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