Superlist: Hot shaves

Pub date March 26, 2008

Oh, the beard. You’ve seen it all over the city on all kinds of faces. It’s both the Scandinavian overgrowth of a hipster on a fixie and the trimmed-up, yuppified smarm of the suit sitting next to you on the 47. The bald 43-year-old in the Ozzfest T-shirt: he wears the hell out of it in an attempt to distract attention from his retired scalp.

We love it. Eventually, though, it starts to itch or begins to rub your significant other the wrong way. Here’s your answer: ooh, the hot shave. Many barbers will tell you they no longer perform this time-consuming yet important service. But the following will gladly and skillfully remove your chinstrap and leave you feeling smooth again.

A shave is a bit pricier at the Art of Shaving (845 Market, SF; 415-541-9801,, located inside the Westfield Mall, than at a typical barber shop. Last shave starts at 8:30 p.m., so they’re great in a pinch.

Everything, including your shave, seems to cost $16 at Asano (3312 Sacramento, SF; 415-567-3335), an appointment-only hole in the wall off Presidio Ave. With only one or two chairs going at any given time in this tiny space, you’d better call ahead.

Say bye-bye in style to last year’s neck-beard trend at the Barber Lounge (854 Folsom, SF; 415-934-0411, With two barbers on deck, including San Francisco Barber College graduate Rick Cortezzo, this self-described "ultrahip" full-service salon in an artsy SoMa loft can provide all the requisite new-school pamper while giving you a hot-towel shave that would make Gramps proud.

Dwayne Robinson, founder and executive director of Bayview Barber College (4912 Third St., SF; 415-822-3300,, teaches his young pupils everything they need to know to pass the state exam, with a five-hour evaluation that includes a practical on the hot shave. On top of such fundamentals as foot position, lather control, the 14-stroke sequence, and the all-important hot-towel finish, Dwayne stresses the importance of a polished customer-service approach to all aspects of the barbering craft. You can come in and get a super-affordable shave from one of his students any time after 10 a.m., when class instruction ends. Stick around for the joke-cutting and some half-reliable dating tips.

Ask for Victor at Exchange (435 Pine, SF; 415-781-9658). He’s the only one who performs the hot shave at this classic establishment, which is built into the side of a downtown Pine Street slope. Barber rumor has it that Victor’s shaves are the best in the city, so it’s probably worth the wait.

Founders Kumi Walker and Sean Heywood designed MR. (560 Sacramento, SF; 415-291-8800, as a high-end local service for the manly needs of Financial District execs and other fine gents. Featuring huge plasma TVs, a shoeshine bench, plush seating, and a full-service bar, MR. provides its clientele with all the trappings of an upscale lounge. Though one-off shave arrangements can be made, MR. also offers a monthly membership, at a steep price, in exchange for 24 hours’ worth of styling service.

Ask your Mission bartender, he’ll tell you that at Willy’s (3227 22nd St., SF; 415-826-2344) they still do things the old way: a close shave, a nice hot towel, and good conversation. Although Willy no longer runs the shop, this spot is a surefire bet, and walk-in friendly.

The newly remodeled space at Sunset Barber Service (1374 Ninth Ave., SF; 415-564-4744) feels like home, what with its hardwood floors, finished counters, warm color scheme, and "mature" reading material. Jay and his father have been running this neighborhood outlay for 40 years and have seen all the fads come and go: the Faux Manchu, the Lonely Mennonite, the Mandlebar, and let us all wistfully recall the Amorous Marine.