The Royal Treatment with Penhaligon’s
A Cunning Plan…
On Thursday this week, Penhaligon’s were kind enough to invite me along to their store in Canary Wharf, which sees a return back to their roots by teaming up with Jack the Clipper to offer a barber service. The last time Penhaligon’s had a barbershop was back at their point of inception in 1870. Over the years, their prowess in perfume meant that the hairdressing component of their heritage was slowly phased out.
Not so any more. The match between Penhaligon’s and Jack the Clipper is an interesting one. The perfumer being of royal warrants and largely very traditional in its branding would initially appear to be at odds with the progressive, edgy and oft’ humorous Jack the Clipper.
I actually think Penhaligon’s have a cunning plan. They have recently re-vamped their stores to bring a contemporary touch to a traditional elegance (I should work in marketing). Could it be, perhaps, that Penhaligon’s are trying to draw in and appeal to a younger audience?
If this is the case, suddenly their partnership in Canary Wharf with Jack the Clipper makes sense – use the youth and exuberance of a modern barbers (with traditional heritage) to help qualify Penhaligon’s new ‘image’ and bring in a younger customer. Smart move.
Royal Treatment Fit for a King
So, after a full day of work, I arrived (late) and pretty flustered to my 7pm appointment for the Royal treatment – a hair cut & style, shave, facial and massage – and was led to my throne for the next hour or so.
Some of you may have read my review for Quintessentially on the Neville Salon at the Bulgari Hotel. Their barbers was fantastic, but quite a different proposition to the one at Penhaligon’s. Rather than the stoic and near-monastic affair at the Bulgari, Jack the Clipper are altogether more… ‘friendly’. We were able to have a laugh and a joke, and generally chat a bit. Moreover, he was quite willing to offer advice as to how best to style my hair and my beard to better accentuate my features. I took his advice – given that he’s the expert – and provided that he didn’t give me a mohawk was quite happy to put myself in his (very capable) hands.
Making the Best of What You’ve Got
I have curly hair. I used to hate it when I was young, and now really rather like it. (Sometimes I miss my huge Sideshow Bob mane that I had when I was a bartender. It was resplendent.) The barber advised that it would make sense to slightly grade the hair around my ears into the side of my head to give more of a shape and a lasting tidiness. He further advised that we cut the point at which my beard greets my hair slightly shorter to accentuate my cheek bones.
I won’t go into too much detail about my hair cut beyond that, other than suffice to say: it looked good. I would never have asked for or tried his ideas to better shape my hair and bring out my features had he not suggested them. Sometimes it’s good to just completely give control to someone who you trust will have your best interest at heart. It paid off.
Onto the star of the show – the shave. If you ever want to get as close as you can to feeling reborn, get a proper hot-towel straight-razor shave.
Starting off with a quick facial massage with Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet balm (a great fragrance, unusual in its lack of heart notes, but with a massive initial hit of lavender and a spicy citrus that Penhaligon’s say is lemon and lime, but I thought more reminiscent of coriander with a touch of cardamom), it was then time for the hot towel. Arguably the best bit, I was left there, a mummified head with just my massive nose poking out for air, to relax while the barber prepared the shaving soap.
The shaving portion was pretty quick, given that most of my face is taken up by beard which I am told by my good lady-wife, under no uncertain terms, that I am not to remove under pains of divorce. Put simply, without it, I look like a boy-child Leo Sayer. It’s not a strong look. With it, I could even be mistaken as handsome. Or at least rugged. Maybe.
Out comes the next hot-towel, and while I sit there I get my arms and hands massaged.
I could get used to this.
Finally then, freed once again from my ethereal head-cocoon (I do talk rubbish sometimes), it was time for a quick face mask and I was good to go.
The Last Word
Enthusiasm is Infectious
All in all, a wonderful experience. The genuine highlight for me was the quality of the staff, both the barber and the Penhaligon’s shop. They really looked like they enjoyed being there and loved what they did (in fact, the barber told me as much). This sort of enthusiasm was infectious, and we were all making fun of each other by the end of it.
If You’ve Got it, Flaunt It
My one gripe – maybe recommendation is a better word – is that the shop could do a bit more to accentuate and delineate the barbers area. At the moment in the store an open-backed shelf serves to separate the room, but I think there’s scope to do a lot more. It’s a fantastic service and Penhaligon’s should be doing everything they can to make it stand out – especially if they want it to be a credible offering to appeal to the younger generation.
I recognise that absolutely it should look integrated with the rest of the store, and that it should not look like a Jack the Clipper concession inside the shop. Some subtly different lighting, an alternative flooring (maybe wood to the tile of the main shop floor), and maybe a light tint to the window looking out onto the arcade all would serve to make more of a feature of the barbers.
So, the verdict? Excellent – really. I loved the atmosphere, the skill of the barber was unimpeachable and as would be expected, the quality of the products (being Penhaligon’s) were brilliant. Would I go again? Oh yes – admittedly Canary Wharf can be a bit of a pain to get to, but it’s really worth making the trip.
Penhaligon’s & Jack the Clipper at Canary Wharf
The Royal Treatment – £64 for 60 minutes
250 Cabot Square