MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California -- Cpl. Carl Provost grew up knowing that he would follow his grandfather and fathers’ footsteps and join the military.
A few years ago, Provost developed a fascination for 50s and 60s dress, music and way of life. This fascination turned into a passion for shaving, what he calls a “gentleman’s art.”
Provost, an automotive mechanic for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, uses a straight razor to shave his own and his friends’ faces and hopes to one day open his own barber shop. In this interview, he tells us a little bit about his passion and why he loves it.
Q: What inspired you to join the Marine Corps?
A: I guess I always knew I was going to be in military my whole life. My grandfather was in the military and so was my dad. So I decided to check out the Marines and went with that. I thought it sounded like more of a challenge. I always thought Marines were first ones in, last ones out. I checked it out to see if it was fate and it just ended up to be fate.
Q: What does your job entail?
A: As [an automotive mechanic] I fix diesel trucks like 7-tons, Humvees, all the trucks like that. I do all the diesel work. I’m pretty much the jiffy lube of the Marine Corps.
Q: How important is your job to the MEU’s mission?
A: My job is actually very important because we need a truck for almost everything we do. Every field exercise or operation, you need a truck. If mechanics weren’t there, then the trucks wouldn’t go anywhere. They say, “If it rolls it goes,” but it’s not rolling if I’m not there.
Q: When did you start straight razor shaving?
A: I picked up straight razor shaving; a gentleman’s art, a couple years ago. I fell out of the hobby for a little bit, but about a year ago I decided to save up for a good razor to get a nice close shave.
Q: What got you started?
A: I got the passion from watching a movie called “Sweeney Todd,” and I also like to listen to a lot of 50’s and 60’s music. It all just kind of fits in with the shaving and the old school style of it all. I started by just putting a straight razor to my face without watching any videos on it, and actually cut myself open a lot.
Q: What did you do to improve?
A: I looked it up on YouTube and learned a few things, and realized what I was doing wrong. I started seeing it as more of an art in how you have to cut certain ways and how much goes into it. I learned how to hone my blade and what different kinds of blades to use. I’ve gotten to the point now that I rarely cut myself and I don’t cut anyone else, without missing any spots.
Q: Why do you like it so much?
A: It’s the class of it. There’s no manlier way to shave your face than using a straight razor. There’s no better way to remind yourself that you’re alive than putting a nice cold sharp razor against your face every morning. I like going to the field and pulling out the blade and sharpening it right there, then putting shaving cream on my face with a brush, taking that razor out and just shaving away. People look at me like, “what is this guy doing?” They say I’m an old man in a 22 year old body. I just like that it’s such an old class thing.
Q: What attracts you to the old school style so much?
A: I just like the look of it, the styles and the way people did things then. I think it started with the music. Just looking older and older, I really liked the 50’s music. Then seeing movies I really like the way they dressed back then, like in the movie Grease.
Q: What was different about shaving back then and shaving now?
A: Just imagine back then, being a 15-year-old kid and your dad’s like, “Alright it’s time to teach you to shave.” It had meaning in it because they were actually shaving with blades. Now, when my dad taught me to shave, he just threw me a razor and some shaving cream and said, “Here, go shave.” It had no meaning to it. I think when I teach my kids, I’ll teach them with a straight razor because it has some father-son bonding in it.
Q: What’s the difference between shaving with a straight razor and shaving with a regular razor?
A: With a straight razor, one mistake and you’ll cut yourself. With a safety razor it’s a lot harder to cut yourself. A straight razor is just a single, straight edge blade that you put your shaving cream on, you use it at a 45-degree angle and just let the blade do the work. If you use it right, your razor can last about a year.
Q: How often do you shave other people’s faces?
A: Marines come to my house on the weekends and they’ll lay in my chair, I’ll tie a bed sheet or towel around them. I’ll play some 50’s music, put a wet towel on their face, put some shaving cream on their face with a brush and start shaving. It’s kind of relaxing for them.
Q: Why do you like shaving other people’s faces?
A: It’s kind of like how a barber shop used to be. Where you walk in, get a shave and maybe a little bit of cologne and a barber haircut. Now people just go to the barber on the weekend and wait in line for a haircut from whoever. I like it where you just call your barber up, maybe once a week, get your nice haircut and talk to them. You can lay back and get a nice shave. Shaving other people, you see how everyone’s hair grows differently and you can see more of the art-side of it.
Q: Do you plan on pursing your passion in the future?
A: I want to bring it on deployment, shave Marines and learn how to do haircuts. I’ve thought about maybe going and getting my barber license and then as a side job, on the weekends, I could be a barber and save people some extra money. I’ve also thought about opening my own old-school barber shop and maybe having a little complimentary shave after their haircuts out in Oceanside. I’d have just a few employees and they’d actually have to know how to straight razor shave. They’d do the Marine haircut and afterward they’d offer a shave for tip only.
For the Warrior Wednesday video on Provost, visit our YouTube page at: http://youtu.be/QWWQgjWgvHM.