By Sheela Sarvananda
Feroze Mcleod is one cool cat, and there's no denying it.
Tattooed from his neck all the way down to his fingers (that's just what you see at first glance, mind you), and taking a little while to warm up while you chat, he is no easy mark. Let's just get that squared away right from the start.
The pan-Asian businessman, 25, hails from New Zealand and Singapore both. He owns Hounds of the Baskervilles, a barbershop and tattoo/piercing spot rolled into one.
Situated in Bali Lane, right in the heart of the gazetted conservation area of Kampong Glam, it is fast acquiring an underground buzz as a gem worth paying attention to. This is not in the least for the quality of service and work, but also due to the unique setting it offers clients. If you are looking for an unsurpassed experience when it comes to getting a haircut, shave, tattoo or piercing (all at one go, if you are so inclined) then you need not look any further, for you have found the right place.
When you meet Mcleod at his shop, you feel as if you have stepped back in time. Hounds of the Baskervilles — which is eponymously named after the crime novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — has a turn-of-the-century feel about it.
Rich, dartmouth-green walls, a brick-inlay feature wall and wood-panelling all come together to create a 1900s feel; a plush tufted leather sofa a deep shade of bistre brown is positioned behind the authentic 1950s Takara vintage two-chair station in the front.
Paintings and pictures of the original influences of old Hollywood and vintage tattoos take up prime real-estate on the walls, adding to the authentic, time-honoured feel of the place. A tattoo and piercing room in the back sets the stage as well; as you take in everything, the soft whirring of a tattoo machine in the background and some old jazz and blues piped over the system lull you into a sense of relaxation almost. Time stops and you are transported back to a different time and place — revisiting the old whilst juxtaposing it with modern-day expertise and technology.
Mcleod himself is true to form. He is a dapper sort of fellow, wearing a long-sleeved shirt rolled up to his forearms, waistcoat, trousers and a trilby set squarely on his head, with an upturned mustache to pull the whole look together. You would almost expect him to be walking with a cane in hand as he comes up to say hello. But while he greets you with a firm handshake and a smile, his demeanour immediately signals he's not a guy you want to mess with — least of all because of the razor he will most likely be carrying on his person when he greets you.
Have no fear though — although intense and measured, he is amiable and generous in sharing his passion for his work with you. And the blade on hand is most likely a Feathercut razor, the best in the business for a clean shave. This works out well, as Mcleod is supporting the Movember movement this month — a month-long charity initiative where men are encouraged to grow mustaches to raise awareness for prostate cancer. He spoke about his commitment to the cause.
"We're one of the only places that does a hot-towel shave and the campaign for this year is 'Movember and Sons'. It is sort of like a father-and-son movement. And since my dad and I are always at the shop, I thought it was perfect for us to be involved. I've heard about Movember for the longest time, because coming from New Zealand and Australia, it is really big there. So I knew exactly what they were all about and I was more than happy to help in any way that I could."
The Movember campaign has now passed the 1-million registration mark worldwide, no small feat and a telling milestone in the movement's eight-year history. Singapore and Hong Kong rank among the top 10 in fund-raising efforts and to date, over S$42 million has been raised globally.
Greg Rafferty, country manager for Movember in Asia, said, "Men who sport Movember moustaches effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November and through their actions and words, raise funds and much needed awareness. Prostate cancer is ranked as one of the top causes for cancer among men — it's about time we had the male equivalent to the pink ribbon for breast cancer."
At Hounds of the Baskervilles, the team of bespoke artists plying their various trades are on board to support the cause célèbre. Mcleod and his team have been chosen to do the official shaves, at the beginning and end of the month. If you choose to partake, know that it's the old-school approach that will be on the table as the team takes care of you, with a traditional hot-towel shave.
First, you are seated back in your chair and a hot towel is placed on your face. This opens up the pores and softens the hairs. A shaving mug with hot water sits close by, in which a badger brush is soaking.
Once soft, the brush is dipped in a range of shaving soaps and creams and then lathered onto your face. Mcleod twists the brush, using it to tease the face, so that the foam gets right between the hairs. Then, with a few deft moves, he uses a straight razor to shave with the grain, and then against it, for a holistic and thorough shave.
After this is done, another hot towel goes on, and the client is fanned down in the process. Thereafter, a cold towel is placed on the face to close the pores.
To round it all up, aftershave is slapped on to disinfect and finish off the shave, with a flourish.
Revisiting the old traditions is not unfamiliar waters for Mcleod. He says his eclectic influences run the gamut from old films to tattoo artists like the famed Sailor Jerry and tattooists working in the sideshows and circuses of the past. To him, melding the old and the new makes sense and speaks to how he sees the world as well.
"For my tattooing, we have done it with an engraving machine that was invented by Thomas Edison in the late 1800s. And the artwork that I put on people still uses the same motifs as a hundred years ago — but I'm also using modern technology and knowledge that we've learnt over the past 100 years to perfect that. Everything we do here is classic and it's just because of modern technology that it can look good and will last. Instead of trying to make something new and imperfect, why don't we just perfect something that's been around for so long, you know what I mean?"
He says it best, perhaps, and with only a glint of a smile, "We set the mood so that they know that it is a luxury and it is like a little masculine spa, you know what I mean? You are getting a facial, don't try to run away from that. And the only thing masculine about it is that your facial is done with a knife."
In the book The Hound of the Baskervilles, a mythical hellhound is suspected of wreaking havoc on all and sundry. But it stays in the shadows, just beyond grasp, and the only sign of its existence is what it leaves in its wake. With Mcleod's establishment, you have the same sort of mystery attached. You don't quite know what to expect when you step into Hounds of the Baskervilles, but there is the promise of an experience you won't soon forget — as long as you are willing to embrace the unknown and unfamiliar.
You walk in, hang your hat up at the door and sit right down. Who knew you could take it back to the past, to come out looking so present? Like the proverbial mythical namesake in the novel, Mcleod and his team might raise a little hell — but it's far from a dog's life.
For more on Hounds of the Baskervilles, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HoundsOfTheBaskervilles.