Interview: Truefitt & Hill

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Joanna Broughton, Director of Truefitt & Hill in London

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Truefitt & Hill Barbershop in London

As a traditional shaver, you are probably very familiar with Truefitt & Hill. Given the title of the ‘Oldest Barbershop in the World’ by the Guinness Book of World Records, Truefitt & Hill is one of the most respected and long-storied wet shaving companies in existence.

Founded in 1805 by wigmaker, barber, and perfumer Francis Truefitt, the company’s history encompasses a long list of Royal Warrants, starting with King George III and continuing today with H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, as well as distinguished historical figures like Winston Churchill and Lord Byron, who were regulars.

Today, we sit down with Joanna Broughton, Director of Truefitt & Hill in London, to take you behind the brand and reveal some interesting, lesser known spots in the company’s history. From the incorporation of Truefitt & Hill into the British lexicon – ever heard of the expression, “right as a trivet”? That’s a corruption of ‘Truefitt’ – to the development of the first commercially produced lipstick by Truefitt’s chemists, we believe you’ll learn something new about this legendary brand.

Enjoy!

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Truefitt & Hill has an incredibly rich history. Can you tell us the story of how it began?

There is no question that Truefitt’s history is rather impressive. In fact, in April 2000 the company was awarded the title of the ‘Oldest Barbershop in the World’ by Guinness Book of World Records! It all began when Francis Truefitt opened his doors for trade on the 21st of October, 1805 in fashionable Mayfair, on the day of the Battle at Cape Trafalgar.

While King George III sat on England’s throne, he appointed Truefitt as Court Wig Maker. It wasn’t until 1935 that Truefitt acquired Edwin Hill’s salon and they merged businesses, moving to an enlarged premise on Old Bond Street. Truefitt offered London’s gentry a new level of service unsurpassed anywhere in the world, featuring exceptional products and barbering services.

The company also has long-standing royal ties, which started with a Royal Warrant from King George III. How does it feel having maintained such prestigious recognition?

We feel exceptionally honored to have maintained our Royal Warrant status. Truefitt & Hill currently are Royal Warrant holders to H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh. Today’s product offerings reflect over 200 years of research, knowledge, and experience which we are proud to be able to build upon, while we continue providing services and superior grooming products to a discerning modern male who is aware of the advantages of always putting his best face forward.

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Truefitt & Hill’s famous colognes

What was Truefitt & Hill’s first product, and how did it come about?

Truefitt opened its doors in 1805 as a barber, perfumer, and wigmaker. So the very first products were shaving preparations, fragrances, and wigs. In fact, Truefitt’s reputation as a very talented wigmaker soon earned him the customer of King George III. Since Truefitt’s wigs were so well made, they were indeed fit for the king himself! It was the perfect fit of Truefitt’s wigs in the bygone days that gave the rise to the English phrase, “right as a trivet,” which was a corruption of ‘Truefitt’!

Indeed, if anything was a perfect fit, it was as right as Truefitt’s wig. The pioneering spirit of Truefitt’s innovative past has influenced not only male grooming trends, but has also given birth to ladies’ hairdressing salons! It was Truefitt who, in 1870, opened the very first ladies’ salon at 23 Old Bond Street. This fashionable establishment was an instant success and numerous literary quotes confirm Truefitt’s status as the hairdresser of choice for fashionable aristocratic ladies and for Queen Victoria herself! Graced by Her Majesty’s favor and driven by an increasing demand, Truefitt commenced commercial production of toiletries in 1875. What’s more, it also appears that the first commercially produced lipstick was developed by Truefitt’s chemists!

In 1900, C.A.R. Lotion was formulated after a barrage of requests from members of the Royal Automobile Club (R.A.C.), who sought a solution to the problem of unruly and windswept hair caused by travel in their new, open automobiles that were driven at the alarming speeds of 20 miles an hour! The product is still a firm favorite today.

Some of your fragrances, like West Indian Limes and Spanish Leather, date as far back as the early 1800’s. Why do you think these scents have persisted in popularity with customers?

Truefitt fragrances have indeed stood the test of time as they continue in their popularity. We have a wide selection of scents which appeal to a wide spectrum of tastes, and the addition of new colognes is very carefully thought out to ensure they complement the current fragrance selection. The latest addition to our repertoire of fragrances is Apsley, a distinctive and captivating fragrance which already enjoys great popularity!

West Indian Limes draws on our rich heritage and traces its origins to an Imperial Bouquet, which was specially blended for Queen Victoria by Truefitt’s perfumers in 1876 to celebrate her crowning as Empress of India. This enchanting fragrance was re-orchestrated in 1989 with great success, making it one of Truefitt’s most popular, classic scents. It remains to this day a favourite with British Royalty.

Spanish Leather, on the other hand, is one of the oldest in Truefitt’s stable, with the original formulation dating back to around 1814, during a time when all of England was waiting with great anticipation for any news from Spain regarding the British military campaign that was at the time being led by the gallant Arthur Wellesley (later the 1st Duke of Wellington) in the Peninsular War. This rich, but subtle blend of woody, leathery and spicy notes, which truly captures the spirit of old Granada and Castile, was extensively re-orchestrated in 2001, bringing it firmly into the 2nd millennium. It has become a favourite with stylish men who enjoy a touch of nostalgia.

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A Truefitt barber performing a wet shave

What do you take into consideration when developing a new product?  

The necessity of staying relevant at all times to the changing needs of the modern man is the key to Truefitt’s enduring success. New ranges of products are regularly launched to cater not only to the latest fashion and grooming trends, but also to stay in the forefront of product innovation, utilizing the latest advancements in product formulations.

What do you believe makes Truefitt & Hill products distinctive?

Our heritage. With over 200 years of experience and refinement, we have been able to adjust formulations to ensure the best quality possible for all skin types. Our shaving creams, for example, have a high level of glycerin in their composition, which ensures a protective shave with a full lather and minimal application.

Our balms are non-oily and non-greasy but have moisturizing ingredients to replenish the skin post shave, leaving a smooth, clean finish. Our Ultimate Comfort unscented line offers sensitive skin or allergenic gentleman a superior product without irritation. The line includes our very fine pre-shave oil, which only requires a few drops to still allow a close shave (most oils are too thick). We feel privileged to be able to offer every gentleman a product suitable for them with an outstanding result.

What is one Truefitt & Hill product every man should own and why?

Our shaving creams are exemplary, as are our balms. A superior shave and healthy, clean skin exude confidence. A little goes a long way with all our products.

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Truefitt & Hill’s storefront is a wet shaver’s paradise

What new products can we expect from Truefitt & Hill in the future?

We are very pleased to announce that our new cologne will be launching in the next couple of weeks in North America (it has already launched in the UK), called “Apsley”. This cologne was named after the iconic London landmark and former residence of the 1st Duke of Wellington, and has been formulated to ignite the senses with a refined blend of smouldering woods accentuated by light citrus notes. The harmonious overtones of woody vetiver are lifted with a refreshing essence of grapefruit, and are accentuated by notes of pepper. Its heart of cedarwood and patchouli, enriched by sensual notes of musk, gives an alluring base to this captivating fragrance.

Apsley shaving cream and bath & shower gel are to follow.

We have also recently launched new beard products, including a beard oil and a beard balm, as well as a moustache wax to offer a wider range to those who wish to maintain their facial hair.

We have 5 new traditional hair dressings that just launched:  Limnol, Freshman Friction, Monte Carlo with Oil, Athenian Water, and Eau de Portugal to add to our hair management products.

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Where can readers find out more about your company?

We will have an updated historical brochure available online on all our websites in coming months, as we are in the process of updating with our new offerings. Any questions may be addressed to info@truefittandhill.com.

Learn more about Truefitt & Hill on their website. Follow Truefitt & Hill on Facebook and Instagram.

Shop Truefitt & Hill at RoyalShave.

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