By the time Jessica Jay put a straight razor to my neck, I was already slipping into a fully reclined state of stress-melting bliss. During my pre-shave ritual, Jay had combined facial massage, cleansing balm, and a lemongrass-infused hot towel with a Clippers game on the flat screen and a Roy Orbison ballad filling the cool space between the hardwood floors and high ceilings of a subtly elegant brick-and-mortar storefront. As Jay’s experienced hand eased finely honed Japanese steel through the hot lather softening my graying stubble, I imagined that if I ever decided to step foot inside a man spa (or whatever they’re called), this is the sort of treatment I’d get.
That’s what third-generation Santa Barbaran Richie Ramirez had in mind when he started to bring aboard female barbers not long after opening shop in 2010. The first was Lauren Rundquist, who apprenticed at Richie’s while commuting to barber college in Los Angeles. “I like to make men look good,” she told me during my traditional Father’s Day shave a few years back. Women barbers have a great sense of style, added Ramirez, 37, who worked under Matt Sanchez at Montecito Barbers for five years before stepping out on his own. “They can look at you and just know what’s going to work.”
I took that matter-of-fact announcement to heart as Jay uprighted the chair and asked me how I’d like my hair, which was about seven weeks gone and the texture of a Brillo Pad. It’s all yours, I told her, just not too short. And with that, I slowly reentered the known universe, sipping complimentary coffee and catching up on the Clippers.
Done and done, a shave and a haircut at Richie’s Barber Shop in Montecito (1187 Coast Village Road, Montecito;  845-9701) — or Richie’s Annex, inside Wolf’s Head men’s clothing store downtown (432 State Street;  722-2383) — takes about 90 luxurious minutes. Appointments are recommended.