By Christopher Luu
Just a little bit off the top? Step into a barbershop today and you won’t get your grandpa’s haircut— but, thankfully, that doesn’t mean tradition has to fall by the wayside. The barbershop remains a place where guys can gather and get polished; some shops have even kept that classic red, white and blue pole spinning out front. But now there’s more style in these familiar institutions than ever before—and we’re not just talking about the hair. Today’s barbershops have evolved into refuges that can include a cocktail or two along with a straight razor shave. Cities across the country are embracing the barbershop’s comeback with the introduction of shops that blend modern amenities and decor with traditional service and, of course, lively banter.
With the rise of the modern man—who understands the importance of a tailored suit and isn’t afraid of a little pampering here and there—guys are stepping up their game and returning to long-held customs in menswear and grooming. Along with word of mouth, social media has played a vital role in the upswing of the contemporary barbershop. Instagram and Facebook are both flush with images of fresh fades, classic cuts and guys getting cleaned up with straight razor shaves. It’s a new way for an old institution to attract a younger customer base.
“Barbers have always been around,” says Faraj Capistrano, master barber and owner of Capistrano Barbershop in Annapolis, Md. “We didn’t realize they had disappeared. Most of our customers leave saying, ‘We didn’t know something like this existed.’ Word of mouth has sparked the barbershop’s revival.”
Located in a city steeped in history, Capistrano Barbershop embraces old-school aesthetics while implementing modern flair. A welcome escape from the bustle of Annapolis’ historic Maryland Avenue, the shop is a coveted destination for men seeking traditional razor shaves and haircuts, not to mention a study in the current barbershop trend. You’ll find no TVs here—instead, conversation is encouraged and there’s plenty to go around in the small space with only four chairs. The business has always been a place where men are able to kick back and be themselves.
“If you are scruffy and come in for the hot towel straight-edge shave, that is 20 minutes of meditation,” Capistrano says. “And if you just need a cleanup and a moment to forget what’s out the door, we take care of the grooming and you can just relax.”
In addition to its basic menu, Capistrano Barbershop is known for its groomsmen package, which allows a groom and his entourage to unwind with refreshments on the day of the wedding, engage in some guy talk and, of course, come out with a clean shave and a fresh cut.
Now an institution on both sides of the country, the Blind Barber has found a different way to get guys to loosen up while they’re spending time in the chair. The shop, which has locations on both coasts (in New York and Los Angeles) offers cuts, shaves and a little something extra: a signature cocktail with every service.
“We take great pride in making our space feel like home, like a hangout,” says co-owner Jeff Laub. “And if everyone feels like it’s their own home, then it just makes the spot and experience that much more natural and organic.”
The barbershop is just one aspect of the Blind Barber. Behind a hidden door, there’s a lounge that serves up one-of-a-kind cocktails and offers a place for guys (and girls) to hang out after a cut. Men may flock to both locations for cuts and shaves during the day, but as soon as the sun goes down, groups of both men and women sneak off to the speakeasy-style back room. Services extend off-site too, because the Blind Barber team is often called upon to groom gentlemen at events for brands like J. Crew and labels participating in New York Fashion Week—testaments to the high standards to which the shop holds itself.
Adding to the experience, the Blind Barber also helps men stay groomed in between visits by offering a line of essentials such as hair wax, aftershave and facial cleanser, which are available online as well as in the store.
Much like the Blind Barber, Harry’s Corner Shop offers a bit more than the conventional cut and shave. The Manhattan outpost, established after shaving accessories company Harry’s introduced a line of razors and shaving cream sold exclusively online, is the brand’s first foray into barbershops, and it’s already become a local hangout. Co-founders Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider have created a unique environment where guys can stop by for a haircut or a shave as clean as the design of the shop—then stay to browse a quality selection of goods to maintain the new look.
“Guys have always had their spaces to have a break from their routine, socialize and meet like-minded people,” Raider says. “The change in recent years has been that it’s becoming increasingly important for guys to look their best and [have] a trusted source for grooming and style advice.”
The spot offers old-school cuts, but Harry’s Corner Shop is rooted firmly in the 21st century, with online booking and iPads used to document your new look. Barbers keep tabs on customer preferences via the company’s personalized iPad app, the Cut Archive, which tracks all customers’ decisions regarding styles and products. The store also carries a range of tech gear such as Geneva portable speakers, brand new Hanes white T-shirts for customers to put on before or after cuts, leather goods from cult favorite Makr and shaving products from Harry’s own line.
“Harry’s creates a lifestyle, and we get to bring it to life at the Corner Shop,” Katz-Mayfield says. “The experience is all about leaving the shop feeling good, looking good and being confident.”
Whether visiting for a simple cleanup, to revel in rooms bedecked with mahogany and leather, or just enjoy some friendly male chatter, guys are flocking to a new wave of barbershops offering the same brand of personalized service that’s made them timeless establishments of masculinity. The shops springing up across the country are giving men a place to relax while being pampered and, perhaps most importantly, no excuse for a scruffy face or bad hair. L