Bringin’ Back the Barbershop: Success in Gender-Centric Business
If you’re a fan of AMC’s “Mad Men,” more likely than not, you’re also a fan of the fashionably-dressed and meticulously-groomed ensemble.
Don Draper – fictional character or not – has singlehandedly made the clean-cut, side-parted, slicked-back hairstyle popular again. Things like “combs” and “hair product” have come back into fashion, thankfully. The hairstyle is back. More importantly, the barbershop culture is, too.
You want the “Mad Men” look? You’ll need the haircut to go with it. It’s just as important as the clothing. If you want one, you’ll have to go to the barbershop. Not the salon. The barbershop.
If you’d thought barbershops went the way of Pat Boone and ambrosia salad, think again. There’re some mighty fine barbers at the Belmont Barbershop keeping the tradition alive and well. These guys are doing it right. Recently I was lucky enough to experience it for myself. I’d never been to a legitimate barbershop before. Unashamedly a sentimentalist, I knew I’d like it from the moment I walked in.
There’s no reception desk, nor is there a receptionist. If anything greets you, it’s that trademark smell: shaving cream and aftershave, like the stuff your dad wore. Eau de Manliness. If that doesn’t spell it out for you, the décor [or lack thereof] will. The décor? Old photographs, vintage tin sign, and a couple fine examples of taxidermy. Right from the moment you walk in, you know this joint isn’t even remotely making an attempt to cater to anyone but the male demographic. If you need a cut or a shave, this is your place, and if you need anything else, well…there’s an app for that, so the youngsters say.
If you’ve an appointment, you can just walk right over to your barber’s chair.
If you’re early for your appointment, you can grab a seat on the couch in back and – if you’re so inclined – help yourself to a cold PBR from the fridge.
Early for your appointment? Help yourself to a cold PBR.
If you don’t have an appointment, you’re more than welcome to write your name on the waiting list…but come early. (I’d my haircut at 8AM on a Saturday, and no more than fifteen minutes into my cut, there were already a couple fellas on the waiting list.)
My barber greeted me with a hello and a warm handshake, and after taking a couple minutes to discuss the look I had in mind, it was haircut ‘o clock. Now, if you’ve trouble finding a good hairstyle, or describing what you’d like? Be sure to read my tips at the bottom of this article, guys. Useful stuff.
So, for my purposes, “Tight and tapered on the sides, long and loose up top; a pompadour.”
Only had to say so much as that, and Jesse Lee (my barber) took it from there.
He’ll start with electric clippers to rough-out your look.
Cut with scissors.
Clean-up with a straight razor.
And style it with some old-school product and a comb.
Haircuts for grown-ass men by grown-ass men. Est. 2005.
But what about a Shampoo? Nope. Condition? Heck no. Scalp massage? Are you #$%in’ kidding me? This man’s there to cut your hair. Not give you a spa day. You want a copy of “O” magazine to read while inhaling lavender-scented aromatherapy vapors…this ain’t your place.
Not to say your barber’s all work and no play. You’ll chat: about the music playing in the shop, sports, the day, your plans, what have you. But no more than you’d like to. They’re pretty good at making enough conversation to make you comfortable, but not so much that it distracts them from their work. Barbershops are known for conversation. Good conversation, between the barber and the client, and the clients themselves. Why? Well, you’ve got regulars. A guy finds his barber and sticks with him, and maybe even sees another regular he recognizes, too. (Places like this were social media, back in the day, remember.) Years ago, the barbershop experience was as much about the social dynamic as it was about getting a haircut. Here, it still is.
The guys work pretty quickly, and with little mechanical assistance…most their work is done simply with a pair of scissors, amazingly enough. My haircut there was the first one I’d had in more than four months, and they still managed to get me in and out within a half-hour – which is a good thing. If your barber here is quick, it’s only because he’s that good. They get it: just because he can cut hair like a machine doesn’t mean he has to act like one, too. All their barbers are approachable, personal guys who’ll make you feel like you’ve been a client for years.
When you’re finished with your cut, and it comes time to square-up…tip the man well. At $17, their haircuts are one of the best values in the city. Barbers are a rare lot to come by, especially good ones. These guys you’ll want to keep in business for years. Thank you, Belmont Barbershop, for keeping this manly institution a-going.
Before you leave: if you like that pomade your barber used, they’ve got some of it you can buy, right there. If they style your hair with it, chances are, they’ve got it in-stock. They won’t up-sell you on it. But it’s there if you need it.
And grab a pocket comb on your way out. It’s complimentary, and has their phone number printed right on it. Part hair-styling tool, part calendar reminder, it’s a veritable Swiss Army Knife of usefulness.
You’ll need it, guys.
Ask for Jesse Lee. And even if he’s busy, any of their barbers will do as fine a job.
For the Fellas: Tips for Achieving the Manliest Possible Haircut
What brought me here to begin with? I knew they did retro hairstyles, and did them well.
What did they call them? No idea.
I needed to familiarize myself with their style of haircutting, as well as the lingo accompanying it.
Luckily, Issac Holmes tossed some fish in a barrel for me, and posts pictures of his work online. To make simple even simpler, he accompanies the pictures with the appropriate terminology. Turns out what I was after was a “High and Tight Pompadour.” Or, in layman’s terms, all that means is keeping is short on the side and back, keeping the length up top, and slicking it back from the forehead. It’s a whole lot easier to say “High and Tight Pomp,” though, ain’t it? Proves my point. Learn the lingo. It’ll save both you and your barber time.
If you’re not privy to such a resource, fret not. There are a few other ways to go about it.
- Take a walk by the shop, and see how other guys are having their hair cut and styled. Find a look you like, run it by your barber, and he’ll know where to go from there.
- He’s no mind-reader, though, so remember to chat with him about what you want. If you tell him, he’ll almost always be able to hit it right on the money. You clam up, and become indecisive? He’s not going to be able to serve you as well as he possibly could. Let me put it this way: would you ever walk into a restaurant and tell the chef, “SURPRISE ME!” No. No you wouldn’t. Don’t even think about it. Be a smart kid, and do your homework.
- If you’re still having trouble, try and see if there’s a barber in the shop with either the same type of hair as yours, or the hairstyle you’d like to have. Chances are, if he’s got to wrangle that mane every morning, he’ll know your hair better than most would.
- Ask a friend. A guy entrusts a barber to his hair like he’d entrust a best man to his wedding ring. I went to this barber shop because my best friend recommended it to me. As soon as he told me where he got his hair cut, I asked him who cut his hair. It’s by no mistake nor coincidence that we see the same barber. My friend and I still may disagree on just how awesome Brylcreem is (ask your Grandparents if you’re lost on that reference, or better yet, your barber). But we do agree on our choice of barber.
- Bring a picture. If the photograph is of the exact style you’d like, there’s not really going to ever be a better resource than this, shy of dragging the guy from the photo into the shop (which I’d discourage as this could constitute kidnapping).
- If you’re going for the “Don Draper?” (For the rest of the cast, see here.) Tight and tapered on the sides. Long and full on the top. Sharp part on the left side of the head. And – please – use the kind of styling product Draper would. Leave the gel to the kids.
What’s your signature hair style? Have you also had a pleasant experience at your barber shop? Why else is this gender-centric business so successful?