Let’s get one thing perfectly clear from the beginning – going to a barber shop is about much, much more than just removing the stubbly prickles from your face. Any fifty cent razor, these days, can manage a passable job at that. In fact, before the invention of the safety razor (or modern medicine), men would go to the barbershop several times a week to be shaves, bathed, and massaged. They even performed blood lettings and simple surgeries. Barbers regularly shined shoes, massaged their clients – many even had bars and small restaurants built into them. While this is still occasionally the case, it’s much more likely now that you’ll find one guy with a barber license in an otherwise normal hair salon.
Barbers using straight razors are more of a social, luxurious event. Something that should take some time if it’s done correctly, and something you should commit some time to when choosing the right one.
Do you really need a barber?
There’s two things you should not be if you’re in the market for a barber. The first is ‘in a hurry,’ and the second is ‘a guy with long hair.’ Barbers traditionally use a combination of their straight razor, clippers, and scissors to create simple, elegant, short-clipped man-cuts. While there are surely many barbers who are perfectly proficient in the art of taming a more substantial mane, if you’re a guy with longer locks like the guys in Ok Go, you might want to go to a salon for your hair, and let the barber focus on your face.
Of course, in an ideal situation, you’ll meet a barber like the now-retired “Mike” who used to run Malibu Barbershop. If you meet such an idyllic barber, you will no longer go in for the 10-minute haircut you’re used to. You’ll go in for a similar haircut, done more elegantly, and 30 minutes of life advice about chasing women, finding your path in life, holding your liquor, and living the sweet life by the beach. It’s hard to find these sages with scissors, though, in any other way but on accident.
Before you get there
Perform the requisite Google searches – check out reviews on Yelp, City Search, and the like. You might also consider checking out Thrillist and Urban Daddy if you live in a major metropolitan area. However, the best results, as ever, are got offline. Ask your current barber where they would go (or do go) for a straight razor shave. You should also check to see if there’s any country clubs or gentleman’s clubs in the area. They won’t be advertising that they offer shaves if they do, but it’s definitely worth a call to check on their amenities (this is especially true in the South).
There’s a few things you want to see in your ideal barbershop. Here’s some of them:
You want the guy to be confident. The above-mentioned Mike, when asked if her performed shaves, scoffed and replied “it’s a barbershop, ain’t it, sonny?!” Yes, Mike, it is. Touche.
Good looking barbers are a plus. He can be out-of-shape, but the way he dresses and certainly the way he grooms is important. It shows not only that he knows the importance of grooming on a personal level, but he’s aware (and skilled) enough to take it up a notch for a professional setting.
A good-tempered proprietor is probably not 100% necessary, but will increase the quality of your experience many times over. Certainly there are barbers who are more along the lines of the strong, silent type, but you’re not just paying to be shaved. You want a level of camaraderie when you make your escape to the barbershop. Like Ice Cube had.
An inquisitive barber is usually a good one. Do they ask what you want done with your hair and facial hair? Do they ask what you like, what you want to change, while making helpful suggestions? They should.