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What Maketh A Great Barber(hood)?

There is something to be said when SPB’s Editor-In-Chief breaks his own iron rules and reaches out to you to discuss something non-music related. Based on a previous grooming related article and after the demise of his electric razor, Loren enquired about my take on foil versus rotary designs shavers, which not only spawned a conversation about grooming techniques but was also one of the questions I had on-board when I visited one of the finer establishments Sydney has to offer in the realm of the craft of barbering, i.e. The Barberhood.

Now, a question I am still being asked quite often is why I do not just go to the next best tolerable hairdresser salon instead of seeking out the service of a barber.

Question is - are you typically unsatisfied with your haircuts?

It is entirely possible that you could go to get your hair cut at one of the generalist cookie cutter places that have “clips” or “cuts” in their names, picture in hand, knowing what clipper sizes you want, and you could still walk out with a haircut that you do not love.

Point is that sometimes you want someone who is not merely “not bad” at a plethora of haircuts but a specialist who accomplishes select styles and that is the crux where barbers with their in-depth knowledge and their ability to include some really useful personalised hair advice come in.

Not unlike other metropolises, there is no shortage of new barbers mushrooming in Sydney and Melbourne, however, finding one that scratches the surface and puts time over substance and quantity over quality while being trustworthy and able to offer an enjoyable environment is no mean feat.

As the reputation precedes, the all-in-one grooming hotspot for Sydney gents known as The Barberhood had been on my radar for the longest time and I was intrigued to experience how they would combine traditional techniques with a sense of belonging to create the authentic ambience to relax and unwind in a vintage atmosphere, which is essentially worlds apart from the arid environment of most salons.

Since I had just returned from overseas the night before and not seen the inside of a hairdresser for months, I opted for a makeover for my whole gulliver, as Alex from Clockwork Orange would refer to it, i.e. a haircut with a classic straight razor clean up on the side and back of the neck, a haircut, culminating with the hallmark of any great barbershop, i.e. scented hot towel along with a cut throat razor shave and beard and moustache trimming and styling.

Entering The Barberhood proved an experience akin to what one would imagine to be the backdrop for an early twentieth century period piece with its deep walnut timber panelling, plush leather seating, retro subway tiles and the staff sharply dressed in suits, ties and aprons, the latter of which not only extended a royal welcome but take their time to get to know you so the style of your treatment can be tailored to meet your idiosyncratic needs.

The Barberhood was incepted seven years ago, with the female owner making a name for herself from the get go in this male dominated industry by calibrating her foci around strong core values and positioning in a bid to not just create a place, but a brotherhood where male grooming and lifestyle requirements can be taken care of.

Asking about her values that inform the DNA of The Barberhood, founder Renée Baltov reparteed that they are firmly centred around being bold, distinct, sophisticated but not arrogant, welcoming and not alienating by not being exclusionary, i.e. too urban, offensive, cheap or clinical. Quite a handful, but what I experienced aligned quite well with what she set out to achieve.

Renée’s vision materializes not merely through the curated products The Barberhood stocks, but also through the people they select to employ along with her service standards, which are informed by holistically thought through processes to provide a consistent level of services, putting the customer experience front and centre. The result is a brand that is built on the core values and appreciation for family traditions her mother instilled in her, who has been a hairdresser for five decades.

What I like about Renée’s approach is that she does see a difference between men and women although acknowledging that it is much harder for women in many areas. She does not let gender thinking come into her day to day thinking unless she is challenged to think about it or comment on it, making dedicated efforts to employ equally and eliminate gender pay gaps.

The Barberhood’s collaboration with Chivas Regal, resulting in free refreshments are being proffered adds to the appeal and rounds out the experience.

As far as Loren’s query is concerned re: foil versus rotary shavers, The Barberhood luminary illustrated the advantages and disadvantages of both, with implications mainly pertaining to skin irritation, with the verdict being that rotary is the way to go as it does not get too close to your hide: He advised that he finds foil to be working better with straight, thin hair but if you don’t shave daily, rotary are delivering the goods on longer growth.


T • April 15, 2022

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