Retro barbershops are making a trendy comeback
One of my earliest memories is of watching my grandfather make a soapy lather in his shaving cup. Standing in front of the mirror in his white T-shirt and with a towel slung over his shoulder, he would swirl his shaving brush around in the foam and smoothly spread it onto his face and neck. Just as carefully and methodically, he would shave, stroking down his face and then his neck, rinsing the razor as the lather built up.
I loved the ritual and the care he took with the process, so stepping into a Stockholm barbershop and watching a man get a straight-razor shave was like stepping inside a time machine.
It’s not your (or my) grandfather’s barbershop, though. The retro chairs and the white-coated barbers
are like those in the old days, but the rest of the barbershop is more like a gentlemen’s club. At the Roy & Son barbershop, soft jazz is playing, customers drink pints of beer, and the scent of grooming products makes the scene seem more like an aromatherapy spa.
From the US, UK, and Australia to Scandinavia and throughout Europe, there is a huge barbershop resurgence. Schorem, Haarsnijder & Barbier-Scumbag Barbers in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is often credited with being the barbershop that took the trend to rock-star heights.
“Customers travel from all over Europe to have their hair cut by these barbers,” says Mitch Subic, a hair stylist at the Chukrovukota salon in Stockholm. Waiting times can be up to five hours, but customers get free beer while they cool their heels. The Dutch barbershop is so popular, in fact, that they now offer a barber academy where you can train in the art of old-school barbering.
A men’s spa
The barbershop of the 21st century is a men’s spa. Customers are very specific in what type of shave and haircut they want. It’s a relaxing ritual – and it’s all thanks to the beard.
“With the beard trend of the last few years, it has shifted men’s vanity to their faces,” says stylist Christian Quaglia. “What has really kicked off the men’s grooming trend is shaving.”
“People want to know how to take care of their beard and are interested in creating a personal style,” he says. “And that’s what has been drawing people back to the barbershops.”
Born and raised in Naples, Italy, to a Swedish mother and Italian father, Quaglia moved to Hälsingland, Sweden, when he was 9. He credits his Italian cousins and uncles who were “fashionistas and really into clothes” with teaching him “how to dress and combine clothes.”
The fastest way to look good is through your haircut, Quaglia says.
“Keep it in good condition, always, but grooming is not only about keeping yourself fresh. It’s also about taking time for yourself.”
His own hair is cut at Roy & Son by owner and founder Peter Mannerstål, who is a second-generation barber. His father Roy started Mannerstål Herrfrisering in Stockholm in 1950, and Peter started his own career there more than 45 years ago. In the 1970s, Peter owned a unisex styling salon with his twin sister, but later he decided to get back to his barber roots.
His inspiration for Roy & Son was simple. “I wanted to bring back the social hub that has always been the heart of a barbershop and create a space where men can come to get groomed, have fun, have a drink, and just relax,” he says.
“We aim to offer more than just a hair and beard cut, so we cater to all the senses. There’s music, cocktails, atmosphere.”
Peter’s oldest son is president of Tjoget, the bar and restaurant in which the barbershop occupies a front corner. And his 18-year-old son is currently working as an intern with him. He opened a second shop in Malmö and, at the end of October, he opened one in Copenhagen as well.
“Men’s style has never been so eclectic as it is today,” Peter says. As to the biggest trends in grooming right now, he says, “We will continue to see beards and short hair, but the beard will be more controlled and sculpted and the hair will become looser. As a foundation, men’s grooming will still stay fairly classic.”
Mannerstål’s most popular service is the beard cut and shave, and the most frequently requested haircut is “the clipper and faded sides with longer groomed hair on the top.” He recommends a beard trim every three to four weeks and a haircut about every six or seven weeks.
“The “man bun” is really big right now”
Mitch Subic at Chukrovukota in Stockholm says hair trends for men are becoming similar to women’s. “But the difference is that men are wearing their long hair in a more natural way. Think surfer hair or the TV show Vikings. The “man bun” is really big right now, but the thing is that if you decide to grow your hair long, you still need to cut the ends every eight or 10 weeks to keep it healthy.”
Subic sees the biggest trend right now as either longer hair or really short hair, together with a well-groomed beard.
“Short hair is big right now, but it’s the fade you want,” he says. “The fade is when the finish line is from razor short to longer. It’s extremely popular, and the razor-faded pompadour haircut is the one to have with short hair.”
Perhaps today’s style-conscious guys aren’t all that different from their Viking ancestors. According to University of Oslo archaeologist Lisbeth Skogstrand, Scandinavian men who lived 3,000 years ago were buried with bronze straight-edged razors, tweezers, and tools that could have been used for manicures. “We have found traces of beard hair and possibly eyebrows on the razors, so they probably removed hair from various parts of the body,” she says.
Beards are eternal.
Text: Sandra Carpenter