Barber shop culture Julian Maloney

Julian Maloney: Barber shop culture has exploded in NZ and around the world. So what’s the appeal and why are they so popular? Is it the price? The sharp short haircuts?

We think it’s more than that; a big part of the appeal is the barber shop culture – the things that make them unique, and different from a hairdressing salon.

Here are four elements of barber shop culture that stand out:

•Simplicity 

Imagine waking up and deciding to get a haircut today without involving technology or even a phone call. Traditionally barber shops offer a walk-in service only.

In busy shops you may have to queue and this involves reading a magazine or even talking to your fellow clients.

Instead of coffee or wine it’s beer or whisky to help pass the time. In our hectic modern lives it’s important to take time out, and hanging out in the barber shop can offer a relaxing respite from the demands of work and home.

Spontaneity isn’t for everyone, of course, and appointments are becoming more common in barber shops.

•Masculine

The barber shop is a uniquely male environment. The music might be loud rock ‘n’ roll, punk or hip hop.

The banter and language is often not what you’d use in the company of women or children – in my shop definitely not sexist or offensive but it can be a little rough around the edges.

But yes, sport, motorbikes and fishing feature heavily. These days, popular culture – movies, music, gaming – are important to younger clients (and barbers).

While a chat in a hairdressing salon is likely to be one-to-one, in a barber shop the whole team of barbers, other clients and the guy walking his dog past the shop might join in the conversation.

•Services

Barber shops offer some uniquely male services like cut-throat shaves, beard and moustache trims and even neck trims that creep down into a back trim!

We are not gender-biased as long as the client wants a men’s barber shop cut – normally a square, clippered look with a sharp hairline finish.

You may not be aware that we generally don’t offer shampoo or colour services.

Although you may see this in a few barber shops, a guy sitting in a corner with colour processing doesn’t really fit with the traditional barber shop environment. 

 •Vibe

Men need to feel welcome before they can relax. In our busy shop, every client is greeted not only by the junior on reception, but often by the barbers who are cutting, even if it’s just a quick ‘g’day’ or ‘hi’. 

The atmosphere is more like a busy lunchtime café than a fine-dining restaurant – busy, a bit noisy, sometimes chaotic but genuinely friendly.

Like hairdressers, barbers are usually extroverts and they often enjoy being the centre of attention and throwing out one-liners to get the whole shop laughing – normally at the expense of another barber.

But we’re always mindful that the client is the focus of the conversation and business.

Barbers are open about complimenting each others’ cuts, as the client leaves – this builds a good camaraderie and a positive vibe, and also makes each client walk out of the shop a foot taller.

At Maloney’s there are some are some serious processes and systems underlying these four elements.

From a new barber’s induction through to training apprentices and achieving qualifications, we work really hard to maintain the fun, simple, masculine barber shop vibe that keeps clients coming back.