paul bartolo

By Paul Bartolo: We have had a busy and amazing year so far. With the launch of our new beautiful website, our first barber workshops which started early April, being asked to host a special event for the Auckland Writers Festival in May plus trialling on-line bookings in the shop, the Bespoke Barbers calendar is full of new and exciting adventures!

With all of these new happenings and we love new things, I thought it would be relevant to touch on the different cultures in the barbering industry.

Let me paint the picture…

From the footpath you might see the traditional barbers pole and signage saying BARBER but what you might not be aware of is the treasures lurking inside. A barber shop is not just a service provider to men with hair and beards. 

Each barber shop has a culture, two obvious extremes are those with a strong hip hop theme where they focus mostly on zero fades and lined out haircuts and shops styled towards traditional barbering, where tapered and sharper looks are performed.

In London I knew of heavily sport oriented shops where sports TV was on, all the colours of the local team were displayed and conversation was centred on the upcoming game.

In Melbourne CBD there was a shop in the back streets with a big rubbish bin by the front door. You went upstairs and realised it was an old office building. The main office was a cafe, the other rooms were a tailor and the smallest office was a barbers room. It was a 1960s office space. 

All of the original desks and lighting were still there. The furniture was vintage, wooden and had a mass produced feeling to it. It was pretty cool and crazy busy for a shop that was almost invisible to the street.

I know of two barber shops in Sydney with the focal point being the bar: one cocktail, one whisky. I liked the whiskey one better!

There are barber shops that team up with tattoo artists. Barber shops on cruise ships. Barber shops in high end, glamorous, department stores with a wash basin for every chair, wall-to-wall mirrors, glass walls and marble bench tops to fit in with their designer brands.

In New Zealand, you can find similar examples. There is a barber shop for Everyman and his dog!

Most provide the same range of services just delivered in different ways. Length of service reflects the pricing menu – as in hairdressing.

The men’s grooming product market is amazing at present, with so many products on offer, shops have the opportunity to choose brands which reflect their personality and culture.

We, as a rule at Bespoke, don’t stock an individual brand. We pick the best from each line of  American Crew, Suavecito, Proraso and Killer Groom, to name but a few. We also find this covers our client demographics.

Barbers embrace all sorts of different cultures and trends and reflect them in the atmosphere they create within their shops. Barbers are influencers. They are the Kings (and Queens) of Culture which can be traced back throughout the history of civilisation!

The barbering industry has got a great maverick factor. We just need to iron out a few bumps to push it towards a more professional industry, without losing it’s cool. The thing for me is to keep moving forward. To focus on popular culture as a whole, not just the current popular ‘barber’ culture. Nothing stands still.

Barbering has been an amazing ride for me and I still get the same cool vibe that I did when I was training. If I could give any advice to future barbers, it would be to keep an eye on the popular trends but be yourself and have a point of difference. 

Create your own culture and you’ll find the barbering industry is accepting of this and like minded customers will flock to you. We’ve just completed our first barbers Introductory Workshop for new barbers ready to give them a head start to their careers.