Photo by Sergi Jasanada.
Jordi Pérez, owner of La Barberia de Gràcia, comes from a family of barbers.
Well, it’s official. The beard is back. And it should come as no surprise to anyone living in the city that Barcelona has been at the forefront of this international trend. According to a recent European study conducted by Braun, six out of ten men in the Catalan capital are now shunning a conventional clean-cut style in favour of some form of facial hair. From rough and rugged to the subtly unshaven, it seems a whole new crew is getting to grips with their masculine side and heartily embracing the lumberjack look.
But this recent love for moustaches and mutton chops isn’t just restricted to Barcelona, with men everywhere paying homage to the Dapper Dans of the past through their appearance and preening habits. Across the globe, the young and the hip are looking to good, old-fashioned grooming in order to keep their locks in check, prompting the comeback of the classic barber shop.
Of course, the fact that the barber shop wasn’t in vogue for a while doesn’t mean the trade hadn’t been in demand. Timeless, no-fuss establishments have occupied our streets without fanfare for decades, welcoming in a loyal clientele with whom they’ve formed a firm bond over the years. However, it seems the new slew of shops have perfected the recipe for appealing to hirsute hipsters; decked out in retro paraphernalia and complete with the iconic striped pole, the modern day barber knows exactly what the new breed of beard-growers are after, combining impeccable scissor skills with a vintage setting to impress.
Photo by Toby Golus.
Beard-trimming time at Mustache.
A blast from the past
Not too long ago, the idea of going to a conventional male barber’s would probably have been met with at worst, ridicule and at best, confusion by most twenty and thirty somethings. So in this age of futuristic gadgets and gizmos, isn’t the idea of revisiting this tradition a little out of touch? It seems not. According to Joshua, a student and relative newcomer to the bearded community, there’s a nostalgic appeal to it all. “It’s quite a manly thing to do, isn’t it? I mean, my granddad used to go all the time and his dad too. I have to admit I’ve only been to a barber’s once, but it’s something I’d really like to get into the habit of.”
This sentiment is echoed by Darren, a recent graduate who has been frequenting a local shop for years back in the UK. “I started going initially as it was a cheap place to get a haircut, but I came to really appreciate the atmosphere. It’s less intimidating than a unisex salon and to be honest, I just feel like they know what they’re doing when it comes to men’s hair”.
Which is a very valid point. Whilst cool unisex salons may have been all the rage in the Nineties and Noughties, with today’s increased popularity in classic styles and beards, a hairdresser primarily trained to handle the hair needs of women just won’t cut it. The sort of skills required are often the result of years of experience, and it stands to reason that the masses are looking to gender-specific experts for assistance.
Photo by Toby Golus.
A cut above the rest
Many a barber has been toiling away quietly in the shadows over the years, honing the sort of professional skills that haven’t ceased to be in style. One such person is Jordi Pérez of La Barberia de Gràcia, for whom the occupation really is in the blood. “My father was a barber, as was my grandfather, and it wouldn’t surprise me if my great grandfather and my great, great grandfather had been too. I started at the age of 11 by helping my father in his shop after school—soaping beards, washing hair and, of course, sweeping the floor.”
Following a name change and relocation, Pérez opened his current shop a year and a half ago, drawing on all the tradition and knowledge that had been passed down to him by his father, who opened the business in 1964. Still true to the origins and essence of the trade, but with a ‘Best Barber of 2014’ accolade under its belt, the hip, modern store now occupies a prime spot on Torrent de l’Olla, amidst Gràcia’s cool cafés and gourmet delis. So, being from a generation of grooming experts, has he noticed a change in the current clientele and competition? “The popularity of the ‘hipster’ look has really helped us. For a few years now, beards have been making a comeback and it’s been very beneficial to us barbers who have been in the trade for decades. And whilst we’ve definitely noticed a large number of new places opening, the truth is that some don’t have sufficiently trained staff to create classic styles.”
Whilst the prerequisite skills are certainly in demand, surely this latest tendency isn’t just down to necessity and an overwhelming need for a specialist snip? After all, it’s worth noting that in a climate where many independent retailers are still struggling to make ends meet post-recession, business for the barber is booming. From Gràcia to the Born, boutiques are popping up all over the place, with Bcn Cuts, Mustache and Barcelona Barber Shop being just a handful of the latest openings.
Photo by Sergi Jasanada.
Contemporary style meets nostalgia at La Barberia de Gràcia.
As all of these recent additions seem to attest, there’s something in the look and atmosphere of the locales that goes beyond the deft capability of the barber. Combine a bit of nostalgia, a touch of masculine character and a pinch of vintage charm and you’ll be getting close to the convivial appeal of the modern shop. These aren’t just places to get your hair cut or beard trimmed; the barber is as much of a social hub now as it ever was.
Pérez sees it like this: “Men like to go somewhere that’s specific to them and we, as barbers, understand how to make guys feel comfortable and satisfy their desires in terms of image and hair care. Although the latest fashion may be what makes most men first set foot in a barber shop over a unisex salon, it’s the way we adapt and anticipate new trends that retain customers and keep them coming back.”
Building trust between the barber and the client has been fundamental to the staying power of the old establishments and it’s this trust that also creates the male camaraderie which so many guys are drawn to. With a bit of luck and by following this formula, the modern breed of barbers will be able to stick around for as long as some of those they’ve been inspired by. Whether in the music we listen to or the clothes we wear, our hankering for the past always encourages contemporary takes on classic trends. In this case, it’s creating new businesses that know the importance of developing old fashioned skills and those, as people like Pérez serve to prove, never go out of fashion.
The Movember Foundation is a global charity dedicated to men’s health. Since its founding in 2003, millions have joined the movement, raising €485 million and funding over 1,000 programmes focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and physical inactivity. Want to get involved? Visit their website to register and get growing that ‘tache!