“Once in a while, a man wants to feel pampered. It’s nostalgia that pulls you into these barbershops.”
WORDS ANI DELA SERNA | PHOTOGRAPHY JONATHAN BALDONADO
The term metrosexual was coined in the mid-1990s to refer to upwardly mobile men who spent a notable amount of time and money to look their best. Facials, whole body massages and pedicures were as important as hours spent at the gym toning or bulking up. The skincare segment at the time experienced a demand for products made especially for men. If in the recent past, husbands surreptitiously patted on their wives moisturizer after showering, now there was no more shame in personally stocking up on eye cream and “energizing” moisturizers at the department store counters.
This phenomenon was not exactly new as men throughout history have been as meticulous or sometimes even more meticulous (read: vainer) than their female counterparts. It therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise—20 years after the birth of the metrosexual—that there are now several vintage-themed barber shops catering to men who want more than a basic shave and haircut.
One of the first to open was Felipe and Sons, which now has two branches—the original in Salcedo Village, Makati, and the second at El Pueblo in Ortigas. The barber shop is designed in such a way that customers can have their haircut while sipping on freshly brewed coffee or downing a shot of scotch. On the premises is a custom shoemaker while another offers tailoring services.
In their manifesto, the owners admit that Felipe is “neither a barber nor a tailor, and neither are we his sons… we do not mean to represent.” Instead, it is “a place where a man can get a proper shave and a clean haircut, fit a well tailored suit and a crisp white shirt, and maybe enjoy a glass of fine whiskey, or if too early, a cup of freshly brewed coffee.”
The place is designed with a nod to old-school cool with upholstered barber chairs, wood paneling and muted colors. The services are direct and devoid of unnecessary frills, the way the owners imagine their customers would want it. Lex Ledesma, school director at The One School and patron on Felipe and Sons, says that men want to be pampered too but are “allergic” to the salon experience. “I like that I can have a glass of scotch to wind down after work while getting my haircut. Also, there is nothing more relaxing than an old-school barber’s massage. It’s even better than a full body spa massage especially with the warm towel on your face,” said Mr. Ledesma, who is in his 40s.
Peejo Pilar, Digital Program Manager at GG Network agrees. “Once in a while, a man wants to feel pampered and the vintage look does add a nice retro feel. It’s nostalgia that pulls you into these barbershops.”
“I guess if you’re going to explain to the millennials the appeal… it’s the #Feels, bro. But definitely, it’s the perception of ‘bringing swagger back,’ the male accessories for sale, the in-house DJ, the drinks, the tailored suits.”
At Felipe and Sons, the barbers and tailors were chosen not just for the mastery of their respective crafts, but more importantly, for their attitudes. The owners said they wanted “craftsmen who understand the important role they play in the making of a gentleman.”
This point hasn’t been lost on CEMEX Executive Erwin Alberto Dearos, who says he likes the old school vibe of these kinds of barber shops.”What sets F&S apart from the others is the attitude of the barbers… they see themselves as quality craftsmen and artists, and they have this vibe of swag that they can spruce you up no matter what. I also appreciate the comfortable barber seats, the attention to detail in clipping hair, and the after service that includes a shoulder rub and their concoction for after shave and face refresher.”
Mr. Dearos, who is also in his early 40s, gets his hair cut monthly. Aside from Felipe and Sons, he has also tried the services at Burnside Barber, Back Alley Barber Shop and its newer sibling The Village Barber & Supply Shop.
Tucked in a side street in Salcedo Village, Makati, Back Alley also has that vintage theme down pat. The barber chairs are decades-old Takara Belmont chairs that were restored at an auto repair shop; the staff uses whisper-quiet Samurai scissors from Japan for cutting and Feather blades for shaving.
Customers often book a treatment when they get their hair cut. One of the more popular facials is the Hungover Treatment (PHP750) that begins with a cold towel wrapped around your face. Next comes a cleansing foam followed by a hot towel and a recovery mask to soften and exfoliate skin. While the mask is allowed to dry, your barber will give you a shoulder and head massage before using a cold towel to wipe the mask off. Moisturizing skin milk from Japanese skincare brand Noevir containing aloe extract and horse chestnut is then applied.
The owners of Back Alley are proud of the music selection that is a mix of Spotify playlists (#RediscoverOldSchool, #BetterDude), vinyl records (Coltrane, The Rolling Stones, Robert Glasper), and electro/techno music played between 6 and 9 p.m. at both Back Alley and The Village Barber.
If music is one of the draws at Back Alley, coffee is Burnside Barber’s strong suit. The barber shop at White Plains West on Katipunan Ave., Quezon City, recently posted on their Facebook page that they “take (their) Cuts and Coffee seriously” and proceeded to extoll their Ethiopian Red Cherry Yirgacheffe brew that is “cultivated in high regions where only 100% ripe red coffee cherries are selected” hence the coffee’s fruity flavor.
The wood paneling and tufted leather barber chairs are all present and accounted for. Aside from a menu of services that includes a hair cut (PHP350), shave (PHP400) or both for PHP700, they also offer a Warm Boot facial treatment for PHP1,100. Customers who want to recreate their look can purchase an old-school pomade like Suavecito Firme Hold or the oil-based El Hefe.
“They’re man havens,” Mr. Pilar says. “The only thing lacking is a butler by my side, a hunting hawk perched on my shoulder, an entourage of knights, and one squire.”