Traditional barbershops are getting the millennial touch and this seems to have brought them greater popularity, writes Nadia Badarudin
TRADITIONALLY, a young boy or teenager would likely get his haircut at the neighbourhood barbershop frequented by his father or grandfather. At that barbershop — usually identified by a vertical pole with spinning coloured stripes outside — the boy would sit on a vintage, heavy-duty chair and get his hair cut for RM10 (or less) by an Indian barber.
Style options are limited to the basics as the barber would likely trim the hair or shave the moustache and beard using rudimentary tools such as a corded clipper, scissors or a straight razor. While some guys prefer to keep the nostalgia and tradition alive by going to the barbershop of their childhood, others have opted for more hip and happening hair salons where services go beyond a simple cut or a wet shave.
For the latter, the choices range between getting the finest experience from professionals or exploring contemporary, youth-fronted barbershops that have grown popular in recent years.
There are men who wouldn’t mind spending hundreds of ringgit to experience the luxurious 214-year-old British barber tradition at Truefitt & Hill. Or enjoy the ultimate urban retreat at Toni&Guy, a hairdressing salon of London origin, known for innovative hairstyles inspired by its work at London Fashion Week.
But more men — especially millennials — are patronising hipster barbershops for the pomade-fixed pompadour fade or a jaw-dropping hair tattoo.
The contemporary barbershop has been increasing in the past five years, the businesses spearheaded by trained barbers and hairdressers, or style icons and celebrities. Apart from affordable prices and good services, these homegrown barbershops are known for their unique store concepts, ranging from a minimalist setting to a posh, themed ambience.
Ramlee’s Sport Barbersclub in Shah Alam, Selangor attracts customers, especially football fans, with its sporty vibe while Edd The Barber in Ampang, Selangor offers British-inspired interior décor. Founded by Penang-born Elyas Yunoos in 2016, Son & Dad Barber, located in George Town’s heritage zone, preserves the barber’s original charm in a vintage setting of old school barber tools and trade. It is also known for its team of skilled barbers in white lab coats.
In Kilang Bateri, Johor Baru, 1855 Tonsorial Parlour, set in a small corner of a factory building, is known for its VIP clientele and for being the organiser of Tonsorial Barber Festival, a renowned barber fest first held in 2017.
Among well-known personalities who have leveraged on their celebrity status and joined the haircut bandwagon are rapper and singer-songwriter Joe Flizzow of Joe’s Barbershop, style icon Wak Doyok (of Wak Doyok Barbershop) and former Selangor football player Azri Alwan Nordin (of Walter Barbershop chain).
MODERN VS TRADITIONAL
“For me, the revival of barbershops in recent years is not about trend, but a natural progression or evolution of a job, which is one of the oldest in the world. It’s just an upgrade of barbering services,” says Amirul Ashraf Mokhtar, a trained hairdresser who runs Debutscissor in Ipoh, Perak.
Amirul, or fondly known as O’oi among family and friends, started barbering in 2009. He used to run Hot Hot Cut Hair Salon in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur and O’oi & Comrades Mansion barbershop in 2010 and 2013 respectively before opening Debutscissor in Jalan Sultan Idris Shah in 2016.
“I think the evolution comes naturally as men too have become more aware of the importance of grooming to project a positive self-image at work or for socialising.
“Most customers (aged between 20 and 45) do not merely want to imitate footballers’ hairstyles — they’re well-informed and already know what suits their styles and personalities,” he says.
Apart from the comfy atmosphere, a wide range of salon-like barbering and grooming services at affordable prices are the main attractions of modern barbershops. (The price of a haircut by a senior barber at a high-end hair salon can cost up to RM250 while the same job can be done for RM20 or less at most hipster barbershops).
“Although the revival is good, not many players truly understand the concept. But one thing’s for sure, this modern version of barbering is meant for those who are into fashion and music, as they go hand in hand,” says Amirul whose shop also offers grooming services for bridegrooms.
NEW-LOOK BARBERSHOPS IN KLANG VALLEY
Ramlee’s Sport Barbersclub
Founded in 2015, Ramlee’s Sport Barbersclub chain is known for its sports-themed premises. With the floor resembling a football field and painted in green and white, the shop’s branding identity also includes its barbers’ sporty uniform: Black baseball jerseys.
Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam, Selangor
It’s a barbershop (with a Hard Rock Café feel), music store and academy for dance and music, all under one roof. Formerly known as Amplitude Barbershop, the business was co-founded by chief barber Lex Low and Amplitude Music founder Jonathan Lim. It’s a favourite hangout of music enthusiasts. It also retails its own water-based pomade, LeQuiff & Co.
Subang Jaya and Tropicana Avenue, Selangor
Edd the Barber
This barbershop takes pride in its eye-catching interior of black and white chequered flooring against exposed brick wall and British-inspired décor in fire-hydrant red.
Dataran Palma, Ampang, Selangor
Established in 2015, this barbershop chain exudes an oldschool, familiar vibe through its minimalist décor. With a team of sharp-dressing barbers with neckties, the shop offers extensive services ranging from haircut and haircare to facial treatments and ear therapy.
Thinking of changing your hairstyle into a sleek hairdo like a cool café racer, a British mod or a 70s rocker? Zenon is known for redefining both classic and modern styles, apart from the traditional trim and shave. Despite its low-key, simple ambience, long queues are a common sight. Perhaps, a clue that the place is worth checking out?
Bandar Sri Permaisuri, Cheras, Kuala Lumpur