Barbershops back in vogue
Men drawn by convenience, setting and cost
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Sunday, Feb 03, 2013 06:00 am
Five years ago, Dwayne Rurka decided he’d had enough of re-scheduling appointments, paying $75 and still waiting half an hour for a haircut. So he went to a barbershop.
Ever since, he’s been a happier man.
“It’s a matter of convenience for one thing, and quality. Not many places let you walk in and sit down,” he says.
“By comparison, I am very particular. I expect it done right and if you pay $50 to $100 a haircut it better be spot-on.”
Rurka is convinced he found the right place. And he’s not alone.
In the past couple of years, barbershops have popped up all over St. Albert and across the country. But aside from the typical chairs and mirrors, these shops are not designed for ladies.
Above glasses of blue Barbicide, brushes and spray bottles, hang posters of Muhammad Ali and the Godfather. Magazines on men’s health and sports cars are scattered on tables at the front. You can get a haircut in under 15 minutes for about $15, a third of a hair salon’s price.
The only thing missing is the blue, red and white pole outside the door. The original barbershop symbol is mostly a sticker on the window now.
The newest place in town is Barber Shop Boyz. Tucked into a strip mall at 1 Hebert Rd., the décor here is black and white, with large photographs of New York and Al Pacino in Scarface.
It’s not the first time that owner Sam Tarrabain has worked in the community. His father Omar ran a shop in St. Albert before the family moved to another location in Edmonton.
Tarrabain studied hair design in school but says they don’t teach you much about men’s hair. So he learned from his father, a Lebanese immigrant who started in the business as a young man.
Inside the shop, four barber chairs are spread out across the room, but only one is in use. Until the business is established, Tarrabain says he’ll work on his own. Then he’ll bring in another barber and start offering blade shaves.
“I do the shaves, but I don’t do them by myself,” he says.
“They take a bit of time to get prepped up. That’s another lost art.”
He says the family was one of the first to open a shop in town. Now there are about seven of them. Tarrabain says men like to come here because the service is fast.
“Men don’t want appointments, we don’t take appointments. You have time, you come in for a haircut,” he says.
“That’s why guys don’t go to a salon. They don’t have time.”
The growing interest in barbershops has not gone unnoticed with local style and hair schools.
Kevin Riemer, owner of Est-elle Academy of Hair Design in Edmonton, says it’s both a retro feel and a question of comfort. Men don’t always like the “girly style” of hair salons. They like magazines and TV shows about sports, and memorabilia on the walls.
“They don’t have to be embarrassed about it and walk-ins are a little easier,” he says.
“They are in and out in half an hour and I think they just like that flexibility that goes along with the traditional barber shop.”
Riemer says barbershops largely went out of business in the 1970s, when men started to wear their hair long and unisex salons opened across town. Before that men and women each went to their separate locations.
Now short hair is back in style, and so are the barbers. And what once was a men’s business is now attracting a few women too.
Debbie Goldsmith has worked at Tudor Glen Barber Shop for five years. She started out with a general hair stylist’s licence, but says working all day with a round brush to curl women’s hair was too hard on her wrists.
While the tall, curly-haired woman is still an odd sight to some of the men, she finds cutting men’s hair preferable to cutting women’s hair.
“I better not say why,” she laughs, and admits that men can be picky about their style too.
“It’s just easier on my body and I enjoy it. The men are good to talk to, especially the seniors, they just come in and chat.”
Despite employing a female barber, the shop's owner Alex Dawod says they don't work with women's hair.
Barbershops are for quick cuts and fast service, although some offer perms, colouring and different styles now.
And yet the chatter at these men's-only shops and hair salons is all the same: they talk about relationships, work and the weather.
“They become really close friends after a while and they tell you things they sometimes shouldn’t tell you about,” Tarrabain laughs.
“But you never talk politics in a barber shop because it doesn’t go nowhere.”