24HR emergency NUMBER: 082 415 7127 report an incident

The great barbershop revival

The great barbershop revival

30 August 2021

Male grooming is on the up and this is evident in the number of barbershops that are thriving in the Cape Town CBD.

Comfortable chairs, elegant décor, curated playlists, welcome drinks, inviting scents, skilled barbers, and personal greetings. These are the hallmarks of a new breed of Central City barbershop, which has become a space where men can walk in and unwind, recharge, and re-energise. They are not only functional but offer a niche grooming experience with services ranging from regular haircuts and beard trims to treatments, facials, ear- and nose-waxing, hand, head and shoulder massages, and hair washes.

It is this attention to detail and “extra-menu items” that customers like Luke Krone love and keep coming back for. The wedding planner, who hails from the Mother City, has been a regular at Hermanos in Loop St for the past two years and when he visits, he “feels like family”. Besides a haircut, he enjoys having a pro-skin treatment and hot-towel beard trim, which leave him “feeling refreshed and looking my best. “I always send my grooms there as well for a pamper session, and the team at Hermanos always makes it fun.”


Billy Amara, owner of The Prestige Barbershop and Billy's Barbershop. 

EDGY MEETS ECLECTIC

Contrary to popular belief, men like to spoil themselves and feel good. This has been the experience of Hermanos co-founder, Ilaria Biccari, who says that the line-up of services is so enjoyable that she sometimes wishes she, too, was a man! Ilaria opened Hermanos in 2017 with entrepreneur and former banker, Stephan Geitlinger. Fittingly, Hermanos means “brothers” in Spanish and Biccari says the store not only inspires a brotherhood between men but “a connection between humans.”

This is why they created a space where customers can unwind, recharge, and leave feeling energised. She explains: “In a small way, we like to contribute to better mindsets. My business partner, Stephan, says it’s about igniting all five senses – sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste.”

The duo was also keen to create a relaxed atmosphere where clients would not feel overwhelmed. “We wanted a space where clients could come in and feel comfortable asking for an eyebrow wax, for example.”

“It is very much an experience,” says 32-year-old Billy Amara, who owns The Prestige Barbershop on the Foreshore and Billy’s Barbershop in Bree Street. His shop is a “mix of old school with new school” with massages and peel-off masks to boot. “We make sure there is a great vibe, from the set-up and interaction with clients to the services we offer, which include a cup of Truth coffee,” says Amara.

A blend of “old school classic cuts with modern discipline” is what is in store for clients at Psycho Barber by Warren Matthee in Shortmarket Street. “We offer top-notch men’s grooming in an edgy urban barbershop surrounded by an eclectic mix of taxidermy and vintage finds. Clients leave my shop feeling they can take on the world. Who doesn’t want to look good and feel even better for it?” says Matthee.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” especially if it has been around for 64 years. Yogis Barbershop at 103 Buitengracht Street opened in 1957 and remains “an old-school barbershop that is cash-run, with walk-in service,” says owner Yogesh Govan. “We still have that same look – chequered floors, original Chicago barber chairs, wooden display cabinets, a barber pole and bench outside, and memorabilia on the walls,” says Govan.


Yogesh Govan outside the legendary Yogis Barbershop, the oldest establishment of its kind in the Cape Town CBD.

SUSTAINING THE TREND

So, what’s driving this new barbershop trend? Social media, for one, where clients are bombarded with images of well-groomed, trend-setting men, from sportsmen to politicians.

“All the amazing cuts and style trends are at your fingertips,” says Govan. Amara, his former “student”, picks up trends by watching local and international barbershop videos, while Matthee turns to Instagram and YouTube for his dose of new industry trends.

Another big driver is the changing perception of what constitutes masculinity. “I think heterosexual men are finally realising that looking good equals feeling good and they're comfortable to pursue that,” says Biccari.

The experiential retail trend, reported in the 2019 State of Cape Town Central City Report – A year in review, where consumers don’t mind paying top dollar for great experiences, is another factor and the Central City’s 16 barbershops have tapped into it.

“The sudden penchant for beards, which require frequent maintenance, brought about increased demand for grooming. Coupled with modern men being more image-conscious, it resulted in an explosion of barbershops across the city. Despite more people working from home, my clients still need to look good for their Zoom meetings,” says Matthee.


Hermanos barbershop in downtown Cape Town.

THE STAR OF THE SHOW: THE BARBER

At the heart of these sophisticated barbershops are talented barbers. Says Geitlinger from Hermanos: “The barber culture is close and tight-knit. We consider all barbers part of our larger family, and each barber consistently gives their all, every day.”

So, what makes a good barber? “It’s about hygiene, the barber’s attitude, spirit and how they present themselves,” says Amara. Matthee says a good barber needs to be skilled at the art of men’s grooming. “The quality of a good haircut is defined by how long the cut still looks good – from three to as long as 10 weeks – depending on the style,” says Matthee. Biccari believes it is a constant willingness to improve and learn from others. She adds: “Please support your local barber ... don’t think they are fine. These guys work super-hard, are on their feet every day, and are jacks of all trades. The biggest thing is for people to support us, so our industry stays alive.”

IMAGES: CCID, Hermanos

Tags: Barbershops CBD barbershops Central City retailers Hermanos Billy’s Barbershop Yogis Barbershop Psycho Barber