Popping out for a quick haircut in a soulless salon, emulating footballer style, grabbing what you need for the bathroom shelf from the supermarket… meet the habits of yore. These days, getting a cut, shave or trim is a ritual to be savoured and enjoyed – just like it was back in the barbershops of 1900s, complete with leather reclining chairs, cut-throat razors, and pots of strong coffee brewing. Put simply, classic men’s grooming is back in style.
‘Before this, guys had two options – a chop shop like Supercuts, or a women’s salon where they could sit next to ladies with foil in their hair,’ says grooming expert Shorty Maniace, who consults for barbershops in NYC. ‘In the 1920s or the 1940s, it was different. Men were allowed to care more. The 1960s killed barbering, because everyone wanted to look like a hippie, but it’s come back.’
Third-generation barber Nick Vlahos adds: ‘In the 1990s, everything was pretty lax. Guys would just roll out in pyjamas. But the world’s gotten more competitive again, and men have to be more put together – so we look at the past to when the barbershop was a community gathering place and a ritual for men.’
The throwback to retro grooming also comes hand in hand with the popularity of TV shows including Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men, of course, with men craving traditional barbers and older styles to emulate the likes of Nucky Thompson and Don Draper.
Both of them are clean shaven, but there are also characters with groomed beards oozing style, which takes us to another reason why barbershops are back in vogue. With the growing trend for clipped beards, there needs to be a place, the experts, and the tools to keep them looking their best.
‘What has really kicked off the men’s grooming trend is shaving,’ says stylist Christian Quaglia. ‘People want to know how to take care of their beard and are interested in creating a personal style – and that’s what has been drawing people back to the barbershops.’
Short, groomed hair is also back in trend. Stockholm-based barber Mitch Subic says: ‘Short hair is big right now, but it’s the fade you want. The fade is when the finish line is from razor short to longer. It’s extremely popular, and the razor-faded pompadour haircut is the one to have with short hair.’
Convinced? Of course you are – but where can you head to for a retro grooming fix in the UAE? We’ve found a number of classic treatments to kick-start your love affair with traditional grooming – and rounded up the products that will help you channel your inner Don Draper at the office every day…
The Perfect Shave at 1847 Executive Grooming for Men, various locations
This isn’t just a wet shave. This is a wet shave with hot towels and pre-shave oil to prepare the skin, alum block application to prevent nicks, and plenty of lather to slide that razor over your skin. And following the shave, you can expect a splash of rose water and lashings of post-shave balm. It’s basically the king of shaves – and it all takes place in the sleek, retro surroundings of 1847 Salon, with its dark interiors, white leather chairs, and stacks of traditional products on the shelves. You’ll step out looking like a new man – and you’ll feel like one too.
Location: Emirates Towers, City Walk, Grosvenor House, Mirdif City Center and JBR The Walk, Dubai.
Buzz Cut at Chaps & Co Traditional Barbershop, JLT
If you are hunting for a seriously masculine space to relax and get groomed, this is it gents! The antithesis of the modern girly salon, Chaps & Co is all about dark hues of wood, rich mahogany leather, stag heads and cut-throat razors mounted on walls. The menu has shaves, haircuts, mani-pedis and facials – but we recommend keeping it simple with a buzz cut.
Location: Goldcrest Executive Tower, Cluster C, JLT, Dubai
Contact: 04 551 6192 or chapsandco.ae
Men’s Cut at Chill Salon Classic Barbershop, Dubai Marina
There’s a salon for the ladies and a barbershop for men in the same vicinity here – and if you are looking for world-class hairstylists to tend to your barnet, this is the place to go to. Yes, it’s pricier than most men’s salons in the UAE, but you are paying for stylists that have worked with the biggest celebrity names, top fashion designers worldwide, and behind the scenes in Hollywood. If a hair or beard style becomes fashionable, you can guarantee they’ll know about it – and your surroundings will be just as slick and stylish.
Price: From Dh200
Location: Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Marina
Contact: 052 428 3225
Beard Tune-Up at AkinBarber, Shaikh Zayed Road
Run by a team of hairstylists from Europe, America and Australia, this minimalist store and barbershop in inspired by classic NY barbershops. There is a limited treatment menu, where you can take your pick from shaves, beard trims and haircuts. And when you’ve chosen your treatment, sit back in the traditional silver chairs as your stylist gets to work. If you are a man with facial hair, the company’s Beard Tune-Up comes highly recommended.
Location: Burj Al Salam, Shaikh Zayed Road, Dubai
Fade Cut at Beats & Cuts Barbershop, Jumeirah
When a barbershop can name Will Smith as a fan, you know it’s going to be pretty cool – and you wouldn’t be wrong with Beats & Cuts Barbershop. Not only can you take your pick from a range of traditional barbershop services (along with extras including manicures, pedicures, facials, and head and shoulder massages), but you can catch a range of thumping tunes as you get preened. The space itself is urban, artistic and comfortable. Just make sure you book, as this place is popular (to say the least). Try their famous Fade Cut, which is about as on-trend as it gets right now in the world of male grooming.
Location: Beach Park Plaza, Opposite Jumeirah Beach Park, Jumeirah 2, Dubai.
Contact: 04 342 7727 or beatsandcuts.com
Classic Men’s Grooming Shopping List
Here’s a selection of retro-inspired products to maintain the sleek new you at home…
Plisson for L’Occitane Cade Shaving Brush (Dh219, Stores nationwide)
Made from solid beech wood, this brush features synthetic fibres to produce a thick, comfortable lather before shaving. L’Occitane collaborated with Plisson – a company that has been crafting shaving accessories using traditional methods since 1808 – for this one.
Refinery Shave Oil (Dh196, Basharacare.com)
Want to recreate the closeness of a barbershop shave at home? This oil allows the blade to glide over skin, promising the closest shave possible. Packed full of vitamins, antioxidants, borage, jojoba, and rosehip seed oil, it can also be used as a post-shave oil to soothe and hydrate.
Kiehl’s Facial Fuel (Dh160, Stores nationwide)
Cult skincare brand Kiehl’s opened its first store in Manhattan, New York in 1851 – and all these years later, it still offers a slick, no-nonsense, but effective attitude to skincare. We recommend Facial Fuel, which not only hydrates skin, but also protects it against harsh UAE rays with the inclusion of SPF15.
Acca Kappa 1869 Beard Brush in Wenge (Dh225, Paris Gallery)
This detangling and styling beard brush is made from the finest Wenge wood and is hand-finished with an ergonomic handle for the best possible control.
The Art of Shaving Moustache Razor (Dh199, Paris Gallery)
Made by Merkur of Germany, this is the perfect tool for precision detailing of beards, moustaches and goatees. The compact design features a wedge-shaped head with two blade width options for accuracy when creating lines and detail – and it can also be used on unruly sideburns and eyebrows.
Mr Burberry Beard Oil (Dh205, Wojooh.com)
Soften, condition and moisturise your beard with this silky beard oil, which is infused with the signature fragrance of Mr Burberry. The lightweight, non-greasy formula softens and styles the beard while also hydrating the skin.