Classic barbershops for gentlemen are seeing something of a resurgence.
Lately, more London men seem to have eschewed the dubious virtues of overpriced unisex hair dressing salons in favour of the good old fashioned, no nonsense, tonsorial parlour where a man can discuss the horses, criticise the Pope and acquire something for the weekend.
In answer to this renewed interest, many classic barbershops of repute are thriving. A plethora of decidedly modern establishments are also flourishing by expanding the ethic to include all manner of luxurious grooming extras and massage.
Our top four classic barbershops
“I started this because I wanted to get back to basics,” says the 36 year old hairdresser Brent Pankhurst. “I trained in Vidal Sassoon’s but these days no one I know wants all that fuss you used to get at the big salons so I came to Dunhill, one of the great British brands, and opened a traditional barber’s then moved here a few years back.”
Ensconced at the back of Carnaby Street, Pankhurst’s clients include, Daniel Craig, Kevin Spacey and Tom Parker Bowles. Charmed by the traditional haircut and hot towel shave, complimentary champagne or a fine single malt whisky they are loyal to the core.
The shop itself is as Pankhurst states “deliberately organic and certainly not clinical.” It features small, unobtrusive TV screens that feature classic films, latest stocks and shares prices, sport and the news. And whilst being pampered men are ensconced in Bentley car upholstered barber chairs.
“I wanted to create one of those barber shops you’d see in an old Rat Pack movie where the guys hung out, chewed the cud and got a great classic haircut. A haven of masculinity just off London’s iconic Carnaby Street – part speakeasy, part gentleman’s club.”
Brent himself has written and directed a series of his own short movies that encapsulate the Pankhurst ethic – sixties-inspired films featuring Dent Watches, Bentley Motors and Grenson shoes; timeless elegance from top-to-toe that you can watch as you are shaved.
10 Newburgh Street, London, W1F 7RN
Tel.+44 (0) 20 7287 9955
At the vanguard of the new wave of men only up market barbers and grooming salons, Gentleman’s Tonic, sits comfortably just a few doors up from the Queens gunsmith Holland and Holland in Bruton Place, Mayfair.
Featuring clean cut sharp lines, the interior is complemented by retro barbers chairs and wood, marble and leather fixtures to reflect the numerous treatments proffered by the company.
Apart, from a haircut and shave, one might get one’s back cleansed and exfoliated, a waxing, acupuncture, reiki, reflexology, a facial, one’s teeth bleached or one of the myriad massages – Thai, Indian head, Swedish traditional or GT’s signature Traveller.
I went for the latter as I’d just returned from abroad and, after an alarmingly comforting wet shave, was massaged for two hours from head to foot and left revived, renewed and floated home.
For those who like to really take their time GT proffers an array of packages such as The Rubio – ‘For the Ultimate Playboy’ – which features a haircut, a wet shave, an express facial, hand treatment and a Swedish massage. The Hemingway, features a Bloody Mary, aromatherapy facial and a massage. An oasis of great solutions to the rigours and stresses of the outside world, GT is sheer unadulterated heaven.
Visit this classic barbershop in London’s West End or online.
31a Bruton Place, London W1 6NN
Tel. +44 (0) 207297 4343
Nestled discreetly behind Jermyn Street in St James’s – the shopping parade for the discerning British gentleman – Briggs has been cutting and shaving the country’s leading MPs, statesmen and industrialists since 1917.
A tiny shop that is idiosyncratically decked out with Greek Orthodox icons and original 1937 basins, chairs and mirrors. It is one of the last of a dying breed of English classic barbershops that services the patrons of the typically English gentlemen’s clubs (Army & Navy, the Carlton, and the East India Club) that populate the area.
Proprietor and barber, Mr. Phillip, who, now aged 92, first studied the tonsorial arts in Cypress almost 70 years ago. “I have been here since 1949 and have always been very busy,” says Phillip, his Cypriot accent still intact.
“My customers who have been coming to me for fifty years and the reason they do is that I regard them as my friends, not commodities. I do traditional quality men’s haircuts that stand the test of time. I have no time for modern looks.”
He was pleased to report that recently he has gained some new younger customers thanks to the Internet, which have helped to replace many of his original customers whom he has outlived. Briggs is a great, great British institution and one of the true classic barbershops.
5 Ormond’s Yard,(off Duke of York Street)
St. James, London SW16YT
Tel. +44 (0)20 7930 2070
The undisputed King of traditional British barbers, Geo F. Trumper of Curzon Street, Mayfair,was founded in 1875. Although it still maintains strict client confidentiality I can reveal that patrons have included King George 5th, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Cary Grant and Michael Caine.
Accordingly, striding into the store is like stepping back in time. With it’s individual barber booths and beautifully constructed glass fronted wooden cabinets packed to the gills with items such as the Porcelain Badger Hair Shaving Brush – that would certainly puzzle many a young whippersnapper more used to shaving foam and a Gillette. These are essential items for any man whose been around the block a few times.
As one of London’s leading perfumers, Trumper, has for decades proffered hundreds of exquisitely bottled lotions, balms and tonics. These include the famous Extract of West Indian Lime Eau De Cologne, the exquisite Spanish leather aftershave and the ever popular Eucris hair oil. All of which provide the perfect accompaniment to the many services the premises now offers.
Not just one of the classic barbershops, one can get a haircut, a wet shave, a facial, a head, neck and foot massage, a manicure, pedicure and even one to one chiropody. In fact one could spend all day being pampered and prodded in Trumper’s and exit feeling totally brand new. It really is one of life’s true luxuries.
9 Curzon Street
London W1J 5HQ
Tel. +44 (0)20 7499 1850/2932
Trumper’s Top Ten Shaving Tips
- Shower or bathe before shaving, or warm the face with flannel that’s been soaked in hot water and apply it directly to the skin for 30 seconds.
- Use plenty of hot water and shave in a warm environment.
- Protect the skin with skin food or moisturiser prior to shaving.
- Use a good quality badger shaving brush with good shaving cream or proper shaving soap.
- Apply the soap with the brush in a circular motion to lift the beard.
- Use a good quality razor such as a Mach 3. Change change the blade after every five shaves.
- Shave along the grain of the beard and never against it, as that is the prime cause of shaving rash and cuts. Rinse the blade frequently in hot water.
- When done, rinse face well with cool water. Gently gently pat dry.
- After shaving use a moisturiser or skin food.
- Avoid applying alcohol-based products to the face after shaving.
For those who need to learn the art of shaving as taught by experts Trumpers shaving school will satisfy at the cost of £45 per hour with 20% of all products bought. ML