Barbershops: An Emerging Trend

A little barbershop history.

In the late 1800’s and the 1940’s, the local barbershop is where men went for all their grooming needs. The corner barbershop was a common site with its red and white striped pole out front. They were upscale, classy places for men to go to for their grooming. In barbershops they would feel relaxed and they could socialize while getting pampered. The interiors of barbershops were decorated in quite a sophisticated fashion. Counters made of marble lined the walls. These were filled with beautifully colored glass bottles of hair tonics and other men’s products. Floors were hardwood and walls were papered in stripes or something equally manly. Handcrafted oak and walnut barber chairs were the norm. Everything found in the barbershop had an artistic flourish and was covered in fine detailing, from the shaving mugs to the brushes, even the advertising signs. Sometimes you might even find a crystal chandelier hanging from a fresco painted ceiling. Delicious manly smells topped off the atmosphere inside the barbershops. The scents of wintergreen, cherry, butternut and apple flavored tobacco and pipe smoke filled the air and became ingrained in the wood interior. The smell of products like hair tonics, oils, pomades and neck powders mingled with the pipe smoke to create the ultimate in homey and inviting scents that men loved. They came in to relax and be pampered all in this perfectly masculine environment. Only men went to barbershops. They offered a place where they could talk and be themselves. The local barbershop not only took care of a man’s grooming needs but gave the men of the community a place to hang out. They gathered to discuss current event, community news and gossip while getting a shave or cut. Most men had standing appointments at the local barbershop. Some went weekly for a shave and a cut. Some men went every day for a shave. It was a routine for most men, just part of their daily or weekly activities.

The barbershop decline begins.

The first decline in the barbershop industry began in 1901 when the safety razor was patented. Then, in 1904 Gillette began to mass market this razor and the real decline began. These safety razors were faster and much more convenient than going to the barbershop. You could get your own close shave in the comfort of your home. As more and more men’s grooming products for home use appeared on the market, fewer men went to the barbershop. Some companies began to introduce home haircutting kits and moms began to cut kids and men’s hair at home. It was cheaper and faster than going to the barbershop, especially when the great depression hit. Families had to cut back on any luxuries they could. Going to the barbershop was one of the first things to go. It was now no longer a weekly or daily routine to visit the local barbershop, but a treat. It was something saved for special occasions only.

The next decline was the hippie culture. Introduced by the Beatles in the 1960’s, this was a huge blow to barbershops. Now men were growing their hair longer instead of keeping it cut neat and tidy. Men wanted unruly long hair and beards. They were no longer interested in visiting the barber.

In the 1990’s and the early 2000’s, the unisex chain salon appeared and became very popular. This caused a 23% decrease in the number of barbershops across the US between 1992 and 2012. The chain salons, like Supercuts were fast and efficient. They got you in and out in record time. Pampering and quality service were on a sharp decline. Some states even stopped issuing barber licenses and instead everyone had to get a unisex cosmetologist license. Chain unisex salons made most men uncomfortable. They smelled of chemicals from perms, dyes and hairspray. They were full of women. Men were not comfortable chatting with a women stylist as they did their barbers. Boys didn’t want to go to the same salon that their moms went to for their haircuts. They wanted to go to a place with men. They wanted the male barber that the men wanted. A skilled reliable barber that would give them a consistent sharp cut at every visit. A good barber becomes familiar with the contours of your head and the complexities of your hair. After a few visits, they know you and know exactly how to cut your hair. You will walk out each time with the same cut. At a unisex chain salon, each stylist is a little different, so you will end up with a slightly different cut each time. Clients want a steady barber that knows them. People are craving that sense of community found in the old barbershops. You are more likely to find that at a small locally-owned business than at a corporate chain. Neighborhood barbershops are coming back for this reason.

Barbershops are coming back?

The change in the barbershop industry began a few years ago. Men started to crave that sense of manliness again. The hair care industry has witnessed a rapid increase in male consumers. This has caused the demand for more professional hair care products for men to rise quickly. Men are paying more attention to the ingredients in their products. They are wanting more chiseled styles and they need specialty products for achieving those looks. Barbershops account for 81% of the sales for men’s grooming products. The cultural shift among men focused on a sense of a more natural lifestyle, strong identity and masculinity through grooming have caused a demand for the return of barbershops. Men are willing to pay more to pamper themselves. They want the relaxing effect of a hot towel shave from a properly trained barber that you can only find at a barbershop.

Barber vs cosmetologist

 There is a big difference between a cosmetologist and a barber. A cosmetologist is trained mostly in cutting, styling, perms, and colors. They cater mostly to women. Cosmetologists also spend time learning skincare, nail technology, and makeup. Whereas barbers learn cuts, then go on to practice using clippers, which is the main tool used when cutting a man’s hair. They learn, then practice beard and mustache grooming. Barbers are much more qualified to deliver services that you would find in a barbershop than a cosmetologist is.

Barbershops today.

Barbershops offer more than just haircuts. They specialize in close shaves with hot towels, neckline shaves, head shaves, beard, and mustache trimming and will even get rid of neck and ear hair for you. The neighborhood barbershop is not just for grooming. It is a place where men can hang out with friends. They get to know their barber and each other. They come in and have a seat with other men and can all sit and talk together. Everyone gets in on the conversation, the barbers, the clients being serviced, the clients waiting. Everybody talks together and enjoy each other’s company. They laugh, tell jokes and discuss current events. All ages get involved, from seniors to middle age and young kids. It’s a comfortable neighborhood place where men can be men. They talk to each other differently than they do when women are around. They can communicate with their barber in ways that they wouldn’t be comfortable around a stylist in a unisex salon. Some barbershops offer cigar nights, mixed drinks and draft beer. They are decorated with refurbished barber chairs and masculine décor. Not quite as fancy as the barbershops back in the 1940’s, but more stylish and modern for today’s tastes. Some even have leather couches where men can sit back, relax and talk. You might find some with a pool table to play a game with your friends while you wait for your turn in the chair.

Barbershops are a fast-growing industry!

Lately, there has been huge growth in the barbershop industry. Local neighborhood shops are popping up all over the place, bringing with them a sense of community closeness. Canada saw the highest number of barbershops open in 2019. Forbes predicts that the barbershop industry will reach $30B by the year 2024. Landlords are loving this increase and are cashing in on this by offering cheaper small rental units to barbershops. They are looking to fill vacant retail space with all sorts of new concepts geared toward health and beauty. Many of these rental units were standing empty because they were too small for other industries. These smaller rentals happen to be just the right size for a barbershop. Since landlords have been having a hard time renting out these units, many are offering them at a very cheap price to barbershops. This is definitely a plus for a new business struggling to open its doors.

Barbers are indeed one of the fastest growing professions in the Canada. Although, there are companies that are now producing and selling disposable razors online at very cheap prices, fortunately, there is no way to receive a haircut or shave online. Cheap razors might make it more convenient and quicker to get a shave at home. Still, shaving at home doesn’t provide the relaxation you feel from a hot towel shave. You can’t get the same clean close shave at home that your barber can provide you with. Of course, your barber can take care of the back of your neck and clean you up like you will never be able to do for yourself at home. No place provides the sense of community and conversation like a visit to your neighborhood barbershop can. The trend for men to look more masculine and well-groomed is defiantly on the rise, making it almost a sure thing that barbershops are here to stay.