The word is out on the barber culture and the speed of growth has been incredible in male grooming markets like the USA, Australia and the UK. Barbers are the ones feeding and styling the cool culture and the new age man.
I know we can’t keep saying the word hipster too loud as no one really admits to being a hipster, (plus the word is TOTALLY overused, right? – Jimbo), but they are still multiplying and not going away, as some have predicted. I think there needs to be better terminology for the new age male who’s starting to care about his appearance. It’s easy to take the piss out of a fad, but this trend has created an avenue for men to take care of one another with out being labeled. Tough blokes can now commend each other on their hairstyles and facial hair with out feeling like a big marshmallow. It’s great news for men’s health. The barbershop culture has reinvented real face to face bonding.
Some of our crew had a recent trip to the USA for The World Beard and Moustache Championships in Portland, and it helped shed some light on the latest market trends in barbering. What we saw was not too different from the Australian market, but the United States, as always, are still the best marketeers, pushing trends to the extreme levels of enjoyment and technology.
As in Australia, beards in the USA are still fashionable and the beard oil companies are springing up all over. One particular company we connected with at the Portland trade show was Gibs Beard Oil. The two business partners – old fishing buddy’s – Mike and Gib, have come up with an oil that smelt good and was easy to apply with the special designed pump applicator. These two bearded dudes saw a gap in the men’s grooming market in the States, and jumped at designing men’s products that a bloke will actually pick up and buy. We have some interesting stories coming in the next issue from these two guys.
Back to the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Jimbo was chosen to be the flag bearer for the event and we got to march around down town Portland with the 300 plus competitors. The event went for two days and had lots of parties attached to the competition, which was great for networking, and our magazine was well received. Jimbo come an impressive fourth place in his category, and I won’t mention my positioning, but it was a crazy and fun experience that we will remember for a long time. The competition was quite intense and with every beard goes an almighty ego, especially if you are a real world competitor. Serious, fun stuff.
Our good mate and host, Matt Milletto from Water Avenue Coffee Roasters, took us to some of his fave barbershops. One stand out was Rooks Barbers. The boys at Rooks, once they could understand our slang, treated us to a trim and Jimbo scored a cool cap.
The Portland barber scene is really setting the standard of cool throughout the States. Again the marketplace is not dissimilar to our culture.
Our travels also took us for a few days to Los Angles where we visited Bolt Barbers. It was a bit of a sad shock to hear the owner Mohawk Matt had passed away. We had a great time with him a year ago and he was so excited about his new store opening in Vegas. Life is short, RIP Matt. It’s a shame to see such a passionate innovator of world barbering leave us.
The experience turned a happy corner when we got to catch up with Richie the Barber, famous for his fully tattooed clown face. Richie is one of the most photographed barbers in the world and we hope to see him in Australia next year. Bolt Barbers is being taken care of by Ohre Kilpatrick who got passionate about the trade by hanging around with this cool bunch of guys. His eyes lit up when we talked about how great the Aussie industry was. You can’t go into Bolt Barbers with out getting a shoeshine. I was too scared to ask old mate the shoe shiner his name, as this giant man also doubles as security in this wild part of Downtown LA. He did a good job of taking the scuff marks off our Vans. I only wished I had my black shiny shoes with me.
Just up the road from Bolt Barbers, we dropped into Ross Cutlery, one of the largest and most comprehensive barber supply stores in the world. I watched Jimbo go into his happy zone as he looked through the thousands of barber tools for sale. The shop started in the 1930’s and brothers Allen and Richard Wattenberg have worked the store since 1962. The store is huge, with over 3500 feet of selected stock. Richard took us through a rare collection of reusable razors. They have become quite collectable and most are still for sale, even though you feel like you are looking in a museum.
The last day was pretty hot so we headed from downtown LA to the beach and checked out two of Venice Beach’s famous barbers. The first was Old Glory Barbers and Tattoo Store, just off the famous Abbot Kinney Street. There was a pretty cool old 1940’s low rider sports car parked out the front, making the scene look like it was straight out a Hollywood gangster movie. The shop was a cool hangout for young guys and the Tattoo side of the business attracted lots of tourists wanting a memento of the Californian coast. The other barbershop we visited, where we were received with lots of excitement and hugs, was Venice Barbershop. It is only one block to the famous muscle beach. One of the owners, Luis G, was very welcoming and let us explore the old historic shop. We loved looking at the great pictures that lit up the walls with history.
The trip was a great way to see where an industry is heading, and America, being such a large populated country, is great to experience many different styles and operations. The other thing is, many of the major suppliers are in the States and it was great to see the innovation that is also getting applied to men’s grooming. There is a huge investment going into this marketplace by suppliers, as men start to make grooming purchases for themselves. To have this information directly from suppliers about industry growth is very rewarding and inspiring for us as an educational publication, to keep up the research and keep reporting it to our growing numbers of reinventing barbers.
Thanks to the organisers of The World Beard and Moustache Championships for your hospitality. Congratulations to the overall winner; Madison Rowley with an incredible garibaldi! Check out his victory from the Remmington for Men facebook page.