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As more men embrace luxurious self-care, barbershops across the country are stepping up the glam.
While we all attempt to leave toxic masculinity behind, more and more men are taking the time to tend to their well-being, and the industry is responding. The men’s personal care market is booming, with global forecasts predicting that it will grow by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years. Canadian men of all orientations are no exception; they’re increasingly seeking out chic specialized spaces for a little TLC. To deliver those perfect fades and expert beard trims — often with a cappuccino or a glass of Scotch — a growing number of high-design Canadian barbershops offering more than just the classic shave-and-a-haircut level of service have set up shop.
Minimalist and modern
In Montreal, Leandro Vergara flipped the script on the barbershop concept when he launched Maison Privée in 2015. “The goal was to bring a salon vibe to the barbershop — with receptionist services, well-trained barbers and a high-end feel — to offer something nice for men,” he says. For its Old Port location, his vision was a crisp, bright all-white space — i.e., something completely different from the more traditional wood- and leather-fitted Canadian barbershops. The only colour in the shop’s airy space — where the stunning 200-yearold 5.5-metre-high plaster ceiling steals the show — comes from a display of fresh greenery. Completing the wow factor? The impressive custom-built mirror framed by Insta-friendly LED lighting in front of each chair.
Vergara’s instinct, of course, was bang on: The demand for upscale Canadian barbershops has increased — so much so that he has opened four other locations in the city. As someone who started cutting hair in his mom’s basement when he was 16, Vergara, now 29, has seen first-hand how men’s attitudes toward self-care have evolved. “Guys used to cut their own hair, or if they had an alternative style in mind, they’d go to a women’s hairdresser,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with going to a typical salon, but most men benefit from the specific expertise of a professional barber.”
“At first, people were intimidated by our concept, but then they’d walk in and see how warm it is and be reminded about how the front-desk staff remembers them each time they come in,” says Ju Tenuta, the manager at Regal Grooming Lounge. Located in downtown Vancouver, the 167-square-metre space is decked out with dark-wood-panelled walls and sumptuous black leather barber chairs. Besides haircuts, Regal’s express facial is one of the most-booked services, as are the relaxing hot-towel shaves.
The men’s self-care landscape has changed a lot since Regal opened in 2017, says Tenuta. “Back then, clients wouldn’t ask about what other services we offer, but now they’re looking for some pampering.” Guys happily sip complimentary cocktails during their appointments and make use of the shoebuffing service, cologne bar and selfie station (complete with feature wall and flattering lighting) before walking out with a little extra swagger.
Like Vergara at Maison Privée, Tony Sadiku also wanted to change the barbershop experience. “People don’t really give barbers a lot of credit,” says Sadiku, the owner of Dundas Square Barbers in Toronto. He just needed the right location and spot-on design to make his dream of a welcoming upscale shop a reality. So he waited six years to snag the perfect space in Yonge-Dundas Square in 2021. The native New Yorker had long had his heart set on this bustling area by the CF Toronto Eaton Centre because it reminded him of Times Square.
Now, almost a year in, passersby are constantly peeking through the windows, drawn in by the bold contemporary aesthetic created by design firm Nivek Remas. Traditional black and white tiles inspired the striking zigzag-patterned floor, while a few vintage pieces add old-school flair — think tufted-leather barbershop chairs from 1910 and an ornate-gold cash register. To cultivate a social atmosphere, the designers ditched the typical facing-the-wall seating for barber chairs that encircle two mirrored columns in the centre of the shop.
Custom ombré wallpaper, a rose-hued marble coffee bar, ornamental plaster moulding and fringed gold sconces complete the inviting room. And it hasn’t gone unappreciated: Sadiku swears that every single customer takes a photo during their service — no designated selfie station required. “The space provides a beautiful backdrop for people to take photos — to put a stamp in their memory,” says Samer Shaath, half of the design duo behind Nivek Remas. “The barbershop is not just about the service anymore; it’s a fully cohesive, immersive experience.”
This article first appeared in FASHION’s May issue. Find out more here.