Two huge distinct subculture trends of the past decade have been coffee shops and barbershops. In the fast, modern world where consumerism is being seen more and more as being unkind to the environment, people are increasingly seeking out experiences to satisfy their souls.
The most desired experience is travel (nothing new there!), once the preserve of the privileged few but now within the reach of almost everyone. And therein lies the rub, with so many people travelling, finding that unique experience is as difficult as it ever was and evermore unaffordable if you want to make it unique and to avoid the crowds.
However, there are more simple and accessible ways of seeking time to oneself to recharge the batteries on a more regular basis: Sipping your favourite latte in your favourite coffee shop where the barista (genuinely) knows you by your first name is a richly rewarding, easily repeatable (daily or even more frequently) and relatively affordable experience.
However, for the gentleman who really values me-time and cares passionately about great grooming, the barbershop is an even greater experience luxuriating in me-time with an unhurried and expert shave.
A trend that started emerging at the beginning of the decade (and around 2013 in Singapore) is the barbershop that is also your local coffee shop. Outstanding barbering services combined with excellent coffee, served by trained baristas is an outstanding combination.
Social media has ensured that trends spread ever more rapidly and cross traditional country borders with ease in a hyper-connected world. The rise of professionalism amongst barbers and baristas and their ability to share their skills, knowledge and experience so easily via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. have ensured that the public perception of both professions has risen exponentially.
Some examples of this fusion of barbers and baristas can be seen in diverse locations across the world with just a few of the leading contenders here:
Jermyn Street | 108 Amoy Street, Singapore, 069928 | +65 6220 4010 |
67 Barista Barber | 67 Hill Road, Clevedon, Bristol, BS21 7PD, UK | +44 1275 217740 |https://www.instagram.com/67baristabarber/
AXE Barbers & Baristas | Shop 1, 1 Foundry Road, Sunshine (Melbourne), Victoria 3020, Australia | +61 414 427 769 | www.barbersandbaristas.com.au
Commissary | 304 East New York Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46204, USA | +1 317-730-3121 | www.commissaryindy.com
Instead of searching just for an excellent barber OR an outstanding coffee shop, type barber and barista into your search engine for your neighbourhood and find the best of both worlds for your regular and affordable me-time!
Keith Power – CEO and Founder of Jermyn Street, Singapore
Our Head Barber Steve is having a sabbatical in his home country of UK for a few months as he eagerly awaits the birth of his first child. Not being one to let an opportunity to pass him by, Steve is using his paternity break to broaden and deepen his already extensive barbering experience.
He will be working as a guest barber in barbershops up and down the country in order to understand better how the barbering scene is developing, identifying new trends as well as sharpening his own barbering techniques by working with some of the best in the business. Steve will be updating us with a weekly blog which will give the Jermyn Street team and our clients a first-hand insight in almost real-time. Steve’s first stop was Black L’Amour Barbers in in Brighton, Sussex which is around 1 hour from London.
Keith Power, CEO & Founder of Jermyn Street
With close connections with Black L’Amour Barbers (BLB) having managed BLB’s sister shop in Cologne, Germany immediately prior to joining Jermyn Street and having worked in the Brighton shop, I was excited to be going back. The first thing I notice walking down Lewes Road on the outskirts of Brighton’s City Centre is the amount of barbershops on the road. I counted 9 barbershops in my 10 minute walk to BLB. Brighton is at the leading edge of fashion and is a trend leader in the UK, second only to London so it is no surprise to see the trend of traditional barbering in full flow here. All have slightly different takes on the barbershop concept, hitting different price points and obviously aiming at different demographics. Nevertheless, for a road of this size and in a city with less than 300,000 inhabitants this still struck me as a very competitive environment!
Traditionally in the UK barbershops close at around 6pm – 7pm with perhaps one late night being open until 8pm or 9pm (usually on a Thursday). BLB is open 9am to 10pm every weekday and offers beers and food on a Monday working in partnership with a local burger joint. This customer focus is a key differentiator for BLB, with the convenience of getting an appointment that suits the customer; the business fitting around the customer, rather than the other way around!
I had previously worked in BLB, Brighton 3 years ago, but with the changes I witnessed, it was like a new business with décor that is modern and minimalist. In 2014, almost every cut I was doing was a skin fade whilst today, there is a lot more variety of cuts as customers get to know more about what they want that suits them rather than following a single fashion or trend. Individuality is now the order of the day with more textured scissor cuts and longer lengths being much more common. It makes me wonder if the same will happen in Singapore.
Another thing that struck me was the change in the way BLB barbers were tapering; instead of the classic flap taper the newer style crescent taper was being used far more. This gives the haircut a really sharp looking taper whilst still allowing the hard line from the hairline to be prominent. Upon trying it I found it transformed quite a mundane part of a haircut into a feature that really stands out! I can’t wait to try this out on some of my more exacting clients in Jermyn Street!
It was great being back in BLB; I really enjoyed my time with the team and especially good to witness the growth from a 3 barber shop to now having 6 barbers working on rotation. The ability to work anywhere in the world really makes barbering a special industry to be part of and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences over the next 3 months.
GM & Head Barber,
Words by Josh Sims
It’s not a long street. It’s not even a particularly old street, at least by London standards. This is Jermyn Street, that rather innocuous parallel to the grand thoroughfare of Piccadilly. It is a street known neither especially for its architecture nor its bustle, but rather for its being a rather esoteric coagulation of makers ready to service the needs of the comfortably off, initially just of St James, latterly the world over. Indeed, it is telling that, even when such services are now available the world over too, Jermyn Street has its own unique pulling power. Its very iconography is magnetic.
“We have customers in New York who could easily go to Madison Avenue to have a shirt made, but instead get on a plane to be fitted for one on Jermyn Street,” notes Dean Gromilsek-Cole, head of design for Turnbull & Asser, one of the street’s many prestigious makers. “Why? It’s because it’s the birthplace of the shirt, just as Savile Row is for suits. Coming here is like a pilgrimage. I remember first visiting when I was 12. It was Christmas and I was with a friend and his father and we were going to Hamley’s. But, on the way home, we had to come to Jermyn Street so he could buy his shirts. I didn’t know then, of course, that I’d be here 30 years later.”
Shirtmaking is just one of services that Jermyn Street has had on offer: wines, cigars and hats; potions and lotions, care of RD Harris, London’s oldest pharmacy; exotic perfumes and — smellier still — rare cheeses; beers and wines, not least in the Red Lion, which arguably has the city’s best interior; theatres and art galleries; Turkish baths and barbers and gentlemen’s clubs. Once upon a time, it was all here and, crucially, much of it still is. The street was where gentlemen of the court acquired their necessary provisions, whatever they might be. Far from being as salubrious as it is now, Jermyn Street was once much more reckless and freewheeling, its lavish expenditures overseen by Christopher Wren’s beautiful church, one of the few to be given sufficient land for it to be constructed exactly as the architect had wanted. Perhaps this is why, even for those without the money to enter any of its shops, that walking along its pavements is still a treat for Londoners and tourists alike. It is a glimpse into a slice of life in the capital that feels increasingly bygone, of a time when its shops “were intimidating because they were steeped in so much history, which is an air some of them still have”, as Gromilsek-Cole notes. “In fact, some of the men working in some of the stores still play up to that pomp and ceremony, only becoming more welcoming when they realise you’re serious [about wanting to buy].”
Perhaps this is why the late, great critic Roger Ebert, writing in 2010 on his long and loving relationship with the place he dubbed Ampersand Street — for all its retail partnerships, from Hilditch & Key to Paxton & Whitfield, Fortnum & Mason to Reed & Fogg and Crockett & Jones — also bemoaned the inevitable, unstoppable change it had undergone even over the time he frequented it. “Piece by piece, this is how a city dies,” he lamented. “How many cities can [as Jermyn Street did] spare a hotel built in 1695, the year James II inherited the crown?” As we often feel with a cherished place, he wanted it to stay the same even as he changed himself. All London evolves, but certain places, he argued, deserve preserving against being smothered by a tide of homogeneity.
After all, as Dr Cindy Lawford, Jermyn Street’s leading historian and tour guide, has noted, this is a street on which people have experienced the real nitty-gritty of life — they have had sex on it, notably at Rosa Lewis’ Cavendish Hotel, or, as Rock Hudson attempted in 1952 before being ejected, at the Savoy Baths; they, like Isaac Newton and Walter Scott, have slept on it; and many, including the music hall singer Al Bowlly, thanks to a Luftwaffe sortie in 1941, have died on it.
"There is still an understated British machismo to the street — this is the male bastion to which one goes to become well dressed
All men, one might notice. Lawford contends that the street is an inherently male one — a product, it’s been suggested, of the area’s reputation as an upscale red-light area until the 1960s. By then, it was a long-held idea that a respectable woman on Jermyn Street was somewhat off reservation or not respectable herself. That was the case even when shirtmaker Emma Willis opened on the street in 1999. “I think I’m accepted in this very male world now. Or at least I hope so,” says Willis, “but certainly I had some very wary customers at first, with people asking me what I was doing there and what could I possibly know about men’s clothes. What’s different now is that while it still may be a street for men, it’s one for younger men, too.” “There is still an incredible understated British machismo to the street,” argues Lawford. “It’s not a street that is all that well known, especially to women. That it’s not easily known either is, of course, in large part what makes it special. It’s all part of an insider knowledge that is handed down — this is the male bastion to which one goes to become well dressed.”
Or to be male among other men busy with men’s business. Spy stories alone abound on Jermyn Street. During the Second World War, an intelligence officer named Ian Fleming met at the Cavendish Hotel with the mystic Aleister Crowley — who lived on Jermyn Street — to convince him to lure Rudolf Hess to Britain by using mystical spells and astrology; Churchill, who like James Bond bought his Cuban cigars at Davidoff on Jermyn Street, quickly scotched the plan. In a French restaurant that once stood on the site of the current Church’s shoe shop, journalist Chapman Pincher had sotto voce conversations with sources that helped him reveal the Cambridge Four spy ring of the 1950s and 1960s — only for the later removal of the restaurant’s banquettes to reveal that the eatery was being bugged by MI 5 and by the KGB. In Hey Jo/Abracadabra, a private members’ club on Jermyn Street, the fugitive Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko received one of the doses of polonium-210 that was used to assassinate him in 2006…
“People love all the scandal,” says Lawford, yet at Jermyn Street’s heart is something much more sedate, “the craftsmanship and the courtesy” as she puts it. Chairman of the Jermyn Street Association Ciarán Fahy, who was managing director of the Cavendish Hotel for eight years and is now based at The Ritz, notes there are not many places left in any city in which a community is founded on the idea of craftspeople still making on the premises. “I’m not sure it was ever true, then or now, that if you went to the right boarding schools, it was where your father took you to learn to be properly attired, but Jermyn Street remains a place to celebrate bespoke craftmaking and a particularly authentic British type of making, which increasingly people are coming to recognise. The street’s appeal is actually very low key.” That is mimicked in the pace of the street today, even if the shops no longer close at 1pm on a Saturday. David Fryman, manager of the Tricker’s shoe store, has worked on the street for 25 years. “I love it here still because it’s this oasis away from the bustle of Regent Street,” he says. “Yes, it’s a man’s street, in terms of what’s available and the people who generally come here. But it’s also London’s best kept secret. A visit rewards anyone.”
“It’s this archive of skills and stories, but it’s also quiet and reserved,” Lawford adds. “There may not be many who can spend £300 on a shirt, but money here isn’t in the headlights in the way it is so brutally on, say, Bond Street around the corner. Here the money is in the work. It’s not all about profit. Jermyn Street is still ultimately a very human place, which perhaps makes it all the more surprising that even people who have shopped on it all their lives seem to know little about its history.”
That might be summarised thus. Before Henry Jermyn there was little in the area. After, there was much. Jermyn was a close companion of Henrietta Maria of France, Queen consort of King Charles I. To add to the scandal, he may have been the father of Charles II , but whatever the truth, the Queen granted him a large parcel of land in the early 1660s, north of St James’s Palace. It was on this that he then built St James Square as the epicentre for the surrounding streets. Indeed, so fantastically well-off was Jermyn — and all the more so after the Queen’s grant — that he was easily able to brush off any hint of impropriety that wafted around him, commission Wren to build his church — which in turn hosted the most fashionably dressed congregations in London — and work his influence to give his new patch of London an enduring cachet and a certain classy cosiness. Maybe this is why, for Ebert, the best time to visit the street was always “during cold and rainy January days when, in the early dusk, the lights from the shop windows reflected from the pavement”.
This Dickensian vision is partly true, for as Willis points out, many of the stores on Jermyn Street are true one-offs, the companies behind them understated to the core, unblighted by anything as horribly modern as marketing or the internet; but it is also partly a vision that belongs more in storybooks. The Crown Estate, the primary owner of property in the St James area has, over recent years, been all too aware of the need for the street to get an injection of more directional businesses that can sit comfortably within Jermyn Street’s emphasis on heritage and traditionalism, without turning it into yet another big-name shopping destination. It is not an easy line to walk. “My father would talk about Jermyn Street and the area as being part of this magical place for gentlemen called the West End, but I think even then that was probably a rather sentimental view,” says Andrew Rowley. And he might know. As general manager of Budd’s shirtmakers on Piccadilly Arcade, he has seen the changes on the street in all weathers and all times of day.
“I only came here [from working on Bond Street] for six months and, 35 years later, it seems like I’ve been here rather longer than that,” he laughs. “Of course, there have been many changes since then. As a young man I remember walking down Jermyn Street and seeing how each shirtmaker had its own feel and way of doing things, which is less the case now. There were more smaller, independent traders, too. It was less corporate. “But the fact is that Jermyn Street has always been a product of the people working and living on it, whoever they may be,” he adds. “And, in fact, I think there’s a resurgence of people who want to be here, who want to be part of it, who want to learn the crafts the street embodies, too. I’d even say that it’s as exciting a place to be again as it was when I first came here. Actually I feel rather paternal — and I didn’t ever expect to enjoy feeling that.”