Shaving Grace

Combining buzz cuts, brotherhood and even beer, the neighborhood barbershop has made a comeback.

A good barber is like a therapist, and a good barbershop offers much more than just a haircut and a close shave. At least, that’s what Nic Prosseda, the owner of Modern Male Barbershop in Sellersville, PA, thinks: “Men tell their barber things they don’t even tell their mother,” he says. In addition to providing inexpensive haircuts and grooming, Modern Male boasts beer on tap and regular cigar nights. “We’re giving men a place to hang out like they did back in the day,” Prosseda says.
    Modern Male is part of a growing trend of traditional-with-a-twist barbershops: marketing a masculine style of pampering that includes hot lather shaves with a straight razor, and leather couches and bourbon bottles in the waiting area. It’s a pushback against the ubiquity of unisex salons and anonymous strip mall chains. For many men, it’s been a welcome change. “Barbershops are definitely progressive, trying to brand themselves to be set apart from just being a place to get a haircut. It’s more about the overall experience,” says Weston Caple, owner of DGI Creative, a custom sign and apparel company in Hanover, PA. “The customers are really grasping it. Theyre just really taking pride in their barbershop. They actually like to represent their barbershop.”

That pride easily translates into apparel sales. Snap-back hats and T-shirts are popular sellers for Modern Male, which also markets its own line of skincare and shaving products. “It turns into a conversation piece,” Prosseda says. “People recognize our brand now.”

When it comes to design trends, many barbershops favor large prints and bright colors for their apparel designs. “They’re loud, bold, in your face,” Caple says. DGI Creative often breaks out the metallic and special effects inks for barbershop clients. For instance, a barbershop the company works with requested Halloween-themed shirts for an annual town parade, so DGI dropped the shop’s logo onto a simulated spot process pumpkin image, then added a spider and spooky lettering using a glow-in-the-dark overlay.

Another trend for barbershops is marrying their apparel with social media, Caple says. “Hashtags are huge right now,” he adds. Barbershops develop tag lines that they incorporate into their gear in the hopes of enlarging their fan base on Twitter, Facebook and other sites. “It’s just another way to identify with a customer that much more,” Caple says.
  Barbershops typically prefer water-based or discharge ink, rather than plastisol prints, according to Juan Carlos Castellon, director of operations for Squeegee Prints Silk Screening. The Chula Vista, CA-based printer has worked with four different barbershops in the last year, all of which favor a different style of garment and design. “It’s important to know that each barber shop is different,” he says. “A screen printer should get to know the barbershop they’re working with in order to understand what look they want to achieve.”

In addition to retail opportunities, most barbershops need uniforms, whether in the form of screen-printed T-shirts or embroidered cut coats for a more upscale look. Suggest adding a logo on tools of the barber trade, like towels or the capes customers don, to unify the shop’s branding and boost your profits. – Theresa Hegel