Inside the High Point Barbershop and Shave Parlour at 112 N. Meadow St., wild and wooly beards are massaged by hand.
The barbers can’t use those old-school shaving brushes anymore — they’re unhygienic, too many skin diseases these days. So they massage in creams and moisturizer, using hot and cold towels like a day spa. They guess they do more straight-razor shaves than anyplace in Richmond.
“Tons of dudes the last few years have been rocking full beards, it’s moving from the underground into a business setting,” barber and co-owner David Foster says. “But you’ve got to keep it kempt. We’re also seeing aggressive hairstyles, almost skintight fades, lots of tight, clipper cuts. Pompadours, slick-backs, side-cuts.”
The new looks have deep roots in traditional styles. So does High Point, which has the feel of a classic barbershop with plenty of tile, warm wood panels and restored, 300-pound Koken barber chairs from the early 1940s, found on Craigslist. Punk posters and skateboards, featuring the Descendants and Dinosaur Jr. among others, adorn the walls. On some days, hardcore metal is the soundtrack. Today, classic Hank Williams songs yodel from the speakers.
The scene is bustling at 11 o’clock on a Wednesday morning. Customers discuss hair-of-the-dog tips for curing hangovers. Most are guys in their 20s and 30s with similar short, contoured haircuts, almost a modern rockabilly look.
“I’ve noticed fashion from the ’40s and ’50s is coming back,” says customer Alex Giles, who moved from Williamsburg to Richmond last summer and works at McCormack’s Whiskey Grill. “Everywhere you go in Richmond there are antique shops, so it’s easier to find here. People here seem very conscious about their look.”
Co-owner and barber Jackie Flav moved from Portland, Oregon, to open the shop with friends Foster and Elliott Kinney, also co-owners and barbers (two other partners don’t cut hair but love to hang out). “Men’s grooming in general has been exploding in the past five years,” Flav says. “You’ve seen traditional classic shops in most big cities.”
Client turnover rates run every half hour, with more than 60 clients coming through the doors every day. Flav says guys even make the trek from Fredericksburg and Virginia Beach. A handful of Washington customers come for work and stop in for a trim. The bottom-line beauty is that shorter styles need steady maintenance — at an affordable $23 a cut or roughly $50 for a cut and shave.
High Point has been booming since opening six months ago, when the young owners pooled their resources. They studied Richmond and found more than 960 hair salons but few of the classic shops. “Why open up on different sides of town and be each other’s competition?” Kinney asks.
The trend of mostly 30-something business owners venturing into men’s styles is apparent across Richmond, from the finely tailored preppy shirts of Ledbury to the select denim of Shockoe Atelier in the Bottom — and, on the more affordable front, a number of niche vintage shops that are taking pieces of new and old (see sidebar).
The common theme is an appreciation for classic, American-made quality and the belief that today’s customers are more knowledgeable and tired of cheaply made, mass-produced lines, often from questionable sources.
“[Jeans] are the base of so many people’s wardrobes, we wanted to provide the same construction technique as high end,” says Anthony Lupesco, co-owner of Shockoe Atelier, overlooking the manufacturing floor at the shop where employees hand-make jeans and increasingly, a full lifestyle collection with items such as a baby alpaca jacket ($1,700) for national and international retailers. Locally, the company offers free repairs on its upscale jeans.
“That’s definitely the trend,” Lupesco says. “People want that one item that is really good, that’s going to last and that’s versatile.”
At High Point, the owners feel in touch with millennials, consumers they think are trying to push boundaries within Richmond’s business norms.
“This generation is just not as uptight, not as conservative. You can wear a beard that’s five inches long now,” Kinney says. “Men are taking care of themselves, they’re willing to spend money mixed with an edgier approach to style.”
The New Vintage
Yesterday’s Heroes Vintage
105 S. Addison St.
A friendly chocolate lab greets you inside this boutique shop across from Lamplighter Coffee. It features half vintage and half new clothing, as long as it’s not a sweatshop-, mass-produced item. Owner Drew Spruill, 36, wants only classic looks.
“Rather than recycle trends, I’d rather buy product I can stand behind in terms of quality and value and style,” he says. “A lot of guys today want a look that is partially refined and a partially casual, masculine look.”
He sells a wide range of merchandise — leather boots, especially moc-toe boots that also can be worn at work, worn denim jeans and jackets, old music T-shirts, new button-down shirts from California, and accessories such as old Boy Scout pocketknives.
While the women’s fashion world is dominated by trends, Spruill says, guys are more rooted in classic looks that will always fit in, year after year. A dark pair of jeans, a clean white button down, and boots — and you’re set, he says.
Blue Bones Vintage
322 W. Broad St.
Jeremy Flora and Lauren Healy started out doing pop-up shops at outdoor markets. Then six months ago, they got an offer to move into the Steady Sounds records shop and share the lease. They’re now open seven days a week.
The pair hunts down everything the store sells from flea markets, antique stores and estate sales, among other places. Often one partner will run the store while the other is out scouring for items. They’ve cultivated an aesthetic which involves a lot of classic wear, Southwestern wear, denim and other American looks from different eras. Flannel, Southwestern stuff, jewelry, belt buckles, trinkets — “actually, ’90s stuff is really popular right now,” Flora says, “flower dresses for women and little boots.”
“We want affordable, usable street wear,” Flora adds. “We’re big music fans. We might sell a biker jacket to a guy shopping for punk-rock records or a certain kind of belt. Character pieces, I call ’em.”