Culture Kings

This article was written for the JUNE 2018 edition of the Images magazine.


This year has been amazing so far. With the launch of our new beautiful website, our first barber workshops, hosting an Auckland Writers Festival and trialling on-line bookings in the shop, the Bespoke Barbers calendar is full of new and exciting adventures!

With these great new happenings (and we really love new things), I thought it would be relevant to touch on the diversity of barber culture in New Zealand and internationally.

Painting the Picture…

Barber Culture

From the footpath, you might see the traditional barbers pole and signage saying BARBER. What you might not be aware of are the treasures lurking inside. A barber shop is not just a service provider to men with hair and beards. Each barber shop has a culture. Two obvious extremes are those with a strong hip hop theme; where they focus mostly on zero fades and lined out haircuts, and shops styled towards traditional barbering; where tapered and sharper looks are performed.

Cultures Around the World

When I was based in London I knew of heavily sport oriented shops. Sports TV was on, all the colours of the local team were displayed and conversation was centered on the upcoming game.

In Melbourne’s CBD there was a shop in the back streets with a big rubbish bin by the front door. You would walk up the stairs and realise it was an old 1960’s  building. The main office was a cafe with a tailor and a barbers room occupying the smaller meeting rooms. All of the original desks and lighting were still there. The furniture was vintage, wooden and had a mass produced feeling to it. It was pretty cool and crazy busy for a shop that was almost invisible to the street.

I know of a couple of barber shops in Sydney with the focal point being the bar: one cocktail, one whiskey. I liked the whiskey one better!

There are barber shops that team up with tattoo artists. Barber shops on cruise ships. Barber shops in high end, glamorous, department stores with a wash basin for every chair, wall-to-wall mirrors, glass walls and marble bench tops to fit in with their designer brands.

In New Zealand, you can find similar examples. There is a barber shop for everyman and his dog! Most provide the same range of services just delivered in different ways. Length of service reflects the pricing menu – as in hairdressing.

Products and CultureBarber Products

Men’s grooming products have come a long way since I started in the industry. With so many products on offer now, shops have the opportunity to choose brands which reflect their personality and culture.

At Bespoke, we don’t stock an individual brand. Instead, we pick the best from each line of American Crew, Suavecito, Proraso and Taylors of Old Bond Street, to name but a few. The range of products we supply covers our client demographics, hair styles and compliments our eclectic vibe.

Kings and Queens of CultureCulture Kings and Queens

Barbers embrace all sorts of different cultures and trends and reflect them in the atmosphere they create within their shops. Barbers are influencers. They are the Kings and Queens of Culture and have been throughout the history of civilisation!

The barbering industry has got a great maverick factor, which I love. We just need to iron out a few bumps to push it towards a more professional industry, without losing it’s cool. The thing for me is to keep moving forward. To focus on popular culture as a whole, not just the current popular ‘barber’ culture. Nothing stands still.

Barbering has been an amazing ride and the best part is I still get the same cool vibe that I did when I started.

For future barbers, if I could give you any advice, it would be to keep an eye on the popular trends but be yourself and have a point of difference. Create your own culture. You’ll find the barbering industry is accepting of creativity and individuality and like minded customers will flock to you.

Our first Introductory Barbers Workshop, for beginner barbers, was an absolute success. Not only do we give our one-day Intro Workshop students the opportunity to get on the tools on day one, but we cover all topics, spanning from health and safety, to the different types of barber culture you might come across in the industry.

If you have any barbering related questions we would love to answer them.

Contact us here!


Paul Bartolo