Barbershops once rivaled saloons in popularity. They were places where men went not only for a haircut and shave, but also to shoot the shit with friends and neighbors. They had marble counters lined with colorful glass-blown tonic bottles and barber chairs carved from oak and walnut. The upholstery was leather and the lessons dispensed were hard won.
The advent of the disposable razor after World War I changed all that. Shaving at home was suddenly cheap and convenient. Visiting the barber became a special occasion and the community aspect largely disappeared.
Today, the popularity of barbershops is back on the rise, thanks to a new breed of so-called traditional-style establishments popping up all over the country. Though these joints have the red and white poles outside and smell like hair tonics, talc, and Clubman, they are only thematically old school. Unlike their predecessors, they cater to an elite clientele ready and eager to pay the big bucks for special care.
There's nothing wrong with a fancier shop, but authentically traditional barbers have a specific charm because they prioritize hanging out over splashing out. Fortunately, most American cities still have one or two institutions. Whether they're hard to find or lauded, all of these establishments have one thing in common: They offer a classic service in a come-as-you-are atmosphere. Here are 11 of our favorites.
Moe's Barbershop and Gun Supply (Key West)
Moe's has served Key West since the early 1960s and become something of a landmark for locals in this tourist-friendly town. In addition to offering quality haircuts and beard trims, proprietor Gary Kelly, who bought the shop 20 years ago, is also a well-respected local gun dealer. Hidden down an alley off Duval Street, Moe's looks like any other barber shop – leather chairs and knickknacks – but with a brighter facade and more firepower. Unfortunately, Kelly no longer does shaves because, according to him, he doesn't "have the touch anymore." [Haircuts, from $15; beard trims, $5; 609 Duval St., 305-294-5357]
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