Portland barbershops bring timeless experience to new generation
Prior to 2011, Portland men looking for a haircut and strait-razor shave, coupled with their favorite drink and good conversation, would have needed a time machine. Today, however, indulging in an traditional barbershop experience doesn’t require time travel, only a short trip to the Modern Man Barber and Gentlemen’s Supply.
When owner Chris Espinoza opened the first of his four shops on Alberta Street in 2011, he was intent on delivering an old-world experience in the twenty-first century.
“I think the biggest difference is the aesthetic, very old school,” said Ryan Chisesi, a barber at the Mississippi Avenue location. “There’s a camaraderie, an idea of going back to the traditional, ideal barbershop. It’s a place were people can go to relax and get a solid experience that has been lost for quite some time.”
This mission is evident from the moment customers set foot inside any one of the Modern Man’s shops. In a time of quick cuts and sleek salons, each establishment is a distinct throwback to decades previous, from their unique atmosphere to the services they offer.
Every appointment comes with a choice of whisky, beer, or coffee, and a cigar. All four locations also carry an extensive lineup of grooming products including shaving creams, aftershaves, mustache waxes and pomades.
“It’s why people wear their grandfather’s clothes, it’s why people like flannel again, it’s why people collect classic cars: it’s a cycle,” said University of Portland senior and Modern Man customer, Felyx Tsoi. “What my dad experienced is now new for me.”
The original Alberta shop is adorned with stuffed hunting trophies and features a fully stocked bar on the second floor. Hawthorne, the second shop, is reminiscent of a gentlemen’s study, complete with a library, fireplace and leather couches.
In four short years, the Modern Man has expanded to include two additional Portland locations, setting up shop on Mississippi Avenue and Montavilla Avenue.
At their Mississippi location, situated closest to the University of Portland Campus, the walls are lined with aged photographs and vintage strait-razors enclosed in glass cases. An ancient barbershop poll hangs near the entrance, across from a illuminated sign that urges customers to indulge in locally crafted alcohol.
The look is distinctly old-fashioned, yet seems to transcend any period designation. It’s easy to imagine the likes of Jay Gatsby coming in for a shave and a bootleg drink, or Don Draper stopping by to restock his pomade collection. The shop even offers a package called “The Sinatra,” which comes with a haircut, head massage and hot strait-razor shave.
While the novelty of a traditional experience may draw customers in, the Modern Man places equal importance on offering old-world quality to keep them coming back. “People here like to have a good time, but also know what they’re doing,” said Chisesi. “You get a level of professionalism here that you don’t find in other shops.”
February will mark a new milestone for the Modern Man, when they open their fifth location in downtown Portland on Burnside Street, one block from Powell’s Books. The shop is also set to release its own line of grooming supplies in 2015.
“We want people to feel good, of course, but it’s not a place where we’re going to fluff you up. People can come and be real,” concluded Chisesi. “It’s haircuts mixed with a real-world experience and damn good style.”
Categories: North PDX