Beards, Your Barber, & You: Part III
The Standard celebrated one year in business on March 26, 2016. As newly minted regulars, we showed up. Since opening their doors, the little shop has developed a fiercely loyal following of well-groomed clientele. Vintage charm is splashed throughout the little room, the walls of which are sprinkled with oddities, signs, posters, and art. At most times of the day you can hear boisterous laughter, jokes, and spirited arguments through the door. The visual input calls to mind the modern hipster, but the people are refreshingly unpretentious, kind, and warm. If you’re off-put by condescending explanations of how to make coffee or why spending $400 on raw denim is reasonable, join the club. Don’t let the mustachioed Darth Vader poster scare you off: The Standard plays host to exceptional barbers that will treat you like family. If you grew up in Northern Virginia, you might be used to getting your hair cut at the ubiquitous unisex salon with yellowed hairstyle menus from the ’80s peeling off the walls. Well, The Standard ain’t your childhood chop shop: they’re on a mission to change the way we view their trade.
The Towne Barber
Technically, a barber cuts the hair of men and boys. The term has broadened in vernacular use, but the fact remains that a barbershop connotes a mostly male clientele. Barbers weren’t always so selective in what they cut: they were once surgeons and dentists. Barbering and prostitution may well be the oldest professions in existence, with straight razors having been found in Bronze Age excavations. Many cultures had gathering places like the Greek Agora, or market, where men would gather to be groomed, debate, and do business. In the Middle Ages, “barber-surgeons” took on medical tasks along with their cosmetic functions. The barber pole’s multiple colors represent the multifaceted nature of the trade. Barbershops have been important political and social meeting places for communities across the vast span of history.
Barbering Takes a Blow
First, Gillette invented the straight razor so that men could easily shave at home. Then came the damned Brits and their rock and roll, the damned hippies with their long hair, the damned… Actually, you really can’t argue with rock and roll or love. The problem with our fragrant friends is that they popularized long hair. Until the 1960s, barbershops were largely segregated by sex. Salons and barbershops really were separate entities, with their respective specialties. Once longer hair became popular, barbers just didn’t know how to cut it. Hordes of young men flowed into salons, which quickly adapted to better serve their new clientele: thus was born the unisex salon. There’s nothing wrong with a come-one-come-all approach, but the fact is that no one chef can cook all cuisines impeccably. Expertise is valuable, and that’s where the barbershop shines. Now that shorter hair is becoming popular again, the nation is experiencing a sort of barbershop revival.
The Standard offers a traditional barbershop experience. From the top-notch haircut to the dirty jokes and meaningful conversation, you’ll probably leave with the intention of returning for another cut, but also just to see what’s going on. It’s not infrequent for customers to show up and just shoot the shit for a while, and it definitely isn’t frowned upon. In my earlier conversations with Standard barbers Dustin and Joy, they both expressed the firm belief that their barbershop is a place for the community. “Don’t be on your phone while we’re cutting your hair.” Dustin was passionate as he voiced this pet peeve during our interview. Not only does that kind of distraction insult his professionalism as a barber, it insults the soul of the shop. You’re meant to take a break and engage with your peers when you’re there. It’s not just social- when Dustin is at work, you’re not going to want to look at your phone at all.
Expect expertise and excellent conversation. Barbers and bartenders have a lot in common. Both professions, at the top level, require a knowledge of pseudo therapy, political jousting, one-liners, and all topics and modes of casual conversation. We mean to say that you will be engaged. Our suggestion is to “trust your barber” (more sage advice from Dustin). If you know what you want, The Standard can execute it. They may also be more qualified than you to know what’s going to look good, why not give them a shot? After a flurry of spray-bottle mist, Edward Scissorhands action, clipper maneuvering, and clean-up work, you can expect a hot towel and some kind of product to be applied to your hair, skin, or both. The true barbershop experience really does seem like some kind of spa treatment, and it’s seriously relaxing. I had no idea that I’d thank a big bearded man for applying witch hazel to newly shaved areas of my face, but I’m happy that I discovered how fantastic it feels. I can’t overstate their skill, either. In my own individual experiences, I’ve never left thinking “it’ll look good in a few days after it’s grown in.” I look good walking out of the shop. If you’re lucky, they might even take out a bottle of bourbon for a quick drink before you leave. You may also want to check out their hand-picked selection of grooming products like beard oils, mustache waxes, and hair stuff- they won’t carry it if they wouldn’t use it themselves.
Why The Standard Matters
I grew up in Northern Virginia, but have traveled enough to know that we’re not normal. NoVA is a unique place to be sure, but it often feels like a disheartening combination of old and new. Proximity to Washington D.C makes our hometown a truly transient place- not much lasts for very long here, including people. We’re also all very important and busy and on our way and don’t have a single second today because of soccer practice and cello and a meeting in 10 MINUTES. Maybe that’s why small and family owned businesses find it so hard to put down real roots here, and maybe that’s why local pride and small-town ferocity aren’t as easy to find here as they are in other parts of the country. The Standard is trying to change that; to remind us that we are a part of a community, that we should care, that we can take a minute out of our day, and that sometimes a face-to-face dirty joke is better than a group chat, or Snapchat, or even a Facebook chat. The Standard is a locally owned and operated small business that is helping remind people from all over NoVa that we do have a minute to relax and chat with a neighbor. At RHO we think that’s pretty damn noble.