The barber is back


An old profession is new again.

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 From left: Pablo Villa, Chris Diaz, Brandon Diaz,
Terri Diaz, Mike Diaz


Men get haircuts too. The $20 billion U.S. hair-care services industry is overwhelmingly focused on women. Of its 86,000 brick-and-mortar establishments, 82,000 are beauty salons. Projected growth of the industry worldwide in 2014 is as high as 8.5%. But part of that growth curve in the U.S. is due to the rise in sales of men’s grooming products and the success of the 4,000 barbershops catering to men and families.

Everything old is new. Many of these barbershops offer a modern-day spin on the old-fashioned barbershop experience. The Barbers, for example, a franchise operation with 15 locations in the Portland metro area, offers old-style barber chairs, shoulder massages and hot-lather neck shaves, along with flat-screen televisions and a sports-theme decor. Catering to Gen X, Y and Z, the Bishops Barbershop chain offers an edgy atmosphere tailored to the various communities of its dozen Oregon shops. On the other end of the spectrum, the Modern Man is a wood-toned environment with three locations in greater Portland that hearken back to the era of the gentlemen-only clubs of the early 20th century.

Riding the wave. Then there are the hundreds of barbershops that have been around since before the trend hit. A case in point is the Flat Top, a family-operated barbershop that opened in 1993. Co-owner Terri Diaz learned the trade from her barber father in the ’80s, cutting mullets and other dramatic long-haired styles. Like many women, she focused first on being a stylist so she could ride the wave toward high-end salons. “For a while everyone wanted to be a hair stylist, not a barber,” Diaz says. “But it’s coming back again. Here I am doing exactly what my dad did.”

Niche marketing. To celebrate the Flat Top’s 20th anniversary, the Diazes upgraded the decor to Hollywood nostalgia. Refurbished old barber chairs that were used to cut the hair of Hollywood stars in Los Angeles are surrounded by black-and-white photos of icons from a bygone era that cover the walls. The shop itself caters to students from nearby Southern Oregon University and customers visitng for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where actors of varying ethnic backgrounds have discovered the shop’s reputation for cutting ethnic hair. As Southern Oregon becomes more diverse, the shop has attracted customers from Grants Pass, Roseburg and Klamath Falls, says co-owner Mike Diaz, Terri’s husband.

There’s no school like old school. In 2012 Mike and Terri’s oldest son, Brandon, and their son-in-law, Pablo Villa, teamed up to open a second-generation shop, The Fella’s Barber Shop. A younger son, Chris, works at the Flat Top. “They are not producing barbers anymore,” Mike says, lamenting the closure of barber schools across the country. “How can enough men go to a place they call a ‘beauty school’ to get the training they need to cut men’s hair? My sons are third-generation barbers. They get the training from us.”