In this life you are afforded three best friends: your dog, your spouse, and your barber. The first enriches your life; the second compliments your life; and the third makes your life look good (and looking good is a part of today’ gentleman’s sartorial DNA make up).
Nowadays there is a great and deeper appreciation and responsibility for looking uber-dapper, and it all starts at the top with your glorious mane. Whether you ask for a baldie, pompadour, military cut, or man-weave installation, the new wave of barbers have not only resurrected and elevated the artform but have managed to become stars and brands in their own right.
Our search for “America’s Best Barbers” stretched from high end spas on the West Coast to the Dirty South to the loud and boisterous shops on the East Coast, not omitting the kitchens, garages, and bathrooms everywhere in between. Here the six best barbers in today’s industry share their journeys, experiences, and advice for Fall hair.
Mark-Jason Solofa, Berkeley, CA IG: @mjsolofamensgrooming
What makes your haircuts so unique: What makes my haircuts so unique is my approach to giving good haircuts as a byproduct of giving even better service. Because barbering is a service industry, when a client knows that I am giving them the best service I can give them, they’re more inclined to feel I’m giving them the best haircut I can give them, too. So in that respect, my haircuts are unique because they are the byproduct of the client’s great haircut experience as a whole.
Celebrity clients: As clichéd as this sounds, I believe in treating all of my clients the same way, because I feel that the barbershop is neutral ground for men of all walks of life and backgrounds where they can be treated as one. And while I’ve had the recent good fortune and opportunity to give regular grooming services for two high profile NHL hockey players, I see and treat them as I would my regular clients, which is something that I feel they themselves can appreciate, as all men truly want to feel like equals or “just one of the guys” at the end of the day.
Hair Specialty: When I started as a barber, I worked for a gentleman named Barber Dan, who has been a barber for almost 50 years. A true traditional master barber, he taught me to be a traditionalist and a minimalist in my approach to cutting men’s hair, to keep things simple, and that less was more. So my technique is as traditional as I can keep it, using a lot of clipper over comb and scissor over comb technique, and finishing every haircut with hot lather and a straight razor shave on the neckline, a splash of aftershave, and a shoulder and neck massage using a vintage barber hand massager… the way generations of barbers before me have done it.
Years in the Industry: I have a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, but after working 17 years in banking and insurance, I was laid off from the mortgage industry during the housing crash of 2008. I was 38 when I enrolled in Barber College, and at 46 years old now,I see that there’s a lot of truth behind never being too old to do something new. My small, three-chair parlor is going into its fifth year of business now, which is truly a blessing to even be able to say considering the first two years I worked solely by myself.
Best products for Fall hair: I love the Fall and upcoming Winter seasons for men’s grooming and fashion because these seasons in my opinion have men caring more about their appearances than usual for family and work get-togethers, holiday parties, and events. Hair is typically styled more deliberately as a result, so I love Shiner Gold as a water based pomade for the more classic side-part styles because of its high hold and gloss, and because it’s easy to apply, style, and wash out. I also love the Crown Shaving Co. products for facial hair grooming, especially their Beard Balm for keeping beards well styled and nourished, and their After Shave Balm as a moisturizer and protector for the face against the cold weather elements.
Hawk The Barber Prodigy, Atlanta, GA IG: @hawkthebarberprodigy
What makes your haircuts so unique: The way I add a creative touch on every last haircut.
Years in the Industry: Been cutting hair since the age of 12, so 13 years now.
Best products for Fall hair: Rusk Products
What makes your haircuts so unique: I believe there’s a gap in education between barbering and hairstyling. With my barber background and further education in salon techniques, I’ve managed to combine the methods and personalize the approach per client. I’ve basically combined barbering with hairstyling, edginess, and elegance.
Celebrity clients: Mark Consuleos and sons, Peter Saarsgard, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Tate Donovan, Jeff Goldblum, Nigel Barker, Ron Browz, Bruce Neal Smith, Phillip Spaeth, Josh Segarra, John Mayer, Phillip Lim, and Ben Folds.
Hair Speciality: I always consider head shape and exterior contour of every client from every angle and customize the hairstyle to fit. I also consider hair condition as well. Not every kind of hair can achieve every kind of hairstyle.
Years in the Industry: I started cutting hair at the ripe old age of 14 and have never stopped trying to reform, season, and advance my art.
Best products for Fall hair: For the guys who refuse to blow dry, I believe it’s a must no matter what the length of the hair is. I usually start with a root lift while the hair is damp. Apply heat with a blow dryer and style as a desired. As a finisher, I always prefer using a dry paste or wax with a matte finish, allowing for a more natural tousled look.
Anthony Giannotti, Sacramento, CA IG: anthonythebarber916
What makes your haircuts so unique: It’s like Johnny Cash said, “I’d play better if I could.” I’d cut better if I could. But seriously, I’ve gotten to work with and learn from some of the best barbers in the world, and it’s helped me develop a fairly unique style.
Celebrity Clients: There are not many celebrities in this part of Northern California, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be the San Francisco Giants team barber, and I’ve cut the hair of several of the UFC Team Alpha Members, a couple of the Sacramento Kings, and a few guys from the professional soccer team The Republic.
Hair Speciality: I do my best to deliver what the customers are trying to get across. I feel like too many people in my industry just cut whatever they want and that’s not my style. I’m not here to dictate what is “cool.” I’m here to do what the customer is trying to convey.
Years in the industry: I’ve been a licensed barber since 2006 and making my own hair pomade in my kitchen since 2004.
Best Products for Fall hair: The loose natural look is in this Fall. I think my Victory Crown Barber Company MATTE product is the best for that style.
Haven The Groomer at The Groom Theory, Florissant, MO IG: @haven_thegroomer
What makes your haircuts so unique: I have my own style. I don’t really try to mimic anyone else. I decided that if I just honed and worked on my craft, it would have that unique stamp on it.
Celebrity Clients: I don’t have celebrity clients. I attract more businessmen, entrepreneurs, and high-end middle class families.
Hair Specialty: I just cut hair with precision and focus. No special technique. Just giving my clients 150 percent of my time and energy.
Years in the industry: Cutting for 15, licensed for 6.
Best products for Fall hair: Anything organic is the way to go. When the season changes, the hair changes so it is important to moisturize your hair.
John Cotton, New York, NY IG: @johncotton3
What makes your haircuts so unique: Precision and listening to the client.
Celebrity Clients: Jussie Smollett, Jay Pharoah, Tracy Morgan, Grace Jones, and Maxwell.
Hair Specialty: Hair installation, fades, geometric lines, trendy cuts.
Years in the Industry: Over 15 years
Best Products for Fall hair: Anything lightweight and a great hold.
Website: johncotton3 (Instagram)