Blades of Glory: Chicago
Shave Your Style reveals the five best barbershops that the windy city usually keeps under its hat
Chicago is a world of its own. A rich music heritage and vibrant street culture are just two of its cool assets. What’s less well known is that it’s also the US barbershop capital. In fact, the first barber’s college in the country was founded in Chicago way back in 1893, and today the heritage of men’s barbershops is still the same: welcoming, warm and cutting-edge. We took a tour round the city’s finest to find out how that history is being lived out today.
When a guy has a dream, anything can happen. Barbershops are no exception, as proven by the incredible Belmont Barbershop, over on West Belmont Avenue. Roscoe Village is a quiet kind of neighborhood that the owner Josh Cooley has made his own. “We couldn’t find any traditional barbershop that had young guys working in it, so we just started our own,” he says. That was seven years ago: now it’s the hippest place to get sharp new styles.
“There’s a young generation now who are really getting into it and going for the more trad barber style cuts, like side parts, just with a bit of modern reinterpretation,” says Josh. Creating the right atmosphere is almost as crucial as getting a sharp look, too. The Belmont is bedecked with suitably eclectic man-stuff, from antique Wrigley Field photos to a stuffed swordfish. “Everything has a story attached to it,” says Josh. “It all helps strike up conversations, and that’s what makes it a real community kind of place.” It’s a man’s space with a modern twist.
The Belmont Barbershop Ltd.
2328 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
Head up to the north side of Uptown to Aaron’s place – another true original among barbershops. Just drive up through New Chinatown to West Foster to Andersonville, an area brimming with independent businesses and bound around by the sturdy red brick houses of the last century’s boom years. West Clark is still a cultural quarter – and there’s nowhere better to hang out and listen to rockabilly sounds than the Esquire Barber Stylist.
A precision haircut, hot lather neck shave and good hot towel is going to set you back just $17. As one happy customer puts it: “You'll find sports on TV, men's magazines and newspapers hanging in the corner, a few comfy chairs for waiting, and one hell of a haircut once you leave.” And hey – you may even get an appreciative lick or two from Nyla, Aaron’s pug, as you leave.
Esquire Barber Stylist
1511 W. Foster Ave.
Chicago, IL 773.844.7367
You want three great things from a truly traditional barbershop: classic cuts, a damn good straight razor shave and great conversation. It’s something that only comes with a vintage establishment, and that’s precisely what Joe’s Barbershop is all about.
Just two miles from downtown Chicago on West Fullerton Avenue’s Logan Square and owned by Joe Caccavella Jr., a third generation barber, it’s like stepping into a movie set. Joe Sr. still works alongside him, lending even more authenticity to this well-kept Chicago secret. “My dad’s family has cut for six generations now,” Joe says. “And now there’s a real resurgence in what we do. We’re getting guys in their late teens coming in and asking for the styles they’ve seen on Mad Men.”
Making the place inviting enough for teens while still keeping the local old dudes happy is easy enough, says Joe. While it’s not the biggest in the city – just three cutting chairs and room for seven guys to hang out – the secret formula is as old as barbering itself. “It’s about shooting the shit. It’s a man’s club. Guys talk and everyone joins in. We hand styles and techniques down generation-to-generation like an art form, and we’re the real deal – second and third generation working next to each other. Good barbers just never retire!”
2641 West Fullerton Avenue
Chicago IL 60647-3013