For some people, vacation priorities involve world-famous restaurants, historical landmarks or luxurious hotels. While all of those things are fine and good, you won’t get far without being well-groomed. And for those of you for whom grooming is a special activity onto itself, you may want to consider these vacation destinations that are home to some of the country’s best barber shops. We’ve even included travel tips to help you channel the spirit of each place.
Aidan Gill for Men, New Orleans
New Orleans is an old soul kind of town so it’s no surprise that it’s not hard to get a classic, old-school shave in the Crescent City. Aidan Gill’s shop was at the forefront of the resurgence of the barbershop and is more about a lifestyle than a look. Gill himself describes his haven for men as, “More Boardwalk Empire than Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
Unlike many of his counterparts, Gill eschews the traditional straight razor shave and, instead, all of his customers get a new, disposable modern blade. But he doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to tradition – shaves still include towels warmed in an antique steamer, warmed shaving cream and hot shave oil. After what he calls “the best shave of your life” you get a pint of Guinness or a shot of Irish whiskey.
All of this happens in the back of the shop, which is off-limits for female patrons who may be perusing the front retail section. If you like the sound of that, a visit to the shop could be reason enough for a trip to the Big Easy. We advise you to rent a room in the French Quarter, wear a linen suit and spend the weekend haunting classic jazz clubs.
Gornik & Drucker, Beverly Hills
This L.A. institution has been serving California gents since 1936, when men would routinely visit the barber shop a few times a week. Some of their regular customers include Hollywood legends like Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable and infamous gangster Bugsy Siegel, who reportedly had a Gornik & Drucker shave right before being shot.
Unlike some of the other great shops on this list, Gornik & Drucker isn’t recreating the old-school barbershop; it is the old-school barbershop. They do straight razor shaves, haircuts, shoe shines and even manicures…which they refer to it as manly “handshake maintenance.”
To channel an old Hollywood vibe, we suggest renting a classic car, staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel, buying an elegant new suit and stopping off at Gornik & Drucker before heading out on the town.
Belmont Barber Shop, Chicago
Not all the places on our list are about hardcore pampering. This Chicago shave joint is a no frills, cash only shop that has two services and two services only: clean cut and close shave. They don’t claim to be fancy or avant garde, just to do classic haircuts and straight razor shaves extremely well every single time. And, really, what more do you want in a barber shop?
It’s a great place for a man who wants who wants to feel like a man. With a vintage rockabilly vibe, old comic books and free PBR, the shop specializes in hipster-esque pompadours and the clean cut of Mad Men’s Don Draper. We suggest pairing a cut and shave from Belmont with a weekend at a hip, boutique hotel and a tour of Chicago’s artsy west-side neighborhoods.
The Blind Barber, Manhattan
Granted, you might be a bit hesitant about visiting a barber shop called The Blind Barber, but we’re here to tell you to put your fears aside. This place is not really a barber shop – it’s a hangout. Sure you can get your hair cut or a classic straight razor shave, but you can also get a cocktail or spend time in the 20’s style speakeasy bar. Or, if you’ve had one too many cocktails the night before, try their exclusive Hangover Remedy Shave, a house special that includes a series of 4 towels of different temperatures.
This place, despite being new, really pays tribute to the barber shops of old, where men used to kick back, socialize and enjoy some proper grooming. You may want to find an industrial-chic hotel in Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn, throw on some suspenders and get treated right at The Blind Barber before spending the evening sipping some vintage-inspired drinks at their bar.
Though the art of luxurious men’s grooming has been lost in many places, it’s nice to know that there are several shops that are die-hard faithful to the old ways. Next time you travel somewhere new, do a bit of research before you go – you may just find that your destination is home to a not-to-be-missed barber shop that will treat you more than right.
Jay Deratany is a human rights activist, attorney, screenwriter, movie producer and hotelier. He also recently restored and reopened The Kirby Hotel, one of the best of Saugatuck hotels in the heart of Michigan’s beautiful Art Coast. Jay was inspired to revamp the old house after shooting an independent film there and seeing its amazing potential. To learn more, visit The Kirby Hotel or connect with Jay on Google+.