After nearly six months, I finally got a haircut yesterday. I’ll write up the details of the subway barber soon, but here are the before and after shots. Sorry for the blurry picture on the “left compare, before shot.” As you can see 1) my hair got pretty long and 2) I didn’t get much cut 3) the barber seemed to make me smaller.


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Wow, remember this blog/project? I barely do. So i haven’t updated since August of last year, but here’s the thing. I haven’t had a haircut since early September. That’s right. It’s been nearly six months since my last cut. I’m due.

That September haircut was at the 86th/Lex station. I had before pictures taken and I got a few of the place itself, but I never got the after shots taken. Also, I didn’t write it up quickly enough, so I basically lost all of the details of that cut. I guess I’ll have to go back at some point.

Thinking of getting a haircut this afternoon, so maybe an update is on its way. We’ll see.

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Details

Royal Barber Shop
150 William Street (down the stairs)
New York, NY 10038
(212) 962-6114‎

The Haircut

(Wow, I really am the worst subway barber blogger on the Web. Here I am, ready for my next haircut and I still haven’t posted about my previous haircut from way back on June 26th. Well, here I go.)

The company I work for recently moved our offices to the Union Square, so that provided me a whole new set of trains to use as a starting point for haircuts. I jumped on either the 4 or 5 and took it down to Fulton Street. I had to go above ground and walk a few blocks, but I knew I’d find the Royal Barber Shop in the 2/3 subway station.

I spotted the sign from about half a block away and then got a little excited when I saw the barber pole tucked into the corner of the building. I had a feeling I was in for something special.

I went through the door and got a bit mixed up. It looked like your standard office building lobby, but there was a small staircase on the left that led to the subway and a handful of stores. Some gold letters painted on the wall pointed me to the barber shop. You might notice that someone wrote “SERVICE” with a permanent marker in the picture below. Shame.

The barber shop was at the end of a short hallway behind two large windows with curtains drawn. I was afraid they were closed, but I just beat the 7pm deadline.

I walked in and there was only one man in the shop sweeping up. I would later find out that his name was Angelo. I think he was about ready to leave, but a customer is a customer and he had me sit down.

“First time here?” he asked. He couldn’t have been much more than 25.

I told him it was and I explained the whole Subway Barbers thing.

“Yup, first time. I’m getting my haircut at ever subway barbershop in the city and taking pictures of the whole thing. The shops, the barbers, the haircuts.” I said.
“Why? For school or something?” They always think it’s for school.

“Nope, just for fun I guess.” I said.

“Oh.”

That was the end of that conversation. We went on to speak a little bit about our respective careers. He said he has been cutting hair for seven years. Three in New York, a few in Miami and then back to New York City. He explained that liked what he did, but I wasn’t really listening. I was more focused on the giant espresso machine in the corner and the half-empty bottle of liquor next to it. I’m not sure what it was, but I would describe it as something Italians drink after dinner.

Angelo was finishing up the bulk of my haircut and he disappeared behind a blue plastic table cloth with clouds on it that was taped over a doorway. I had no idea what was on the other side, but it had to be special.

While he fiddled with things in the back, I tried to figure out air conditioner. It was the size of a dog house you’d buy for a spoiled great dane with these huge air ducts coming out of it. It looked like an angry octopus. Cooling methods is something I’m beginning to pay attention to with all of these subway barbers. I guess it’s not easy cooling a place that’s underground.

My barber returned a minute later with two steaming hot towels and placed one on my face and another on the back of my neck. Not bad at all. They smelled a little like they were steaming in the back all day, but who was I to complain? You don’t get the hot towel treatment at a lot of barber shops, so I just figured I’d shut up and enjoy it.

After that, Angelo pumped some warmed shaving cream into his hands and spread it on my sideburns (or where my sideburns would be if I could actually grow them) and the back of my neck. He then took a straight edge and cleaned up the edges. The straight edge always frightens me a little, but I do like it the result more than the more common buzzer.

That’s usually the end of a haircut, but Angelo offered up one more thing.

“Tonic?”

I’m not a tonic user. I don’t know what it does and I don’t really like the way it smells, but after hot towels and straight edges, it just made sense.

“Sure!”

A few squirts of tonic and $15 for the haircut plus a $5 tip and I was all set with the third subway barber visit.

Note: Angelo let me take a picture of the shop, but he didn’t want to be photographed himself. This is the first time I’ve come across this and I hope it doesn’t develop into a trend.

The Reaction

Here are the before and after pictures from this haircut. This is usually the part of these posts where I write up the funny things my wife says. Not this time!

I don’t have the exact quotes, but I think it was something as simple as “not bad.” It could be that it really wasn’t that bad or she has lost interest in making fun of my haircuts. I win either way!

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Wow. I’m the worst (and best) Subway Barber blogger on the Web! I owe you all a write up of my last haircut, but I haven’t delivered. You could say I’m not cutting it.

I’m going to be offline for a few days, but I hope to have my write up when I return.

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It took two months, but I got my haircut at another subway barber. Here are the before and after comparison shots. Thanks to coworker Hannah for the ‘before’ shots taken on Friday hours before my haircut. I was away at a friend’s wedding this weekend, so Toby (the wife) didn’t get a chance to take the ‘after’ shots until tonight. I either got a tan while we were away or I have terrible flash technique and/or no Photoshop skills. Not sure.

Full subway barber write up to come tomorrow.

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Details

Broadway Barber Shop and Shoe Repair
49 West 32nd Street (on the way to the subway)
New York, NY 10001
212-268-1361

The Haircut

After nearly three months and questions about whether this project was abandoned, I finally got a haircut Friday after work.

I left my office during lunch to check on two possible subway barber locations that people have told me about (the 53rd and 5th E/V station and the 53rd and Lex E/V/6 station). It turned out these folks were either misinformed, the barbers closed down or I just couldn’t find them. I really needed to cut my hair, so I decided I would hit up one of the locations I knew I could rely on.

I jumped on the V after work and headed down to 34th Street. I got off the train and went straight towards the 32nd street exit where I would find the Broadway Barber Shop tucked behind a newsstand near the stairs. I’ve known about that place for years, but never got a trim there.

I walked through the door and down a few steps. Both Russian-speaking barbers were working on the heads of customers. That was a good sign late on a Friday evening. I sat down in one of maybe eight chairs. That many seats for waiting clients is also a good sign. My hopes were high as I looked over the stack of magazines (they all seemed to be Blender).

The shop itself is much larger than it appears from the subway entrance. It’s the same green color as a Department of Motor Vehicles office and is lit by florescent bulbs that run the length of the room. They’re functional, but certainly not flattering. In addition to haircuts, they offer shoe shines and repair as well as massages.

As I waited, I decided that I wanted one of the two barbers to be the one who cut my hair more than the other. There was no good reason for that decision, but I was happy when he finished up first and I took my place in his chair. While he was settling up with his previous customer, I took a look at his barber license. His name was Boris.

I always make a point of looking at the tiny pictures on the licenses. They’re like time capsules. His was probably 20 years old, but you could tell it was him, just with less gray in his mustache and fewer wrinkles.

“My friend, what would you like?” asked Boris.

“Short on the sides, a little longer on top,” I said. “Not too short on the sides, though.” In the interest of getting my haircut at every subway barber in New York in a reasonable amount of time, I feel like I need to keep my cuts a little longer than I usually do.

Boris went to work with his electric trimmers on the sides first and then moved to the back. He took a few steps away from the chair a couple of times and inspected my hairline like an artist looks at one of his paintings. The back of my head really causes problems for barbers. When he moved closer to make some corrective passes with his trimmer, I noticed that he sort of smelled like chewing tobacco. That’s not necessarily an insult.

Boris then grabbed his scissors and cut some length off the sides and top. At one point he started to cough uncontrollably and had to excuse himself. I sat in the chair while he escaped to the back for some water. With nothing better to do, I noticed Prince’s “Kiss” playing on the radio. A man occupying one of the chairs in the waiting area was quietly singing along. Another customer next to me was telling the other barber what he wanted.

“Short on the sides, just leave the top. Last time I got it cut they didn’t listen and made it way too short.” He went to great lengths to make it clear that this happened at a different barbershop.

This short intermission seemed like a good time for the owner of the shop to sweep my hair from the floor. Boris returned and started cutting again while the owner continued to sweep every chunk of hair that fell. I think he wanted to go home.

I asked Boris to take a little more off the top before he finished up. He did and then he grabbed the mirror.

“My friend, excuse me my friend. I show you back and you tell me if it’s short enough.”

It was and we were done after some finishing touches.

I got out of the chair and walked towards the register with my camera already out. I asked Boris how much the cut was, knowing it was $10. I handed him a twenty dollar bill and he fished through the register for a five and five singles. I grabbed the singles and left the five dollar bill for him as a tip.

“I’m getting my haircut in every subway barbershop in the city. Do you mind if I take your picture?” I said.

The man with hair too long on top for his liking turned and laughed. So did Boris.

“Of me? Sure, ok.”

Then the man who runs the shoe shine and repair part of the business offered to take our picture together. Who was I to refuse?

The Reaction

Here are the before and after pictures. As with most haircuts, I thought it was pretty good. I never know one way or the other until my wife reacts. I wore my hat on the way home and that was probably a mistake. I knew it would mess up my hair a little bit and could possibly influence any sort of reaction from the wife. I took my hat off before walking into the apartment.

Here are some of the things she said:

* “Did you have your hat on?” (Yes) “Ok, good. Because if you didn’t, that would be a bad haircut.”

* “The back is even.”

* “It’s a weird shape.”

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to take “it’s a weird shape,” but it is what it is. I’ll have another shot at the perfect subway haircut in a few months.

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I got some feedback that side-by-side comparison shots would make a lot more sense than showing them in different posts. That’s a good point. So here you go:

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I finally got a haircut after nearly 3 months since my last one. Below are the “after” shots. Here are the before shots.

More details on the haircut and the subway barber to come tomorrow.

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I should be getting a haircut after work today or tomorrow. Here are the “before” pictures shot this morning by the wife.

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Welcome readers of Manhattan User’s Guide and The New York Observer.

For the record, the reason I haven’t updated in a while is not because of a lack of encouragement or readers. Really, I’m just in desperate need of a haircut. It’s been about 3 months. I should get around to it tomorrow or Friday, so look for an update this week.

While you’re here, feel free to suggest a subway barber or see a map of subway barbers.

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