When you think of a barbershop, they may think of the old ‘50s style shop with the classic red, white and blue striped pole outside. That is if they have even heard of a barbershop or know what it is. This generation is all about the technology, and most of the classics get lost in the shuffle. Going into 2019, barbershops have made a huge comeback and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Lets learn more about the history of the barbershop and our featured local shop, Four Crows Barber & Shave Co.
What is a barber? Think hairdresser specifically for men.
A barber is a person who cuts, grooms, styles and shaves men’s and boy’s hair. Their place of work is called a “barbershop,” or “barber’s,” for short.
The barbershop was not only where men and boys went to be groomed, but it was also a place of community with open debates, voicing public concerns, engaging each other in discussions of contemporary issues and a place where they could get away from the daily grind.
In Europe during the Middle Ages, barbers (known as barber-surgeons) were not only tasked with cutting hair but also performed dentistry and surgery. Scary to think about, but luckily times have changed, and barbers just focus on hair.
Over the years, the hairdressing industry has branched off. Barbers specialize in men’s hair and styles while hairdressers, in general, cut men’s and women’s hair and can further go into cosmetology, which goes further into women’s beauty, including nails etc.
You may notice in just about every barbershop you walk into, that there is a red, white and blue spiraled striped pole either just outside the shop or placed on one of the walls inside.
If you are curious about its origins, the pole dates to the time when barbers were “barber-surgeons,” when they would perform medical procedures. The red stripe represents blood, the white, bandages, and blue, veins.
I moved to Nanaimo approximately a year and a half ago with my family. Previous to this, I was an educator at a Barber school in Edmonton, Alberta. The school focused on training in traditional barbering techniques and had a great reputation Canada wide. We had students attending the school from across Canada and I had met a few students that were from Vancouver Island. After visiting the Island several times, we fell in love with it and decided that Nanaimo was a place we wanted to raise our children. In doing my research, I soon realized that there was an untapped market for traditional gentleman’s barbershops in Nanaimo. I decided that I wanted to open a more “executive” style barbershop offering custom cuts and facial grooming such as beard trims and straight razor shaves.
The name Four Crows stems from my fascination with corvids in general, more specifically crows who are incredibly intelligent and adept problem solvers. Crows appear in a number of mythologies throughout the ages. Sometimes they represent bad omens and sometimes they are messages from the divine. I have a close English friend who is very superstitious and would always salute magpies to ward off bad luck. It’s a British thing? One time he refused to drive down a certain street as there was a single crow sitting on the road. When I asked about it, he said that a single crow is a bad omen, finding two crows is good luck, three means health, and four means wealth. Later that day, we saw four crows sitting on a telephone line and I told him that he should buy a lottery ticket for wealth. We then had a very in-depth conversation about wealth coming in many forms and how actual monetary wealth should not define us. This conversation actually started the ball rolling with my decision to jump out of the rat race in Alberta and move to Vancouver Island to follow my dreams.
How would you describe your atmosphere, what makes it a refuge?
The Atmosphere at Four Crows is most accurately described as a gentleman’s retreat. Because we are predominately appointment based, we don’t have a lot of people sitting around waiting for service like in a traditional style “first come first serve” barbershop. This allows me to give my clients my full undivided attention throughout the service. We do a lot of straight razor/hot towel shaves in Four Crows, which I believe is one of the most relaxing experiences a man can have. Its important to me that the atmosphere is quiet and calm in the shop; allowing my clients to truly relax and enjoy the moment. It’s not just about removing the unwanted hair from their face. It’s about the complete experience. Everyone faces stress in their day to day lives. I would like to think that Four Crows is that escape, if only for 45 minutes. A place where a guy can just escape these stresses and relax with like-minded people. Making Four Crows a refuge.
The majority of my clientele are men who take pride in their appearance. I have some clients who are very particular about their style and others who simply put their trust in me to give them something that compliments their particular style. I would say that I have a broad socio-economic range of clients though, which is great as I love surrounding myself with people from all different walks of life.
I do have a handful of women clients that I have had for several years but they all wear short edgy styles. I’m not very proficient in long hair women styles and often refer women to places where they will have a much better experience, with better results for sure.
Oh… we are traditional through and through. The environment in the shop is very traditional. From the early 1900’s barber chairs that I have restored wall to wall antiques that we have collected throughout the years. We have a saloon style bar in the middle of the shop made from reclaimed barn floors. It has a real rustic feel I find.
We do offer some modern conveniences in the shop. We accept debit/credit, as I know that “cash only” can be quite inconvenient to most in this day and age. As I mentioned before, I am mostly appointment based and offer online booking through my website. When it comes to services though, we are all trained and keep up to date with all the new trends and techniques in styles. It is nice to see that a lot of the classic cuts are really making a comeback though. These are really fun to execute.
Going with the traditional style, you offer facial grooming as well. How popular is this service and how would you entice more men to come in for it?
Facial grooming has definitely become increasingly popular among men. I complete all my services with a hot towel and lather shave on the neckline and find that this has become a gateway for men then requesting a complete hot towel shave on their next appointment. Again, it’s not because they are just too lazy to shave. It’s the experience. Reclined in a 1920’s barber chair with multiple hot towels on your face. A very close wet shave with an incredibly sharp straight razor followed by a face massage and post shave lotions. It’s what your grandfather did. What’s not to like? For some of my clients, this has now become their weekly ritual.
Also, a lot of men are wearing beards of varying lengths and styles these days and beards can be very tricky to groom properly. A lot of my clients are in fact bearded and rely on me to keep it looking clean and professional. We also complete our beard trims with a straight razor of the cheeks and neck to really clean up those lines.
Speaking of beards, Four Crows have partnered with The WildMan Beard Co., who handcrafts 100% natural men’s facial hair grooming products in Nanaimo, to create a signature scent beard oil. So far has been a huge success, selling out during the Kris Kringle Craft Fair in 2 days! Luckily, having ample stock, you can pick some up at the shop, either for yourself or it can make a great gift.
Not only have Mike and his crew been offering exceptional service but have also taken pride in becoming involved in the community. On October 27th, Four Crows partnered with Meat Craft Island Butchers, Cob Breads, and the Roadmen Car Club to throw a party, “Barbers for Boobies,” in support of Breast Cancer research. The Roadmen brought down some classic cars and there were artisan sausages on the grill from Meat Craft, with all shop proceeds going to the BC Cancer Foundation.
Being the teacher that Mike is, he held a little session for the girls from Aura Hair Boutique after hours, to teach them tapering techniques.
Four Crows have been featured in The John Cooper Group’s #MYVIWHY community video series, which highlights Vancouver Island businesses that inspire why we live on this beautiful island, and also highlight why you should support local, because of how amazing these local businesses are.
Four Crows #MYVIWHY
I take a lot of pride in my personal service and have always taken the approach of “Come for the service, stay for the haircut”. I think in this day and age customer service has kind of taken a back seat to convenience and I want to change that. I am extremely proud to be a barber because I make people look and feel good for a living. Best job ever! -Mike Kluthe
Gents, if you have never had a barber experience or ladies if you know of a man who could use some high-quality grooming, send them down to Four Crows Baber & Shave Co. You won’t be disappointed.