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At the Barbiere, Milano


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Thursday, June 07, 2007

At the Barbiere, Milano

I have walked by this little barber shop in Milan about a hundred times but I have never had a moment to go in and get a trim.

Finally, the last time I was there, I had a few minutes to pop in and see these guys in action.

Actually I have been growing my hair out a little and I wanted it to grow out a little more before getting it cut but I could not pass up this opportunity.

I don't know if these guys are the best barbers in Milan - they could be very average- but there was something about the quiet, neighborhood-barber-shop quality that I thought was so endearing.

So can you tell what they are doing with the towels here?

No velcro-tabbed big plastic sheets for these guys.

They place one very clean, very well-pressed white sheet across my lap, then one sheet front-to-back over my shoulders, then another sheet back-to-front over my shoulders.

In the little gaps around my neck where the towels don't meet my neck they stuff long strips of cotton that they keep in a glass jar.

That's three sheets for one customer. As a New Yorker I kept thinking to myself "their laundry bill must be HUGE"

Again, I don't know if these guys are the best but I love unreasonably charming old-school techniques like this.

No Aveda
No Paul Mitchell
Plenty of atomizers

I looks like they did their sign with a Sharpie marker - I really think they did.

If you get a chance I would love to hear about any other funny little techniques that your barbers uses.

ps I have to admit the cut did grow out very well

Comments on "At the Barbiere, Milano"


Blogger william d. anderson said ... (9:02 AM) : 

what a great post. i'm jealous in a way. it takes me back to a time when i had hair. i used to go to this little shop called red's. apparently the guy who used to own the shop was called red, so frank just kept the sign and let everyone call him red. same kind of thing, though. hot foam, atomizers, white sheets, and grumpy old guys talking about the weather. i miss that ritual.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:08 AM) : 

okey i love the old barbers, but you have like the shortest hair ever. even I could cut your hair!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:09 AM) : 

Wow! Brilliant! Great catch on your behalf!


Blogger Alice Olive said ... (9:09 AM) : 

Love the "product shot" - check out the beautiful atomiser bottles.

I like that you can just check out a new stylist. I have short hair too but unfortunately, I can't just try out someone new without risking my hair! When I moved here last year, I asked random women on the street with great cuts who did their hair. As a result, I ended up at a hairdresser which is sort of, kind of, somehow within a tattoo parlour. This is so not me - but I am still grateful to the lady in the gourmet deli who gave me the recommendation and told me to ignore the stripclub-esque steps up to the salon!


Blogger The Sartorialist said ... (9:15 AM) : 

for Anon 9:08am

that shot is after the cut.


Blogger londondog said ... (9:55 AM) : 

Great post Sart! In a way, your post and the accompanying pics mirror many of my sentiments about Italy…
My general experience of going to Italy is that they are very neat, clean and house/business-proud, and feel strongly about preserving tradition. The shops, restaurants and barbers are always spotlessly clean but without looking sterile or losing character; moreover, they are great at preserving tradition in a beautiful unique way – hence the atomisers instead of ordinary product bottles, wooden counters, and old coat hanger, and three towels per customer. This is something I always admired, coming from the UK where the culture is much more driven by money-making at all costs, and where standards of cleanliness and general pride in running your business aren't that high. There are good sides to both approaches but life flows so much more gently in Italy and there is a unique charm in their preservation of the great old traditions and keeping things the way like as in the old saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix’.


Blogger McTickle said ... (10:20 AM) : 

I cut my own hair. Buzz it right off. I would pay to have someone do it if it weren't for the fact that any barber I've found in NYC who doesn't cost an arm and a leg likes to shave me head to make me look like I'm Puerto Rican. And I'm not. Just a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. If I could find a place like this I would jump on it; at least for a shave. Nothing beats a good barber shop shave.


Blogger lewehrman said ... (10:26 AM) : 

About 12 years ago, I was in Aqaba, Jordan and sat with a friend from NZ while he got a shave after travelling for enough time to grow a scruffy beard and curly mop. Hot towels, lather in a cup, the straight razor, all of it. The conversations were in arabic so they could have been complaining about soccer (I mean football), the weather (HOT), politics (very doubtful, little restrictive in the part of the world). The barber was very serious and flourishy with his gestures to get the foam off of the razor between strokes.

The coolest part was next.

After the shave was done and foam washed off, he went back on the parts on the upper cheeks and plucked all those little stray hairs with that threading technique.

With some of the older gentlemen that had hair in their ears and nose, long pices of paper set on fire were used to singe them off.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:35 AM) : 

scissors, comb and atomizers are a must for all barbers in Milano. I hate electric razors.

another usual thing is that old barbers don't wash hair before cutting them and they also use straight razors to clean the neck or behind the ears.

My old barber used to cut hair on the neck with a manual clipper; I think he never changhed them since the early '30s!

where is the barber shop you shooted?

greetings from milano.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:32 AM) : 

beautiful post. i'm a girl but i love the sentiment of this post. and the comments too. i think it is good to change and innovate, but it is also good to keep one foot in the past and preserve the old fashioned way of doing certain things. new doesn't always translate to beautiful. :)


Anonymous Katie said ... (11:39 AM) : 

I love old Italian barbers! You inspired me to post a picture of my 89 year old uncle. He still cuts hair 3 days a week. :-)


Anonymous ilga said ... (12:02 PM) : 

Nice shop!
Yeah, please tell us what's its address!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:11 PM) : 

Ah, the "Barbershop Mystique Unveiled."

Thanks, Sart. I've always wondered what goes on in there with those handsome old barbers.

Here are some tips from Africa (specifically Egypt and now passed down as the "it" thing in Western African countries like Ghana):

- clean shave (no designs)
- plucked hairs (although I'm unsure if threading is involved like lewehrman's case)
- facial steam with hot towels

The kicker is that the facial steaming is, like, part of the regular service.

When my partner came back from Ghana earlier this year, he was transformed into this spa-going dude who wanted facial's all the time (praise be).

He's back there for a few weeks right now, and I suspect the main purpose for this trip was to get some more pampering!

Even in an urban city like Montreal, it's hard to find trained pros who are well-versed in the eccentric beauty of black skin and the challenges it can pose for men, in particular (what with all that shaving). I suspect it may be similar in New York, too.



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:12 PM) : 

Nice barbershop you went to, classic stile will I say.
I think the two towels are there for saving the sheet from greasy hair and from the liquid in the atomizers when they spray it in your hair. Then of corse if you order shampooing, they use very likely a bottle with shampoo and water mixed, and start shampooing you directly in your chair, after the shampooing you have to bend forword into the the basin in front of you and shower of the lather, and after that, you nide a towel for you face. (But mayby the use the same stile (start) as the restaurants, whith a complite layed table when you arraving.)
The littel pice of cotton in your neck is to save you from the tiny little hairs who falls down and bother your neck.

alias My Cutwalk


Anonymous Julia said ... (12:21 PM) : 

well its europe what do expect. everything still holds its genuine quality maybe u got to a barber, a butcher, a seamstress or a shoe polisher. and the ironic thing is that soceity is so filled with consumerism that the old things appear modenr in a way. and u have to admit the quality of coming toa REAL barber is that they love their job and they treat it a s craft and an art. you werent just another costumer, you were another chance at creating a masterpiece, another great work. im russian, and everything that can be done as i remeber was done from scratch and it better be good quality too. now i live in vancouver, but me and my parents still make thing slike wine and cottage cheese from scratch. thats the beautiy of culture.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:18 PM) : 

There is a not dissimilar place in south London, near Tooting Bec. Two Italian brothers run the place, though they have a third chair (seemingly there simply to allow a space for an elderly friend to sit and read La Gazzetta della Sport). The only modern convenience is a small TV which is always tuned to some manner of horse racing. I imagine one could place a bet before (during?) one's cut, though I have never mustered the nerve to inquire.


Blogger Cristina said ... (2:14 PM) : 

Dear Sarto
please can you tell me the adress of this barber shop?



Blogger Jack Daniel said ... (2:27 PM) : 

I used to go to the barber who only cuts men:

He'll ask: "How much?"

And then you have to tell him how you want it.

And then he'll cut your hair within 10 minutes without saying a word...unless YOU begin the conversation. But he'll only respond in a few words.


Anonymous BlowHarder said ... (3:40 PM) : 

I visited a barber once who bragged to me, right before he began the cut, that he had been wearing polyester since "before it became fashionable." Something about the hair not sticking to his pants.

These days I cut my own hair. There's just not that much of it left to worry about. Once a week I plug in the Robocut and vacuum my head. No muss, no fuss, and it's the same every time.


Anonymous lintmag said ... (4:57 PM) : 

Adorable! Are you sure you didn't get these two from central casting? The taller one looks more serious and businesslike and the smaller looks like he tells the jokes and keeps things light. It would be interesting to hear the history of these men and their shop if you ever go back.


Blogger Cut of cloth said ... (5:05 PM) : 

My 84year old father has told me many stories of going to the local barber shop as a small boy
Sitting and waiting for his turn
for a short back and sides
Only to be told by the barber
'walter bach, you don't mind waiting do you while i do Mr Jones first .' in Wales there are a lot of Jones'
My fathers visits to the barber always took hours
But he learnt a lot on those visits....
These photos have that timeless quality
A hint of the past in the future and present.
The gravure of these shots is perfect
and has made me smile and remember...


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:11 PM) : 

Smile baby! If they were so good, why do you look so unhappy in the picture?


Blogger Candid Cool said ... (5:32 PM) : 

I admire the tradition of it all. Beautiful shots, and I like the sharpie sign


Blogger Girl Spy said ... (5:35 PM) : 

I am a girl and have never gone to a barber, but you make it sound so great.

I love reading this blog; you are so interested in the details of life. You slow down and look at things. I remember some one talking about William Faulkner going to their house and they asked him, "Did you see that?" and he said, "Oh my dear, I am a writer, I notice everything!"

You are in that same league.

Those touches like the three sheets/towels? they make life so pleasing, don't they? These little things that make you feel so good, life is worth living and so interesting. So necessary in this world which makes us want to just run, run fast and consume.

It's good to stop and look at the sign, at these old world barbers and all like them.

Thanks, Scott.


Blogger Lynette said ... (6:13 PM) : 

when things are kept classic and old school it just makes more sense.


Blogger The Observer said ... (7:34 PM) : 

make me think of the hair dresser in Roman Holiday. That's what he'd look like now.


Blogger Michelle said ... (8:52 PM) : 

they are adorable :)


Blogger Asian Models Blogger said ... (11:51 PM) : 

Sart, some comments:

1. Do young Italian men go to barber shops like this?

2. Are there any young barbers or is this a dying art?

3. Relative to the barber shops in NYC, are they more expensive?

Sounds like you had a great time at the shop.


Blogger My Fall Collection said ... (1:48 AM) : 

I can't wait to have a light like that so that I can write on it with a sharpie! I'm willing to bet that we'll be seeing a bar or club with that sort of signage in NYC within a few weeks... ;)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:29 AM) : 

if ever you go to dubrovnik (croatia), check out the barber shop in the old town. its simply amazing and atmospheric. a couple of old men milling about, birds in cages chirping, always breezy.. if i weren't female i would have patronized it.

its the most incredible shop i have ever seen.


Anonymous ilga said ... (4:38 AM) : 

@ cristina
Dear Cristina, I think we'll never find out...!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:55 AM) : 

Sorry to trouble you but Please could I have the name and maybe address (or zone) My husband would love this babiere


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:26 AM) : 

This has gotta be my fav post ever. The charm, the sweet barbers, the meticulous-ness of their profession. everything.

Thanks Sart, u made my day. :)


Blogger Katherine said ... (5:40 AM) : 

Although I'm not sure Japanese barbers do these things, at my salon, my beautician places little plastic covers over my ears before she begins cutting. They look like two little shower caps. Additionally, most salons will give you a head and shoulder massage following the shampoo, but before beginning the cut. I love it!


Anonymous Mark Tungate said ... (5:42 AM) : 

Possibly my favourite post yet. Plus, it takes a bit of bottle to dive in to a Milanese barber. Next time you're in Paris, you may want to check out Monsieur Alain, le maitre barbier, in the Marais (8, rue Saint Claude). He has a snappy (or should that be snippy?) sense of style, as do his extravagantly moustached clients. Why not let your hair grow out some more, and cultivate a 'tache while you're at it?


Blogger KEYNOTER said ... (6:11 AM) : 

I'm really enjoying your photos. Glad you're having fun. Fab shot of those barbers.


Blogger Cristina said ... (7:22 AM) : 


Dear Ilga,
next week I'll be in Milan.
I'll bring with me the photos, and like a new Lieutenant Columbo I'll ask "Did you ever seen this old barber shop?"



Blogger sandman_gr said ... (8:31 AM) : 

Same thing used to exist in Greece when I was a kid - it must have ended in early eighties... Glad to see it still exists in Italy.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:42 AM) : 

I am origanlly frm Germany , and I remember as a little kid there used to be a barbers shop like that run by an Italian family on the corner of the street.
They used what would be some kind of helf shirt you would put on and then for the corners they had this cotton similar to your picture. Brings back alot of memories. They would always talk about soccer and had a small corner in the shop with old pictures and memrobilia.


Blogger Regina said ... (9:46 AM) : 

I just love these not-trendy places that make us feel that somehow time just stopped.
Here in São paulo there is this old barber downtown that is very peculiar about his work, even though he tries to be updated so he can keep his public. Besides that, this post reminded me of a small town down South, where I met a barber who owned this barbershop, placed in this corner for 50 years. Every morning, he opens his business and go to the sidewalk with his brum to "catch up". He probably doesn't cut this much hair, but he knows everything that happens there.
Lovely pictures!


Anonymous ilga said ... (10:30 AM) : 

@Asian Models Blogger

Nowadays few italian men go to barber shops like this; no wait, not few men, rather aged man. In fact the classic barber shop does just "classic men haircut", usually very short. So if you have long hair (or just if you have hair ;-)) or if you want kinda "fashion cut" you have to choose something else.
And yes, unfortunately it is a dying art...


so, Liut. Colombo, welcome in Milano! and if you'll find any trace, let me know: maybe I won't cut my hair, but I always wanted to try a old style shave cut! you know, the one with the hot towel, a lot of white and foaming cream...


Blogger Asian Models Blogger said ... (1:22 PM) : 

Thanks for the response, ilga.


Blogger Jeff Werner said ... (11:33 AM) : 

To add to lewehrman's comment, re: barber conventions in Jordan, when I was in Allepo, Syria in 2003 I had a shave and haircut from an 18-year-old barber who'd been working his father's business since he was 12. In addition to everything lewehrman experienced, I was also subjected to a sort of calcium-like flat stone, which was rubbed over my face immediately after the shave. The residue from this vigorous application not only chaffed, but it also completely dried up my face and was more than a little uncomfortable. After three minutes of this, relief came in the form of a lemon-scented alcohol-like aftershave. Then the threading...With the traditional haircut the damage came to about $1 US.


Anonymous normanhathaway said ... (1:31 PM) : 

I would say their sign used to have cut-out letters adhered to the glass panel, but they eventually fell off, so the boys traced over the glue with a marker.

great sign still.


Blogger Vanessa said ... (9:10 PM) : 

This reminds me of that one shot you took of the barber napping in his chair one afternoon in Milan.

If I owned my own salon, I would do something similiar. I would be open on Saturdays, but not on Sundays (preserving the day for relaxation, as it's also the Lord's Day). However, I would be open on Saturdays and every other days. Only closing for a few hours on Monday (probably between 12-2) for a personal nap for myself and everyone else that I employed.)

It's nice to read of others charming, oldtime traditions that still appear to be kept alive today.


Anonymous gila said ... (10:46 PM) : 

wonderful! in every way.


Blogger The Italian Contrarian said ... (5:07 AM) : 

I used to go to a Barber's Shop like this in my little town on the Lake Garda. Renato (in arte called René) had been the barber of Italian and German forces who had HQ on the lake during the final phase of the II W.W.; he told many fascinating stories about that period. Unfortunately, there are not any other barber's shop like this today in the zone where I live. So I was so pleased to see that there are still people who use cotton stripes to fill the space between the neck and the towel. Greetings from Lake Garda


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:53 AM) : 

With all of the oooh la la salons around, it is good to see an old fashion barber shop. I wish I could be there to smell the aromas and hear the sounds of these barbers do their "thang!" I think these kind of barbers should be in every neighborhood.


Blogger Cristina said ... (1:17 PM) : 

Dear ilga, do you live in Milan? In this case you can start my future work like Liut. Colombo...
Anyway, I started to send the photos to my friends who live in Milan...I'm waiting for an answer...

I think that our Sarto is very happy that a post about a barber shop can produce relatioship between us!


Blogger Frasypoo said ... (3:08 PM) : 

My husband is a barber and when he has customers who come in from work and have on formal shoes,he shines their shoes with that instant shoe polish thingie!


Blogger J.M. said ... (8:10 PM) : 

LOL Scott, love that barber-shop autoportrait.

Hard at work here in Paris - hope you are well : )



Blogger aliceinprogress said ... (7:27 AM) : 

There are moments that only a dandy man like you can understand...wish to be a man in that moments..just for breathing that old style atmosphere full of Italian tradition..
it's an italian girl speaking..


Anonymous matteo said ... (7:49 AM) : 

please... let us have the address of this "barbiere" in milano... :)
i'd love to try one day.


Blogger AnastasiaC said ... (9:07 AM) : 

love it! i did a post last month about our local barber Mr Canturo (also Italian) both my boys go to his old fashioned barber shop! he's so sharp and I love good old fashioned grooming!


Blogger Cristina said ... (12:33 PM) : 

When I was 6 years old, my father carried me to the barber shop.
There was an horse shaped seat where the barber puts children not to make them screamed and to distract and make them enjoy the hair cutting, but it did not work good with me...because I used to cry all the time.
A lady is a lady also when she is 6!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:29 PM) : 

my dad has gone to a barber for many years where every cut takes 15 minutes. it doesn't mantter if you have minimal hair (like my dad) or a full thick head! all cuts- 15 minutes. you can judge how long it is til your turn by counting who is ahead of you!


Blogger Lillbet said ... (12:40 PM) : 

I just got a really miserable, cheap cut at a chain with Paul Mitchell, etc. (I got what I paid for) so I loved this post. The old school barber shops are a fun experience- much more personal and homey, if that makes sense. I loved the shot with the atomizers. And look, there's you! What fun :)


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:10 AM) : 

Great post.

I have been looking for a place like this and have not found one yet.


Anonymous brant said ... (11:26 AM) : 

In college I studied abroad in Kanazawa Japan. I took a ton of pictures and was fascinated by everything. I also got my hair cut. Apparently in Japan (or at least this was what I was told at the time in this area) the barbers are all closed on mondays--no explanations just you can't get a haircut mondays. The other neat detail I remember was that they had a television in the shop behind the customer. It was only halfway through the haircut that I noticed that the entire broadcast was actually in reverse so as you sit in the chair and look into the mirror the reflection of the TV isn't reversed--a small detail but very telling of the country as a whole a lot of the smallest details can be easily overlooked because they blend so well into the experience.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:09 PM) : 

I remember the old barbershop at the same location for 50 years - the routine, the final trim with the straight razor. Howver you always had to ask the barber how his meds were - paranoid schizophrenia and shaky hands with a straight razor...alas he was finally hospitalized and the new owners soon sold out. Now have to look for another...


Blogger utkuozt said ... (6:35 AM) : 

in istanbul especially during my childhood there were several musts in a traditional barbershop:
-a classical stove with a traditional kettle sitting on top of it, boiling water (always) and that is no way shave related, that is for turkish tea. so you'd always have the steam whistle in the background.
-a canary in the cage, i dont know why but old school barbers did love canaries
-a lamp transistor radio, tuned to a traditional music radio station (only on weekends to footbal game broadcasts)

and the funny practise:
you are taken to the barbershop by your dad, but you are way too small for the barber's chair. they'd always have a sponge'n leather covered wooden piece which they place between the armrests of the barber chair and the kid sits on top of the piece, not the chair. then you'd be tall enough for the barber to operate.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:28 PM) : 

Barber shop address: Via Moscova, 9 - Milan

I go there regularly, my own office is located in the same street :)



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