For the last 15 years or so, I’ve been cutting my own hair. It’s not as bad as it sounds… I started noticing grey around my temples and at the back of my head when I was about 20. Rather than embrace the grey, I just bought an electric shaver and away it went.
A few months ago, I decided to let my hair grow out again and take stock of what kind of state it was in. I was thinking “Ok, maybe I can live with it. I’m older now, more refined and at least it’d match my beard…” Then my wife noticed that the back of my head was riddled with pure white hairs. Nope. Nopenopenope. I’m not ready for that yet.
Seeing my distress, my loving wife did her best Google-fu and came to me with her laptop in hand, open to a website. That website was Houseofbarons.ca. From the videos and content on the site, supported by overwhelmingly positive Yelp and Google reviews, I knew I’d found my new barber.
The solution… House of Barons
Located in the ByWard Market area of Ottawa, House of Barons prides itself on “preserving the art of men’s grooming” which immediately had me intrigued. There was a time where I thought a traditional barber shop and a straight razor shave was only something my grandfather took part in. However with most things I did not understand in my youth, I have learned to appreciate some traditions are definitely worth keeping around. I was looking forward to this experience.
I arrived around 3pm on a Tuesday. They advertise their service as “walk-in” so I did not have to make an appointment. It was raining and cold outside, and, honestly, I was having second thoughts about this whole haircut thing. As soon as I stepped through the front door of the House of Barons location on Sussex Dr. though, I was greeted with a casual “Hey man. You need a cut?” from the well-dressed greeter at the front desk. “Heck yeah!” I said. He took my name, told me that there were four barbers and three guys in front of me so the wait wouldn’t be long and directed me to a comfy window bench.
I sat there on my bench, staring out at the drenched and miserable people and then looked back inside the shop. It was warm, not only in temperature, but in spirit. Dark wooden walls and furniture contrast with the reds and burnt umber tones in the brick walls. The walls are full of pictures, vintage signs, mounted deer heads, and men’s grooming products arranged neatly on shelves. In addition to haircuts, men come in for traditional straight razor shaves with hot towels. This place exuded the essence of ‘gentleman’.
The barbers were all dressed to their individual style, but overall the retro-hipster vibe carried across from all of them. Suspenders, ties, sketchers, beards and beanies – these were not your grandfather’s barbers. As I started to look up pictures of fade haircuts on my phone, the fellow at the counter said “Hey, can I get you a drink?” I politely declined with a lame “No thanks, I just had a coffee.” He stared at me for a minute and then asked the question again, but with slightly more detail. “Would you like a drink… of beer?” Oh yes. Yes thank you.
I took a few pictures while I sipped my 1855 (because, honestly, what better beer could they serve, sitting a few hundred feel from Parliament, at the entrance to the Byward market?). Suddenly, it was my turn and I eagerly took my seat in the chair.
I’m not an overly social person, but my barber broke the ice as he placed my cape: “Crap, you’re like full on Wolverine right now. How can I help you?” Perhaps not particularly subtle, but fully accurate and it made me laugh. I appreciate a no BS approach. “I want a fade”, I said. “You want skin or stubble?” came the immediate reply. I went with stubble, they grey still shows a bit, but it looks distinguished when it’s that close to the skin. I hope.
I sat in that chair for nearly 40 minutes while my hair was worked on. Now, I wear glasses because I’m terribly near-sighted. I can’t see anything more than two feet in front of me without them. Getting a haircut has always been like being on one of those makeover shows for me. I have no idea what I look like until I’m finished and put my glasses back on. Let me tell you, there was a lot of suspense built up by the end.
It wasn’t a boring 40 minutes though, no sir. The place is alive with conversation. Barbers chatted about everything under the sun with their customers, many of whom are on a first-name basis and clearly see each other fairly frequently. The barbers also bantered with one another about everything from their clothes the music choices being played (at the time, an eclectic mix of electronica and hip-hop). Some of the customers seemed to be familiar with each other as well. All in all, the place came across as relaxed, friendly and welcoming. Imagine it like this – it’s the guys from Cheers doing haircuts and shaves, but Sam is as funny as Cliff and Norm.
The cut isn’t cheap, ringing in at $30 + tip, but my barber spent almost an hour with me and I left with the best haircut I’ve ever had and a better understanding of the importance of proper grooming. Worth every penny. With this cut, I’ll probably be in there every two or three weeks for the rest of forever, so I imagine that it won’t be too long before everyone there knows my name too. Next time, I think I’ll brave-up and let them have a go at my beard.
If you’re in Ottawa or anywhere in the NCR and want an awesome haircut or shave, a cool atmosphere and to feel like a man’s man, this is the spot. They currently have three storefronts and two satellite locations (in Frank and Oak stores), so there’s probably one near you, check them out.