Food, drink and coiffure enthusiast Adam H. Callaghan wandered around Portland, Maine to get a sense of which barbers and salons integrate booze into their approach to hair maintenance. Is that even a thing? Our own Zack Bowen shot some photos. Many thanks to Jason Dodge at Momentum Streetwear + Babershop for letting us hang around their shop and shoot some photos for a bit.
Hot Dog and a Haircut
Words by Adam H. Callaghan Photography by Zack Bowen/Knack Factory
When I was a kid, getting a haircut was a necessity, not a pleasure—I dreaded the dig of my elderly barber’s clippers across my scalp. Sitting in a Batmobile-shaped stool helped ease the pain of those first brutal buzz cuts, though. Bruce Wayne could afford a better barber, but for a moment, I was Batman, and I could handle a scrape.
For various reasons, getting groomed can still be a hassle. But in the words of Parks and Recreation curmudgeon Ron Swanson, “The three most important people in a man’s life are his barber, his butcher, and his lover.” Last summer a chalkboard sign near my apartment suggested I could combine two out of three. “PBR and two hotdogs with a men’s hair cut,” J. Kelley Salon advertised. Could this be the adult Batmobile that eases the stress of the salon?
The hotdog promotion is over, alas. “Not enough people came in wanting them,” cosmetologist Brooke revealed, and the salon couldn’t keep the meat fresh. But the beer? That’s still an option, she told me, which “always comes into play” when attracting men to the shop.
Expect PBR and boxed wine. “We didn’t say it’s good beer, we said it’s free beer,” she laughed. It’s enough, though. “People like to have a beer while they’re sitting here getting a hair cut. It makes them relaxed, it’s more of an ‘at home’ vibe,” she explained.
Mensroom Salon and Lounge offers a similar gratis selection, which stylist Bailey calls “All the good stuff.” If you have your own definition of good stuff, Bailey continued, “You can even bring your own whiskey or something and leave it here for next time.” This, on top of a laundry list of luxuries offered by the salon, from straight razor shaves to a pool table and an X-box. Sean Wilkinson, who has been a customer for years, praised the indulgence of Mensroom. “Get a massage and drink a watery domestic lager? That’s pretty awesome in the middle of a shitty winter.”
In stark contrast, Nate Charles, proprietor and sole stylist at Nathan Charles Cuts for Men, laughed when I asked if he served booze. “No, I don’t think alcohol belongs in a barber shop.” Instead, he lets his background as an artist and a competitive snowboarder inform his attention to detail, and he turns on the blowdryer “about 15 times” during a brief service to blast away loose hair so businessmen taking a long lunch break won’t be itchy throughout the day.
Jason Dodge, owner of Momentum, hoped to sell booze and even food at his barber shop, but found it impossible. “You can’t get licensed for both barbering and food and drink because of health and safety stuff, which makes sense with the open chemicals,” he admitted.
Instead, he sells items beyond the typical array of grooming products: shoes, hats, and other apparel. His team of male stylists doesn’t offer massages or Malbecs, but Dodge let slip that Momentum will host after-hours bachelor parties. “We keep a few barbers here, TV, music,” Dodge said. “They’ll come in to get groomed, and we allow them to bring their own beer and wine.” Sounds better than waking up with marker on your face and a surprise Mohawk from your groomsmen.
Two women take turns cutting my hair, depending on what day I wander in the door of Paragon Barber Shop. They’re efficient: for $15 it takes them 20 minutes to shape my hair (sans shampoo) into the same generic style they give everyone I’ve ever seen leave their care. Forget small talk, theirs is microscopic talk. Like Swanson’s barber, they “always ask me about the same thing: nothing. It’s perfect.” I don’t like to keep my mouth or eyes open while hair flies across my face anyway. Moreover, neither gives my head a scrape with the razor.
As for you, maybe you want to practice your pool skills or get a light buzz on with your buzz cut. More power to you. You’re the goddamn Batman.