There are two types of men in the world.
1. The guy who’s known his barber for 20 years, who treats the grooming session as a therapeutic ritual, who nestles in a worn metallic and leather chair while a man named Lenny shears off his beard with warm shaving cream and a straight razor.
2. The guy who hits up Corner Clippers when he has time to buzz it all off, who just needs to get in, get out, and move on with the rest of the day, who really doesn’t see the point in emptying his wallet for a service he’s pretty confident he can do himself.
The on-demand and in-office barber service Hot Towels appeals to both guys.
I’m guy number two. Haircuts are always a last-minute affair – a dash to straighten up before a date or when the parents come to visit.
This fact becomes clear in the front lobby of the Men’s Fitness office, where I first meet the founder of Hot Towels, Tony (he just goes by Tony, or Tony the barber). When he asks what type of cut I want, I shrug and ask for a four on top and two on the sides – my standard buzz. He chuckles, sets up his mobile barber station, and pulls out a pair of silver scissors. Tony doesn’t like to use electric clippers.
Founded last September, the NYC-based Hot Towels provides in-office cuts and shaves for 30 bucks. Tony, or one of the expert barbers he’s hired, will arrive at your workplace toting a full barbershop in a suitcase. Legs screw on, a lighted mirror pops out, and you suddenly feel like you could be back at your local haircut joint – except when your boss pops in and reminds you about an afternoon meeting.
Tucked in a conference room mere feet from my desk, Tony neatly clips off locks from my curly dome while explaining the thought process behind the business. He doesn’t need to though. I understand the genius. I wasn’t going to have time that weekend to get a needed cut. Neither do many of the suited Manhattanites Tony serves on a daily basis. As guy number two, who really just wants a quick cut and doesn’t want to move far to get it, an office trim is the perfect solution.
That’s when Tony starts narrating what he’s doing. He calls the craft an art while he cuts. And I guess it is, as he tries to wheedle out what I want to look like when I actually really don’t know. Our conversation turns from hair to business to life. Tony turned to grooming after a finance firm layoff during the recession. We keep chatting, and then the haircut is done.
I realize this is a whole different experience than the guy-number-two cuts inside silent, sterile chain barbershops. Tony’s conversation and quality make me want to be guy number one.
Of course, I have a meeting in 15 minutes, so I shake Tony’s hand and go about the rest of my day in the office.