STAYING TRUE TO OUR GRANDFATHERS’ WAYS
Australian men are taking more pride in their tonsorial appearance. Our haircuts are trending, we oil our beards, and our waxed moustaches aren’t out of place at the boardroom table. But the credit isn’t all ours. Many of us have a helping hand, and mine belongs to Justin Howley, owner of Perth’s famous Westons Barbershop. In between razor strokes I learn a little of his story.
Justin had a stylish upbringing. Son to a talented hairdresser and raised in the arguably more fashion-conscious UK, he began working at 19 in the same barbershop he visited as a child. But life led Justin to Australia a few years after, where he continued his trade in a more traditional setting. There he perfected his shaving techniques and classic skills, learning from men with more than 40 years of experience.
After 10 years in the industry, Justin and business partner James Howe decided it was time for their own venture. Supported by friend Regan Matthews (the music producer Taku) their ideas became a reality with an elegant and traditional setting on Perth’s William Street.
But despite the allure of the jarrah floors and the rugged scents that hang in the air, the barbershop still intimidate some Australian men. Perhaps it’s the tattoos, or the blades, or the notion of being styled by a man. But the honest welcome and the service of a good barber soon remove these trepidations, and in their place build lasting friendships. And it’s easy to see why.
‘It’s our no gimmicks approach,’ Justin says. ‘We’re not trying to be cool or in fashion, we just do what we always have and try to make everyone feel welcome and at home. Every barber in the shop has their own style, their own clientele, and it makes for a great mix.’
And he’s right. The barbershop isn’t about a quick shave or a short back and sides. It’s a moment away from the stresses of life, where a man can have a whiskey, shoot some pool and be honoured with old fashioned hospitality.
It’s a throwback to years gone by, to a masculinity Australia abandoned somewhere in the 20th century. ‘To me it didn’t make sense when I arrived here,’ Justin says. ‘My grandfather and the older generation always carried a comb, dressed in suits and looked their best. But this was an Australia where it wasn’t masculine to look after your hair or your skin, or to follow European fashion.’
But somehow, it seems, we’ve found our style again. Perhaps through a more open-minded culture, or the education instilled by social media, Australian men are taking pride in their appearance. And society is embracing the change.
‘So find yourself a good barber who you trust and stick with them. They can make you look a million dollars,’ Justin says. ‘And be a good mate.’