The Modern Man Barbershop in Portland, Oregon

When AoM reader Gabriel Coeli recently visited the Modern Man Barbershop in Portland, Oregon, he was so impressed by the experience he wanted to write something up about it for The Trunk. Here is his report:

_______

Before you even step through the front door of Portland, Oregon’s newest barbershop, you know there’s something unique about the place.

Outside, perched on an antique stool with a novel splayed in his lap, is a shoe-shiner. He wears a corduroy suit and a neat paisley tie. His mustache is curly and full – he looks like an atavist of Mark Twain; his name is Sam, and today he greets me with a grin and a firm handshake.

“Welcome to The Modern Man,” he says.

I pass under the spinning red, white, and blue barber’s pole hung over the door, and into a wide, refurbished parlor of a classic Alberta Street Victorian home. I hear strains of classic country music over the click and pop of the vintage record player: Marty Robbins falling in love with his Mexican girl. The floor is hardwood, and on it rests the large pelt of a black bear. Trophies of bucks, goats, and buffalo hang on the walls and stare empty-eyed. On a rustic wooden table, magazines are scattered haphazardly. Field and Stream. Guns and Ammunition. And because this is Portland, Hobby Farming.

I’m greeted again–this time by a stout man covered in colorful tattoos who sports large-gauge earrings that have stretched his lobes into globes. He introduces himself as Christopher, and pours me a neat Maker’s Mark–whiskey is complimentary with every haircut–and in between jovial, deprecating banter with his barbers, he tells me the story of his business.

“I’ve been working in and around small businesses for nearly all of my life.” he tells me. “I couldn’t imagine not working in one. I couldn’t imagine not owning my own business.”

Christopher was raised on a chili farm near Ashland, Oregon, in the dry, high deserts near the border of California. Some of his favorite memories, he says, happened on Sundays at the barbershop with his brother and father. “The barbershop was where I learned to be a man,” he says. “My father took us there and let us see the men talking, let us join their conversations, and then talked to us afterward about what it means to be a man. That was so important to me.”

So when Christopher decided to start his own business, he knew exactly what he wanted to do: “I wanted to build a barbershop my Dad would want to come to. I don’t want to be rich. I just want to make a living working for myself, and do what I love.”

The time comes for my shave and haircut. Bubba, a massive man in a white smock with his name embroidered just above his heart, leads me to one of the three barbers’ chairs. Since I’m a Marine full-time and a writer part-time, I ask him for a military medium-reg. He doesn’t ask me any questions; he knows the cut exactly. After an expert shearing, he leans me back and places a hot towel over my face, then lathers me up and produces a straight razor. Our conversation turns to the subject of marriage–I’m recently engaged, and she and I have been searching for venues for weeks. He tells me about his and his husband’s troubles finding just the right spot for their civil union. I tell him about the challenges of raising my five year-old daughter; he tells me the challenges of raising his sixteen year-old daughter. Bubba keeps me talking and chuckling the whole way through–he’s a genuine man, with a decidedly dark and absurdist sense of humor, and a contagious laugh that gets everyone in the shop going when he starts guffawing at one of his own jokes.

When Bubba’s finished with me, he directs me to the classic cologne bar, featuring scents such as absinthe, mouchoir and sapera. The bottles offer rich smells, and I take a little of the sapera for myself. It smells like honey, leather, and smoke.

Christopher and I go out the front door and light up a cigar–also complimentary with the haircut–and we chat for a bit while Sam shines my shoes. “This is just the beginning,” he tells me. He’s got plans to open a proper haberdashery and on the second level of his building. “Men’s clothes, men’s accessories–anything the modern man needs.”

His shop is already what Portland’s modern men need–it’s a barbershop, sure. But it’s also a place where true manliness–not the infantile, perpetual adolescent “masculinity” so rampant in our culture–is alive, encouraged, and honored.

Next time you’re in Portland, swing by The Modern Man on 25th and Alberta. It’s just $18 for a cut and your choice of whiskey, a cigar, and a pick-me-up for your heart. You won’t just leave looking respectable; The Modern Man will refresh your verve, and send you off with a manly smile on your clean-shaven face.

Gabriel Coeli is a freelance writer and a Marine living in Portland, Oregon. He contributes to several web pages.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike October 19, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I know I would go out of my way to get to this shop if I lived in Portland.

Brien October 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm

I need a trim. I’ll pack my bags.

Timothy Barnes October 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Hard to find a good barbershop like that anymore. Too many franchises and salons have taken over the field.

Brandon Pope October 19, 2011 at 2:14 pm

I will second Brien’s sentiments. I need to search for some flights to Portland.

Mike Wisbrock October 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Damn, I wish one of these would open in DFW!

Reed Peck-Kriss October 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Only 18$! That’s astounding. Though I wonder what they’d do for a client under 21?

Ron Squire October 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm

18 bucks for all that?! Man, I kind of wish I lived in Portland now. Keep ANYTHING barber shop related coming!

Christopher Espinoza October 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm

This is Christopher, the owner of The Modern Man. Loved the article Gabriel, well done and thank you! And Reed, for young gentlemen under 21 we offer old fashioned draft root beer, coffee, espresso, bottled water etc. If anyone would like to see pics of the place feel free to visit http://www.themodernmanpdx.com

Thanks again Gabe!

Man'thony October 19, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Great story!

To be honest, I have a hard time reconciling a “manly” barbershop with a gay barber. The gay community makes pretty clear statements about dismantling gender roles and vicarious masculinity.

That doesn’t seem to be what the proprietor envisions.

The Modern Man October 19, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Man’thony-

I am the proprietor. I’m not quite sure what you were meaning by your post. Not trying to pick a fight, just trying to make sense of it. Sooooo, I shouldn’t hire gay barbers or gay barbers shouldn’t work at my establishment? Or if we have a homosexual barber that will detract from the “manliness” of the business? Everyone is welcome at my shop. Gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, all races, creeds, political orientation, religious orientation etc. If you want a sharp looking cut, a shave, some whiskey and a cigar, we can oblige. Here at TMM we think it’s manly to be humble enough to sit and sip some scotch with anyone who might be willing to join us. And PS, this barber (gay or straight) can fade like no one’s buisness :)

Anywho, thanks for giving the article a read!

Dalton October 19, 2011 at 9:18 pm

I was planning on heading over to the shop recently, and with the Groupon opportunity I couldn’t pass it up. I’ll see you soon Modern Man, can’t wait for a good shave and cut which is so hard to find nowadays.

Benjamin Gibson October 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm

This is an amazing establishment, major props to everyone at TMM. I go to a local barber in my town and I will definatley have to give him some ideas, atleast maybe a nice JD while im getting a cut. Thanks for the great article.

Bert October 20, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Sounds great! I don’t get to Portland often but the next time I do, I will be stopping by. Do you always take walk ins or do we need appointments?

I also appreciated the way you replied to Man’thony. While I don’t condone the lifestyle I’ve never had a problem with anyone on a personal level because they were gay or not.

The Modern Man October 20, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Bert-

Thanks for the interest! We DO take walk-ins but can get pretty slammed at times so online booking is the best way to go via the website. AAAANNNND if you think you might be in here in the next 6 months or so, there’s a few Groupons left and we’ll honor that until you get here! It’s a haircut, a hot towel straight razor shave, a neck shave, shampoo, whiskey, cigar, cologne and a puck of American Crew product all for $32. But there’s literally just a handful left so act quick if that’s up your alley!

http://www.groupon.com/deals/the-modern-man-barber-shop

Thanks Bert!

Butch Johnson October 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I’ll add my 2 cents’ worth. If you’re in the area, try Mike Krell at Oak Meadows Barber & Styling Shop, 1410 Ahrens, Houston, Texas. Mike is the owner, operator of this one-man shop, that has been there, seems like forever. He wears starched Wrangler jeans & custom-made roper cowboy boots & will talk about the weather, politics, NASCAR, or stick & ball sports. Third & forth generations get trimmed up there.
Old fashion barbering at its best!!

Dalton October 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm

So I stopped in today, with my Groupon. The guys were great, the cut was great, and it isn’t often that I get to enjoy the smokey flavors of Johnnie Walker Red Label while enjoying a close shave. I will be making this my go to place for a shave and cut. Thanks guys! And thanks Bubba, it’s a great cut.

I did forget to grab my puck of American Crew and cologne, could I come back in and grab it?

The Modern Man October 20, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Dalton,

Again, thanks for the kind words! Of course, come on back and get your product! Johnnie and I will be waiting :)

Chris October 22, 2011 at 12:12 am

What a great article. I have to travel to PDX on Tuesdat for work. Flight lands at 10, hope to be in the shop by 11 to get neat and tidy in time to make my work appointment at 1:00. Looking forward to it!

simon October 23, 2011 at 11:23 am

I would jump at the opportunity to come for a cut and shave. Being on the other side of the world doesnt help though – does anyone know of a similar barbershop in England?

Josh October 23, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Wish I had somewhere like this close by, after getting charged $28 for a #2 clippers head and face I got my own and gave up on the hairdressers and barbers in my area. Whiskey and a good trim for less than $20 would have lines running out the door.

Artimid October 30, 2011 at 6:19 am

While I am nowhere near Portland, that write-up had me wishing I could. I was happy to see that there was a Root Beer option for those who don’t drink, very classy.

I wish you best of luck with this business, that way we have a place to point at as an example of a high-end “barbershop” (for emphasis!) that has a bright future. Down here in my area of Florida, we tend to have the normal one or two man operations that will close down when the owners retire.. or the other option of five over priced salons every few blocks. >_<

Keith November 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Great find. I’m in Portland 3-4 times a year, this place will be a must visit!

Barber Shop Englewood November 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Love the blog! Good luck to the business and everyone in this profession.

Craig December 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

http://themodernmanpdx.com/

The location is Alberta and 22nd (not 25th)

Great Place. Just had my first straight shave by the hands of one of there most talented men.
-CRF

Vince February 5, 2012 at 12:00 am

Was in about 6 weeks ago, my first time but definitely not my last. Looking to get in there again next week. Was an amazing haircut and shave experience. Never would of imagined how great some Mr Walker and cut and shave could be. What’s even better is we just moved to the neighborhood, looking forward being a long time customer

Dan February 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Just got a cut there Thursday night. Great cut by Corey, definitely recommend the place!

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I am writing you to see if you would be interested in posting information and/or the film’s trailer on your website or blog website during the week of May 18th(the week the film opens). Please watch the trailer and read more about the film and let me know! Thank you so much for your time and I will hopefully talk to you soon! 

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