Normally I keep my writing strictly travel related – flights, hotels, things like that, but I had an experience last week I thought was worth sharing, and that experience was a haircut.
To be honest, calling it a haircut is an injustice to the product House of Barbaard offers. What they do goes far beyond just a haircut and a shave. They provide an experience worth every penny, or in their case, Dong.
After seeing an advertisement on Facebook, I decided the place looked nice enough for a splurge and to be honest I needed this like you wouldn’t believe. I hadn’t shaved or had a haircut in over four months by this point and I was starting to look like a bum. Plus, I had a couple business class flights coming up (where I’m writing this from now) and wanted to look my best.
When the Uber dropped me off, I didn’t exactly know where I was. House of Barbaard is on what I call “hardware street”. If you live or have been to Vietnam you’ll know what I mean. For those who don’t, the Vietnamese have a knack for having dozens of shops selling the same things all next to each other. In this instance, that product is hardware supplies. At first I thought the location was bad, but the area overall is on the rise, within close proximity of the main expat areas, so the location will only get better.
The gate to the barbershop stands out amongst the surrounding businesses. It’s a solid black wrought-iron gate with the company logo designed into it. Immediately you know this place is designed to impress. I ring the buzzer and within a few seconds a well dressed gentlemen opens the gate for me and leads me to the downstairs lobby.
As we walked into the lobby I stopped to take in my surroundings. The first thing that jumps out is the detail that went into the place. Everything has a throwback feel to it, and if it weren’t for the fancy phone sitting on the desk in front of me saying “you have a phone call” I would think I was thrown back in time about 100 years. All of the men in the shop are dressed to the nines, and here I am in flip flops and a t shirt. For the first time in my life, I felt underdressed for a haircut.
Luckily, despite not having an appointment, they got me in pretty quickly. I only had to wait a minute or two before being led up to the shop itself, which is on the 5th floor. By this point, women are not allowed. It is a barbershop, after all.
The barbershop is owned and founded by two Dutch guys, and as I was walking up the flights of stairs I actually felt like I was in Holland for a minute. Then again, every-time I walk up a narrow flight of stairs I feel like I’m back in Holland.
The barbershop area itself is much like the lobby on the ground floor, all about the details. I was seated in the waiting area and promptly asked if I would like a beverage, which is included in the price of the haircut. I decided to try and fight the intense Hanoi heat with a nice cold beer. Expecting a cheap Vietnamese beer like Bia Hanoi, I was surprised when a Heineken came out! I would have been happy with a Vietnamese beer, but the fact it was a premium beer like Heineken shows they put a fair bit of thought into the concept. They’re also keeping with the Dutch theme, which I am loving. They also had stroopwaffels (my favorite) for sale and fine cigars to smoke in the waiting area. What is this little slice of heaven!?
I sat down and decided to check out the reading selection, which has something for just about everyone. Among the highlights were “The Bro Code”, by Barney Stinson, aka one of the greatest fictional characters EVER. It wouldn’t be a high class joint without an endorsement from Barney. There were also some “gentlemen’s” magazines to peruse over. Unfortunately the articles were all in Dutch, so I had to settle by just looking at the pictures. What. A. Bummer.
After a few minutes my barber, Mr. Quan Anh, sat down and we had a chat about what I wanted to do with my hair. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue. I spent the last four months growing out my hair with questionable results. I figure let’s leave this one to the professionals.
We started off by going into a separate room to wash my hair, and as I was sitting there another employee came up and offered a selection of Dutch cheese and sausage. Of course I decided to partake and they were delicious! No other barbershop I’ve been to has offered meats, cheeses, and beer. Where has this place been all my life!?
The haircut was pretty straight forward, but instead of buzzers like most barbers used today, he mainly used his clippers. It’s something small, but again this place is all about the little details. I’ve always said the details can be the difference between something being good and great, and this place is clearly in the latter. He also used a straight razor to part my hair, which he said will make it look nicer. It’s not something I’ve ever done before, but he’s the expert and in the end he was right.
One of the random things that drives me nuts after a haircut is the little hairs all over you for the rest of the day. Not here! After the haircut we went back to the washroom and I got my hair washed again and a hot towel for my face.
At this point I would have been pretty satisfied, but he took me back into the cutting area to style my hair. In hindsight this was for the best because I didn’t have a clue what to do with my new look! He went over a few different styles with me and then broke out some different products to use. All of the products he used were from Reuzel, a mens grooming company based out of (you guessed it!) Holland. Another small, but nice touch : all of the products they import from Reuzel have a House of Barbaard authenticity hologram on them. In a country full of counterfeit products, this is yet another detail that sets them apart from the competition.
The first was a hair tonic, which is used to help damaged hair and protect it from the sun. In Vietnam, this is important. The water is terrible and the sun is oppressive so every little bit helps. He then began to use pomade, something I’ve managed to avoid for 27 years. I’m not sure why I never used it, but like I’ve said before “don’t deny it till you try it!”. I’m now a pomade believer.
The day ended with yet another hot towel, followed by a cold towel infused with what I think was green tea. At least, I think that’s the order of things. There were a lot of hot towels and pomp and circumstance. I wasn’t expecting to write about it at the time so I just kind of took it all in.
I was in a rush to meet Breada afterwards, so I completely forgot about buying pomade. I made the trip back a couple days later and luckily my barber was working that day so I got to thank him again for his fine handy work. Because I didn’t have any gel or pomade I wasn’t exactly showing off his craftsmanship, so he offered to style my hair for me for free! It was a very nice gesture, which I took him up on. I’ve now watched him twice, done it myself a handful of times, and it still doesn’t look like how he gets it to look. Oh well, practice makes perfect.
Overall I couldn’t be happier with my experience at House of Barbaard. While it’s expensive for Vietnam standards, at 550,000 VND for a haircut and shave ($24) it was a steal compared to back home. When we return to Vietnam this August, I know exactly where I’ll be heading to get cleaned up.
You can find House of Barbaard on 36 Hàng Cháo, Cát Linh, Đống Đa, Hà Nội. You can also give them a call +84 (0) 462627737 or send them an e-mail.
**All of these photos were taken from the House of Barbaard website. I tried taking photos but they all looked like shit.**