1. Barber and Books
Barber and Books, on a small side street between Slussen and Medborgarplatsen in the heart of Södermalm, is a high-end barbershop and a bookstore ponytailed together by husband and wife team Håkan and Catarina Ström. Ström was the first on the scene in the increasingly hipster neighbourhood when he opened in 2007. Some former apprentices have grown into their own shops since, but he remains the eminence grise of Stockholm barbers. No tattoos, no barber pole for lack of space, but everything else down to the chairs, tiled wooden floors, scissors and combs are vintage.
The Old English 7 Towel Service wet shave costs 1640 kronor ($208) but is on par with any exclusive spa treatment. It includes face shampooing, massage, oil treatments, and shaving with and against the grain with seven hot and cold towel intervals.
2. Head to Throat (H2T) Barbershop
This hole-in-the-wall in Hammarby Sjöstad is the size of a VW van. What it lacks in space is compensated by the warmth and personality of its founders, Thomas Larm and Johan Olsson. The shop is booked solid after less than a year in business. Walk-ins are rare. Existing customers usually book new appointments five weeks in advance.
“We aim to be a nice and intimate place to hangout and talk freely,” says a heavily tattooed and hirsute Olsson, eyeing the iPad-enabled booking system hanging on 100 year-old barn siding used as a wall. H2T also have the exclusive cut and shave treatment starting at 910 kronor.
“Guys know what guys want,” says Olsson.
3. Honest Al’s
With a skateboard and punk rock look, Honest Al’s barbershop is a block away from Stockholm’s hipster-central, Mariatorget. Skateboards, leather jackets, and old Rolling Stone magazine covers of the Ramones and the Clash line the walls besides all the regular barber paraphernalia – sinks, barber chairs, scissors, razors and a barber pole.
“My shop used to be called ‘Locals Only,’ but that became intimidating,” says Al Mocika, an expat Belgian who could pass as a Tom Waits look-alike, in his adopted American drawl. “Honest Al’s conjures up images of a cheating Wild West poker player. I like the idea but I don’t cheat. This place reflects my personality.” Prices are available on request
4. Roy & Son
This unusual establishment is directly adjacent to a local bar and restaurant in the up and coming neighborhood Hornstull. “You can have a drink while you wait,” says the enthusiastic owner Peter Mannerstål, a second generation barber. Roy, his father opened Sweden’s first barbershop in 1950, closing two decades later.
Mannerstål is an entrepreneur with an affiliate barbershop in Malmö and another one to open soon in Los Angeles. The irony is that the barber phenomenon originated in the US decades ago, and now a Swede is exporting the trade back to the States.
“We’ll do it in a Swedish way,” he maintains. This includes 750 kronor haircuts and 860 kronor shaves complete with all the balms, creams, oils and assortment of towels.
5. Royal Barbershop
Located in busy Vasastan, the Royal Barbershop stands out in an area so popular with hairdressers that it could be known as Frisör Alley. The streets around it are packed with company headquarters, restaurants, cafes and schools. “This is where the customers are,” says Tobias Olsen, known as Big Al. “I just want to be the barber on the corner.”
A graduate of the American Barber Institute in New York, Big Al is a no nonsense professional dedicated to his craft. “I am not a spa. I am a barber. The focus is on getting rid of stuff.”
Unlike other barbers, Big T also provides women's haircuts. “So long as they want it short. Everyone is welcome.” Shaves start from 550 kronor, with haircuts from 650 kronor.
Photos: Alexander Farnsworth