St. Petersburg: Barbershops have been spreading around Russia like mushrooms after a rainstorm. Since the first 'old school' barbershop opened in Moscow in 2011, several hundred have appeared in dozens of major cities around Russia. Sasha, 30, has been working the last two years at Headbusters, which has two locations in the center of St. Petersburg.
KAZAN: "I was studying government service, but as I finished my degree, I realized it was not what I wanted to do. I knew I needed a profession and I wanted something connected with fashion," said Alexei, a barber in Kazan. He first worked at a beauty salon before joining one of the barbershop chains that has been rapidly expanding around Russia over the past few years. Alexei works in Chop-Chop, the largest chain with about 55 stores across Russia in more than 40 cities. He said he chose to join Chop-Chop as he liked the concept.
MOSCOW: ''Male hairdressers weren't an exception 10-20 years ago, but the attitude toward them was much different,'' said Valery, a barber from Nizhny Novgorod with nine years experience. ''Hairdressers were considered to be the same as other service industry workers like cleaners, conductors and so forth. People thought that handing a pair of scissors wasn't anything special. That it was work for losers and dropouts.'' ''The attitude change when men started to really become interested in their appearance and felt that going to a female hairdresser or unisex salon was like visiting a women's club.''
ST. PETERSBURG: How do you scare away the average person from your salon? Call it 'Hairfucker.' That is what Novorosiisk-native and barber Kirill did. "We choоse our clients," he said, adding the Hairfucker street sign isnt very visible on purpose. Kirill said he became a barber because he was looking for a career that was 'interesting, easy and with a lot of women.' However, he said he was initially disappointed on all three accounts. Kirill opened 'No Name' barbershop in St. Petersburg in 2010 that was he described as a closed shop mainly for friends and acquaintances. In 2012, he co-opened Hairfucker with another stylist Maria. The name was suggested by a mutual friend years ago. About a third of Hairfucker clients now get their hair dyed, a growing trend in St. Petersburg that is no longer confined to the punk subculture, said co-owner Maria. Kirill, a 12-year barber veteran, is using social media more and more to show off his and his barber's work. Aside from using Instagram actively, he is filming a 'reality show' for his youtube page that will follow two head-shaven female clients over two years as their hair grows back.
TBILISI, GEORGIA: Avtandil has a small room large enough for one barber seat in an alley off one of Tbilisi's busiest streets. The barber said he began cutting hair in 1978 at the age of 15 and has been in this location for the last 10 years. Times are tough, he said.
CHITA, EASTERN SIBERIA: Denis was one of those lucky Russians that made a killing during the 2000s, when Russia's economy nearly doubled. A programmer from Chita, he was asked to help with a some local political agitation work. He said that led to a full-time job from a solid company, lucrative salary, hard assets and lots of leisure travel. We could fly to Sochi for a day to swim. We didn't care about money.'' He said the ''easy money spoiled'' him. Now, Denis is putting his money to work in the Siberian service sector despite rising unemployment and recession. Denis recently opened Chita's first barbershop. He plans a similar woman's shop and then a restaurant with bar. His target audience is people 25 t0 40 that work, have families and ''can spend money 1 or 2 times a month on their looks and an evening out.'' ''People still need to eat, relax and take care of their looks,'' he said, referring to the recession. Denis said Chita is experiencing an influx of people from surrounding villages and an outflow of native city dwellers to bigger, Siberian cities like Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. That is leading to a growing ''village mentality'' in Chita. ''We need to change the mentality in the city,'' said Denis, who regularly jogs and gave up drinking. ''People are waiting for something from the government. How does change begin? With yourself.'' He said he hopes his barbershop will bring a bit of culture to the city in addition to profit.
ROSTOV: Boris went to a lecture in his home town of Rostov attended by 50 people. The lecturer asked who had Rostov roots going back at least 3 generations. Boris was the only one. He is the 5th generation from Rostov and he says it hurts that many friends leave Rostov for Moscow or St Pete for better opportunities and lifestyle. Boris has stayed in Rostov to open a barbershop and hopes to open a motorcycle shop later. "I love my city, but I understand it's not ideal. I believe you have to create comfort zones around you - around your home, your courtyard - and that will lead to change. I see my barbershop not just as a business, but a comfort zone for clients and friends."
SAMARA: Kostya has been working for one of the world’s largest oil producers for the past decade, but, despite the good benefits, he said he had been itching to do something on his own. A few years ago, he said he watched a video about opening a barbershop while drinking wine that really made him think…and act.
Ruslan has been working as a barber for several years, having first started in Moscow before moving to Voronezh. I asked how he got into the business. He said his mother's best friend was a hair stylist and recommdnded he give styling a shot.
Volodya studied engineering at a military academy and took up cutting his comrades hair. After leaving an engineering job and moving to Voronezh, he took up the skill he honed during his cadet years and now works for a classy men's only barber shop.