Raucous laughter filled the small salon on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
A middle-aged black man lumbers in and daps every single barber on his way to his chair. Four different sports being aired on the various TV screens but everyone’s minds are elsewhere. Some are hypnotized by their phones, some are laughing so hard with the small Hispanic lady that they nearly choke on their soup. Others are spinning tall tales about their week at work and how unenthused they are to go back on Monday. Salons are a true sanctum. Everyone comes in on equal grounds with the same end goals; relaxation followed by a spike in confidence brought on by a fresh hair cut. This is Sharper Image 2.
In his role as a barber, Brendan Lawson describes what he does as one of the most important stops men make before their biggest life events. He has to prepare men to look as good as they ever have for every notable moment, from high school dances to dinner with their partner’s parents for the first time to job interviews and more. They all come in vulnerable, Brendan says, which equalizes the playing field. Everyone has their guard down and it’s up to Brendan to build it back up.
It hasn’t always been the case that men have indulged themselves the way they do today. While 20 years ago a Treat Yo Self day would have been seen as effeminate, Brendan has men come in regularly for deep beard lathers, eyebrow shape-ups, skin care, and even the removal of hair around the nose and ears. Women have for far too long cornered the market on self care and relaxation, from nail salons to spas to the sprawling aisles of products at every store in the US. Brendan has been on the cutting edge of bringing those treasured moments of pampering, self-improvement, earnest conversation, and sanctuary.
When his dad up and moved the family, Brendan in all his textured hair’s ethnic ambiguity couldn’t find a barber who made him feel good near where they lived. A sorry attempt by Super Great Cuts left him with an embarrassing cut for his debut at a new school and a life’s calling; making guys feel good about their hair.
In the early goings, Brendan cut and styled his classmates’ hair in his parents’ house before football games and big dances. “I started with just a set of beard trimmers in the kitchen,” he recalls, but in time, Brendan honed his technique so finely that classmates came to him with more and more intricate designs and fashion trends.
Besides the fact that his clients were friends, Brendan’s high school side hustle was a vast contrast to Super Great Cuts as his work was purposeful, and the end product was a source of pride. Kids came from all over because they knew Brendan would take his time and sweat the details of their aesthetic. Whereas the employees at Walmart wanted to get butts in and out of chairs like an assembly line, Brendan toiled over his art meticulously, with the intensity of a tattoo artist, to create a truly unique style for each unique character and personality.
Now, having procured his barbering license and nearly done with his cosmetology license, Brendan has set about living the life of a big brother, dad, entrepreneur, and artist. Although Brendan’s repertoire started as one small set of beard clippers, today, Brendan confidently reaches for anywhere from 5 to 10 hair tools per day depending on the request from the client, on top of an alphabet soup of oils, pomades, and conditioners.
For men in particular, Brendan welcomes the movement for better and more purposeful self care. He confers not only with barbers across the world on the newest techniques, styles, and products but also with cosmetologists, who bring perspectives from a whole different industry to the table. “It’s all love in the industry. We all want people to look good and feel good.” Magicians may never tell their secrets, but barbers and beauticians can’t share enough tips and tricks to make sure everyone in the industry has something special for everyone.
Not only are more men embracing the indulgences of the barber shop, but Brendan has noticed that more of them are taking it home. With their visual reputations to uphold both at their jobs and on their social media profiles, men want a tactical plan advised by their local neighborhood experts, barbers.
Looking good, feeling good, and being proud of all that goodness isn’t feminine or masculine -- it’s human, and it’s too important to leave to the whims of an $8 cut.
Follow Brendan on Instagram
Or make an appointment to see him at Sharper Image 2 on James Street in Lancaster, PA.
Article and Photography by Savannah Thorpe