East London barbershop Thy Barber is tucked away inside The Bike Shed HQ in Shoreditch, a cavernous venue dedicated to motorcycle culture. Spread across four Victorian railway arches, the space includes a motorcycle showroom, shop, restaurant and bar. It’s the perfect location for Thy Barber, a compact and characterful 3-chair space packed full of barbering memorabilia.
Frank Rimer at Thy Barber
“Fashion comes and goes, trends disappear and some never return, but these cuts have never dipped away and come back.”
The Bike Shed
Thy Barber’s aesthetic is heavily influenced by North American culture. Rimer explains, “Dive bars were a huge influence for the shop. Somewhere to have a beer and talk shit to good pals, or just the bartender if you’re on your own. I’ve always loved old pickup trucks, which is why there are hidden licence plates on the walls. Same goes for the music that we play, country music, rock n’ roll and bluegrass. A shop should have a package and hit every sense possible, the smell of cologne, the vintage dive bar-esque visuals…”
Alongside these American influences, Thy Barber nods to its British roots. “The part where we mix the cultures is the service,” Rimer says, “we do everything we believe is truly an English heritage service: classic wet shaving techniques with a badger brush, and the welcome that you’d receive visiting a friend at their house. ‘The fridge is there, help yourself’ mindset we call it.”
The Bike Shed
Through its classic influences, Thy Barber clearly aligns itself with the new breed of barbershops leading the resurgence in traditional men’s grooming. Led by a respect for the craftsmanship of barbering, this nostalgic approach to hair shows no signs of waning, as is illustrated by the enduring popularity of classic cuts such as the pompadour and the slick back. “These particular styles for me are not fashion, they’re style,” Rimer says. “Fashion comes and goes, trends disappear and some never return, but these cuts have never dipped away and come back. They have been around for well over a hundred years. Much the same as the women’s bob; first seen in the 20s, made famous in the 60s, still being cut to this day. When you think about it, the same goes for clothing. All this swag is recent, like tracksuits and long tees, and yeah it’s cool, but a shirt and tie has stood the test of time. And why? Because it’s classic style. If it’s not broken, then why fix it?”
How did you first get into hair? I started aged 16, as an assistant. Trust me, back then it wasn’t about a 9-week course and being handed a piece of paper at the end saying I could cut hair. It was two years of cleaning skirting boards, pulling the hair out of brushes, polishing floors and still trying to watch every haircut I possibly could. Once I qualified aged 18 I started putting what I had learned to use.
Growing up in alternative scenes, listening to punk and hardcore, I never failed to find to people to do mohawks and classic cuts on. Every kid had slick backs or crew cuts. That’s where my passion for doing these clean shapes really started to bloom. But it was only when I moved to London in my early 20s that I really started to learn to venture into the Rockabilly and Psychobilly scenes. Since doing these cuts from an early age, I never wanted to look back. Nearly 14 years on and I’m still as in love with them as I was when I was first drawn in.
Thy Barber started out as a series of pop-ups before settling into its permanent location at The Bike Shed HQ in 2014. What attracted you to this location? I’ve been cutting the owner’s hair for years, and when they did their first motorcycle show in London they asked if I wanted to do a pop-up shop, which of course I accepted. This is where Thy Barber was born. The pop-ups went so well that when they said they had a spot for me in the permanent location I jumped at the chance.
Thy Barber uses traditional instruments like straight razors and badger hair shaving brushes. How important is this? We use straight razors and badger hair brushes both to keep things traditional and to ensure a good shave. The badger hair allows for a closer shave, helps to exfoliate the skin and retains heat from the hot water it’s placed in. It’s bad to use aerosols on the skin as they contain cooling agents so make the skin tight, which makes the hairs stiffer and the shave very uncomfortable.
The straight razor, which is a single blade, is better than a multi blade because you only pass over the skin two or three times which is much less likely to cause irritation or razor burn.
Thy Barber is at The Bike Shed, 384 Old St, London EC1V 9LT Websitewww.thybarber.com
Photography Aris Akritidis Interview Alex Mascolo Words Emma de Clercq Special Thanks Frank Rimer
“From writing the play, I’m aware of how vast, nuanced, beautiful and delicate barbershops can be. Also, how ridiculously funny, over the top, exaggerated and naturally theatrical those spaces are.” – Inua Ellams