It’s been a long time since I’ve visited a barber. Partially because I tend to wear my hair longer, and partially because I’ve spent the last few years bouncing around from salon to salon. I often find that hair stylists are kind of like daytime bartenders – they love to talk about the goings on in the neighborhood. If you ever need the lowdown of what’s happening on a street, make an appointment at a salon.
The only hangup that I have with salons is that I don’t like to make appointments… and that’s a problem. That’s why, just the other day, I decided to head to a new barbering salon that opened on Elmwood called Rust Belt Barbering and Salon. Unfortunately, when I walked in, a gal cutting hair told me that they were completely booked for the day, and she suggested that I make an appointment. Since I was in a hurry (as always), I opted to try back in a couple of days. Lucky for me, that worked.
Yesterday I walked up to the desk, and asked if there was anything available. It turns out that the guy I was speaking to was the owner of the business – Rich Casey. He pointed over to a barber named Jason, and said that he could take care of me in half an hour. Then he asked me for my email address and handed me a refreshment. I sat down, tapped into the house wi-fi and started to write this article. Moments later, my phone buzzed, and a message appeared reminding me that I had a hair appointment. Efficient!
Before I knew it, I was sitting in a barber’s chair talking to Jason. It turns out that the guy is from Niagara Falls, and doesn’t know much about Buffalo at all. So reversing roles, I spent the hair cutting (no buzzing) session catching him up to speed on the city. The music playing during my cut was a mix of reggae and ska tunes. But it was the witty banter between the barbers/stylists that mostly filled the air. The guys seemed to be pretty tight-knit, throwing some funny jabs back and forth, which was pretty entertaining. Back in the days when I used to go to barbers , they were a lot older and pretty much kept to themselves, asking the occasional question about length of hair or part. Not these guys. They’re a lively bunch that like to have a bit of fun while they work.
The client who occupied the chair before me was a young kid who looked like he was really enjoying his experience in his seat. As he walked out, his mom looked super happy, and one could tell that the little dude felt that he was looking pretty fly. While I was getting my hair cut, a girl with longer hair, who looked to be in her twenties, was sitting in a chair across the way. In all of my years of getting my hair cut, this was the most diverse in age, ethnicity, sex and hair stylings that I had ever come across. To me, it was an enjoyable urban experience knowing that these cutters were hip to everyone who walks through the front door, including a blonde haired guy with a pseudo-surf style mop to contend with.
When I first walked into Rust Belt, I felt as if I had walked into a tattoo parlor. For the most part, the crew is tatted and pierced, while wearing professional branded black shirts. There are no pretensions, and the lot of them are good natured and apparently skilled – my wife loved my haircut.
The barber/salon stocks hair products, shaving kits, soap, and bath bombs. Offerings include hot towel shaves for the men and blowouts for the women. Customers can request designs, color highlights, ombré and balayage.
Rust Belt Barbering and Salon makes me happy. Just like the return of vinyl, seeing the old world spinning barber pole on the outside of the building is a sight for sore eyes. It signals that these guys and gals take their artisanal craft seriously. Rust Belt offers a cool, friendly, professional barber/salon experience for anyone who is looking for a quicker stylish cut, without the muss and fuss.
It’s best to call ahead, but you might just get lucky if you’re persistent like I was. Either way, the end result is what matters.