How Turkish barbers conquered Europe - style site

Offering quality and tradition and riding a broader trend for male grooming, Turkish barbers are thriving in major cities across the continent, style site Business of Fashion reported on Tuesday. 

Born in Gaziantep, in southeast Turkey, Mustafa Albayrak learned his trade from his father starting at age 12. He later followed the Turkish diaspora and took his skills overseas, working in Amsterdam before opening his London shop Altın Makas (“Gold Scissors”) in 1998.

“London is the centre of everything, that’s why I came here. But everyone who works for me is from Turkey,” Albayrak said in Turkish as his employee’s son translated.

Tamara Cincik, CEO of Fashion Roundtable and daughter of a first-generation Turkish hairdresser, told BoF that the Turkish community has helped bring good style to the city’s streets.  

“Turks have always taken grooming and image very seriously,” she said. “Men and women both go to the salon regularly to have their hair and nails done. Unlike in the U.K., Turkish men don’t see grooming as un-masculine: it’s a culture based around Turkish baths, cleanliness and how you present yourself.” 

From the Ottoman Crew in London to Küçük Istanbul in Berlin and the Gentleman’s Barbershop in Amsterdam, Turkish shops are surviving the escalating rents of hip gentrifying districts and finding ways to grow, including with international expansion, according to BoF. 

“Some of this growth is thanks to the global cultural resurgence around barbering and grooming,” said BoF, while some of it is due to the lack of internet competition. “There is no way to get a shave or haircut online.”

Barbers were the fastest growing retail category in the United Kingdom last year, with 813 shops opening, while the U.S. National Association of Barber Boards estimates that the industry will be worth $26 billion by 2020. Barbers that offer a dose of nostalgia and an experience to the Instagram generation tend to do better, said BoF. 

“The Turkish shave comes with a level of care and ceremony that I think is superior to others,” Finlay Renwick, deputy style editor of British Esquire, told BoF. “There’s a desire for real heritage, craft and authenticity, not trends.”

Traditional Turkish barbers are also affordable. Altın Makas offers a haircut, the full Turkish shave and a cup of hot mint tea for £12, according to BoF. 

“There’s a general respect for the craft and tradition of Turkish barbers, and brands understandably want to commodify that. But guys mostly want something simple and affordable, with minimum chat and fuss,” said Renwick. “With Turkish barbers there’s a quiet professionalism that I really appreciate.”

Many of the older generation of barbers are Turkish-born and less than fluent in the local tongue. In most cases, a Turkish immigrant opens a shop then brings out new family members from Turkey to help with expansion. 

“It’s a standard method of a Turkish brand,” says Cincik. “The family raises the money and a cousin or brother will each run and manage one outlet.”

Last August, British authorities warned that Turkish barbers could be exploiting workers, but thus far this remains a relatively rare occurrence, according to BoF. 

“In an era where gentrification and e-commerce are decimating small, immigrant-run businesses, the healthy growth of Turkish barbers is undeniably positive,” said BoF. “Not only have they risen to the challenge and moved upmarket to compete with plusher local offerings, but their exceptional service and affordable prices have allowed them to fight off some of the hipster competition.”