By Greg Wahl
While barber shops may seem like a ubiquitous dime a dozen, there’s quite a lot that can set one apart from another. Often its the little touches that make a shop special, like a particularly good value, eccentric decor, the effortless precision of a master barber with a few good jokes, complimentary beer, or the owner’s dog lounging at your feet while you wait. Here’s a list of some of the best places in town to become a regular customer at that will keep you looking tight.
2328 W. Belmont Ave.
Belmont Barbershop in Roscoe Village offers precision cuts, razor shaves and professional service with a laid-back vibe, Rockabilly style and awesome, kitschy wall hangings. This is not a spa treatment kind of place. Instead, it’s a consistently reliable cuttery with very reasonable rates, in surroundings that look like one of the coolest apartments you’ve ever seen.
Esquire Barber Shop
1511 W. Foster Ave.
Andersonville’s Esquire has been open since 1975, right in the middle of what appears to have been a good decade for barber shops. A precision haircut, with a hot lather neck shave and hot towel, can be had in 20 minutes for just $17. The owner’s dog, Nyla, is on hand to keep waiting customers company.
Family Barber Shop
934 W. Madison St.
Local barber shops aren’t all just gentlemen cutting other men’s hair. At the West Loop’s Family Barber Shop, the ladies do the honors, with an abundance of personality. Run by flirtatious twins Gina & Lexi, the shop has a loyal following among neighborhood guys, as well as, appropriately, local young families. Cuts are half the cost of the place next door, and twice as memorable.
Gabby’s Barber Shop
2860 N. Clark St.
At this Lakeview classic, customers put their names on a chalkboard and patiently wait for what is sure to be a reliably fine haircut. Gabby’s offers no frills perfection for a mere $14, with the option of a straight-razor, hot lather neck shave. All service is first-come, first serve, so arrive at an off peak time (or when there’s a Cubs game) and remember to bring cash.
Joe’s BarberShop Chicago
2641 W. Fullerton Ave.
A father and son team (both Joes) run this popular, long-running Logan Square establishment. The name is simple, they’ve got beer, and it’s only $15 for a relaxing haircut experience. Expect great conversation, old movies, great vintage-style hair products, and the occasional burger off a grill outside the shop. Walk-ins and cash only, since 1968.
Pete’s Barber Shop
2873 N. Elston Ave.
Pete’s Barber Shop is a “brand new traditional gentlemens shop.” A great mix of the traditional and contemporary can be found here, as the retro rocker environment gels well with reliable service and reasonable prices. Pete’s also hosts occasional open house events, with local art, pizza and beer. The Elston location means easy, free parking, and a cut by Pete means easygoing, entertaining conversation (usually about movie trivia).
Truefitt & Hill
900 N. Michigan Ave., Level 6
At the very high end of the grooming spectrum, you have classic emporiums of male pamering such as Truefitt & Hill, which, despite luxury aspect, still most definitely qualifies as a barber shop. Yes, it’s in the Gold Coast and in a glitzy mall, but there’s nothing un-manly about T&H. While a visit to this local outpost of London’s most famous and historic cuttery may be a pricey affair, it is well worth it for the occasional self-indulgent splurge and that supremely gentlemanly feeling of having that rare and special haircut from a master barber.
Greg Wahl, CBS Chicago