PHOTO ESSAY: A peek inside Bangkok’s vintage-inspired barbershops

Saksiri Jullakasean at Sxissors, the barbershop he owns at Ratchada Train Market. All photos: Matt Lucas.
Saksiri Jullakasean at Sxissors, the barbershop he owns at Ratchada Train Market. All photos: Matt Lucas.

You see them everywhere: old-timey guys. With their high-waisted trousers, handlebar mustaches and grandfatherly eyeglasses, these dudes look like they stepped directly out of your grandmother’s fantasies and onto the streets of Bangkok.

Hair is key to properly rocking a vintage look. To get it right, men need to visit one of Bangkok’s increasingly popular old-school barbershops.

Shops like Craftsmen, Three Brothers, and Sxissors cater to customers by offering traditional cuts such as high-and-tights, undercuts, skin fades, and slick backs. These styles, reminiscent of the 30s and 40s, can feel decidedly modern.

The rise of new barbershops cater to men who prefer classic haircuts.

James Brown plays on the stereo at Craftsmen barbershop. Located near Phra Kanong’s W District food court, the shop’s clientele is foreign and Thai. “It’s about 70 percent foreigners,” Akepawee  Prakongpetch, owner of Craftsmen, said.

The rise of old-school hair for men is evident in the sheer number of pomades for sale in the city. Five years ago, you could only buy gel in Bangkok.

Saksiri Jullakasean, the owner of Sxissors, a barbershop in a shipping container at the hip Ratchada Train Market, attended barber school at Arceheep Center. The vocational school offers a barbering program, and after three months of full-time study,  students are licensed to cut. Of style requests, he said, “Most Thais want a slick back, but foreigners generally get skin fades.”

Green Day plays loudly at Sxissors. Each shop has its own vibe and personality, fitting with the owners and customers. With its location at the night market behind Esplande, Sxissors has a great festive feel.

Three Brothers was one of the first old-school barbershops in Bangkok. It opened four years ago but — just last year — it expanded dramatically from three chairs to more than six.

It’s not just foreigners that want “classic cuts.” “It’s about 50-50 here,” said Okui, a well-known barber with a chair at Three Brothers. “We are mainly busy on the weekends when Chatuchak Market is open,” he said of the shop, which is located in the Chatuchak MRT station.

The growth of social media has led to a corresponding growth in both barbershop culture and shops. “Customers learn about us through Instagram and Facebook. They post pictures and check in on Facebook,” continued Okui, whose personal Facebook fanpage, Okui The Barber, has over 20,000 fans.

The shops don’t just offer cuts though. They’re also places for people to drop in and feel like part of a community. Barbers and their clients can often be found exchanging tips on what to do in the city, places to eat, and what bars to go to.

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