Looking sharp at the new Baxter Finley Barber & Shop
Although the Baxter Finley barbershop has been open since early May, I didn't get a chance to darken the doorstep until a week or so ago, and, to be honest, I figured it was probably just going to be another indistinguishable entry in the increasingly crowded retro-hipster-vintage barbershop category.
I'm pleased to report how wrong I was. To be sure, at first glance the polished floorboards of reclaimed Douglas Fir, the marble counter tops and the tattooed barbers in matching Steven Alan gingham check pullovers seem to point that direction, but if you linger past the first impression, and let it all wash over you, it won't be long before you realize you've stepped into a true temple of the tonsorial.
Those four gleaming white chairs? They're obscure Koken "White King" porcelain and leather barber chairs from the early 1900s. That tattooed barber? His name is Jason Simao, and he was recruited West from Freemans Sporting Club in New York City to be the lead barber. The double-edge razor blades in the glass case? Those are prized Japanese Feather blades. The Baxter-branded shaving brushes? They're made with the finest silver-tip badger hair.
That's because J.P. Mastey (with co-owns the venture with his friend Allen Roth), is the kind of guy who both appreciates a quality grooming product, and truly loves the feel of vintage double-edge safety razor in his hand.
Mastey also happens to be the guy who owns the Baxter of California skincare line, and the new shop is a natural outgrowth of that business -- which began here in Southern California back in 1965 with a single men's moisturizer called Super Shape.
Mastey bought the brand from founder (and barber shop namesake), Baxter Finley in 2000, and in the decade since has been steadily repackaging and expanding the offerings, which now include a range of facial washes and scrubs, body washes, shaving creams and post-shave balms that are sold in upscale shops like Alpha Gear for Gents in West Hollywood and Ron Robinson at Fred Segal Center on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
And that's what makes the tools and products for sale in the tiny shop so noteworthy; it doesn't just serve as a bricks-and-mortar extension of the Baxter line -- which in addition to the washes and scrubs includes Baxter-branded shaving brushes and double-edge safety razors and straight razors by Mühle. Mastey has merchandised a limited selection of other high-end, and hard-to-find products such as Marvis toothpaste, Dr. Bronner's soap, D.R. Harris shaving soaps and retaW lip balm (a Japanese line sold in just one other U.S. retail location).
Though I haven't yet had a chance to avail myself of the services -- the menu is just two items long (haircuts and shaves, $40 each, get both in one sitting and save $5), Mastey and company have done such a good job catering to my inner grooming nerd's needs, next time I'm hankering for a straight-razor shave, I won't think twice about kicking back in a vintage Koken and sticking my neck out.
Baxter Finley Barber & Shop, 515 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; (310) 657-4726, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.-- Adam Tschorn
Top photo: The interior of the new Baxter Finley Barber & Shop is dominated by four vintage Koken "White King" porcelain and leather barber chairs from the early 1900s. Credit: Baxter Finley
Middle photo: Grooming tools include a selection of silver-tip badger hair shaving brushes. Credit: Baxter Finley
Bottom photo: A 45th-anniversary straight razor. Credit: Baxter Finley