Owner Vanessa Williams models the vintage aesthetic of Retro-Barbers after her love of ’30s, ’40s and ’50s fashion.

An Air of Flair For Your Hair: Retro-Barbers

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“At Retro-Barbers … it’s not a haircut—it’s an experience,” says Vanessa Williams, Founder and Owner of Retro-Barbers. Tucked away into a small nook in the Church + State building on 400 S., Retro-Barbers looks back at visual and aesthetic trends from the mid–20th century to create a singular barbershop experience unlike any other in the city while still providing exacting, individualized haircuts and facial hair grooming. Opened just over a year ago, Retro-Barbers pride themselves in a one-of-a-kind trip to a barbershop and their customer-focused service in all their cuts trims and shaves.

Retro-Barbers isn't your average barbershop. With inspiration drawn from the '30s, '40s and '50s, "it's not a haircut, it's an experience."
Photo: John Barkiple

“When a client comes to our space, they should feel immersed in the atmosphere and have a place where they can leave their worries behind and be pampered,” says Williams. The tenets of self-care and relaxation are a hallmark of many a barbershop, but Retro-Barbers extends the ethos with their all-encompassing aesthetic. “The retro theme is tantamount to the experience. You can find us [barbers] in pin-up, retro styles,” she says of the staff’s commitment to the brand. “The retro aesthetic is so fun to play with, and I thank Turned Treasure for helping me source my antiques.”

“Retro-Barbers name each of their services after classic cocktails, from the Old Fashioned (comprehensive haircut with hot towel neck shave) to the Whiskey Sour (full-face shave).”

Specifically, the inspiration for Retro-Barbers came from Williams’ lifelong obsession with fashion from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s and a visit to a barbershop in Rome that was themed after a “chic speakeasy,” in Williams’ words. After visiting another speakeasy-themed barbershop in Las Vegas, Williams decided that the Beehive state needed its own offering: “I wanted to create a space … where people could come and not feel rushed, [to] have a unique place to pamper themselves and trust the people who took care of them and have a full, spa-like experience for men,” she says.

The most obvious homage to this vintage mindset arrives via Retro-Barbers’ curated appearance. From the antique fridge sitting in the corner to the big, bright, red barber chairs, the shop recalls the classic look of barbershops of yore. Alongside these visual nods, Williams also curates in-shop music to reflect the retro-focus with “the best of the big-band, swing-era sound and also the creativity of current musicians who appropriate current songs and put them back in the big band swing era,” she says.

The tenets of self-care and relaxation are a hallmark of many a barbershop, but Retro-Barbers extends the ethos with their all-encompassing aesthetic.
Photo: John Barkiple

In addition to these surface-level allusions, Retro-Barbers also honors the hairstyle and grooming traditions of their mid-century touchstones. “We pride ourselves on mastering the old-fashioned while [also] being up to date on the latest men’s fashions. We especially are adept at beard and mustache sculpting,” says Williams. “One of the unique things about our barbershop is that we fully sculpt their beards to best fit their desired shape and finish with blow-drying and a heat comb.” Retro-Barbers name each of their services after classic cocktails, from the Old Fashioned (comprehensive haircut with hot towel neck shave) to the Whiskey Sour (full-face shave). Williams goes above and beyond in each package, rounding out the normal haircut services with massages, pre-cut consultations and more.

“The tenets of self-care and relaxation are a hallmark of many a barbershop, but Retro-Barbers extends the ethos with their all-encompassing aesthetic.”

Looking ahead, Retro-Barbers hopes to expand their two-person team into a quartet of barbers and increase their reach. “The end goal is to keep it intimate and special—we won’t grow any of our locations to [be] bigger than four barbers,” says Williams. Instead, she hopes to open more Retro-Barbers locations with unique themes. ”This shop is aviation-themed, and I want to have several small shops—one themed to classic cars, another trains and another boats,” she says. Find more information at retro-barbers.com and follow the shop on Instagram @slcretrobarbers.