We all set out to learn a lot during lockdown: foreign languages, DIY skills, yoga and the like. Well done if you actually achieved any of that, but we’d wager the biggest lesson most men learned was that cutting your own hair is very, very hard, and fraught with danger. We realised just how important barbers are.
It’s important, then, to find one that you truly trust. Someone you can rely on to get you looking your best, and gently try to steer you away from some of your wackier suggestions. Esquire's guide to the best barbers in London includes the most stylish places in the capital to get a tidy up, a trim, or a full-scale wet shave.
After being showered with industry awards for their first outlet in Edinburgh the team behind Ruffians looked to conquer London, their original site near Covent Garden and their places in Shoreditch, Marylebone and Liberty in Soho offering oases of calm in the middle of the city. Enjoy an expert shave or shear from their knowledgable staff and relax in the bright, spacious, fuss-free environment (and indulge in a tipple of your choice). With extremely competitive prices, Ruffians is everything you could want from a barbers.
Tucked away on Newburgh Street, behind Carnaby Street, there's plenty to prove Pankhurst the best in the West with cut-throat shaves, Bentley chairs and a Johnnie Walker lounge on offer. Oh, and don't miss out on the matchless hot towel face massage either.
Joe and Co
Barber to the stars Joe Mills has been running his Soho haunt since 2010 and it is still the place to beat in the area. The light, unfussy, informal atmosphere belies the seriousness with which Joe and his team operate - this is proper men's grooming where attention to detail is second to none. A full range of services for your facial hair is on offer, as is ear and nose waxing. If you really to walk out with a spring in your step request Joe himself for a little more of your extremely well-spent readies.
Walking into The Ned for the first time is a pretty striking experience. The Grade 1-listed former bank, which was transformed into a luxury hotel and members club in 2017, is absolutely humungous; filled with bars, restaurants and green verdite-covered columns, it all feels like an ode to Gatsby-esque decadence. But walk down the stairs, past the huge vintage vault, through a few doors and past the library bar, and you’ll find something altogether more cosy.
The Ned’s humble barbershop feels a world away from the chattering and clinking of the main hall. It’s small, calm and exclusive. Its services are only available to hotel guests, as well as members and ‘Ned Friends’, a new scheme that gets you access to the club’s spa treatments and some of its hidden bars, as well as discounts, events and a sauna, steam room, pool and gym. The wood-panelled, speakeasy-inspired barbershop – led by Tom Harrigan – offers a long list of services, from haircuts to wet shaves to express facials and threading, all provided with reassuring expertise and in a relaxed atmosphere. There’s even a shoe shine service.
A Soho institution, Tommy Guns - slightly scarily - has been here for more than a decade. From the apothecary-esque own-brand products to the neon art decorating the immaculately tiled walls (not to mention the incredibly competent - and achingly cool - staff) it's one of the best. And this comes from an Esquire staffer who has walked out on not three, not four but five haircuts at other, unnamed establishments due to "incompetence".
Visions of the demon barber spring to mind when you first set foot in each of Murdock's eight outlets (Soho, Covent Garden, Sloane Street, Shoreditch, King Street, Regent Street, Old Broad Street and Spitalfields), but throat-slashing is low on the agenda. Be sure to check out the website after your visit, as Murdock sell lots of lovely booty - including a range of luxury shave products and a popular beard moisturiser - to compliment your new 'do.
Geo F Trumper
The great-grandaddy of barber shops, Geo F Trumper has been around since the mid-19th century, first operating from its Curzon Street outlet before opening a second on Duke of York Street in the 1960s. As close to an Empire-era shave as you'll ever get, the mahogany-clad interior, cabinets full of mirrors, soaps and brushes dating back to 1875 and impossibly courteous staff make the £41 for a haircut seem like a pittance.
Aiming to provide a safe haven for men in need of restoration, Gentlemen's Tonic in Mayfair avoids feeling overly gimmicky by mixing traditional barbershop features (restored wood paneling, leather seats) with updated ones (sports shown on private LCD screens) and luxury treatments which give it an all-round gent's spa vibe.
While the barbering feels distinctly British, the team behind Sharps are originally from the States. With shops in Victoria and Soho - their 1950s-influenced Windmill Street flagship is particularly handsome - it ranks as one of the most affordable places on our list (and they serve up a pretty decent coffee, too).
Pall Mall Barbers
One of the best mid-range priced cuts in London, Pall Mall Barbers have outlets in Trafalgar Square, Fitzrovia, Westminster, Bishopsgate and King's Cross. The cool, unfussy interiors makes it feel like you're popping into your local barbers but the treatments – pardon the pun – are a cut above.
Main photo: Rory Mcpharland, GM of Sharps Barber and Shop, taken by Fleur McGerr
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