Better Grooming, How To Talk To Your Barber

How to Talk to Your Barber: Frankfurt, Germany

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The Five O’Clock team set out on a cross-country quest through Germany to uncover the very best in Bavarian barber wisdom. But after 700 miles, five cities and One Epic Playlist—things were starting to look grim.

It happened several times throughout the course of the week…
“Our next available appointment is 4 weeks from Tuesday.”
“Sorry, no walk-ins.”
“Booked through the end of September.”
“We’re the only shop in town”
“No photos please.”

We dusted off the rebuff and misfortune of the days that preceded as we headed out once again to find a barber shop who would have us. We psyched each other up with fabricated odds that were sure to be in our favor.

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“There is only one true barber shop in Germany.” For a moment, our hearts began to sink as it seemed Frankfurt may be another short chapter in what was becoming a very repetitive story. Thankfully, this was just the beginning of our afternoon with Alex Torreto, owner of Torreto Barbershop in Frankfurt am Main.

“There is only one true barber shop in Germany.”

Alex grew up in Greece, a country with a distinct barber shop culture. There, they fill a purpose well beyond a place to get a cut. They’re a reprieve. A place where men can congregate, talk candidly about life amongst their own herd. But after relocating to Germany, Alex realized the cultural epicenter served by his hometown shop was not something readily available here.

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Things began to crystallize, and the disappointment of days past quickly dissolved as we realized we weren’t merely failing to find the shops we’d set out for, there just weren’t many out there for us to find. Or according to Alex, “…only one true barber shop…” His shop.

Perhaps a slight exaggeration (we did happen on two other shops at least trying to capture that social club vibe), but his sentiment was true enough. Germany has traditionally adopted more of a “friseur” culture when it comes to grooming, meaning both men and women patron the same unisex hair salons. There are specialty shops for women but until very recently, none for men.

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When Alex opened Torreto in 2014, it was one of—if not the—first of its kind in the country. And after two years, it certainly seems to be resonating with the locals. Aside from welcoming walk-ins on Saturdays, they’re booked solid the next 4 months. And while Alex started out as the sole barber, his brother and a small group of friends have since joined the ranks to help keep up with demand.

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They all look the part. From the sculpted woodsman beard, to the tight fades and side-parts. It’s the perfect Barbicide advertisement. And even though the guys mulling around the green-and-brown, tufted-leather space are either there to cut, or be cut—Alex reminds us, “It’s so much more than just a business transaction.”

Like the barber shops of Greece, the United States, and myriad towns and countries in between—Torreto is a community gathering place. A bottle of beer, or glass of whiskey is offered to each customer. Hearty handshakes and pats on the back are exchanged. The hardships and victories they’d talked over on their last visit are followed-up on. It’s all laced with a fair bit of crude roasting, intrinsic to the camaraderie of brotherly love.

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“It’s so much more than just a business transaction.”

When a new customer walks in with a ponytail down to his jeans, asking for his first cut in ten years, the room erupts into a joyous riot. Metal music blares from the speakers as the new guy kindly obliges when asked to head-bang one last time. Alex proudly holds up the severed ponytail, like a warrior returning home victorious after battle.

In place of waist-deep locks: The self-assurance of a man supported by his tribe. A new member of the Toretto family.