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How to Talk to Your Barber: Reykjavik, Iceland

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A single-chair shop hidden in plain sight.

There was a clear consensus in Reykjavik. I’d been asking around for the best barbershop in town and all fingers pointed to a menswear store on the busiest street in the city center, Laugavegur. Inside Herrafataverzlun Kormáks & Skjaldar, past neatly stacked rows of Filson tin cloth duffels and field coats, I would find The Barber’s Corner, helmed by barber Stjúri Sigurðsson.

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While the location was easy to find—at least after I knew where to look—Stjúri’s business hours were a bit of a mystery. I had to enlist some local help to figure out how to actually meet the barber so many locals held in high regard. As luck would have it, that American craftsman Anthony Bacigalupo of Reykjavik Trading Co. is a regular at the shop. He made the call and joined me for a visit.

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Stjúri has been cutting hair for 24 years. Eight years ago, he opened up The Barber’s Corner. The single chair shop is tucked away amidst beautiful interiors designed by Icelandic theatrical set designer and musician Axel Hallkell. Stjúri strikes an imposing presence. Clocking in around 6’6”, sporting a silver mane and beard, he looks ready to be cast in Game of Thrones.

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A man of few words, each bit of information is thoughtfully dispensed and dusted with dry humor. His stern poker face is intimidating but routinely betrayed by the playful twinkle in his eyes. When a second regular stops in for a cut, words start flowing more freely. A small town pub atmosphere inhabits the room and Stjúri’s hands move with surprising delicacy and speed.

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The decor of the barbershop can be described as charmingly maximalist. An old cash register, vintage glass bottles resting in the window sill and barber trinkets fill the space. It feels both busy and comforting at the same time. Mise en place. The piece that stands out most is a large framed portrait. I ask Stjúri about the man in the photo. He turns out to be the late great-uncle of both store owners. “He was a barber, a drunk and a cripple.” These days, he adds, his role is that of patron saint of the shop.