THE TRADITIONAL BARBERSHOP as an important social space for people (mostly men) to gather is alive and well, but it's evolving. Recent years have seen a younger generation embracing the custom, some with a steampunk-ish eye toward embracing old modes, others with a slickly urbane metrosexual vibe.
This summer Portland acquired a new barbershop, one that should appeal to those who don't necessarily identify as nostalgic or in need of pampering. Artwork by Klutch and Logan Hicks hangs on the walls of the modestly sized but cheerful and bright space, next to copies of old set lists from notable hardcore bands, a Triumph motorcycle parked just outside the window. This is Oak Barbershop, a new venture from Augustus Bowman, whose heavily tattooed hands have been cutting and shaving the heads of Portland men for about three years.
Like most people, Bowman's career path was not a straight line. Originally from Baltimore, Bowman studied graphic design after high school, eventually dropping out and moving on to freelance design work. He'd always had barbering in mind, however, and when he made the trek to Portland with his girlfriend, he finally decided to go for it. He studied at the International Beauty School (now known as the Bella Institute), and worked for a couple years out of school at Akemi Salon on North Williams, before deciding it was time to do his own thing.
"The space wasn't really my style," says Bowman, who describes his desire for Oak to look "like an Apple store, but warmer." He also wanted to differentiate himself from much of the modern barbershop culture, which he associates with "shitty hotrod cars," "corny rockabilly," and "borderline douchebags," citing a shop in California where women aren't allowed as a good example of what he doesn't want for Oak, preferring to enjoy the eclectic social experience that comes with a varied client base. "That's where people get it wrong, not making it comfortable for people to hang out."
When asked why he chose barbering over cutting hair in general, Bowman admits, "The idea of cutting women's hair is scary to me," explaining that he is drawn to the "tight, technical" work most male haircuts require. "When you say you're a barber, you're putting forth that you have certain skills," he says. "That you know how to use straight razors properly, use a pair of clippers for a tight tapered cut without using a guard, or even with scissors and a comb."
And while he may specialize in male hair, he doesn't think the skill set is a boys' club, remembering a woman he used to go to in Baltimore as particularly amazing. "I don't think gender plays a role," says Bowman. "Some people just find it tedious, and others find it interesting. I find it interesting." Oak Barbershop, 833 SE Main, #115, oakbarbershop.com
THIS WEEK'S STYLE EVENTS
• You can get a jump on your Halloween (yes, Halloween!) costumes this year with the Oregon Children's Theatre's giant weekend-long costume sale, kicking off with a party for the serious costumer, with food, drinks, and live music. Opening party, The Galleria, 600 SW 10th, Fri Sept 16, 5-9 pm, $10-20; general sale Sat Sept 17, 10 am-5 pm, Sun Sept 18, noon-4 pm
• Sellwood treasure trove Tilde is celebrating its five-year anniversary with a one-day-only sale with complimentary Blue Kangaroo coffee and wine from the Portland Bottle Shop, plus 20 percent off everything in the store that isn't part of the featured art show. Word to the wise if you're itching to score something from the Pendleton Portland Collection: Tilde is one of the four Portland stores with pieces from the line (in their case the scarves), which probably won't be going on sale any other time soon. Tilde, 7919 SE 13th, Sat Sept 17, 10 am-8 pm
• Etsy and I Heart Art: Portland are teaming up to host Hello Etsy, a day of workshops designed to help makers and small business owners boost themselves up in the local economy—er, the "sustainable micro-economy," that is, with speakers including Rebecca Pearcy of Queen Bee and Duane Sorenson of Stumptown Coffee. Hello Etsy, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Swigert Commons, 1241 NW Johnson, Sat Sept 17, 9 am-6 pm, $20, RVSP at iheartartpdx.com
• Unrelated to the Portland Flea earlier this year, the (ahem) Portland Flea is a daylong sale of antique and repurposed furniture, clothing, and collectibles. Plus they'll be accepting used instrument donations for Ethos Music. Portland Flea, SE 6th between Belmont & Yamhill, Sat Sept 17, 8 am-"mid-afternoon"
• If you thought Halloween was a stretch, it's also time to start thinking about the holidays: Crafty Wonderland is currently accepting submissions for crafters itching to be part of the annual Super Colossal Holiday Sale (they are so not kidding about the "colossal" part), but move quickly—September 23 is the deadline. Apply online at craftywonderland.com