Next time you feel like having a trim and grooming the old-fashioned way, Blue Harbour at K Village is the place to drop anchor.
By Laurence Civil.
The relationship between a man and his barber is something that is fostered over many years. For the past 40 years Nithi Sthapitanonda, Thailand’s National Artist for Architecture — who conceptualized CentralWorld and the King Power complex – and his son, Nithis — ever since he was a boy — have been loyal customers of Savad La-ad at Tony’s Barbershop in Ekkamai Soi 21, where a gentleman’s grooming is done the old-fashioned way with unique personal camaraderie.
Imagine the panic attack when Savad announced he was leaving; if he couldn’t cut their hair life just wouldn’t be the same. Drastic action was needed. It also transpired that Khun Nithi had secretly been working on the idea of opening his own barbershop. The solution was to open Blue Harbour in K Village: an old fashioned barbershop to get a wet shave or have your beard or moustache trimmed the old way; stuff they don’t do in the modern salons.
Savad is the master barber of Bangkok. He snipped his first locks 40 years ago at the old Central Hotel on New Petchaburi Road. In those days many of his customers were American GI’s in Bangkok for R & R from the Vietnam War. Unquestionably, he knew how to do a crew cut and scrape off the nape fringe. Hairstyles have moved on since then and today he does all the latest styles using the most up to date techniques. He can fix hair texture and color and lists Surakiat Sathirathai, Pol. Col. Kovit Sawaisaenyagara, and Kanin Boonsuwan, as three of his regulars.
“This kind of shop with skilled barbers trimming beards, cleaning ears and cutting, coloring and perming hair is very hard to find these days,” says Nithis. “We wanted a traditional place that was intimate, private, and comforting.”
“We went for a nautical theme,” he says, “as our research showed that a lot of barbershops were at a port and sailors returning home from sea would drop by to smarten up before going home to be re-united with their family. We are also located close to the Port Authority of Thailand so it seemed kind of appropriate.”
Because of the confidential nature of the chat between barber and customer, there are four cubicles made with louvered rich teak wood walls from Chiang Mai closed by a curtain door. It feels like a confessional in a Catholic Church as what is said inside stays inside.
Each of the four cubicles is decorated differently but with the nautical theme flowing through them all. Good lighting is essential for the perfect haircut. In the ceiling hung over the chair a square of cool and daylight bulbs for use when cutting and trimming and softer more gentle lighting for other services and the customer may want to relax or maybe even go to sleep
The stars of the shop are the four Takara Traditional barbershop chairs. They are made by a third generation Japanese family company who have been making barbers chairs since 1931. The model here is most probably the Apollo 2 designed in 1961 or possibly its look-alike predecessor, the “125.”
These chairs remain the leading workhorse in barbershops around the world. All four came from the same barbershop in Bangkok and have had the black leather upholstery fully restored. Hydraulically operated with 360-degree rotation, reclining backrest, adjustable and removable headrest and padded upholstered arms.
Nithi found the hanging lamps in the Netherlands, and he spread his own model sailboats, seagulls, and lighthouses around the shop to make customers feel at home. He also designed the very unique wooden chairs himself.
“In the beginning our target was the male customer,” he says. “There is a market for gentleman who are appreciate and are prepared to pay for this level of care. We had ladies who come in just to have their ears cleaned. They liked the metro-sexual feel and feel and kept coming back for more services. We have foot and face massage because that what we like to enjoy.
With traditional barbering, the hair is cut first as it has to be dry due to the use of electric clippers, “We don’t want to electrocute the customer,” he says. Shaving is with an open blade razor, and barbers are trained to shave a balloon; only when they can shave without bursting them are they let loose on the customer. It’s very difficult, if not dangerous, to self-shave with an open blade razor.
“Our target age group is from mid-20s upward,” he says. “Due to our location and the unique service we offer a lot of metrosexual guys who come to K Village to dine, discover us and fall in love with the service. We now have a client range from teens to the very senior. Some come just to have a chat with their barber even when their hair doesn’t need cutting, that’s how special the barber-customer relationship is.”
“We are planning to expand next door so that the current premises will be just the barber shop,” Nithis concludes, so that massage, which really requires a quieter experience would be next door.
Next time you feel like a trim here’s the place to drop anchor.
K Village Shopping Mall Room A212
93-95 Sukhumvit 26
Open: Monday to Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.