When a new store opened that combines a vintage boutique with a traditional Italian barbershop, StyleList paid a visit to Barbiere with one of the area's local celebrities, the original Village People cowboy Randy Jones.
Jones regaled us with tales of the neighborhood's storied past while getting his famous mustache trimmed, the first tale being about the shop's distinctive facade. The 246 E. 5th Street address is an East Village landmark that's covered in pennies and costume jewels, and is currently being restored to it's original glory by Barbiere Matthew DeMaio.
"I moved into this neighborhood 26 years ago and immediately became friends with the people who had this building," said Jones, settling into a barber's chair. "It was a carriage house, and they were designers who made incredibly decorated hats and accessories, with Swarovski crystals. The front of the building is indicative of the objects they used."
Jones recalled the couple decorating the front of the 1910 building in a two-day burst of creative energy (which may have been chemically-fueled.) "There are still some similar mosaics on fences and light-poles in the East Village; it was a big thing in the 1980s," he said.
DeMaio said that Jim Power, the local mosaic artist responsible for much of that signature work over more than 20 years in the neighborhood, is leading the restoration of Barbiere's facade. Indeed, almost everything about the location seems to come with its own history: the two vintage red barber chairs are reputed to have come from the infamous Park Central Hotel barbershop where Mafia boss Albert Anastasia was gunned down in 1957, while Jones recalled shooting the Village People's iconic 'Macho Man' music video in 1978 at a sound-stage that used to be located further down the block.
As Jones spoke, barber Anthony Tapia was preparing him for a classic straight-razor shave. Tapia applied a moisturizing facial (many of the creams and lotions used in the shop are made in a kitchen upstairs), and then the first of three hot-towel treatments. The procedure takes just shy of 30 minutes and costs .
Photo: Ben Widdicombe for AOL StyleLIst "Anthony has a good deal of experience cutting women's hair, but generally, I wanted a place that would cater to men, since there are so many places for women," DeMaio explained of the store, which also counts actors James Franco and Adrian Grenier as clients.
"My roots are Italian and my goal in creating the shop was to recreate the old-fashioned Italian barbershop that I used to go to with my grandfather. Nothing on the menu is more than -- we get a lot of guys coming from salons, and they're happy to have a cheaper cut which is still stylized, and not the same haircut that everyone else gets."
The second-floor men's and women's vintage boutique, like the store cat, operates without the benefit of having a name. DeMaio's business partner, John Bonsignore, comes from a Brooklyn family associated with the heyday of Coney Island, and much of the eye-catching clothing for sale is straight from his parents' closets.
Meanwhile, back in the barber's chair, Jones' reminiscences had moved from East Village history to his own famous facial hair.
"I've had this mustache since 1973, it was because I had poison ivy on my face and couldn't shave," he said, as Tapia moved reverently around it with his razor. "I did a national tour of 'Carousel' and of 'Funny Girl' with Carol Lawrence, and I shaved the mustache off for that. But right after those I let the mustache grow back and I've never shaved it since."
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