Meet the Men Who are Making the Pompadour Cool Again
Three years ago, Mak Azores and his crew were giving out haircuts to guys on Monobloc chairs in a decrepit basketball court. He was then the ringleader of Slick Barbers Co., a street barber movement that amassed a cult following thanks to the wonders of social media. The guys at Slick Barbers held weekend sessions or pop-up events, whose limited slots fans fought tooth and nail over in order to get the slick back and rockabilly cuts that recalled James Dean’s and Marlon Brando’s. The group’s cult status brought them even beyond their Manila stints with mobile sessions reaching as far as Cebu.
Fast forward to 2017, Mak and his partner Ez Abinal have taken their talents from the streets to Heavyhands Barbershop in Mendiola, trading nomadic sessions for a loyal clientele that keep returning for their coveted fades.
Walk into Heavyhands and you’ll realize that this is not your grandfather’s barbershop. A black-striped barber pole is found at its entrance. The space is decked out with rock tributes and street memorabilia. There’s a PS3 just below a wall-mounted TV, on which a documentary on ’60s rock ’n’ roll plays. There are no news programs that older men like to watch here. There are no elaborate menus, too, as the service is straightforward: just the cut and shave that harks back to Mak’s street roots.
Esquire caught up with Mak and Ez to discuss what it’s like to stay put and their most-requested cut, the pompadour.
You guys went from the streets to a single location. How has that been for you?
Mak Azores: We were serious back then naman, but now it’s different because we have a shop to maintain.
Ez Abinal: Siguro kasi ngayon naging owner ka na. Dati kasi session pa lang eh. Wala ka pang commitments like rent, bills. Puro gupit lang. Mas pressured siya ngayon kasi meron ka nang iniisip na iba. Dati kasi haircut lang, session lang. Once a week lang dati ‘yung session.
The Heavyhands Barbershop crew
Why was it important for you to stay put?
EA: Gusto namin na hindi na rin sa labas, kumbaga parang may bahay ka nang sa’yo. Mayroon nang pupunta nang may alam. Dati kasi sa mga sessions namin meron pang dadayo sa Manila from Laguna, o kaya sa Alabang merong dadayo from Pampanga. Noong nagka-shop mas naging okay na, lalo sa Maynila yung location namin, nasa sentro. Usually meron ka naman talagang sasadyain sa Manila.
Any funny stories since setting up shop?
EA: ‘Pag matanda, humihingi na ng massage. Haha! Ine-explain na lang namin sa kanila na mas-focused kami sa cut and shave. Haircut pa lang namin 45 minutes na.
MA: Actually, funny in a way, but medyo disrespectful. Noong isang araw, mayroong foreigner. He just wanted his beard shaped. When I asked if he booked an appointment, his reaction was like, “Booked?” It wasn’t pleasant at all. So I listed him as a walk-in. I-sha-shave ko na siya, then I mentioned that our fee for beard shaping was P150. Then he asked, “How much again?” I repeated myself and then he goes, “I thought it was just P30.” Then he left.
Long Trim Pompadour
What are the most requested cuts from you guys?
EA: Sa mga bata, mga high fade, pompadour, lahat ng klase ng fade: low fade, mid fade, skin fade. Pero yung pinaka-gusto usually ng clients is the high fade kasi malinis.
MA: They’re all pompadours, actually. The most popular one is the long-trim and high-fade pomp.
High Fade Pompadour
Let’s talk about the pompadour. Before you said that you weren’t sure if the pomp was just a fad.
MA: Yeah, three years ago, I said I wasn’t sure if I would put up a barbershop kasi hindi ko alam kung hype lang. Now na-prove naman na namin that the pomp isn’t just a fad anymore.
Classic (Jelly Roll or Teddy Boy) Pompadour
What’s your personal favorite?
EA: ‘Yung long, yung may fenders sa sides (writer’s note: Think Elvis).
MA: ‘Yung pompadour na walang partition. ‘Yung hindi nadi-divide, ‘yung buong hair naka-pomp.
Why do you think the pompadour became popular in Manila?
MA: It has always been there, but as a whole it’s really because of fashion. Like when I was in high school, uso ‘yung spikes. If you were in high school then and you wanted a pompadour, you were different. Nag-change and nag-mature ‘yung fashion for kids to want the pompadour haircut now. For old guys, it’s always been there. Although umiikot din siya—for them to get back into the pomp now is probably because there are shops they could go to. Probably before wala pa, especially kasi nagka-salon era. Especially when the younger ones wanted mohawks and all.
Mid-Fade Pompadour with no partition
To you, what is a modern pompadour?
MA: Today’s pompadour has more varieties with personal touches by the client. A modern take would be one with a fade and ‘may slick back sa sides.
Do you think the pompadour suits certain people?
MA: It’s not so much about the people, but more on their hair types. Kaya pa naman gawan ng paraan ‘pag medyo kinky ‘yung hair, pero for example ‘pag foreign hair tapos sobrang kulot talaga, fade is always their best option. For thinning hair, iba rin ‘yung case.
High-Fade with no partition
Any sage advice on getting a pomp?
MA: A lot of our customers who come in show pegs from Caucasian references. Caucasian hair is very different from Asian hair. Asian hair is thick and straight, while Caucasian hair is thin and light. Get your pegs from Japanese and Korean hair types or Asian references.
Tips on men’s hair care?
MA: Medyo stressful ‘yung pomp sa anit, kasi it requires constant combing. Pomades are good, especially organic ones. They contain hair growth ingredients like castor oil, vitamin E oil, and other oils good for the scalp. Wash it off daily.
EA: If meron kang rest days, rest your hair from the pomade, too.
Heavyhands Barbershop is at Unit G3, Concepcion Aguila Street corner 2nd Street, Mendiola, Manila. heavyhandsbarbershop.setmore.com.