Grooming

This All-Black Barbershop in Forbes Puts a Premium on Privacy

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IMAGE Sam Beltran
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Since opening its doors in 2014 on a quiet street in Makati, Back Alley Barbershop has been helping men become better versions of themselves. “That’s sort of our guiding principle: the better dude concept,” shares Rafael Tan, general manager of Back Alley. “It’s a notion that [asks] dudes to improve themselves constantly and be better than the best, because when you’re the best, it stops there.”

To that end, they’ve elevated the barbershop experience, taking the usual cut-and-shave up a notch with excellent service as well as curated elements like music from vinyl records, a rich selection of reading material, and complimentary craft drinks, all without foregoing value for money. For P400 pesos, you get a full grooming package of cut, wash, hot towel treatment, and massage, all while reading Monocle and sipping hand-pressed single-origin coffee.


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Back Alley has since expanded their better dude concept to Pasig City, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), and Nuvali in Laguna with The Village Barber and Supply Shop, a brother brand of Back Alley. Whereas Back Alley highlights the discerning barbershop experience, The Village is a community-oriented concept store that brings grooming and retail together, while helping out the local industries of each location. (The Nuvali branch, for example, carries local pomades from Laguna.)
Now, Back Alley finally opens its second location, bringing its signature barbershop experience to San Antonio Plaza in Forbes Park. Apart from the top-notch service that Back Alley fans know from their other shops, the new blacked-out barbershop places a premium on privacy. It may be just what you need.

What went into deciding the black look for the Forbes location?

In every shop that we set up, we make sure that the aesthetic reflects the location. San Antonio Plaza is located between two busy business districts (Makati and BGC). This small strip serves as a respite for those who work in those areas or a stopover for those traveling to those locations. The overall effect that we wanted to achieve is a private and relaxing location for those who want an escape from the city.

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We also wanted a simple and straightforward aesthetic. An example would be the copper pipes, which line the actual circuitry of the shop. The choice of black as the predominant color is because of the space’s size and for privacy. The sliding door for this outlet is made from antique wood from the original wooden frames from when San Antonio Plaza was built decades ago.

Is there a particular set of clients that you’re trying to reach here?

The new outlet in San Antonio Plaza is a more convenient option for our clients who live in Dasmarinas Village and Forbes Park. However, I really have to use the word private and not exclusive. It's not just for people from Dasma and Forbes. It’s for everyone.

What are the products or services that men can only get in Back Alley Forbes?

We introduced the Syn’s Shiatsu Shampoo, which features a 10-minute scalp, head, and neck massage during and after the application of the shampoo. We also carry Penhaligon’s, a grooming brand from London. They have a line of facial and shaving products that we use for the Hungover Treatment and the Shave.

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What are the most popular hairstyle and services your clients get right now?

The popular hairstyle that dudes aim for is the undercut or variations of it, but we’re also observing a resurgence of men who just opt for a simple and easy-to-maintain trimmed haircut. A service that has been a favorite is our Hungover Treatment. That consists of alternating hot and cold towel wraps on the face, applications of grooming products in between to refresh the skin, and finished with a long massage.

Specialty barbershops have been on the rise in Manila. What separates Back Alley from the rest of the shops?

Back Alley highlights the overall experience, which requires us to place an equal focus on the barbering service and the shop’s vibe. The processes and products that we do and use in our services are carefully studied and reviewed to ensure that they produce the result we want.

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The elements of the vibe are curated: The music that we play ranges from ’60s rock to ’90’s grunge to ’00s alternative. The beverages that we serve include hand-pressed coffee made using an AeroPress coffee maker, which allows us to be more specific with the taste and strength. The genres of our reading selections vary from global affairs to graphic novels and humor.


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Any grooming tips for our readers?

Always strive to find the style that reflects your personality and that you’re comfortable in. Invest in reading material about the subject, ask grooming professionals like barbers for their feedback, and [research] products that would help you achieve your desired aesthetic.


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Who is the Back Alley dude?

He’s a dude that’s really discerning, who’s really specific about everything that he wants. But he’s not only specific because of a fad. He knows why he wants something. He believes that if he chooses this specific thing, it’s something that reflects his personality and what he’s comfortable with.

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Back Alley Barbershop is at San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park.

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