Barber shops aren’t merely small businesses; they are metaphorical urban confluences or town plazas. Customers visit both, to get their hair cut or styled but also for the therapeutic experience: They converse with the stylist behind the chair about what’s going on in their lives, they hear about other regular customers — and may even get updated on a little gossip.
Oliver Zaituni, Co-founder of the newly opened Bô Barbershop in the Business bay district of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, plans on adding another topic of conversation into the arena: sustainability.
Born in Malaysia, Zaituni comes from a multicultural background with a Panamanian/Mexican mother and a Lebanese father. According to Zaituni, sustainability has always been an aspect of interest to him due to his love for nature and being outdoors, which by default created a deep sense of respect towards it. The insight he has on the subject is derived from his personal experiences and habits that he had developed in the process of attempting to lead a sustainable lifestyle. For example, he avoids purchasing plastic packaged products and keeps a miniature dustbin in his house to challenge himself, as well as his family, to reduce their waste output.
The importance of this addition stems from the fact that not only are barbershops part of an industry that are high users of resources, but barbers probably talk to more people than any other occupation.
This places barbers in a unique position, as the practices they model in their shops and the messages they provide their clients with about ‘greener’ behaviour has the potential to drive a difference in the decisions that people make on a daily-basis.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News Japan, Zaituni explained that the barbershop focuses on four main specialized services including: Haircut, haircut and bear tune up, beard tune up, the ultimate shave and straight razor shave. The reasoning behind the limited options available stems from Zaituni’s mission to rebirth traditional services by only using products that are environmentally friendly and chemical free (dyes, bleaches, solvents).
“At Bô Barbershop, we like to be very friendly to the environment and that’s our main concept. We have zero plastic, no chemicals and are attempting to minimize the wast produced . The services offered don’t include hair coloring, waxing or any products with chemicals. For this reason, we only use sustainable hair-care brands, which are Davines, an Italian hair-care brand and Muji, a Japanese lifestyle brand. Both brands have product lines for the wellness of different hair or skin types, are all environmentally friendly and are organic or formulated with high percentages of natural ingredients,” Zaituni said.
“Some customers get disappointed that we don’t offer other services but I always say that in my life i wouldn’t do (or use) anything that I wouldn’t use on my brother or father and since I wouldn’t use such products on them – I refuse to use them on my customers because they could be harmful to the hair on the long run. By doing that at Bô Barbershop we try to build a little bit of trust between the client and the barber,” Zaituni added.
Zaituni gained his extensive experience as a Barber by working at Truefitt & Hill in London, which was recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest barbershop in the world. Over the course of its history, hairdressers that have worked there have snipped countless heads of state and the clientele, according to Zaituni, mostly included middle-aged to old suit-clad crowds that opted for traditional services.
Inspired by Truefitt & Hill’s preservation of the “traditional barber shop,” Zaituni decided to re-imagine this concept at Bô Barbershop, which is named after the acronyms of the owners names, by creating a space that symbiotically combines traditional services, but with a nonchalant, less formal atmosphere that attracts customers of every age group.
“What inspired me to open a barbershop in Dubai is that I saw how the barber shops here only consisted of a barber cutting hair – with no experience achieved for the barber nor the people inside the barbershop. I’ve always wanted to exhibit to people that a barbershop is not only defined by the haircut received. A barber is not just a haircut. Its understanding of personalities as it actually changes people – we change their appearance as well as their personalities. Most of our job in the barbershop is to educate other barbers how to not just cut hair, but also to communicate and understand their customers. To me, it’s not just a barbershop, it’s a lifestyle and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years,” Zaituni said.
It’s fair to say that most customers come to Bô Barbershop for traditional services, such as regular hair/beard cuts, face and head massages and the application of fragranced water to the scalp mid-haircut that leaves one catching a delightful whiff of themselves for days afterwards. Nonetheless, customers also visit for the experience attained at the barbershop, which is predominately delivered through the free, nonchalant and welcoming personalities of the barbers that allow customers to feel as though they are part of a larger community.
Elaborating on the services offered at the barbershop, Zaituni said that “The ultimate shave service offered at Bô Barbershop is about 218 years old and it’s about one hour long. It’s a full shave experience. It consists of hot-towel and cold-towel applications before and after the shave, face massages using an organic toner, as well as other traditional methods in the process of the shave. All the products used in ultimate shave are Japanese products from Muji that are organic (with no chemicals) and are environmentally friendly.”
One cannot help but think of the outdoors when entering Bô Barbershop, the interior consists of earthy tones and tropical walls filled with an assortment of plants wide enough to rival a garden house, which preserves a rare atmosphere of calmness. As you lie back for a shave on the camel colored chairs imported straight from the equipment manufacturer Takara Belmont in Japan, one automatically transcends themselves into an unconstrained location as the suspended turquoise metal wave-panelled ceilings that mimic the movement of the sea stare down at them.
“The Bô Barbershop interior design tries to mimic an ‘outdoor’ barbershop, within our four by four space we try to use colors and objects that emulate that. The high ceiling and the blue wires up in the ceiling are made to make people feel like they are in an open area,” Zaituni said.
“It is important to lead a sustainable life. I understood that more after the birth of my daughter where I started to think about the impact we have on our environment. Seeing the plastic pollution and the detrimental effects it has on our surroundings really made me question how the next generation will survive if this continues. I think taking care of our environment or ecosystem is a must and i hope every one gets on board,” Zaituni added.
The sustainable concept of the barbershop extends beyond their conscious use of hair products. For example, all capes used are made of cloth instead of single-use plastic ones, tissues have been replaced with small towels and bottles used are made from either re-usbale plastic or glass. This helps eliminate their consumption and usage of plastic while stimultensouly reducing the waste produced.
Bô Barbershop serves as an example of how individual businesses can help in presenting their industries as part of the solution rather than part of the problem, which aids in their sense of professional identity and allows the barbers to take pride in being able to offer not only a well informed service, but also a well informed and potentially life-changing conversation.