During the heyday of barbershops in Portland, the years between about 1880 and 1940, they were not only places the men of the North Western city went to get a haircut or a shave but also centers of male social activity, rivaling the local bars as a place to fraternize with other guys and “chew the fat”.

During these years many barbershops in Portland were classy places with stunning decor. The chairs were carved from the finest wood with sumptuous leather upholstery. Every element, from the shaving mugs to the advertising on the walls had an artistic flourish and yet still managed to feel homey and inviting.

It was the introduction of the safety razor that served Barber shop supply all over the country their first big blow. Gillette mass produced the first model in 1904, touting it as economical and easy alternative to a regular visit to the barbershop. Barbershops in Portland began to see a sharp drop off in business as men turned to shaving at home instead making their regular trip to the barber.

The decline continued over the decades to come. Two world wars and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam reduced the clientele of the barbershops of Portland and when the hippie culture invaded the entire country in 1960s and long hair became the fashion, some men went without a visit to the barbers for months. In the 1980s Portland men did once more embrace short hair but many of them chose the local unisex hair salon rather than returning to the barbershop.

However, in the 21st century the barbershop is enjoying something of a renaissance. There are barbershops in Portland that are returning to the principles of yesteryear and attracting a clientele that is desperately seeking a little respite from the hustle and bustle of their busy lives. Modern men, as concerned about their appearance as their female counterparts, are discovering that there really is a difference between a shave with a safety razor and one with a straight razor and that little can beat a haircut from a trained barber who specializes in men’s grooming.

Some of the best of these barbershops can are located in an area of Portland that has itself seen a number of changes over the years – the Pearl District. Once home to block after block of light industrial companies, somewhat run down warehouses and a railway yard or two up until about thirty years ago or so it was far from the best part of town.



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