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Jack Spade Meets: Chris Calabrese

Chris Calabrese owns Calabrese’s Barber Shop in the town of Keyport, NJ. It’s the real deal. We met to talk with him about the finer details of great American haircut hangouts.

Tell us about all the collections in your shop. And how come barbers seem to particularly enjoy hoarding things?

I’ve got 30 or 40 straight razors. I started picking them up at antique stores a few years ago. Some are just crappy with homemade handles. Some of them are on bone or bakelite. Some of them have weird devils in the blades.

I love old bottles, there’s some real bottle weirdos out there who get a little crazy. I have more than I care to admit, but this small collection was given to me by two customers. One works for NJ Transit, the other for the Keyport Public Works. They find them at work and give them to me. I think that’s really nice and I keep them separate from the rest.

I think most local barbers collect something or other. There are two schools of barbershops. There’s the more contemporary barbershop, and the old Italian neighborhood style. And old Italian men just love to collect stuff.

What are the unwritten rules of the barbershop? 

No politics, no religion. That’s a biggie. If a shop closes at 7, don’t come in at 6:55 trying to get a haircut. Unless you’re a regular customer.


photo via Keyport Independent

Does Barbarcide ever get changed, or is it like a jar of pickled eggs in a bar?

I change it once a week. After that, you get clumps of hair in there. It’s absolutely disgusting. Some shops I’ve worked in wouldn’t change it for months, and would keep adding water until it got to be a sickly sky blue color. Dark Barbarcide is a sign of quality. Definitely.

Any final barbershop wisdom?

The barbershop is a part of America, this weird thing that’s still around. It should be gone by this point, sort of like horse racing, but it’s not. Why is it still around? There are cars now.

Find Calabrese’s Barber Shop in Keyport, NJ, which is also home to great fried seafood at the Keyport Fishery.

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