How a Back-to-Basics Barbershop Became Venice’s Ideal Saturday Hang
The Men’s Groomer is a place to work, drink coffee and leave a happier, handsomer man
An excellent cup of coffee will taste delicious even after it’s cooled. Similarly, an excellent haircut should look handsome at least two months after you leave the shop.
Take Angelo, who received his last haircut a little over two months ago. His salt-and-pepper hair is shaggy, but it’s still stylish. He’s just arrived at The Men’s Groomer, a new cut shop on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice Beach. “I was here two months ago,” he says. “It’s the best haircut I’ve ever had.”
Angelo has known Jason Schneidman, the man behind TMG, for four years, but this is only his second haircut here. He and Jason became friends through a connection at the tattoo parlor next door. “Jason opened this shop and my girlfriend was like, “You really need to see him,” he says. “She’s super refined.”
Angelo, like most men, used to go for a cheap haircut. Jason’s work isn’t cheap — and given the service he provides, it shouldn’t be.
Leila Servellon, Jason’s assistant, asks if Angelo wants a complimentary coffee or water. They have a La Marzocco espresso machine operated by Pete, a calm dude with a stylish coif who was in rehab with Jason. The coffee is by a high-end roaster, Blackwelder.
“I’m going to do a bold fade,” Jason says to Angelo, the two talking at each other through the mirror. Jason compliments the texture of Angelo’s hair. “Gonna shape the beard, too. You’re gonna be flexing when you leave.”
Jason has worked under the TMG cognomen for seven years. He still has a chair at celebrity salon Chris McMillen. “I had this concept in my head of coffee, retail and just a solid dude hang,” he says while running clippers, on the lowest setting, up from the base of Angelo’s hairline to above his ears.
Jason wanted something on Lincoln, where the action is heading. Parking and sunlight were concerns; this location provides both. Jason knew the previous tenant, Noah Levine, a Buddhist guru who ran the meditation studio Against the Stream. “I said to him, ‘Bro, go upstairs. You’ll be closer to God,’” Jason says as he manipulates his clippers. “He handed over this white box. It’s all zenned out.”
The room is spacious, with six barber stations and a large, simple communal table surrounded by squat chairs. People sit, charge their phones and read giant coffee-table tomes on Steve McQueen, Irving Penn and surfing. A client enters with a large Saint Bernard. Everyone gets up to pet it. The guitar plucking of Long Cool Woman by The Hollies can be heard on the speakers.
Jason was worried that no one from Beverly Hills would come to Venice for haircut. “The fear bubbled up,” he says, now using an edger to render Angelo’s fade even cleaner. “But they came.” And not just his regulars, but his celebrities, too: Jonah Hill, Anthony Kiedis, Rob Lowe. James Corden hasn’t come yet because Jason goes to him for his show.
Once a month, Jason also sets up his barber’s chair at a public library on Sunset in Hollywood and spends the day giving free haircuts to the homeless. He’s been doing it for three years, and now the Mayor’s office wants to partner with him.
Public service is very important to him. He also sells T-shirts soft, lightweight tees for $35; you buy one, and they give one to the homeless.
Other retail items include skateboards by Jim Muir, surfboards by Barahoma and bovine skulls decorated in multicolored beads by Baja natives; Jason procured those on a surf safaris. The shop, like Jason, exists at the cultural crossroads of skateboarding, surfing, motorcycles and low-riders.
Jason is now using a foil shaver, fading Angelo’s hair down to his beard in loose, instinctive strokes. He tells me the distinction between a barbershop and a salon is that barbershops use clippers while salons use scissors. “I like to ride the line between traditional and edgy,” he says. “It always grows into something professional looking.”
Jason wets Angelo’s hair to reset it. Now he’s using scissors to trim and texturize the top, moving rapidly. He calls it organizing hair, tailoring it to an individual’s unique shape. He also cleans the beard. “It’s really important: if you don’t shape the chin right, it looks as bad as True Religion jeans.”
He uses a hot towel to clean things up then adds paste and teases the fresh cut out. “A good haircut balances out,” he says. “You should wake up and roll out without having to do anything.”
Angelo smiles and rises, his chinos dropping over his tattooed ankles like a curtain: “I love it.”