20 June 2016

Meet the Slick Barbers Co. Family

Photos by Earl Roxas

Loud music with street cred was blasting on the stereo. Groups of people were engaged in good-natured chatter, almost as if they’ve known each other for years. At 3 p.m., preparations were still underway but the atmosphere already pulsated with a pure vibrant energy that’s hard to ignore. 

This was the scene that greeted me on a humid Saturday afternoon when I set foot at Slick Barbers Co. for the very first time—the humble neighborhood barber shop that sits on Yague street in Makati. It has only been two years, and that humid Saturday afternoon was the day they were celebrating their second year mark. But as my eyes wandered the small space, I felt like the place was bursting with rich stories aplenty—stories worth revisiting and stories worth telling. Oh, if only the walls could speak. 

But what exactly was it two years ago? It was a different story.

The place used to be a carenderia to elementary school kids on weekdays. Co-founder Indio Bendana had an ‘aha’ moment to convert the same space into a barbershop for men on Saturdays. Thus, Slick Barbers Co. was born on the first Saturday of June 2014. The place, however, was nowhere near conducive to barbering. For one, it was really dark. A mini amp carried broken tunes on the front. Monoblocks served as chairs for gupitan sessions and air conditioning did not see the light of day. Nevertheless SBCo lived on, fully aware of what it wanted to do. After all, the premise was simple: to promote proper grooming for the “Renaissance Man” by going back to classic cuts. 

Word of mouth quickly spread and the next thing they knew, they found themselves at frequent barbering gigs. “Para kaming banda, paikot-ikot kami,” as Indio himself puts it. They maintained their appearances both in the North and in the South, once never losing sight of their goal. They found themselves partnering with sneaker brand giant, Vans. They found themselves making Yague street their thing—their ground zero for cutting hair. Slowly, bright light fixtures were added, air conditioning was put up, monoblocks were replaced with comfy leather seats. The words Slick Barbers Co. were emblazoned on a store window that once upon a time, didn’t exist. The garage finally turned into a barber shop, a man cave of sorts. They did all this on their own pace, all this in a span of two years.

The guys behind the pompadours and classic fades, eight barbers and three apprentices in total, make for one colorful bunch. They may represent several local sub-cultures—you’ve got dudes from hip hop and wordplay and dudes who come from a rock background—but when they come together, they create something special in the Yague street. 

More than anything, these are the guys that give life to the local barbering scene:

Indio (@indiohiphop) - One of the founders of Slick Barbers Co.
“Mahilig kasi ako sa iba’t ibang kultura. Nag-isip ako ng platform na pwede kong pagsama-samahin tapos naisip ko na barbering yun.”
"I really like different cultures, so I thought of a platform where I could possibly unite them, and I ended up with Barbering."

“Nung una parang wala lang rin talaga sakin yung barbering pero napamahal ako so tinuloy tuloy ko na.”
"At first, it seems like barbering wasn't as important to me, but eventually I loved it and continued to do it."

“Taga-Cavite pa ako so araw araw akong lumuluwas ng Makati...pero sobrang worth it din.”
"I live in Cavite that's why I travel far going to Makati everyday, but it's all worth it."

“Nagstart ako maggupit nung 13 years old ako dahil dun sa kapitbahay namin. Ako kasi yung bata dati na curious sa lahat.”
"I started cutting hair when I was 13 years old because of our neighbor. Back then I was the type of kid who was curious with everything."

Wyn (@wynnism)
“Art talaga yung passion ko. Nagtatattoo din ako before and graffiti wall art. Pero bago ko pa sila nakilala, gusto ko na talaga maggupit.”
"My real passion is Art, I was tattooing and doing graffiti before. In addition, I also wanted to cut hair, even before I met them [SBCo.]"

Simon (@simonpago)
“Actually yung father ko may parlor, kaya naamaze ako maggupit ng buhok. One day, humiram ako ng clippers and gunting sa parlor and nagstart na ako maggupit.”
"My father owns a parlor, that's why cutting hair is really interesting for me. One day, I decided to borrow some clippers and scissors, that's when I started cutting hair."

“Yung ginagawa sa araw araw is writing for spoken word, dahil dun kaya kami nagkakilala ni Indio. Medyo gusto ko na ring maggupit since nagaaral pa ako.”

“Dati patron lang ako dito. I just hang out, nagpapagupit din ako. Dito ako nagpagupit since and di na ako nagpagupit anywhere else.”
"I was only a patron here before, I hang out and get my cuts here. I don't go anywhere else for a haircut."

Zaldy (@zaldybee)
“Apprentice nila ako since April. So far, so good. Sacrifice lang talaga sa time kasi binabalance out ko yun at pagiging civil engineering student ko.”
"I am their apprentice since April, and so far, so good. The biggest sacrifice is the time because I have to juggle it with being a Civil Engineering student."

Blood makes you related but loyalty makes you family. The entire SBCo. crew might not be related by blood but their bond runs deep. It’s clear that brotherhood and camaraderie is the real essence here. More than they are colleagues who share the same vision, “lifestyling” as they’d like to call it, they are homies. And everyone in the group echoes the same sentiment. Tim puts things into perspective, “If you start acting like it’s not a family thing, you start to lose what SBCo. is”. This whole concept of family, the feeling of belongingness and a sense of community, is carried over to their relationship with clients. The humble shop that sits on the confines of Yague street is a place where everyone’s guard is down. 

The party was just getting started when we left. As I turned my head for one final glance, I couldn’t suppress the grin on my face. The vibe was festive—electronic music was being spun, Christmas lights flickered, and a barbecue was being set up. But what I couldn’t forget were the kindred spirits from different sub-cultures and walks of life coming together on a warm Saturday night, fully engrossed in each other’s company. This is the kind of community Slick Barbers Co. has created.

And I couldn’t be more excited for what’s in store.


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