To step into the Hill District’s newest barber shop is to witness a time warp where the Hill’s golden era emerges from the past and melds with the present.
Black and white Teenie Harris portraits dot one wall, abstract DS Kinsel’s another. A 60-inch flatscreen rests atop what might have been Don Draper’s end table. Gentlemen in suits sip whiskey while Kendrick Lamar thumps softly from the speakers.
Welcome to Society Men’s Grooming Lounge.
Society opened last July, at the corner of Herron and Centre, next to the old Dwelling House Savings and Loans building. The genesis came in 2014, when K. Chase Patterson and Riean Norman found themselves at an event talking about the haircuts they had received earlier in the day. They went to separate barbers but both had the same experience.
“Great cut, great price, raggedy place,” they laugh.
“The impetus for this,” says Patterson, “was realizing there were quality professionals in the game, but there weren’t as many quality establishments to match the skill set of the people that were working.”
Patterson is a Schenley High and Pitt grad with family roots in the Hill. Norman came to Pittsburgh in 2012 after law school at LSU.
Society is a salon in every sense of the word, from the sitting room vibe to the polite exchange of ideas in the barbering room upstairs.
Walk-ins are welcome and $25 a month membership affords discounts on services, admission to members-only events, and your very own locker in the basement. You can also get your shoes shined at Society and even have your car detailed.
It’s not a unique model—part-owner Harry Johnson talks of similar lounges in the South, in cities like Charlotte and Atlanta—but everyone swears there is nothing like it in Pittsburgh.
“We didn’t build this space to intimidate anybody or deter anybody,” says Patterson. “We built it to communicate that no matter what you do, or where you’re from, whether you work in a mill, or on the 31st floor of US Steel, you deserve to be treated like royalty.”
Many members say they joined for the social aspect as much as grooming. One member who works in the city but lives in the suburbs says that he’ll stop by after work to relax and wait out the traffic.
Another man, Quincy Kofi Swatson, executive director of The Door Campaign, brings his three-year-old son with him on the weekends. “A lot of professionals are a part of the network here,” he says “so he gets to spend time with Dad and hang around other mentors and icons. It provides a space where we can get together as a community and really mentor the younger generation.”
Downstairs is a small room with a massage table and an overstuffed chair for manicures. Upstairs is a bright, more contemporary space, with vibrant red barber chairs and vintage Life magazines with Muhammad Ali on the cover.
The day-to-day barber, Blāz, cut at The Natural Choice in Oakland for 11 years before coming to Society. Thursday through Saturday he is joined by Michelle Slater, who provides a direct connection to the past: her Dad worked at Woogie Harris’s Crystal Barbershop and met her mother there. Teenie Harris photographed their wedding as well as Michelle’s 18th birthday at the Crawford Grill. (She hopes Riean and Chase hang some of those photos soon — the ones that aren’t already at the Carnegie Museum of Art.)
While Society exudes a masculine vibe, it is not a male-only establishment. Everyone is welcome.
“The barber shop, historically, has been a place where people can come in, hear the news, and feel some sort of camaraderie,” says Norman. “We wanted to create a space where somebody could come in and be a part of something.”
Society Men’s Grooming Lounge is located at 503 Herron Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219. Walk-ins and appointments are welcome.
Looking for more Pittsburgh barber shops? Check out our feature on “New Traditional” barber shops around Pittsburgh.