Originally Published August 10th 2014
Ever since Virile opened in Jersey City, I’ve been lurking outside trying to get a peak into the shop. Menswear and old school barbershops have always intrigued me. I knew that they didn’t service women so I needed an excuse to go in there and explore… That’s why I started ChicpeaJC, so I can basically have a reason to do a bad ass photoshoot and interview the dapper barbers that work there. Semi-kidding.
I reached out to Adam a few weeks ago and he was gracious enough to open the shop on his day off to give me the inside scoop on all things Virile. With this shoot we did things differently… Greg Pallante (the awesome photographer that shot the ever so sexy shoot with the Big Hair Girls) suggested I transform into a dapper man coming into Virile for a haircut and shave. I actually have alot of menswear inspired outfits in my closet and this was the perfect theme for this shoot. That day was also my birthday, we started shooting at around 1oam, Adam poured me a nice glass of whiskey, I lit up a smoke and we went back in time to the good ol’ days. (Mom I swear the cigarette is just a prop)
How did Virile start? It started in Waldwick New Jersey, I started planning in Jersey City when I was living downtown between 6th and 7th street. I just wanted a place where I can submerge myself in traditional barbering and men’s grooming. The only place I was able to afford at the time was Waldwick.
How long ago was this? It was about 4/5 years ago.
What makes the experience at Virile different as opposed to the run of the mill barbershop? I would say is that we are really nerdy…not just about the history of barbering but also about men’s grooming, men’s fashion and trends. We keep a close eye on it but we are well knowledge with everything that barbering encompasses. You get a whole experience out of it, from years, decades, generations past and it makes for a fun visit.
Can you describe the experience? If someone wants to come to Virile for the first time what would they expect? A glass of Whiskey, or beer upon arrival, a cool dog and some good laughs and stories to share.
Why is the shop called Virile? I am not good at naming things, I didn’t want to name it “Adam’s Barbershop”. I wanted something that was synonymous with manly, masculine… so I googled searched synonyms and looked for a word that wasn’t really commonly used and came across Virile. That night I was playing an apples to apples game and sure enough there was a car that was masculine and one of the synonyms was Virile so I saw that as a sign and went with it.
What does Virile mean? As far as I know… Masculine. It’s also tied into virility which is also masculine…
Are their names for the different haircuts that you do? There are some barbershops that do a set number of haircuts that you pick off a wall or go by name. Everything we do is custom tailored to the individual that comes in depending on what they are looking for.
Do the barbers that work here have to go through specific training? Yeah definelty, every barber goes through an apprenticeship and until any of us feel as though they are ready to take on clients we won’t allow them to. That’s more or less the process…getting them trained and comfortable and making sure the client is comfortable because we know they expect a certain level of professionalism and we stand by our brand and our style when it comes to administering a shave or a haircut.
Can you tell me a little more about the people who work in this location? Sure, there is Andre who manages this location, he is an excellent barber. He started off in Waldwick, I trained him. He had a good background on haircuts, he comes from a long line of barbers as well but really just honed his skills and he’s become a master of his craft, he is phenomenal. Hanna, she had just left to go to school just recently, she is in Boston now. I trained with her actually and we come from the same background of education. She even worked with me in Waldwick, we both apprenticed under my mom…. She wasn’t so much a barber, more like a woman’s hairstylist but she decided when I opened up here to join the team. I trained her to be more specific for men. Now we have a few more apprentices that are starting this week, which I am really looking forward to.
What’s next for the shop? The product line which I’ve been working on for 3 years now and come this september is when we are looking to launch It will be awesome to have proof of life with that, its something in my minds eye. I’ve envisioned this for so long, but for this to be tangible…
Are these products you created? Yeah, I started out in Waldwick, I handmade shave soaps and shave creams and as time went on the natural progression was to team up with some chemists and create a line. We have about 16 different products under our belt and we will be launching 5 of them to start off.
Where will you sell them? Here, online and hopefully have some retailers pick up the line.
Congrats! Any plans on opening more shops? Hell no! It’s such a process…. Even opening in Jersey City, I wasn’t looking to do it at first but I fell in love with this spot. It’s alot of work and very stressful but I am glad I did it. It’s awesome to be here, it’s beyond a dream but its tough to keep the quality there when you have so many people involved so I would rather keep it to two shops and keep it simple.
Tell me how you guys decorated this place? When I came here, I went based off the style of the floor. It took me a few weeks to even figure out where to begin but I obviously wanted to go with the 1920’s feel just because of how deco the floor is and slowly just added on when it felt right. I wanted it to be a good combination of late 1800’s and 1920’s. It was a steady progression…
Where did you get the chairs? I got these from a gentlemen called John Apples in Wisconsin, he has a warehouse filled with hundreds of barbering chairs spanning from 1860’s to the 1970’s. I’ve been in touch with him for three years and he always forgets who I am…. he’s an old timer, really cool dude and we will talk on the phone for hours but as soon as we hang up he will forget that I am interested in purchasing from him. Luckily I was able to get him to drop off these 3 chairs.
What about the cash register? This was made in 1906 and I got that from a collector in Princeton, New Jersey. His home is filled with old registers, and I looked into this particular model because of the detail. He had some really amazing pieces….he had one from the late 1800’s, that was hand carved wood and hand painted and the detail is absolutely beautiful.
And you actually use it as your register? Yes we do!
Does it take AMEX? Haha yeah, we have an iPod square.
What do you think is the future of men’s grooming? I see a lot of franchises coming in and messing up a really pure thing. I see them taking the ideas that barber purists pride themselves on and creating a prefabricated bunch of nonsense with shops that are strictly veneers and no substance. Followed by a string of major umbrella companies creating “old-timey” products made to ride the coat tails of the barber resurgence. Which would ultimately lead to the collapse of it all.
Why don’t you service women? We choose not to provide service to women in an effort to create more of a classic Gentleman’s atmosphere. We focus our attention solely on men’s grooming. Nothing personal ladies, we love ya! In fact we love ya so much we are trying our best to keep the men that walk in be the most handsome versions of themselves. For you!
What is the craziest thing a customer asked you to do? A client once asked us to shave his back. We responded with a chuckle followed by “no.” Another time an unmentionable client had asked me to make his hair look like he was on a motorcycle going 100 mph. Long story short I had guided him out the door with a referral for another barber shop that may be able to help him achieve such an asinine hairstyle.
I am sure people are curious to know a little history on the art of barbering. Can you share something about it? Barbers were once able to perform general surgeries such as pulling teeth, bloodletting, leeching, etc. Which is why the barber’s pole is red, white, and blue. The red represented blood, the white represented bone, and the blue represented vein.
Shot by Greg Pallante
510 Jersey Avenue