SNAP! reporter Jeff St. Aubin was presented with the unique opportunity of getting a hair cut at the most talked about new barbershop in Montreal, “Notorious.” The shop is owned and run by Corey ShapiroÂ (famous for his Vintage Frames company styling all kinds of international celebrities such as Pharrell, Lady Gaga, Rick Ross, Jay Z and the list is long), and his business partner P-Thugg, from Chromeo.
“So that’s what you’re trying to do here?”
“Fuck people’s hair up?”
“No, not fuck people’s hair up, bring backâ€¦”
“Yeah,'” interrupts Corey Shapiro, co-owner of Notorious, Montreal’s newest barbershop. “We’re trying to bring back the old school barbering, bring back the relationship between the client and the barber.”
Sitting at 4677 Rue Notre-Dame, Notorious brings to St. Henri a hood glamour that makes bullet-embedded badger brushes, racks of specialty men’s grooming products and $1,000 shaves fit together. It’s the kind of place that’s “luxurious enough where a guy like me who, you know, wears all kinds of chains and diamonds like as a regular casual thing, and him [business partner P-Thugg] who’s, you know, all in Kentai and looks all kind of big and weird, can walk in and feel comfortable.'”
What this clearly necessitated is Versace everything. Walk in and the barber pole’s Versace. The tile floors are Versace. The display platters are Versace. Everything is Versace. Even the lamps are Versace. How do I know? Like your mint flat brim, the shit’s still got the tag on it.
“It is absurd to live in a house where Versace stuff is present. To be in a barbershop is just ridiculous.â€
Replete with a complimentary bar and arrays of cologne and specialty products, Notorious continues the ridiculousness by offering a $1,000 shave club where you can get shaved with a custom solid gold razor (only 10 karats though, 18 karats proved too soft) that’s subsequently dulled and turned into a necklace for you to wave at offending fools. If you’re up for the novelty, “it’s equally the experience and it gets filmed and all that shit.”
This should all make sense as Corey runs Vintage Frames, the purveyors of fine eyewear to pop culture’s biggest names, and his business partner, P-Thugg, is one half of Chromeo, and Chromeo is, well, Chromeo. With Notorious, the duo wanted to create an old school men’s spot beholden to non-segmented luxury — hence all the Versace.
“Historically, many people don’t realize it, but Versace in the 90’s, let’s say before Gianni was dead, or even not, he would have a dinner at his house and he would have gay dudes, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Tupac. He would have all these people from all different communities which at the time were very segmented. You didn’t have many black dudes from hip-hop hanging with gay dudes, that was really faux pas at the time. You also didn’t have high-end models that wanted to be in that mix as well. So it was the first brand that was non-segmented luxury. Which is why we went with it.”
Dissatisfied with Montreal’s current barber offerings, Corey and P-Thugg saw an opportunity to create the type of community barbershop they had always wanted.
“There’s a bunch of people who don’t want to go to a Haitian spot, or don’t want to go to an Italian spot, or don’t want to go to a salon because at each one of the typical barber areas it’s really segmented toward what type of clientele or toward what type of barbering you get.â€
Aiming to create a place where â€œit didn’t matter if you were black, white, gay, straight, whatever the words. Itâ€™d be a real old school men’s spot where everyone felt welcome… The idea is for a man to come to take one hour a week, or one hour a month, just for themselves and to feel relaxed, and to feel non-rushed, and to feel non-segmented, and to feel comfortable enough in an environment to not answer their phone and to be like, you know, I’m at Notorious, I’m going to do my thing for an hour and be at ease.”
Their target community isn’t just Montreal, though. Having experienced the challenges of getting a fresh cut on foreign streets, Corey and P-Thugg want to bring Notorious to the world.
“We are going to do a chain. It’s a club atmosphere we want. We want it to be that once you become a member of Notorious and, let’s say you go to any city around the world, that there’s one. Weâ€™ll have a membership program where it’s a thousand dollars for the year and it gets you two haircuts and two shaves a month, unlimited shape ups, access to our car service, which we have a Rolls Royce on the road, and each maitre de or head mistress, as I guess we would call them, of the shop, theyâ€™re going to be a concierge. Let’s say you’re a Montrealer and you’re going to New York and you donâ€™t know where to eat, you canâ€™t get into a restaurant or you want a place to start — you know that you can go to Notorious and you’re going to feel as welcome as you would here in Montreal.”
In order to ensure that the same mix that pulled off the initial Notorious is replicated internationally, “to purchase the chain youâ€™ll have to be an artist local to the area and either a tastemaker or a business owner. It makes sure that thereâ€™s a local presence that comes with it, a local feeling.” What this doesn’t ensure, unfortunately, is that your actual barber is a local expert. Donâ€™t worry though, heâ€™ll definitely be an expert as Notorious has recruited â€œbarbers from all around the world that have specific specialties and are the best, or one of the best at what they do” — he just may not be local.
My actual barber, Jack, did have eight years in the game and gave me a mean cut, but he was a fresh import from Virginia who was unsure if he was going to stick it out through Montrealâ€™s coming winter.
Therein lies my only issue with Notorious. I’m down with ghetto-fabulous, Versace-encrusted glamour, complimentary gin & tonics, high-quality cuts, Rolls Royce car service and a thorough scalp massage after a good shampooing, but that doesnâ€™t add up to a true old school barber experience. For that old school experience, itâ€™s really just about the man behind the chair and your confidence in his craft. But then Notorious does go beyond the traditional barbershop and provides you with more than just a dude with a chair whoâ€™ll listen to your bullshit and dish out a few wise words while giving you a grade-A fade. Treading in more man-spa than barbershop territory, Corey and P-Thugg have created a â€œcrazy Versace, odd, luxurious placeâ€ thatâ€™s all about bringing different people together in well-appointed luxury.