Minimalistic décor is the look a la mode for many modern businesses today. But there are others that like to keep good old-fashioned style alive, like The Cleavin Barber Club in Cove Bay, Aberdeen.
A traditional, gentlemanly ethos is at the heart of the business’s mission– from its antique furnishings to its suit-wearing barbers.
Run by Aberdonian owner Daniel Cleavin since November 2018, the barber club is renowned for its award-winning wet shaves as well as haircuts and it also has a second location in Banchory.
Frank Sinatra and The Rat Pack are among the music picks played in the shop with the relaxed atmosphere a core feature of the overall experience.
Despite having a stop-start journey with Covid restrictions, Daniel is full of ideas for the club going forward.
“We’re looking to have whisky tasting events and make the venue feel like more than a place just for cutting hair,” says Daniel.
“I’ve always liked the idea of whisky and cigar evenings to tie in with the club feel we have here.”
Born to be a barber
After leaving school at 16, it didn’t take Daniel long to pursue his passion for cutting hair.
His initial steps into the industry came with a hairdressing apprenticeship at Ashoka in Aberdeen’s Albyn Terrace, where he learned his craft for three years.
“I knew quite a lot of hairdressers when I was younger, but I only really knew one or two male hairdressers,” says Daniel.
“I thought it seemed like a pretty cool idea for me to go into at the time and was something a bit different.
“It was all about just starting out from there, then I ended up moving onto barbering.”
Daniel adds that he worked in “just around every barber in Aberdeen” over the years before deciding to take the plunge with his own shop four years ago.
The Cleavin Barber Club
“I always fancied opening up my own shop one day, so I just went for it,” says Daniel.
“It was a white shell of a building that we moved into, so we were good to get cracking on renovating from the offset.
“The hardest part was sourcing antique furniture and trying to get the right look, to be honest!”
This traditional, old-fashioned look is now central not just to the visual aesthetics of the barber shop, but to the entire concept of The Cleavin Barber Club.
“When you go to pubs nowadays, everything is all sleek and modern; there are exposed pipes and things like that everywhere and I think that loses the aesthetics of old, traditional pubs,” Daniel explains.
“With barber shops it’s the same, and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I wanted to take things back to being a bit more traditional – everything from the décor to how we dress and the music.
“It’s a gentleman type feel we aim for.”
Officially opening in November 2018, Daniel says that the business was an immediate hit.
Within year one, its second location Banchory opened to similar success with clients outside of Aberdeen – including from Stonehaven and Inverurie – regularly visiting.
That same first year in business also saw Daniel bestowed with a top industry award for his work at the club.
“I won the best wet shave award back in 2019 at the Shaba Hair and Beauty Awards which was great to receive,” says Daniel.
“It’s something I’d worked towards in my career, for sure. The club was also up for three awards in total last year – best team, best interior and best wet shave again.
“I’d say it’s the shaves that are the biggest thing about Cleavin Barber Club.
“At a lot of other salon type barbershops, you might not think about them being places to go for a shave.
“But we like to keep attention to detail – there’s masculine smelling candles, the music’s played low, the towels have scented oils on them… it’s these little things that people like and pick up on.”
Join the club
Like many others in the hair and beauty industry, The Cleavin Barber Club suffered setbacks from Covid restrictions and is still slowly getting back to pre-pandemic levels of business.
Daniel is keen to spread the word and have more gents become members of his one-of-a-kind barber club.
“Our clients ages range from early 20s right up to 60s and 70s. I think the whole club ethos is what makes us different to other barbers around the north-east,” says Daniel.
“The atmosphere and social aspects are both key elements. We all enjoy having a laugh and having conversations flowing.
“Shop three was potentially on the cards for us last year and it’d be nice to branch out of Aberdeen.
“But right now, it’s about focusing to try and get things back on track after Covid and keep things busy.”