Virile and the Cutting Edge as Poetry

Virile Barbershop | Photograph by Brandon Schwartz
Virile Barbershop | Photograph by Brandon Schwartz

Virile Barbershop | Photograph by Brandon Schwartz

“My first shave was not pretty,” Adam Ramos recalls in stark black and white detail like a murder scene in a film noir. “The barber shuffled me into his chair without any sort of consultation. As he kicked the seat back, I closed my eyes and prayed for the best. His hand was a lead brick. He did a single pass and some damage that left a couple scars.”

Those same scars would pave the road to Virile Barber & Shop, a first-class tonsorial boutique firmly rooted in old-school Americana with a bent toward early to mid-1900s culture. It’s a sanctuary of manhood, where everyday Joes can tread in, beat-down Neanderthals scourged by society and its weekly workday system, and saunter out feeling urbane and dignified, leaving the 9-to-5 o’clock shadows behind.

“I was pretty pissed, but now I could thank [that barber]. That experience taught me a lot of what not to do during a shave and just how terrible it can be to have a poor shave service.” And one thing Adam never does is serve up a sub-superb shave. Quite the contrary: to Adam and his protégés, every shave and haircut is a unique experience and an opportunity for them to instill a sense of culture and masculinity into every person who comes to the shop. The unsuspecting customer may think he’s in for a simple cut or shave, but what he has entered into ultimately proves more grandiose—a straight razor ode with a profound dedication to virility.

After studying cosmetology at CAPRI Institute in Paramus and getting his license to cut hair in New Jersey, as well as apprenticing under a women’s hairstylist, Adam realized that there was something missing. It wasn’t until he bought his first blade—a Dovo straight razor with intricate 24 karat gold details and a handle made from buffalo horn— that he realized exactly what was missing, what he wanted to dedicate his life to: men’s grooming.

While other salons will cut men’s hair and might offer a sub-par shave, Virile is an adventure in time travel: from the modest table and chairs set up outside where men can sit and enjoy a cigar, to the inside, where it’s more museum than simple barbershop. “I find a lot of places tend to franchise a shop based on cheap gimmicks such as ‘we have flat screen televisions everywhere’ or ‘check out our half-naked female stylists!’” Adam protests. “It makes me say to myself, ‘Wow, that’s really great, but where is the quality? Where is the substance?’”

Adam Ramos | Photograph by Brandon Schwartz

Adam Ramos | Photograph by Brandon Schwartz

That’s what was missing. Like a poet without a muse, there was only process, rhythm, and rhyme scheme. A barber without a knowledge of and passion for tradition makes him a simple scissor-handler luring unsuspecting long-haireds into his shop for the sake of hustling a dollar. Adam, on the other hand, prides himself as a young entrepreneur fully invested in the very idea of manhood and the customs and rituals associated with it, and he verifies this in every part of his shop, from its old world decor to his own personal style of dress.

And one can’t help but notice the turn-of-the-century antiques that permeate Virile’s atmosphere, most of which date back between the late 1800s and 1920s. One glimpse at his cynosure––a Koken Congress Barber Chair from 1901, with hand-carved talcum brushes, decorative detailing in the tiger oak, tufted leather, and nickel plated brass––and you know you’re not in some run-of-the-mill salon, but have been transported to a distant time and place where men can talk about ‘man things’ and perhaps stumble on Jack Kerouac’s Good Blonde & Others between the pictures and centerfold of a 1965 issue of Playboy. It’s on this “Talcum Brush Chair” that Adam continues to sharpen his masterful skills at the art of shaving. An impressive forty-eight steps comprise “The Virile Shave,” so we’re not talking about our grandfather’s quick shave and slap of alcohol and off to work we go. Adam takes his time with every shave, and though he wouldn’t divulge his secret recipe for his methods, he did say that it includes three piping-hot towels, one warm towel, and one ice towel, along with a Noxzema pre-shave treatment. Adam only uses alcohol-free aftershave and moisturizing products to ensure a wonderful end-of-shave experience, and though nothing beats Baxter’s of Hollywood’s After Shave Balm for a lemon-minty fresh feeling of post shave sophistication, Adam and company enjoy switching up some of the products they use on their clients to keep things interesting.

“What we provide transcends location and penetrates culture. We shape the culture by instilling it into our services.”
Speaking of products, and continuing in the tradition that Virile has gained a solid reputation for, Adam has been hard at work on his own line of male hair, shaving, and grooming products called Virile Heart & Heritage. During the beginning stages of Virile’s opening, Adam set up a lab section where he would make his shave soaps, composed of ingredients that met Adam’s exacting standard of excellence. “For those [customers] who expressed interest,” Adam tells me. “I would walk them through the process of making some of my more basic shave soaps and utilize their opinions. It was definitely helpful to hear about what they would want out of a hair or skin care product.” Now, Virile Heart & Heritage is on its way to becoming a “no-bullshit awesome men’s grooming line” providing “a fusion of health and simplicity” to its users, according to Adam.

“What we provide transcends location and penetrates culture. We shape the culture by instilling it into our services.” The Virile barbers, from hairstyle consultation to a top-notch, one-of-a-kind shave, know their way around a pair of scissors and a Feather Artist Club blade. They understand that there’s an art to every shave and a legacy that dates back to well over a century ago. Virile Barber & Shop embodies the essence of manhood handsomely, infusing a poetry into an age-old practice, ensuring that every customer who enters as a wild man exits a gentleman.