Business

This Washington, D.C. barbershop drew on decades of history to create


Black barbershops have lengthy been a formidable a part of Black life. Not only a place to get a haircut, they’ve functioned as group gathering spots and financial hubs for neighborhoods across the nation for many years.

[Photo: Michael Grant/Manifest]

Now, a brand new barbershop in Washington, D.C. is channeling that historical past and elevating it. Manifest, which launched final fall, is taking the multifaceted facet of the standard barbershop critically: It will even have a boutique, espresso store, and cocktail bar. “We picked Manifest for a barbershop name because, when you’re manifesting yourself in these new spaces, these new ideas, you always think of better places, and everything great starts with a haircut,” says Brian Merritt, one of many founders of Manifest who additionally cofounded Chicago attire label Sir & Madame.

[Photo: Karston Tannis/Manifest]

The four-in-one idea was delivered to life by Okay.J. Hughes, a serial sports activities and leisure entrepreneur, who teamed up with Merritt and Susan Morgan, a vice chairman at Team Epiphany, a New York-based advertising and artistic company. “I think all of my years of going to the barbershop influenced this particular innovation,” Hughes says. His mom was a hairstylist at Shelton’s Hair Gallery in Washington, D.C., within the ’80s and ’90s. “There was the bag lady that came in, the polo guy who came in [with] polo shirts, sweats, and hoodies,” Hughes says. “The barbershop was no different. You had the hustle man that came in with CDs, computers, and laundry detergent. Folks were hustling and selling things because the barbershop was a captive audience. This definitely went into the business model that we created at Manifest.”

[Photo: Karston Tannis/Manifest]

This mixed-use historical past of barbershops underscores the central position they’ve performed in Black communities. “The black barbershop can be a social and even a political anchor for a rapidly changing community,” says Quincy Mills, affiliate professor of historical past on the University of Maryland and creator of Cutting Along the Color Line. “Once they have a barber or beautician, [Black consumers] are pretty set on that person. Even if they move, they’re likely to travel back to that barbershop in their old neighborhood, so, in those ways, I think a barbershop can serve as a kind of an anchor even when things are changing.” A membership program at Manifest supplies much more group engagement, with reductions, occasions, and unique merchandise.

[Photo: Karston Tannis/Manifest]

When it got here to Manifest, the companions tapped New York design agency Snarkitecture to design the area. Neon lighting, molded archways, and combined supplies create a cohesive expertise between its 4 companies. “We created it to feel like one space, but if you’re in the barbershop, it doesn’t feel like you’re in the coffee shop; or, if you’re in the coffee shop, it doesn’t feel like you’re in the barbershop, so the sight lines were really important,” Hughes says, including that the archways all through characterize ritual. “Getting your haircut, getting a fade, shopping, and coffee are ritualistic types of activities.”

[Photo: Karston Tannis/Manifest]

Although barbershops have been historically seen as “boys clubs,” Manifest’s choices are meant for everybody. “We get people from all walks of life—athletes, politicians, regular people on the street, guys from the neighborhood, women, everyone comes,” Merritt says. “This is what we wanted it to be, a nice point of community and discovery.”

[Photo: Karston Tannis/Manifest]

Adjacent to the lavish barbershop expertise is a properly curated retail choice. Brands featured embody Acne Studios, Engineered Garments, Rick Owens, Craig Green, and Issey Miyake. “You see all different walks of life in a barbershop, so why not offer them all types of clothing? So we have luxury, street, contemporary, Japanese stuff they can discover here,” Merritt says.

[Photo: Karston Tannis/Manifest]

This, too, is an extension of the position that Black barbershops have performed for many years. “Historically, barbershops and beauty shops have been used in different ways,” Mills says. “They were the spaces that Black people either owned or had control over, which allowed them to be used for other purposes. It allowed for the cross-selling of other kinds of businesses within the same space.”

[Photo: Karston Tannis/Manifest]

Beyond the first-floor area, there’s a dimly lit hidden staircase that results in Out Of Office, a 30-seat, reservation-only speakeasy. The bar mimics the design components of the barbershop, with tiles and moody lighting. Later this spring, Manifest will broaden its choices even additional by opening a city house on the fourth ground that’s accessible to lease. “D.C. is one of the few Black cities left,” Merritt says. “So we have to do something nice for our people, something elevated for our people. It’s not just for us, but it’s for us.”





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