LOOK: Barbierro Barbershop champions superior grooming, inclusivity, and equality
Unwind at the first queer barbershop in the Philippines
Finding the right hairstylist can be a challenge for everyone. It can also be difficult to find a hairdressing establishment where you feel comfortable and not judged.
If you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, you may have experienced discrimination or name-calling. Derogatory remarks can occur not only on the streets but also in establishments, whether overtly or behind your back.
Imagine a place where you can receive a haircut, shave, hair color, manicure and pedicure, where you can fully relax and be yourself. That’s what Barbierro Barbershop, founded by Paul Sumayao and Jedi Directo, is all about. “Barbershop ng mga Barbie” came to Paul in 2017 as a potential retirement business.
“Growing up in Camarines Sur with a single mom, and as the eldest of four siblings (three boys and one girl), it was my responsibility to take them to barbershops every now and then,” he shared. “I’d get the occasional stares from barbers and customers for my sometimes effeminate choices in clothing. When I started going to barbershops alone, barbers would normally engage with me and ask me about ‘tsiks’ or ‘sabong,’ or ‘basketball.’ It wasn’t uncomfortable at all, but it’s something I’d rather not go through the next time I get a haircut.”
Paul also shared some of the experiences of his transmasculine friends where barbers would address them as “ma’am” instead of their preferred “sir.” Another testimony came from Jedi Directo, the other half of Barbierro Barbershop, where his older relatives would call him out for being effeminate, saying that “it’s not right.” These led Paul and Jedi to believe we need more safe spaces in society.
Having worked in the creative field, Paul and Jedi applied their knowledge to curating a safe space not only for the members of the LGBTQ+ but also a safe space for everyone. In this conversation, we ran through some of the initiatives of their brand as well as what clients can expect from the first queer barbershop in the Philippines.
What’s the inspiration behind the logo, interior, and decorations of the barbershop?
For the look of the shop, we wanted to be unapologetically queer and do the exact opposite of how a barbershop would look like. Instead of the usual interiors (industrial, gentlemanly, dapper, sleek, or luxurious) we wanted to take the more lived-in, the more “familiar” route: bare concrete walls, homey finishes, art and reads peppering the place. It’s filled with objects from my and Jedi’s personal collections and we envision for future branches (and their franchise owners) to have the same lived-in feel.
The direction of our logo design was deliberate. The merman (or sirena) has always been an identifying symbol of queerness and transness. It’s how we saw Ariel from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” on her journey to become a “real woman,” the merman/mermaid as half-fish, half-human echoing the same appropriation of the Filipino term “bakla” as “half-woman, half-man” or “in between.” Imagine a merman who knows how to cut hair (with rust-proof scissors and razors, of course, for undersea trims). We envisioned this icon sitting on top of a crude, hand-drawn type that reminds one of jeepney signages—another homage to the mostly male-dominated industry that is PUVs.
What initiatives are you taking to ensure your barbers are well-trained when it comes to providing the best service and genuinely safe space?
Even during cut tests or interviews for new barbers, we deliberately tell them that we’re a queer barbershop and that we don’t tolerate misogyny or homophobia among our employees. We explain it in such a way that they understand the overall mission of the brand. As owners, we engage with them through conversations on gender and sexuality by openly discussing topics such as relationships, roles, and the LGBTQ+ culture.
By normalizing conversations like these around them, they’re able to get a good grip of the nuances and politics of LGBTQ+ spaces. We also make sure to immediately call out any untoward behavior both offline and online. We do these on top of regular refresher sessions on SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression,) such as the one we had at the beginning of the year.
Why do you think it’s important for clients to feel safe and seen by their stylists?
As a barbershop customer myself, this is extremely important. Haircuts are one of the few moments when a complete stranger is intimate with me (and my body/hair) and it’s nice to know that I’m in a safe space.
What’s the most sought-after haircut in Barbierro?
Tapers, high fades, and two-block cuts are some of the most sought-after haircuts at our shop.
What can we look forward to from Barbierro?
Besides receiving an approval to enter major malls, we’re now open to franchisees! We encourage queer business owners like us to create more safe spaces for the community. We’re opening soon in Metro Manila (franchisee) and another in Camarines Sur.
View their full menu here.
Barbierro Barbershop is located at RJ Titus Building, Bldg 1 Unit 1-D, San Francisco Rd, Biñan, 4024 Laguna