Kollektivet Hvitan is not just a barbershop for men and their beards and tattoos. It’s a place to hang out and discuss everything from politics and divorces to TV series and hair oils. Here, masculinity is shaped in a soft silhouette.
They are everywhere. A stroll down the streets of Stockholm and they are up in ones face. A look in a magazine and they’ll be find next to abs and intensive gazes. They can grow on the cheeks of anybody from old men to boys who just got to buy their first beer at the pub. That special hair that seems to harbour a primitive sort of strength and an urge for manly behaviors. I’ve been wondering for so long. What it is about this love story between men and their beards. I met Johan Olsson and Henry Apler, owners of the barbershop and tattoo studio Kollektivet Hvitan, and found an answer far from the macho surface.
Johan and Henry often return to their intention of having a welcoming atmosphere in Kollektivet Hvitan. To have a haircut, it doesn’t matter if you’re a 3 year old or a grey senior. ”Everyone is always welcome here. If you’re gonna get your beard trimmed or have a tattoo, you can bring your friends. They can hang around and enjoy a cup of coffee”, Henry says.
The place is cosy and familiar. Before you enter, you are greeted with an open space of brick walls and dark wooden floor. There is a brown leather sofa in front of a wonderful, green marble table where you can play video games or simply relax. ”This is not a place to sit around waiting, reading some old gossip magazine. We want a different feeling, sort of like a youth club but for adults”, Johan describes.
Barbershops as well as new skin care products have increased the past ten years. ”I think the big difference today is that men are more conscious about their beard and their look. You like the feeling of being taken care of and to allow yourself a treat.” says Henry. Since a more open conversation on beauty has been brought up, more men take the chance. ”You have the opportunity to come here and relax. There is nothing unusual about men getting their beard done once a month”, Johan says.
I figure that the attraction of big beards these past years is more than a search for a traditional masculinity. It is about pleasure and the luxury of satisfying oneself and ones body. Men want to fulfill soft needs. To make a vulnerable side acceptable one has addressed something that will be forever united with masculinity.
Becoming a barber was a coincidence for both Johan and Henry. But beside the good ambience that characterise the barber shops, Henry was drawn to the handicraft of the profession. This is the reason why Kollektivet Hvitan has developed a grooming kit together with whiskey brand Bulleit. It is a collaboration that highlights the craftsmanship of whiskey making together with the craftsmanship of barbering. Henry emphasizes the tradition of beards and barbering, another similarity which makes the collaboration special. ”If you look back in time, there has always been lots of beard. Ever since the vikings”, Henry says.
When meeting the costumers on a regular basis Henry and Johan gets close to many of their guests. ”A barber is the bartender of today”, Henry contemplates. ”You get to take part of the private lives of people. It’s a very intimate situation, trust is established.” The combination of sitting down for one hour along with a unique kind of touch is a release for profound conversations. ”As a guy, you rarely come this close to one another”, Johan explains. In addition to a longing for pleasure and satisfaction, I believe that this intimacy is another clue for the love story between men and their beards. It’s a shortcut for men to conquer sensitivity. The barbershop is a gratifying environment where your look gets you closer and reveal a tender manliness.
Words by Hedvig Holgersson