By: Claudie Benjamin, Guest Writer
Larry Glasser gets it. The owner of Old Hand Barber Co. is your barber whether you’re feeling distressed, anxious or just off … or just the opposite, in a great state of mind and just seeking a trim to look like the best man you can be.
The very personalized service at Old Hand has become even more customized with the required one-on-one mandate in place since Charleston salon businesses recently started reopening after many months of pause.
Larry says “a good haircut is like a custom suit that’s well contoured, that really reflects the man who wears it.” Although he cares about discussing and advising and providing his opinions about how the shape and cut of hair relate to a person’s face, he wants the bottom line always to be achieving what makes the customer smile. Most want to stay close to the style of haircut they’ve had for a while. A few want a huge change. These requests for “makeovers” Larry says, are usually linked to a job opportunity. “Men who’ve worn long hair for years and look good, may be wanting a short side part for an interview, ” he says.
Welcoming a greater impulse to be organized since opening his downtown shop location, Larry now starts work at 9 am. This gives him some time for coffee and breakfast with his wife, Leanne, currently in school training to be a health coach. A 20 minute drive takes him to the studio. Greeting customers also means chatting. Larry wants to get to know new customers a little at the first meeting. Usually, old or new, they want to talk too. In accordance with tradition, the barbershop experience is far more than a haircut; it’s an personal exchange that’s unconnected with home or work. “It’s like therapy,” Larry says. It’s also artistry.
The one-on-one accomodation in the studio supports the comfortable relaxed atmosphere with blues or classic rock playing in the background, music conducive to conversation. Larry clearly loves all the details of his work. “Some customers say they wish they could be barbers like me.” But, clearly he has a rare gift and commitment to his work and to his clients.
Customers look into the mirror with him to discuss and decide on a cut and styling. “Someone with an oval face may look better with a smoother, flatter cut on top. A person with a squarish face is likely to do better with more volume.”
Styles of men’s haircuts change over time. At the moment most clients are enthusiastic about short side parted styles reminiscent of the 50’s or even looking back further in history to ‘a Great Gatsby style,’ but cut closer to the face on the sides and not slicked back.”
Now 35, Larry Glasser has been cutting hair since he was 15, working out of his family’s basement on relatives and friends. He went on to earn an Associates in fine arts and a BA in graphic design. Having moved to Charleston nine years ago, he applies his skills as a graphic artist to projects like creating the logo and business cards for Old Hand in downtown Charleston, opened after almost nine years working in Mt. Pleasant. His studio is located in what was Carolina’s Restaurant and has become a center for multiple hair and beauty businesses.
By coincidence Larry’s move coincided with the Covid pause and his business, like others, was shut from March to May. But looking on the positive side as he typically does, Larry says it gave him time to settle into his new studio and get it the way he wants it. He is a perfectionist in all things, which can complicate life, he admits. At the same time, his approach and personality has delivered a long list of loyal customers. It was usual for customers to wait two to three hours for that customized haircut when Larry worked out of the Mt. Pleasant location.
Reopening downtown in compliance with Covid safety requirements, has meant organizational changes that Larry actually welcomes.
Appointments are now made online. Reminders are sent electronically and he texts each customer once the haircut has been finished for the previous customer and the surrounding work area is fully cleaned.
As legally required, both Larry and his customers wear masks. Beard trimming for now is limited to what Larry can reach around the mask. And, Larry appreciates the increased emphasis by all on safety related to disease prevention. The best part of the whole experience for many customers is the hot lather neck shave with a straight edge razor followed by the application of a hot towel. Some clients fall half to sleep and wish this luxury was possible every night.
Once Covid is under control, Larry hopes to enhance the comfortable atmosphere by serving a beer or a whisky to customers when they settle in for a haircut.
The downtown location makes Larry’s Old Hand Barber Co. convenient for Charleston locals and visitors, who need the very best haircut they can have for every day or special events.