Last August, old school biz Black Rabbit Barbershop opened up on East Williamsburg’s Porter Ave on a stretch of several blocks that, with the recent additions of indie comic hub Cotton Candy Machine and confectionary My Sweet Brigadeiro, is evolving from an industrial corridor into a community of passionately run small businesses.
Despite a minor setback of a burglary early in the shop’s tenure, Black Rabbit has been doing a roaring trade, keeping Bushwick’s quiffs sharp and hosting events ranging from a Movember party to a fundraising collaboration with Bushwick Bark.
A few months ago, Black Rabbit proprietor Matthew Baker initiated a collaboration with Darren Irwin, the leatherworker behind Bushwick design company AWL&MAUL, transforming the space into a unique barbershop-studio hybrid.
The front of the shop remains a barbershop: Darren’s workspace and retail setup occupy the back wall. Together, the two friends (and their respective dogs, Oliver and Luz,) have created a place where patrons can get a clean shave and then pick up classic, hardwearing belts, wallets and other items.
Matthew started cutting hair as a teenager. “It was something I did because other barbers couldn’t really give me and my friends the punk rock haircuts we wanted,” he explains. He apprenticed in California, then moved back to Bushwick five years ago and began working in shops around the city before eventually opening his own place.
Despite offering an old-fashioned barbershop experience, the space has a distinctly modern feel to it. The chairs are vintage and the store is scattered with traditional barber’s poles, but these are the primary design elements in the otherwise minimal interior. “I just wanted it to be welcoming. It’s really easy to go from something looking classic to something looking like set dressing from Boardwalk Empire, and that’s what I wanted to avoid,” muses Matthew.
For Darren, his craft began as a hobby. When he started making objects that his friends and family liked, his brand was born. In its early days, AWL&MAUL offered almost twenty different pieces, but now Darren just sells the five or so that perform best. He was working out of his home before Matthew offered him this space. “I didn’t necessarily need the someone in the back of the shop, I just really liked what Darren made,” says Matthew.
Now, at 53 Porter Ave, a haircut or a straight razor shave costs $30, and beard trims are $15. Darren’s high-quality leather goods range from $100 for small wallets to around $500 for large tote bags. The pleasure of the company of both the business partners and their dogs comes free of charge.
Expect to see lots more from Black Rabbit Barbershop and AWL&MAUL, both individually and together. All summer, the two are running a promotion in which a leather purchase of $100 or more gets you a free haircut. Other upcoming projects include in shop events for the summer, and a special magazine they are releasing this fall called “100% Handsome Boy Magazine.” Studs of Bushwick, go get your next shave and haircut at Black Rabbit —maybe you’ll be featured!
Black Rabbit Barbershop and Awl X Maul are located at 53 Porter Ave Between Grattan St and Harrison Pl. Hours: 10am-8pm Tuesday-Friday, 11am-6pm Saturday, and 12pm-5pm Sunday. Tel: 347-470-7457
All Photos Courtesy of Kevin Hoopes for Bushwick Daily