Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

Review: Abu Dhabi's Chaps & Co is part barbershop, part gentleman's club

Charlie Mitchell gets the fanciest haircut of his life at the grooming salon's first branch in the capital

Charlie Mitchell in the barber's chair at Chaps & Co 
Charlie Mitchell in the barber's chair at Chaps & Co 

I've never paid more than Dh50 for a haircut. When my regular barbershop in south London increased its rates by a fraction after the financial crisis, I took my business elsewhere. It’s not that I’m tight. I am not particularly apathetic about my hair, either. It’s more that I place haircuts in a certain category of unavoidable expenses, which also includes water and teabags. Getting my hair cut feels like a duty, rather than a treat.

Since I moved to Abu Dhabi last year, this mentality has me making fortnightly trips to a scruffy barbershop in the city centre, where my hair is cut by a youngish man with long, thin fingers. I don’t know his name; he doesn’t know mine. Within five minutes of arriving at Chaps & Co, by contrast, two people have asked my name, both asking twice to ensure they heard me correctly.

And so begins the fanciest haircut of my life so far. For one thing, my barber is more sharply dressed than I’ve ever attempted to be.

With three salons in Dubai already, Chaps & Co now has its first branch in Abu Dhabi, on the first floor of the Edition hotel. The company’s Welsh founder, Jordan Davies, tells me the aim was to create a “gentleman’s club” atmosphere. He has certainly succeeded.

The space is immensely well-lit, undeniably upmarket and spacious given it has a total of four styling chairs. These are leather-bound and comfortable, the mirrors are sparkling clean and razors line the walls, each blade spread at precisely the same angle. Mellow tunes play in the background, reverberating off the wood panel walls. When a hot towel is placed over my face during the obligatory hair wash (something I once dreaded), I nearly doze off.

Brian is one of the barbers at Chaps & Co Abu Dhabi 
Brian is one of the barbers at Chaps & Co Abu Dhabi

Chaps & Co offers a whole range of grooming services for the discerning modern man. A standard haircut and beard trim are the most popular choices, but customers can also enjoy nose and ear hair waxing, eyebrow and beard threading, and a blow-dry and scalp treatment (Dh30 each), as well as charcoal face masks (Dh75). Hair colour starts from Dh295, massages from Dh285 and keratin treatments from Dh395.

Hygiene hounds will appreciate the slick black gloves worn by its barbers, while the product range includes shampoos, conditioners, shaving oil and texturising clay from British Barbers’ Association; a styling product from Gentlemen’s Tonic Mayfair; moustache wax and beard balm from Captain Fawcett; pomade from Pomp & Co; and a tonic and spray from ­Label.Men, the official haircare product of London Fashion Week.

At Dh125 for a trim, it’s cheap, and much value is placed on customer satisfaction. Men are creatures of habit, Davies implies. If you impress them the first time around, they’re liable to stay for a decade.

Chaps & Co opened its first branch in Abu Dhabi in April 
Chaps & Co offers beard trims, threading, waxing and massage services

My hairdresser, Brian, tells me the connection he has with his regular customers is unlike any other. He says he works closely with his clients to understand what they need, and gets a buzz out of making them happy.

I enjoy the experience. My stylist is affable and sincere, and the atmosphere is more lounge than hair salon. After 45 minutes of washing, trimming, blow-drying, gelling and hairspraying, I end up with something I could never recreate at home: a slick wavy quiff, stretching diagonally backwards across my head.

Since the first shop opened in 2015, business has been booming. “The demand was simply mad,” Davies says.

Alongside the new branch in Abu Dhabi, for Chaps & Co is preparing to open more outposts in Dubai and Riyadh. Given the service Chaps & Co provides, and the atmosphere it creates, the success is unsurprising. For a certain sort of man – affluent, suave and fashion-­conscious – it could scarcely be a better fit.

The National's Charlie Mitchell ended up getting a hard-to-recreate wavy bouffant at Chaps & Co
The National's Charlie Mitchell ended up getting a hard-to-recreate wavy bouffant at Chaps & Co

For me, generally dishevelled and ­fairly nonchalant, it feels a bit too luxurious. That is not to say I wouldn’t return to the salon for a trim in the future – but I would have to be in need of severe pampering; an urge that may strike once or twice a year.

But I might well be in the minority. Davies told me that one night a week, a group of four men book the place out, each have a drink and a haircut, before heading into the city for an evening out, which strikes me as a perfectly pleasant thing to do should you be so inclined.

Chaps & Co is open from 11am to 10pm on all days except Friday (9am to 7pm) and Monday (closed) at The Abu Dhabi Edition. For the Abu Dhabi shop call 02 208 0000 or for more details visit www.chapsandco.ae

Updated: May 5, 2019 03:50 PM

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