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Barber Love: Baxter Finley Barbershop in Los Angeles

Anne Moratto | March 20, 2018 | 9:55 AM
Inside the Baxter Finley Barbershop in West Hollywood.
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Inside the Baxter Finley Barbershop in West Hollywood.
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MODERN SALON in the house!
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Inside the Baxter Finley Barbershop in West Hollywood.
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Dr. Baxter Finley
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The early days of Baxter of California
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Cards detailing the loyal customers who ordered Baxter of California products in its early days.
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Product display at Baxter Finley
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Product display at Baxter Finley
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Baxter Finley was a doctor who moved from New York to Los Angeles and was living his best beach life in the 1960s when he realized his skin was suffering from so much fun in the sun. The doctor created a men’s facial lotion that was the first in a line of face and body products geared to men that would eventually incorporate hair care, as well. The line, Baxter of California, features an unfussy assortment of clean looking, clean smelling products that have a timeless appeal. 

At the Baxter Finley Barbershop in Los Angeles, Shop Manager Sarah Healy was our guide on a tour of the shop and of the brand. From the outside, the large-letter “Barber” sign and barber pole clue you into the nature of the establishment but not until you get closer and see ‘Baxter Finley’ on the door do you know the name of the place you're entering. Inside is an air of calm, with the quiet hum of clippers, and things moving at a steady but still relaxed clip. There is a sense of stepping out of the craziness of the day into a cool oasis of wood floors, gleaming Koken barber chairs, and steaming hot towels. 

“Our Baxter of California tag line is ‘Life Lived True’ which basically means be who you are, do your thing, don’t let the world change you,” Healy says. This motto seems to apply to client, customer, and barber, alike, as the product line continues to grow its following and the Baxter barbers grow their career and their business.

MODERN SALON: Why do people want to work here?

Sarah Healy: They love the look of the shop, the location, and they love the product line. They will also make good money. We have some big names from the entertainment industry that come here, but they are not treated any differently here than anyone else. A barbershop is a very democratic place so everyone gets the same excellent treatment. 

Because of our location (on La Cienega in West Hollywood), we do have many walk-ins and our staff is always booked but we’re still a bit of a secret. You have to know someone to find us. I think that just adds to the appeal.

MS:  You have been coaching in the salon world for years--what have you seen change in the barbershop world?

SH: I’ve been in the salon industry for nearly 20 years and just in the last couple years the amount of barbershops that have popped back up again is amazing. They were everywhere in the 1950 and 60s but then many gave way to salons but today, they are back with a vengeance. I think men are more educated and they want good products and to take care of themselves as they age. They also love being able to take some time to relax. We book every forty minutes which is long in the barber world but we encourage a thorough consultation, and to finish by showing them how to style their hair, show them what kind of products they can take home.  We’re not here to get them in and out as fast as possible unless they request it. We can do that, too.

MS: What is the mix of your team between cosmetologists and barbers? And how do you hire new talent?

SH: I only have one cosmetologists out of my 11 barbers, all the rest are barbers licensed to use the straight edge razors. The only reason I don’t hire more cosmetologists is because I have to put shaves on anybody’s books.

A lot of the newer kids coming out of beauty schools won’t cut men’s hair because if you mess up, you’re done—there is nowhere to go and nothing left to fix. So you have to have someone who is confident in cutting men’s hair

We hear from a lot of people interested in working here. First, I’ll meet with them and if I like them I’ll have them do a cut and shave with our barbers observing. And I ask them to give me feedback, if they liked their energy, if they think they’d be a good fit, if they could take direction.

MS: What advice do you have for someone coming out of beauty school who wants to specialize in men’s hair?

SH: Practice, practice, practice. You need to do as many mannequin heads as possible, as many guy friends, brothers, as possible, because only with practice will you get really good with men’s haircuts.

A lot of these guys have been doing hair since they were ten and they finally went and got their barber’s license. They are so talented and they need to be because when  people walk in here, they expect the best.

MS: What trends are you seeing in men’s hair?

 SH: It is not quite as perfect as it was, it’s a little messier and a little less clean cut. The 1950s had very strong lines and clean cut but you can have the same cut but a little beachier.

Same thing with beards. The lines are not quite as defined. And they are not going away any time soon.  Men are still growing them but they’re not quite as long.  They are not super short but they are not super short, either.

MS: What’s new from Baxter of California? And how do your barbers work with the products?

SH: Our barbers are very involved in testing the products. If you look on our Baxter bottles, they say ‘tried and tested at the barbershop.’ They are given a sample and they share what they like and don’t like and it goes back to the chemists for refining. But if they straight out don’t like it, it doesn’t get made.

We have some new product including a Clay Effects Spray.  Our Clay Pomade is very popular and this spray formula gives great texture, a matte finish and light hold without being stiff. We also have our SPF15 Oil-Free Moisturizer in time for summer.

For beards, our Beard Line-Up Shave Gel is clear so you can see everything you’re doing and it’s a great product for barbers who do a lot of neck cleanups. You can just rub it in, afterwards, without rinsing it off. And our Shave Tonic is very popular. We infuse all our towels with its minty scent.

This brand has been niche, only a lucky few knew about it, and now we’re getting it out to the rest of the world.

For more information, visit baxterofcalifornia.com.

Originally posted on Modern Salon.

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