From the high fade to the close shave, the undercut to the hard part, and the beard sculpt to scissor work, Palm Springs barbershops deftly assert old-school artistry while also cutting to the latest trends. And the gentlemen who purvey the styles prove as diverse as the barbers, who — regardless of age, background, or clientele — seem to work in concert when it comes to what matters most: the man in the mirror.
“It’s a focus on quality, not quantity,” says Roman Ocelo, owner of Luigi’s Classic Barber Shop in Palm Springs’ La Plaza. “The client that matters most is the one sitting in your chair.”
Palm Springs Life visited several barbershops around town and found an amazing array of distinctive chairs, personalities, and vibes.
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Sunny Dunes Barber Shop
667 S. Calle Palo Fierro, Palm Springs, facebookpage
A year after moving from Chicago to Palm Springs, barber Ricky Strauss couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy Joe’s Barber Shop, the town’s only freestanding barbershop structure.
“I saw what a gem this place is; it hasn’t been touched since 1969,” says Strauss, who bought the shop in 2018 and renamed it after the neighborhood. “This space has been a barbershop for 50 years; it’s a time capsule.”
Specializing in precision fades, flat tops, scissor cuts, and beard trims, Strauss has no intention of usurping the past with amenities of the present. The two-chair, 400-square-foot space has a National Cash Register from the late 1800s, an antique fan, and classic Jeris hair tonic signage.
“You won’t find Wi-Fi here, no streaming playlists or cable TV,” Strauss says. “And that’s the way I want it to stay. A guy from the cable company came in here to sell [to] me and I asked, ‘Did they have cable in 1970?’ ”
Luigi’s Barber Shop
118 La Plaza, Palm Springs, cuts.luigisbarbershop.com
Roman Ocelo dutifully mans the best seat in the desert.
His chair sits beside the front window of Luigi’s Barber Shop. Late television personality Huell Howser enjoyed this perch — and its captivating view of the palm trees and San Jacinto Mountains — for many years. Like the shop’s six other chairs, this one reclines to give patrons a moment of respite. “It’s like you’re in bed,” Ocelo says.
He purchased Luigi’s 20 years ago from its founder and adorned it with old photos and esoteric antiques (plus some personal touches: Ocelo’s Army-enlisted daughter grins from atop a Blackhawk helicopter in one of the photographs).
Luigi’s signature is the 30-minute shave.
“It takes time,” Ocelo explains. “We start with an oil on the skin and get it into the hairs; then, we soften the hairs with a hot lather before we apply the hot towel — as hot as the customer can handle. Then, we do the process a second time before the shave, and it’s like cutting hot butter.”
192 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, daddysbarbershop.com
Preceded by its time-honored brother location in San Francisco, Daddy’s made its Palm Springs debut in 2018.
“It’s not your father’s barber shop,” says owner and stylist Arlen Lasater, noting that Daddy’s is proudly gay-owned and -operated, catering to the LGBTQ and leather communities, but welcoming of all clientele.
“We reflect the look of the guest and the trends that are occurring,” says Daddy’s manager Michael Beatty.
A diverse menu of specialty styles and bold and sometimes cheeky décor featuring photographs of muscular men speak to Beatty’s mantra of “making sexy men sexy,” while a philosophy of supporting the community makes Daddy’s more than an aesthetic.
Using the impressive space to host barber education and local Pride and Halloween events, Daddy’s positions its shop as an open forum of opinion and discourse.
Beatty says, “People who come in here — regardless of how they identify — don’t have to filter their conversations.”
Gentlemen’s Barber shop
520 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, gentlemensbarbershopps.com
Youthful verve and traditional workmanship prove a winning combination for the always-bustling Gentlemen’s Barber Shop.
Owner and barber Jeff Orozco moved to the desert from San Diego in 2010 to work with his father as a cobbler. After transitioning to barbering and working at nearby Luigi’s Barber Shop, Orozco was ready for his own show.
“When I opened [in 2015], I wanted to match the old school traditions with a modern twist,” the 28-year-old owner says.
Gentlemen’s seven barbers embrace their millennial status, splashing Instagram account handles across the shop’s mirrors and maintaining a robust feed. “It’s a platform to let people see our work, and also for us to keep up with contemporary styles and cuts,” he says.
The Gentlemen’s crew frequently travels in tandem to hair shows across the country to, as Orozco puts it, “bring it back home.”
As his shop has found its groove, Orozco has honed in on his specialty: fades and razor cuts. “I like to drop my fades,” he explains. “So, I’ll start mid, on the sides, then drop it in the back for gradual contours and short blends. They call it the ‘dark fade.’ It’s a very clean effect.”
Off the Top Barber Shop
190 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite B, Palm Springs
Haircut trends, like musical genres, always come back into style.
You might call Asbel Lugo the Ralph J. Gleason of barbering — and Off the Top is his Rolling Stone.
The shop’s owner since 2011, Lugo combines hair and harmony with midcentury modern, white-brick surrounds dressed in homage to Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles.
“Styles come around again, and there are new variations on classic styles,” Lugo says. “And, musically, the Beatles are such a big part of my life that I had to incorporate them into Off the Top. The walls tell the theme of the shop.”
A former prep football standout at wide receiver in his native El Centro, Lugo began employing his nimble hands for barbering 20 years ago, and his shears now run routes through traditional cuts at his two-chair shop.
While the clips are a one-man show, Lugo receives assistance from a familiar source.
“[My mom, Eva] is my little helper,” Lugo says. “She’s my greeter, she chats with my clients, and she’s also a dog sitter, as a lot of customers bring their dogs.”