I feel like people can learn a lot from our history. It really inspires me to do something that will last. By bringing older things in here, it just shows people that and it's supporting human pride. —Reise Malachowski
PROVO, Utah — There is something distinctly vintage about a clean cut and a shave with a straight razor, but what makes a cut truly American at The Man Barber is a 20-year-old, self-made man behind the chair.
The Man Barber is an old-fashioned, single-chair shop on the second floor of Unhinged on Center Street in Provo run by Reise Malachowski. The young barber dresses the part, with a perfect pompadour, short-sleeved shirt buttoned all the way up, skinny jeans cuffed on top of his slim black shoes and finished off with an American-made canvas apron. But style itself isn't everything to Malachowski; it's a representation of a culture, an attitude and a classic, American outlook.
Malachowski is the third generation to barber in his family, though his father and grandfather skipped the tradition. His great, great-grandfather worked in Livingston, Tenn., and when he wouldn't let his son marry a Cherokee woman, his great-grandfather moved to Los Angeles to start barbering with his wife in the 1940s.
"When I found that out, I was actually already enrolled in barber school, so I was like wow, that's pretty awesome to know it's already kind of part of my family history," Malachowski said.
His grandfather, however, never had his own interest in barbering growing up in the 1960s as a surfer and eventually being drafted in the Vietnam War.
Growing up in Southern California, Malachowski took a more modern-day approach to being a "surf bum," and began skateboarding and fell into the punk scene early in middle school, which was his first taste into a vintage subculture.
Shortly after, Malachowski moved to Utah Valley with an enormous blonde mohawk, skateboarding around and looking for new friends.
"I kind of learned quick that with this mohawk, people are just like 'What is this kid?' "Malachowski said. "My grandma said I looked like a Lamanite, I was like, 'Grandma, what the heck dude?! Don't say I'm a Lamanite, aren't they like the evil ones in the Book of Mormon?' and she was like 'Yeah! You need to shave your head.'"
Malachowski wanted to embrace a new hairdo, and a new lifestyle, when he moved to Spanish Fork. He fell in love with the standup bass through an expansion of his punk heritage, and become one with rockabilly culture, which offered him the roots to his career as a barber: his first pompadour.
"I kind of learned rockabilly was like primitive rock and roll, primitive punk rock," Malachowski said. "It was really kind of the beginning of this scene, you know, tattoos, the bikers, all listened to all of that rockabilly and old country. I always just felt it was very honest."
With his love for vintage culture, especially the music, Malachowski was looking for a way to fuel his passion, and remain true to his culture. That's where barbering came into play.
"I was going to barber shops all over Utah trying to find the right cut, and a lot of my friends did the same," Malachowski said. "I was like 'dude, let me try and cut your hair, I know how I want it to look, I know how it needs to look,' so I just started messing around that way."
Malachowski enrolled in barber school while still attending American Leadership Academy, realizing he could continue playing music and living within his rockabilly culture while making an honest living.
Music is the 20-year-old's true passion, but he has found a significant amount of pride in his work as a barber because it fits into his culture so neatly. He is praised frequently for having a business and plan at such a young age, but Malachowski doesn't credit it to that, but rather that he just kept taking steps toward doing what he likes to do.
The Man Barber is his original creation, and has been around for close to a year. In the coming month Malachowski is carefully hiring a second barber who will stick to his work ethic and state-of-mind, while expanding upon his already successful business.
"I'm pretty particular, almost OCD," Malachowski said. "When it comes to haircutting, I really take it seriously and find myself taking too much time sometimes because I want their hair to look a certain way."
In the past, Malachowski may have said using the straight razor or a fine comb were his favorite things about the job, but not anymore; he just wants to make his clients happy with a perfect haircut and good conversation.
Malachowski's culture, work ethic, and wholeheartedness resonate in his old school barbering and all its accouterments. They all have a distinctly proud, classic, American feel to them.
"I feel like people can learn a lot from our history," Malachowski said. "It really inspires me to do something that will last. By bringing older things in here, it just shows people that and it's supporting human pride."
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com