Photo by Nick Fancher

Shear Innovation

On my first visit to Holy Moses, the conversation revolves around music. Relay Recording owner Jon Fintel is sitting in the chair getting a cut from Justin Perkins, the owner of the shop and a fellow musician. Stories of shows and records from bands long gone are traded back and forth and laughs echo off the walls, ushering in that familiar feeling of hanging out at the neighborhood barbershop…

That is, if the neighborhood shop served pour-over coffee and housed a “lab” where custom-made local grooming products are fashioned from beeswax.

Perkins’ hands move quickly and effortlessly as he works his shears and clippers, never losing focus through the stories and the laughter. Though he’s spent the last few months dealing with renovations, building inspections, and a shipment of custom barber chairs delayed somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, you wouldn’t know it. He seems relaxed, laughing with friends as he does the work he loves, the work he is obsessed with.

“There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat, but why are you skinning it that way?”

Perkins poses this question a few days later as he and I sip through our second glass of bourbon. He is slowly beginning to decompress after locking the doors

to his new space in Grandview, and at 8:30 p.m., it’s still bright, the evening light streaming in through the glass garage door and west-facing wall of windows, bouncing off the stark white walls and high ceilings of the shop’s 909 W Fifth Ave. location.

“We need light and we need a lot of it,” he tells me as we discuss how he designed the space. While the trendy indoor/outdoor garage feature and comfortable lounge area might fool you, this space isn’t meant for drinking. This is not the newest bar in town, and Perkins and his team don’t deal in drinks. Luckily, they are next door to Zauber Brewing so a beer is never far, but if you’re sitting down at Holy Moses, you’re here for your hair—on which Perkins and team have put all the emphasis.

“The space is minimal because it’s all about the product,” Perkins says, likening the unembellished design to that of an art museum, focusing entirely on the creation in front of you. Though the walls here do have a couple pieces hanging—including a mounted bear head and a folk art Willy Nelson portrait that hung for years in his father’s music shop—this is not a gallery.

“I want to focus on education,” Perkins says. “It’s all about sharing information and learning. There’s a tradition of camaraderie in barbering that I love.” He has plans to invite other stylists, barbers, and industry professionals to hold free classes in the space, to share their own techniques in a quest to better the industry across the board—akin to the way spaces like Wild Goose Creative and The Commissary have transformed art and food circles in town.

“I want Columbus to be a Mecca for men’s grooming,” Perkins said, as we walked toward a small back room separated by a viewing window that will soon house a formulation lab for Cliff Original, a locally based outfit specializing in natural men’s grooming products. “There will be giant hunks of beeswax,” he says with childlike excitement. “You’ll be able to actually see what we’re putting in your hair.”

Over the next hour the conversation takes many turns, weaving in and out of grooming, barbering, music, and cocktails, but within each seemingly separate topic, it keeps drawing back and swirling around one word as if it held a magnetic pull: intentionality. Obsessive people trying to better themselves and their craft by understanding and questioning the science and reason behind techniques, both new and old. Why are things done this way, and is this the best way to do them?  I tell him about the intricate cocktail-shaking techniques employed by Japanese bartenders to chill drinks beyond what a normal shake provides, and he explains the mystery (to me) of the cool button on the hair dryer, and how it is used in styling to “set” hair made pliable by heat. He talks about hair follicles, and head shapes, angles, and lines, topics that I’ve never had even a passing interest in, that become uniquely fascinating when filtered through the passion in his voice. There’s no question he is adept in all things hair, but it’s not his authority that draws you in. Much in the same way a non-believer might be drawn in by the fervent rhapsodic sermon of an impassioned preacher, it is his enthusiasm and his earnest desire to keep learning and help others do the same that is entirely contagious. It’s not a lecture, but a conversation. A conversation he hopes to continue through Holy Moses.

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