Joe Roberts, Master Barber

Joe Roberts, Master BarberIt’s a peaceful morning at the Wingtip barbershop. Over the hum of the clippers, Joe Roberts plays classical music. “It puts me in my masterpiece mode,” he tells me. “My DaVinci mode.”

Like many artisans, Roberts’ craft was borne of simple resourcefulness.

“My first haircut was actually with my brother. I was on my way to taking him to the barbershop, and thought, instead, I’m going to cut his hair at the house. I bought my first pair of clippers, at a Walgreen’s or something, and it took off from there.”

Roberts was 23 at the time, and quickly evolved his business from his home, through barber college, and through barber shops in the Fillmore, Walnut Creek, and Danville. He was working at the Art Of Shaving when an inconspicuous Ami Arad showed up, grumbling about his tough beard.

“I didn’t know who he was when he came in. I saw a lot of people, and he was just another client–but I think he was trying to test me when he told me about his beard, and how he didn’t like shaving that much because he had a tendency to bleed. I said, ‘You’re not gonna bleed on my shave.’ And once I assured him he was in good hands, the shave almost put him to sleep. I gave him a nice haircut, and now I’m actually working for the company.”

Roberts performs that same service for clients at Wingtip, which he explains:

The straight razor shave is a lost art. Not many people offer it anymore. You have to prep the skin first, get the whiskers soft, which involves heating it up with a warm towel, freshening it with lemon essential oil, and softening it up with pre-shave oil.

“Then we go into our straight razor shave which takes from 25–35 minutes depending on the individual.┬áSome people get a little skittish around the razor, after seeing horror movies. But once they know they’re in the hands of a skilled barber like myself, those feelings go away.”

The post-shave continues with rose water to tighten the pores, a cold towel with lavender essential oil to soothe the skin, and Truefitt & Hill Aftershave Balm to keep the skin “soft and supple, and give it a matte complexion.” Clients with sensitive skin can request a Fusion shave, which encompasses the same process, but a gentler cartridge-razor. Whether for a shave or haircut (or both) the one-barber, one-chair, closed-door setting promises to be relaxing.

“The shop is a world within a world,” says Roberts. “It has a sense of privacy, which puts the client at ease. Your conversation is not also the conversation of the barber next to you. It also allows me to be more creative, without any outside noise or distractions. Ami and his team have done a wonderful job setting up the environment.”

Contact Joe for your appointment at

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David is Wingtip's storyteller. In addition to editing the Modern Gentleman's Blog, he has written for Wax Poetics, The Source, SF Weekly, and the East Bay Express, and others. His inspirations include Rumble Fish, Paul's Boutique, and Balzac. He studied English at the City University of New York at Hunter College and journalism at the University of Southern California. He lives in Berzerkeley with his wife and daughter.

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