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The coolest place I’ve visited in a while


I was surprised how expensive Mr Toppers in Tottenham Court Road has become. I haven’t been to a barber since I decided to cut my own hair. Or what remains of it. At Fred’s barber shop in Dubuque, Iowa, it’s $11 for adults and $10 for seniors and children. Cheaper than Mr Toppers. And probably more charming too.

I came across Fred’s shop while at the Julien Dubuque Film Festival where a film I directed had its premiere. I was walking around Dubuque trying to get over my jetlag and hoping to find a subject for a mini-documentary I could shoot using my iPhone 6, the only video camera I had on me that day.

Fred’s shop didn’t look like much from the outside. It sat in the middle of a row of slightly dilapidated stores and restaurants along Main Street, opposite a place called Dubuque Religious Center. But inside – oh boy – inside it was a whole different world.

If you watch the video below you can hear from the horse’s mouth about the history of the place and how Fred became its owner and a curator at the same time. Because the place is like a museum – Fred inherited some barber paraphernalia from the previous owner, added some from his private collection, then started buying some quirky, rare or simply forgotten items to add to his impressive collection.

So if the lovely Art Deco interior doesn’t bowl you over, there is also the lovely cabinet at the back which Fred kindly opened for us to show us everything – from an ancient dandruff lotion to pretty unusual contraptions used a few decades ago to sharpen the razors.

After hearing Fred’s poignant remarks at the end of the film I’m even more glad my jetlag brought me to his shrine when it did. He is one of the very few traditional barbers remaining in Dubuque, a fraction of what the town had to offer a few decades ago. And that, I’m afraid, is probably symptomatic of a wider phenomenon.

So if you’re EVER in Dubuque, do visit 940 Main Street, get yourself a decent haircut and ask Fred to show you his grandpa’s razor. It’s there. In a tall glass cabinet with sliding doors. At the back of the coolest barber shop I’ve ever been to:

Scroll down for more stills from the video:

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