As owner of Vice Barber, Mitch Geiser keeps men in Columbus looking good. But Geiser’s skills go beyond stylish haircuts.
The biggest appeal for many is an approachable stylist dedicated to working with customers to find the right haircut. He’s also created a fantastic shop to hang out in. It all works to create Vice’s old-school-meets-new-school-barbershop aesthetic.
Geiser spoke with Alive about starting his barbershop, its concept and visual style. Plus, he gives guys some tips on how to look good — and not being afraid to care about looking good.
Part of what I liked about barbering was the history. Every kid remembers when they went to the real barbershop. And I like that vibe … but with a new-school spin on the old-school barbershop feel.
Another big thing I wanted to do was create a place that people want to hang out [in]. I want people to meet and this should be a chill spot — a lot like the old barbershops. I always encourage people to come in. That’s why we have coffee and Wi-Fi and newspapers. I want people to chill; it makes my job not a job. It’s just hanging out.
I wish I could say I had some master plan, but a lot of what the shop is happened organically. Vice would be nothing it is today without Melanie Guzzo [owner of Virtue Salon, where Vice is located] giving me the opportunity, structure and resources she did as a brand new barber. It has totally been a team effort from the start.
I had a vision of what I wanted, but I would just buy stuff and put it on the walls. I spent a lot of time at the antique shop down the corner. I just started collecting a bunch of different stuff. It gives the shop character.
To be honest a ton of people have given me stuff. That’s a really cool aspect; a lot of people have their hands in what this barbershop is. I have a barber pole that was given to me. All the straight razors were given to me. [Customers] have given me some. A couple of my roommates have given me some. People that I don’t even know have just said, “Oh, we got barber stuff. You take this.”
When somebody sits down there’s a process. I get a feel for what they have in mind. What’s really cool about my job is a lot of really creative people come in. [They have] some ideas. I have some ideas. It’s like going to get a tattoo. You put both ideas together and come to something you both feel really good about.
I wonder if some guys are afraid to care. It is weird to care about what your hair looks like? Or just enjoying getting your hair cut? Maybe some guys are afraid to say what they really want — just say, “I don’t care.” But they really do.
You should feel OK about liking your hair, but you should also feel OK with not needing that to be yourself. You go through phases. Sometimes I want to have my hair long, sometimes I want it short. Some guys like clean-cut all the time. Others like to get their hair cut, let it grow and then cut it short again. Be comfortable in who you are. I’ve got guys who come in every other week and guys that come every other year.
We carry a vegan product, a paste, and the great thing is it’s real dry. It comes out like toothpaste, but it doesn’t have that gel-type look. And it doubles as mustache wax. It’s ForMatte by Thermafuse. Tons of dudes are doing that parted slick haircut. What’s great for that is Layrite pomade. It’s water soluble so it comes out super easy. It’s not like grease in your hair.
I always hated in barber school that people would restrict themselves in so many ways. I always just wanted to learn how to do it all. Try to understand the person and make them feel comfortable. If you want a mullet, or shave your head bald or a spikey haircut or anything, let’s do it and make it look good.