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Third-Generation Barber Plans to Tame Bushwick's Beards and Manes

By Gwynne Hogan | September 16, 2016 1:15pm | Updated on September 19, 2016 8:48am
 The third generation of Lawton's to cut hair, Duval Lawton opened up his own barber shop. 
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BUSHWICK — As a kid growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, Duval Lawton fondly recalls hanging out at his pop's barber shop on weekends, listening to the Commodores, Toots and the Maytals and Curtis Mayfield, while sweeping away discarded strands of hair in exchange for pocket money from customers. 

His father's barber shop and his grandfather's shop before it were community hubs, where men came in week after week to gossip, swap stories and catch up.

"Weekends are when you feel the really good vibrations in a barber shop," he said.

But, he said, the most important part of that ritual trim and shave is how it gives the clients a fresh start, a chance to recreate themselves.

"When you come in you just feel the collective energy of almost like starting over again. Whether it be a big or small trim," he said. "Whatever happened 20 minutes ago doesn't matter. It's about now."

Lawton, whose family has around 50 years of barbering experience combined, has decided to start a shop of his own in Bushwick.

GrandFathered Barber Shop at 608 Bushwick Ave. across from the Silent Barn opened in August and Lawton hopes it will soon become a hub for men looking to trim their unruly beards or enjoy a fresh shave with a straight razor.

A haircut will cost you $40, shaves are $30, fades are $25 and a buzz is $20. The shop features refurbished antique barber chairs and straight-razor shaves, and is inspired by tonsorial — from the Latin word for shaving and haircutting — old-school barber style.

Though he's 24 years old, Lawton already has eight years of barbering experience under his belt, having worked as an apprentice at a shop in East New York where he grew up once his family moved from here from Jamaica, as a student at Hair Academy, then at several swanky Manhattan shops including Harry's Corner Shop and Barbiere.

"I have some of my clients from Manhattan who still make the trek," he said. "That's phenomenal."

High-profile clients like actor André Holland, who's had parts in HBO's series the Knick and Selma, trust only Lawton.

He first started cutting Holland's hair two years back, when he worked at Harry's. Holland, who will be appearing in the upcoming movie Moonlight, was walking by the McDougal Street shop as Lawton was working on a customer. 

The man in Lawton's chair was "getting this super cool fade, a very modern cut," Holland explained.

"Forty five minutes later I was like this is the best cut I ever had in my life," Holland said. "He's the only man I get cut from. I gotta have my guy."

Since then, Holland has trailed Lawton to Barbiere and now to his own shop in Bushwick, despite the fact that Holland lives in SoHo and spends much of his time traveling or in L.A. where he lives part-time.

"Number three," he said, referring to the now third location where Lawton has cut his hair. "This is home sweet home." 

Holland comes for the impeccable cuts that aren't just for show for one night only, but are carefully tailored to grow out and still look fresh, he said.

And he respects how Lawton is quietly undoing the dichotomy between black and white barber shop.

"I've seen him cut a white guy's hair. 'Wow, it looks amazing'," he'd thought, adding that in a gentrifying neighborhood like Bushwick, having a barber who can cater to all kinds of clients is a unique thing. "In a subtle way he's like changing the game socially."

The Bushwick Avenue shop is painted white and minimally decorated and when Lawton or his father, who joins him some days to help out, give you a trim, they'll do so in white lab coats, a tradition that goes back to Lawton's grandfather.

The white coats and aprons focus the barber's eye on the delicate lines of the trim or shave, Lawton said.

At Grandfathered Barber Shop, Lawton hopes to carry on the family legacy, and make a footprint of his own on the industry, possibly expanding to start a YouTube channel with tutorial videos, and maybe one day creating an app that helps you shave more efficiently.

But until then he encourages you to stop on by and give his shop a try. 

"It's amazing what half an hour of a barber shop can do for someone," Lawton said.

Grandfathered Barber Shop at 608 Bushwick Ave. is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 10 p.m. to 5 p.m.