OWNERS: Matthew and Victoria Humphrey
CLIENTS: Urban dwellers that range from fishermen to attorneys
APPOINTMENTS OR WALK INS: Both
PRICES: $26 up to $80 (3 levels of pricing with no ceiling, all based on barber’s experience)
FUN FACT: We have a love of Land Rovers that borders on fetish! This passion underpins our design, brand messaging and overall mission
Situated within a hip waterfront neighborhood with trendy restaurants, indie shops, bars and craft breweries as its neighbours, the new flagship Steele Barber in Seattle is intent on delivering first-class luxury service to its clients.
Simply put everything Steele’s does, from its décor to its staff training programme, is centred around the phrase ‘details matter.’ Created by Matthew Humphrey, the concept was born out of a love of high-end brands and his experience in the men’s grooming market. “I worked at AVEDA Corp for nearly two decades developing major markets in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle and assisted in developing the AVEDA-Men’s market,” he says.
That experience, coupled with a serious passion for heritage brands has made Steele Barbers the barbershop it is today. “We want our clients to feel like they’ve had a first-class upgrade when they enter,” notes Matthew. And the interior décor is certainly premium. Espressostained wood, olive green powder-coated steel, saddle leather, dark grey paint, black walnut shelving… the finishes are straight out of a luxury members club. Interestingly, Range Rovers and Series Land Rovers were at the forefront of the design inspiration. Matthew admits an obsession with the automotive brand and explains that the Takara Belmont 225 Diamond Stitch Elegance Barber Chairs are actually similar to those found in the Autobiography Range Rover, and the waxed canvas fitting room curtains are an homage to the fabric that covers Series Land Rover trucks.
As well as Land Rover, Steele’s were inspired by brands such as Barbour and Ralph Lauren. In fact, the first thing that greets guests when they walk past Steele’s is a Barbour International clothing display at the entrance, which along with the Aveda products on shelves, certainly lets clients and potential customers know that the brand is all about class. The spa area and tree-lined private courtyard all add to the feeling that this barbershop is going to treat you like royalty. From the chic grey flannel environmental sound buffers above the stations, to the built-in Sonos speakers in the toilets, all the little things matter. “We thought out every detail of how the space flowed, felt, sounded, and even smelled!” Matthew adds.
Staff are another area where no corners are cut. “We are focused on re-training both new and experienced barbers/stylists to deliver a higher-level service standard with an advanced technical rigour. We’re undoing what a lot of chain barbershops have engrained in barbers, which is you can only make money in volume and by charging down market prices. It’s a bit of an uphill battle to get them to believe they are worth more than a $15 /$25 dollar haircut,” states Matthew.
“WE ARE FOCUSED ON RE-TRAINING BOTH NEW AND EXPERIENCED BARBERS/STYLISTS TO DELIVER A HIGHER-LEVEL SERVICE.”
Matthew and his team want to prove the point that you can make a great living in the barber business. “Our lead educator now charges $90 a haircut and makes more than $100k a year. Even new stylists who’ve graduated from our internship are tracking to make $68k their first year on the floor,” he explains. Matthew describes how they’ve partnered with US master barber Kurt Kueffner and are founding members of The Grooming Collective, a group of schools, shops and educators dedicated to raising the standards of the US male grooming industry. Kurt has developed six haircut standards, which every barber at Steele’s has to pass in order to work there. “I believe it’s become a core part of our success,” adds Matthew.
When MB asked Matthew who the Steele Barber client was the answer brought a smile to our face. “The disaffected hipster,” Matthew quips. “But seriously, we’re humbled by the number of “best haircuts of my life” comments we get.” Luxury without pretence, hiring seriously nice staff and elevating their skills and experience has proven to be a great formula for Steele Barber.