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When Jason Culala conceived of his downtown Toronto barbershop-salon hybrid, he knew he needed a way to appeal to a low-key, low-maintenance male demographic. Original Grooming Experts, or OGX, needed to appeal to guys like him. “I said to myself, ‘What would get me in a spot like this?’” Culala recalls. “I’m not the guy who gets his hair cut every week, or is into all the bells and whistles.”
To make OGX a more inviting place for his male clientele, he kept to a timeless “cottagey” aesthetic, with sports jerseys, decals and wood finishes adorning the walls. Culala wanted the feel of OGX to be classic rather than trendy.
The whole idea is to get clients thinking of a visit to OGX as a part of their daily routine, rather than an occasional indulgence. “We don’t try to push it as, like, ‘This is the spot,’” Culala says. “I really wanted to push it as more of a lifestyle thing. Like, add it to buying groceries or something like that. Here’s your haircut place. Just add it into your routine.”
Before he got into the haircutting business, Culala was a graphic designer in the advertising industry. Tired of sitting behind a desk, he was attracted to the social nature of the barbershop culture and started cutting hair out of his garage. Mentored by a friend’s father, a world-renowned stylist, and educated at Marvel Beauty School in Toronto, Culala decided to open his own business.
Having gotten his start in the traditional salon setting, most of the clients Culala had experience with were women. Unlike women, he says, most of his male clients aren’t necessarily looking to be pampered. Instead, Culala puts the emphasis on education. OGX stylists present themselves as grooming experts, wise in “matters hygienic and sartorial,” and they impart this wisdom to their clients.
Still, when you walk into OGX, you get more than a haircut. It’s not something he advertises, but once Culala has a guy in the chair, he does a paraffin hand wax and hot towel treatment as well, free of charge. He even throws in a hand massage while he’s removing the paraffin. “Some guys are like ‘Whoa, what’s this?’” Culala says. For some it’s an unexpected but welcome bonus. And for those who think a hand massage isn’t macho enough for them? “If the paraffin’s not their thing, there are video games,” he says with a laugh.
“We still get the guys that their girlfriends forced them in there because they wanted them to look nice,” Culala says. “But you know what? The guys are loving it too.”