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Experiencing the P400-haircut

Kevin Yapjoco

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Your haircut: the simpler, the better, or looking for more?

MANILA, Philippines – For a lot of guys, when it comes to haircuts, the simpler, the better. 

Most are contented with haircuts from the neighborhood barber, who charges P40. It’s cheap and gets the job done in as little as 10 minutes. However, there are barbershops that charge a bit more, into the hundreds That may seem like a little too much to pay for a haircut, but sometimes, the difference is in the details.

HANGING OUT. Where do you get your haircuts? Photos by Kevin Yapjoco

Based on my recent experience at an establishment called the Back Alley Barber Shop, here are just a few things you might consider paying extra for: 

The barbers

The average P40-a-haircut barber knows how to use scissors and a shaver, but not much else. They won’t be able to help you in the styling department simply because they’re trained just to cut hair.  

This is in contrast to the barbers at newer establishments like Back Alley, where they have previous experience. This means they know how to style hair and recommend cuts to customers.

I asked them to follow my one-sided cut, and while they made sure that the hairs were very even, I also noticed that they weren’t heavy-handed at all. They also took their time – my haircut didn’t feel rushed.

From start to finish, my haircut took about 30 minutes. A haircut here will run you P400 – P450 with a wash.

The tools

TOOLKIT. Samurai scissors and feather blades ensure a more precise cut, while products perfect the overall look. Photos by Kevin Yapjoco

Everyone knows that to do a proper job you need the right tools. P40-a-haircut barbershops are not as likely to use well-made scissors and sharp blades, which can lead to uneven cuts and a not-so-close shave.

Back Alley has gone the extra mile by giving their skilled barbers the best tools in the trade: Samurai scissors and feather blades.

Samurai scissors are handcrafted by Japanese artisans using lightweight steel especially designed not to squeak. Feather blades are widely recognized as the best blades for shaving. The result is a more precise cut and a closer shave. 

The hair products

You’re not likely to get your hair washed or carefully styled with products at P40-a-haircut barbershops. You’re paying so little that there won’t be these kinds of extras. But at Back Alley, they wash your hair with a mineral shampoo by Japanese brand Noevir, which contains sea minerals from the Tokara Islands (known for their cleansing properties), and also retains moisture to keep your hair and scalp healthy.

After your haircut you have a choice of various gels, pomades and waxes from brands like Hairbond and Pankhurst to choose from with which to style your hair.

The decor – particularly the chairs

COMFORT AND STYLE. It's hard to argue that they don't matter. Photos by Kevin Yapjoco

The chairs at your neighborhood barbershop are most likely a hodgepodge of whatever furniture was available. But at Back Alley Barbershop, they pride themselves in their 40-year-old Takara Belmont chairs.

They were painstakingly restored by an auto repair shop, which gives each chair a unique charm. It’s worth noting that Takara Belmont has been one of the leading barbershop chair manufacturers since the 1960s, and this fits the shop’s vintage-themed interior.

The ambiance

GET COMFY. Lots of space to sit and chat. Photos by Kevin Yapjoco

Once upon a time barber shops were places where men would hang out with each other. The interiors at Back Alley Barber Shop were designed with that in mind. There are couches and seats where one can sit comfortably and read their selection of magazines.

But this wouldn’t be complete without the right music. They play easy listening music with vinyl records during the day while slowly transitioning to house music at night. It feels like chilling at home – except you’re in a barbershop.

Over the last few years, men have become more aware of the need to look their best. A lot of men are no longer satisfied with a quick haircut and are looking for something that not only improves their appearance, but is also performed in an environment that elevates the experience.

P40 haircuts are here to stay, but those who demand more might want to give these newer types of barbershops a chance. –

Editor’s Note: The title of this article was revised from the original “Haircuts for men: P40 vs P400?” in order to more accurately reflect the story’s content, which primarily focuses on the writer’s experience at Back Alley Barber Shop.  

Kevin Yapjoco is a menswear enthusiast. He writes Bespoke Man, a blog on classic men’s style and grooming in the Philippines

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