Astor Hair Lives On

In this mercurial COVID-19 era of destructive change, where iconic storefronts and local haunts have been forced to take one final bow and close for good, it is always encouraging, life-affirming even, to hear when one of these legacy locations has been able to weather the storm and remain active.

Such is the case with Astor Place Barbershop—the iconic, subterranean hair shop which for almost 75 years has “at various times set trends that went on to influence taste and style around the world.”

The shop is undeniably charming, welcoming, and most importantly, really fucking good at cutting hair. Case in point, their website, which flaunts its neoteric bench of hair cutters and stylists (like Alberto, who’s been cutting Bill de Blasio’s hair since the mayor was a freshman at NYU, but “don’t hold that against him though”).

The shop’s new owner, Jonathan Trichter, fondly remembers the days of the punks; all Mohawks and hair dye, and Astor Place’s uncanny ability to adapt to the burgeoning hair movement in the 70s. Everything about the barbershop is genuine, and there exists within it a sort of timeless spirit, a happiness that can only be found in locales of a specifically iconic and time-tested realm. And it is that spirit that the pandemic has been seizing, leaving holes in cities all over the country and the world over the past year.

  • Text by Chris Thomas
  • Photos by Lanna Apisukh

For a moment there, it seemed Astor Place was destined for the same fate, with previous owners John and Paul Vezza preparing to shut the shop in December. It was in this window of time that photographer Lanna Apisukh saw an opportunity to document the legendary shop. The photos she captured, seen below, are kindred portraits of the place at business, tinted through the absurd and surreal Covid lens of face masks and plastic drapes we’ve all become accustomed to. The photos speak to a shared perseverance, even in the face of closing down. Looking down the barrel of a 75-year legacy coming to an end, these personalities continue to do what they do best and make people smile while doing it.

Fortunately, it was not the end for Astor Place, due to the beneficiary powers of an outside investor (Trichter) swooping in at the final moment to buy the place from the Vezza brothers and ensure that it would survive. During these unprecedented times, Astor Place’s survival is bittersweet, no longer a family company, yes, but it is, in many ways, an encouraging story. A silver lining in this dark and terrible cloud we’ve lived in.